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Latinx embrace representation shown in Disney’s 'Encanto'

January 20, 2022

Disney’s latest animated feature film, “Encanto,” was released in theaters on Nov. 24, 2021, and it came to Disney+ on Dec. 24, 2021, yet the hype around the film has not subdued yet, despite it being mid-January. And there’s a reason why.

The movie tells the story of the Madrigal family as they navigate their special powers, such as incredible hearing, shape-shifting and talking to animals. As the movie unfolds, the family is forced to navigate their relationships with each other and mend their broken bonds. The familial theme can relate to any family, but it is especially resonating with Latinx, particularly Colombians, as the movie is set in Colombia.

The Madrigals are a mestiza, or mixed-race, Colombian family. Each family member has different skin tones, hair types and features, and one branch of the family is Afro-Latino, a group that is even more underrepresented in media than non-Black Latinos. 

Colombians and Latinx alike are feeling represented like never before. Across the internet, people are sharing how they feel represented: embracing their noses, curls and skin tones. 

“I literally look like (Isabela Madrigal),” one Twitter user said. “I’m gonna watch ‘Encanto’ for the actual representation that my childhood self did not have.” 

Not only did Encanto have representation through characters’ appearances, but it also portrayed Colombian culture. Journalism sophomore Gabriel Martinez, whose family is from Colombia, felt that the movie captured Colombia’s essence. 

Martinez said he also appreciated the ties the movie made to Colombian pop culture. The film features the original song, “Colombia, Mi Encanto,” by Carlos Vives, acting from Maluma in the role of Mariano, and Colombian icon John Leguizamo playing Bruno. Martinez noted that the film’s plot was similar to “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” a famous Colombian novel by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. 

“I feel like it captured the mysticism of what Colombia is like,” Martinez said. “For instance, Gabriel Garcia Márquez is like our number one writer there, and he's heavily into that surrealism of making things kind of like fantasies. I thought they captured that really well. I also thought they captured our music and our whole kind of vibe very well too."

But what Martinez and other Latinx said they feel they can relate to the most is the deeper themes of intergenerational trauma and how that affects the family. This trauma was shown in the movie when the Madrigals were forced to flee their village as soldiers chased after them. As they fled, Pedro told his wife, Alma, to go on with her children and the rest of the villagers as he stayed behind, and he was killed. 

This trauma is familiar to Latinx viewers, whose families have suffered from the effects of colonization and violence, many of them being displaced like the Madrigals. Martinez said he relates to this aspect of the film, as violence in Colombia displaced his family and changed his family dynamics. 

“I thought (the movie) hit that right on the head,” Martinez said. “Personally, my aunt Inez moved in hopes that we would never have to experience those things from Colombia up to New York. Then me and my sister are from that tree of immigration.”

Martinez said Alma’s reaction to her husband’s death was similar to the experiences of his and many other Latinx families: a strong desire to protect family, sometimes hurting each other in the process.   

“We're just all very communal people, and we're also very family oriented to a point where it could be destructive,” Martinez said. “But then I thought the ending was a nice tie up of loving and accepting people for their faults and getting through things together. I thought that represented Colombia very well.”

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