Primos: How To Butcher Mexican Culture
The portrayal of Mexican culture seems to be a real hit or miss with Disney. The closest they got was Coco in 2017, and probably the furthest they’ve gotten (in the past two decades) was the Beverly Hills Chihuahua trilogy. Or, at least, it was the furthest they’d gotten. When it releases, if it releases, that title will fall to Primos, their upcoming animated kids’ show created by Natasha Kline set to air at some unspecified time on Disney Channel. If you haven’t seen the title sequence and don’t speak Spanish, this show sounds like it’s going to be perfectly inoffensive and fun. If you haven’t seen it and do speak Spanish, it still might sound perfectly inoffensive and fun. It’s supposed to be a respectful and culturally representative sitcom about Mexican-Americans, but if just the title sequence alone has managed to offend countless Mexicans and Mexican-Americans –myself included–, then it’s surely anything but. Of course, nothing is certain regarding the content of the show, since it hasn’t been released yet, but hopes that it won’t be wildly offensive are low. Let’s break down what makes it so offensive anyway.
To start off, the sequence opens with a sepia filter shot overlooking Terremoto Heights –which is misspelled–, the town’s main setting, from the I-210 freeway (which puts Terremoto Heights somewhere between LA and Santa Clarita.) Analyzing what’s wrong with this isn’t very hard. Putting the stereotypical “orange sky for Mexicans” filter aside, the very name of the town itself slaps Mexicans and Central Americans in the face, for whatever reason using the name of a notorious and deadly natural disaster as the setting’s place name. “Terramoto” (which is how it should be spelt) is Spanish for “earthquake,” and earthquakes cause damage to Mexico almost every single day through plate tectonic motion. This is like if someone made a show about Louisiana set in a town named “Hurricane City.” It’s already really bad, but we’re far from done yet.
The next part of the intro shows the street they live on, which looks like a typical suburb neighborhood. But for some reason, the small two-story house that the main character, Tater, is staying in, is slightly grimy and seemingly unwashed. Overlookable, but still an eyebrow is raised. Then we get to the plot. Tater Ramirez-Humphrey is a little Mexican-American girl who is spending her summer at her aunt and uncle’s house, hoping to have a really cool time. Then her cousins show up, and this is where it gets truly egregious. It’s a bunch of stereotyped, unhygienic children crammed into a small dirty house all sharing the same room. Her brown cousins all have unibrows, are all either a little or really on the chubby side, and are drawn weirdly with either misshapen heads or unfortunate faces. The black characters (Lita and Tonita) aren’t stereotypes but still have bad character designs. Everyone has a pig nose except for Cousin Bud, who is white. He and the other white characters aren’t drawn weirdly. Reddit user mizmv aggregates this observation, pointing out how “all the white characters are thinner and more normalized in their animation style while a lot [sic] of the brown characters are animated being overweight with unibrows.”1 The names aren’t much better either, with most of them being foods (Nacho, Nachito, and Gordita,) and two being straight-up insults: Chacha (mop girl) and Cuquita (vagina). Cuquita is a little girl. Hold on, though, because it gets worse.
At this point, it’s clear no one writing this show knows anything about Mexico, but to really drive that home, they sing “oye primos” as a chorus in the title song. The correct way to say this is “oigan primos,” since “oír” (to hear) is the infinitive and the plural imperative is “oigan,” not “oye,” which is singular. One might question where exactly this translation was derived. As it turns out, if you put “hey cousins” (which is what they were trying to say) into Google Translate, it comes up as “oye primos.” Attached below is the proof.
They didn’t even get a proper translator for the Spanish used in the show. That’s how little effort they put into understanding the people they’re trying to portray. You’d think they’d fix it, but no. Instead, Tater’s voice actor, Myrna Velasco, doubled down on her bad pronunciation.2 She even later put out the following Instagram post.
There is a lot more to be said, but I think enough has been said already. This show is a racist cash grab. It isn’t even worthy of being called minstrelsy because the voice actors they got to do this can’t even speak proper Spanish, disregarding Myrna Velasco’s abhorrent comment about Mexico. This woman has taken being “no sabo” to a whole new level, in the worst way possible. This whole show has. If Disney has even an ounce of decency, they won’t let this garbage air. But, considering how they still haven’t commented on it, I think it’s unlikely they’re going to do anything about it.