On January 29, 2015, Nancy Kanter, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Disney Junior Worldwide, announced the creation of Princess Elena of Avalor, Disney’s first Latina princess.
Disney Insider describes the princess as a confident and compassionate teenager. Princess Elena and her enchanted kingdom are inspired by Latin cultures and folklore. Her character and story are introduced in a special episode of Sofia the First, the Disney Junior series about a young princess.
Princess Elena’s journey begins with her parents and her kingdom being taken from her by an evil sorceress; moreover, she is trapped within her own magical amulet. The amulet that saves Elena’s life and leaves her imprisoned for decades is the amulet that Princess Sofia, from Sofia the First, is seen wearing throughout the series.
Finding out the truth about the amulet, Princess Sofia sets out to restore Elena and help her return to the kingdom of Avalor. From there, 16-year old Elena learns what it means to be a great leader with the help of her magical friends, Mateo, a wizard-in-training, and Skylar, a magical flying creature.
“What excites us the most is the chance to use distinctive animation and visual design to tell wonderful stories influenced by culture and traditions that familiar to the worldwide population of Hispanic and Latino families,” said Kanter.
However, some onlookers have doubts as to whether or not Princess Elena is truly Latina. Carolina Morena, The Huffington Post editor, wrote an article titled “Sorry, Disney’s New Princess Elena Probably Doesn’t Count as Latina.”
“News outlets report that Elena was Disney’s ‘first Latina Princess.’ But Disney’s release does not specify that Elena is Latina,” says Morena. “Rather, the statement says the princess is ‘inspired by Latin cultures and folklore.’”
The doubt follows a debate that sparked following Sofia the First’s premiere. In contrast to Sofia’s fair skin and light eyes, her mother was darker in complexion. When asked why that is, blogger Jamie Mitchell responded, “She’s Latina.”
Kanter brought the discussion to an end with a Facebook post stating that it is important to remember that Sofia is a fairytale girl from a fairytale world that may reflect aspects of cultures and ethnicities. None of the elements in the fairytale world are specific to a culture and the principal message is to appreciate diversity.
Now, the debate revolves around Elena and her kingdom, which are inspired specifically by Latin cultures. Whether or not Princess Elena is considered Latina by the viewers, the elements of Latin culture offer appreciation and representation to Latin viewers.