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PRIMOS / BARDO Latinamerican & Latinx Representation

"No hay nadie más mexicano que el que se va."

No one is more Mexican than the one who leaves

Alejandro González Iñárritu's provocative statement, stirred strong reactions upon the release of his film Bardo in 2022. This remark reignited debates about identity among Latin Americans, migrants, and the broader Latino community. More recently, Disney’s animated series Primos has brought this discussion back into the spotlight. Let’s talk about the Latin American and Latinx representation through Primos and Bardo.

Culture from “The Other Side”

Iñárritu’s statement, while controversial, touches on a profound truth. Defining our cultural identity becomes even more complex when we migrate. Leaving our homeland distances us from the daily experiences that shape our culture. This separation often changes how we see ourselves and our heritage. “Cultural shock” abroad can make us realize that many things we considered "normal" are actually deeply rooted in our culture.

Migrants often distinguish between elements that form their cultural identity and those that belong to the broader national culture. This distinction, though not always discussed, is easy to identify based on our personal experiences. For example, a Mexican from an urban neighborhood in Estado de Mexico, may not feel connected to traditions like charrería or Mayan embroidery but acknowledges these as part of Mexico’s national identity.

But what about the children and grandchildren of migrants living in the United States? Their reality is shaped by where they live and their family’s background. Some families keep strong ties to their country of origin, while others become more integrated into American culture out of necessity or accessibility. Without direct exposure to the full range of their homeland’s cultural diversity, their sense of identity can become limited or skewed.

The Problem with “Primos”

Natasha Kline, the creator of Disney's animated series Primos, aims to represent the lives of Latinx children in the United States. Set in Los Angeles, the series draws from Kline's own experiences as a descendant of migrants. However, Primos has faced criticism for relying on stereotypes.

The show often features charro hats, mariachi music, and Mexican food. While these are part of Latin culture, their repeated use can suggest that Latino identity is limited to these symbols. Moreover, the use of Spanglish, though common in many Latinx communities, sometimes feels forced in the series.

Effective cultural representation should include both positive and negative aspects. However, Primos leans heavily on outdated stereotypes: large families, dangerous neighborhoods, and disorder. Despite some defending the series as a reflection of Kline’s personal experience, we must ask: is one person's story enough to represent an entire community?

“Bardo” and the Identity Conflict

On the other hand, Iñárritu's Bardo explores the internal struggle of its protagonist, a Mexican migrant who feels the need to understand an experience he has not lived firsthand. Iñárritu takes us through a narrative blending reality and fantasy to address the conflict of conveying one's own culture.

Throughout the film, the lines between reality and fantasy blur. The dreamlike sequences, where the protagonist flies over the Mexican desert or encounters historical Mexican figures, reflect how memory and cultural identity are intrinsically tied to personal perception. These elements of magical realism, a literary tradition deeply rooted in Latin American culture, allow Iñárritu to explore how identity is constructed through fragmented experiences and distorted memories.

Though some critics accuse the film of being egocentric, Iñárritu successfully represents the moral dilemma of sharing and preserving our culture, whether as parents, migrants, or creators. The themes of self-critique and privilege are central. The protagonist, a successful filmmaker, is aware of his disconnection from the reality of the migrants he depicts. The film offers an introspective view on how artists interpret and represent our cultures while grappling with our own biases.

In my opinion, Bardo is brilliant because it inherently presents both the problem and the solution: the need for research, empathy, and self-critique.

Improving “Primos”

Honestly, I believe Primos is a missed opportunity that could benefit from a fundamental change in its focus. Instead of solely centering on Mexicans to represent all Latinos, the series could expand to include members from various Latin American backgrounds.

Initially, several sources claimed that Natasha Kline was of Chilean descent, but Kline recently clarified that her heritage is actually Mexican through her grandmother. Despite this correction, my recommendation to improve Primos remains. Focusing exclusively on Mexican culture to represent the entire Latino diaspora in the United States is reductive and stereotypical, preventing Primos from offering a truly novel or inclusive representation to its audience. The series bible of Primos reveals that 'Buela is a Mexican immigrant, making Tater's family Chicano. This approach seems to attempt to appeal to a broader audience in Los Angeles, where many Latinos are of Mexican descent. However, this decision contradicts the intent of portraying a realistic and more inclusive representation of the Latinx diaspora in the U.S.

Imagine a version of Primos where the main family includes members from different Latin American origins. This diversity could offer a richer and more nuanced representation of the Latino experience in the U.S., showcasing various traditions, festivities, and cuisines, providing a window into the diverse customs of Latin America.

The series could highlight shared stories and challenges faced by Latinos in the U.S., fostering a sense of unity and empathy among viewers through common experiences of adaptation and cultural preservation. By celebrating both diversity and unity within the Latino community, Primos could teach viewers the importance of embracing and valuing cultural differences while recognizing the shared identity among Latin Americans and Latinos in the U.S.

Additionally, the series could reflect how Spanglish adapts and changes depending on each character's family background, showing a variety of accents, and how characters with different levels of proficiency in each language communicate. This would provide a more realistic portrayal of how descendants of migrants often blend these languages.

Cultural differences within the family could lead to comedic and touching situations, where characters learn about each other's customs. Primos could explore how family members balance and combine their multiple cultural identities, reflecting the reality of many Latinos with roots in more than one country, and fostering greater empathy and understanding among viewers.


Neither Natasha Kline's experience as a descendant of Mexicans in the U.S. nor Iñárritu's vision of Mexican identity and migration fully encompass what it means to be Latino or a migrant. These works are controversial because they attempt to encapsulate vast and diverse experiences in a single piece.

Entertainment studios often tend to represent minorities primarily as migrants and focus on family themes. While these topics are relevant, it is crucial for representations to reflect the plurality of experiences and celebrate both the individuality and collectivity of minorities.

While these changes require more time and resources, the result would be a product that appeals to a broader audience. Disney has already made adjustments, and the series has been delayed multiple times, indicating that time and money are being spent. As artists, we have the privilege and responsibility to speak about our culture. We cannot expect a single work to cover all experiences, but we can demand that representations be informed and authentic. We need stories that go beyond stereotypes and explore the rich cultural diversity of Latin communities. Only then can we truly see ourselves reflected in the media and learn to listen to and value the different voices within our community.

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