When domestic workers are in the spotlight, it's often as part of a negative narrative. Whether it's Dominic Strauss-Khan's alleged assault of a maid or the maid suing the writer of The Help, the positivity just isn't there. There is also the very real truth that many domestic workers are exploited, underpaid and unprotected by labor laws. While we don't know how the Eva Longoria-produced show Devious Maids will turn out, at least one woman who works as a cleaner wants us to know that there is an uplifting story to be told.
Yesterday, I received this email:
Dear Ms. Stewart,
Thank you for writing the [post], "Eva Longoria to Produce New TV Pilot Starring Four Latina Actresses… As Maids." I think perhaps Eva's mission is similar to Salma's mission, which is, to take a popular telenovela and turn it into crap. I wish you could've seen the original Ugly Betty (Betty La Fea) in Spanish when it came out in 1999, because it was fierce. The ABC version was a Frankenstein, and the Betty character was annoying and self-righteous! Longoria and Hayek are "come mierdas," which means, pretentious fools. But literally, it means "shit eaters." Don't worry, the Hispanic community feels this way about them, it's not just me.
I have a point. Don't worry about the stereotype too much (about Latina maids) because we are making money. I should know, I'm a maid. I am going to City College and majoring in Political Science and minoring in Econ. People treat me with respect and I love my job. Granted, there are lots of classism involved, but I don't really care because I know who I am. Seriously, I rather clean toilets for a living than have a 9-5 boss who is the most incompetent tool in the shed. I make more money by helping people who can't clean their own home. I am appreciated and tipped.
We are entrepreneurs and thats how we brand ourselves to make everyone happy. I make my money on this truth - I let my customers know my prices, what I do or can't do, and if they don't like then they are free to find someone else who will make them happy. The truth of the matter is, cleaning is a forgotten skill (like sewing, cooking, etc) and foreign born Latinas (along with Russian and French Africans) are taught from an early age how to clean.
But thank you for at least talking about it and shedding some light on the subject. Hispanics are ignored in the U.S. and practically invisible in the media so at least someone is paying attention.
— Jess V.
My post was meant to deal with the stereotype in terms of what it means for a Latina actress — finding that over and over, the only role available to her is the thick-accented, marginalized "Housekeeper" caricature like Lupe Ontiveros has played 300 times on screen. But maybe Devious Maids will feature characters like the writer of this email: Eloquent, proud, intelligent, awesome.
Image via LukaTDB/Shutterstock.