Is Dora the Explorer an Illegal Immigrant?
Dora the Explorer Caught Up in Immigration Debate
Debbie Groben created this image of Dora the Explorer for a fake news site late last year, before Arizona's immigration law became the center of a national debate.
CHICAGO (May 21) – In her police mug shot, the doe-eyed cartoon heroine with the bowl haircut has a black eye, battered lip and bloody nose.
Dora the Explorer's alleged crime? "Illegal Border Crossing Resisting Arrest."
The doctored picture, one of several circulating widely in the aftermath of Arizona's controversial new immigration law, may seem harmless, ridiculous or even tasteless.
But experts say the pictures and the rhetoric surrounding them online, in newspapers and at public rallies, reveal some Americans' attitudes about race, immigrants and where the immigration reform debate may be headed.
"Dora is kind of like a blank screen onto which people can project their thoughts and feelings about Latinos," said Erynn Masi de Casanova, a sociology professor at the University of Cincinnati. "They feel like they can say negative things because she's only a cartoon character."
It's not the first time a children's character has been dragged into a serious debate.
In the late 1990s, Tinky Winky the Teletubby, a purple children's TV character with a triangle antenna -- was called out by Christian leaders for being gay. Sesame Street roommates Bert and Ernie are often involved in statements on same-sex marriage.
Both shows' producers say the characters aren't gay.
In Dora's case, she's an easy target as discussion ramps up on how lawmakers should address the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.
For about a decade, the pint-sized Latina character has taught millions of children the English alphabet, colors and Spanish phrases on a Nickelodeon TV show and through a global empire. Her smiling cherub face is plastered on everything from backpacks to T-shirts to fruit snacks.
But since the passage of the Arizona law - which requires authorities to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally - Dora's life and immigration status have been scrutinized and mocked.
Several websites, including The Huffington Post, have narrated Dora's mock capture by immigration authorities. One picture circulating on Facebook shows an ad for a TV show called "Dora the Illegal Immigrant." On the Facebook page "Dora the Explorer is soo an Illegal Immigrant," there are several images showing her sailing through the air over the U.S.-Mexican border.
Many of the Dora images assume the Latina character is an illegal immigrant from Mexico.
But that's where it gets complicated.
Representatives from Nickelodeon declined to comment on Dora's background, and her place of birth or citizenship have never been clear." She has brown skin, dark hair and speaks Spanish with an American accent.
"She's always been ambiguously constructed," said Angharad Valdivia, who teaches media studies at the University of Illinois and has explored the issue. "In the U.S. the way we understand race is about putting people in categories and we're uncomfortable with people we can't put into categories."
Dora lives in an unidentified location with pyramids that suggest Mexico, but also tropical elements such as palm trees and her friends, Isa the iguana and Boots the monkey. Does that mean she's from South America or Florida?
Then there's oak trees and her fox nemesis Swiper, which are more common to the American Midwest.
The show often plays Salsa-like music, which has some roots in Cuba and is popular across Latin America.
Even the voice actresses behind Dora don't provide insight.
The original Dora voice belonged to Kathleen Herles, whose parents are from Peru. Dora is currently voiced by actress Caitlin Sanchez, a New Jersey-born teen who calls herself Cuban American; her grandparents are Cuban.
As for the mug shot, it's been around since late last year, when Debbie Groben of Sarasota, Fla. created it and entered it in a contest for the fake news site FreakingNews.com.
Since debate over the Arizona law heated up the nation's immigration debate, it's been e-mailed and texted widely and used on signs at rallies.
"My intentions were to do something funny, something and irreverent," said Groben, who said she opposes Arizona's law. "I actually like the little kid."
The issue appears to have resonated little with Dora's biggest fans, the millions of parents and their children who seem mostly unaware of the discussion encircling their beloved cartoon.
Altamise Leach, who has three children, said Dora's ethnicity and citizenship are irrelevant.
The stay-at-home mom credits the cartoon with helping teach her children team work. She even threw her 3-year-old daughter a Dora birthday party, complete with a Dora-like adventure, Dora cake and a woman who dressed up as Dora.
"We have so many diverse cultures, let's try to embrace everybody," Leach said. "She puts a smile on my daughter's face, that's all I want."
Erick Wyatt said he never thought about Dora's origins and his three children never asked.
"I just thought she was a cartoon character that spoke Spanish," the Flint, Mich., man said.
You Tube News Story <–-> hXXp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ba3VqzFb-Tc
Immigration debate enters a kiddie phase…...
"Playground politics" is usually intended as a metaphor — describing the all-too-frequent occasions when political debate descends into "I know you are, but what am I?" territory. This past week, however, the nation's long-running dispute over immigration policy lurched literally into the schoolyard, with a pair of incidents showing how the furor hits home for kids in often unexpected ways.
First, after a second-grade girl in a suburban Maryland school quizzed Michelle Obama about whether the president would be deporting her mother because she "doesn't have papers" documenting her U.S. citizenship, officials with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that they would not be trying to locate the parent in question. They have also announced that they will not deport the girl's mother if she were to surface.
"ICE is a federal law enforcement agency that focuses on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes criminal aliens who pose a threat to our communities," ICE spokesman Matthew Chandler told the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe. "Our investigations are based on solid law enforcement work and not classroom Q and As."
The exchange highlighted the complexities of deportation as a strategy for dealing with illegal immigration, since an estimated 3.1 million U.S.-born children have a parent who is an illegal immigrant, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Meanwhile, a beloved kids' cartoon character, Dora the Explorer, has been dragged into the heart of the immigration fray. A doctored image of the popular Nickelodeon character — who stresses basic reading and math skills and occasionally speaks in Spanish as she travels around the world from her home in a never-specified country — has lately cropped up in disputes in Arizona involving advocates on both sides of the state's tough new immigration law.
[Another kiddie controversy: Obesity activists want Ronald McDonald to go the way of Joe Camel]
In the altered image, Dora is shown in a police-booking photo, sporting a black eye and holding a sign that says "Illegal Border Crossing Resisting Arrest." The depiction has circulated widely, although its author, Florida resident Debbie Groben, told the Associated Press she created it last year simply to be an irreverent entry in a fake-news contest. (We are not including the image, but you can click over to it here — with the clear warning that it's a graphic and disturbing depiction of a beloved children's icon.)
Meanwhile, a Facebook group called "Dora the Explorer is so an illegal immigrant" shows Dora jumping over the U.S.-Mexico border with her backpack strapped on.
The broad political appropriation of the character is a reflection of Dora's audience appeal, experts suggest. "Dora is kind of like a blank screen onto which people can project their thoughts and feelings about Latinos," Erynn Masi de Casanova, a sociology professor at the University of Cincinnati, told the Associated Press. "They feel like they can say negative things because she's only a cartoon character." Indeed, Groben told the AP she opposes the law. The image can be read as satire, ridiculing a policy that would arrest and deport an adorable cartoon character.
As the AP reminds us, it's not the first time that a children's TV character has been conscripted into a culture-war conflict. In 1999, Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell created a furor over his announcement that Tinky Winky, a character in the toddler-themed BBC TV franchise "The Teletubbies," was a "gay role model," largely because the character sported a purple costume — a color associated with gay pride — and a triangle on its head. The BBC countered that the little fella was "simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag."
It will be some time, presumably, before we reach closure on the question of Dora's citizenship status — and the related issue of which camp in the immigration debate will be entitled to claim her as a political mascot. But there may be another shot for the Maryland schoolgirl to broker a new accord on immigration: She recently told the AP that she'd like to get a follow-up session with the first lady at the White House. Maybe this could be Michelle Obama's own version of the "beer summit" — only with juice boxes, of course.
— Liz Goodwin is a national affairs writer for Yahoo! News.
Hmm… Looks like a forgery to me.
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Even with your Permanent Resident Card I would advise you to Stay the Fuck out of Arizona,USA!!! They have clearly lost their collective minds in this State!!
i love dora!!!