April 11, 2013 at 12:46 PM ET
Poor Mexico Barbie. She just wants to teach girls “about the culture, traditions and ancestral dress of Mexico,” according to her online description. Little did she know her two possessions, a passport and a Chihuahua, would stir up an argument over cultural diversity.
Mexico Barbie is among several of Mattel's “Dolls of the World,” each dressed in clothing considered traditional to various countries around the world.
China Barbie, for example, wears a red silk embroidered gown and comes packaged with a panda tucked under her arm. India Barbie wears a sari and has a pet monkey. The beret-capped French Barbie does not come with an animal, but can offer buyers a basket of baguettes instead.
Mexico Barbie has long, black wavy hair, tied back in a purple bow, and is “dressed for a fabulous fiesta” in a pink dress with ruffles, ribbons and lace. However, her accessories of a Chihuahua dog and a "passport and sticker sheet to help record Barbie doll’s travels” have raised eyebrows.
All Barbies in the “Dolls of the World” collection come with passports, but some people are wondering whether it’s appropriate for Mexico Barbie to have one because of the current immigration debate.
“Are they making any sort of political statement or just being creative?” Latin Times wondered.
Journalist Laura Martinez wrote on her blog: "Play with your Barbie Mexicana and don’t even think of calling her indocumentada.”
Mattel said the “Dolls of the World” line, launched in 1980, is the largest and longest-running series in the history of the Barbie brand. Last year, it added dolls from Argentina, Australia, Chile, China, Holland India, Ireland and Mexico. Each wears “an ensemble inspired by the traditional costume and fashion of the country,” the company said in a statement.
“We consulted with the Mexican Embassy on the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, especially with respect to the selection of the Chihuahua,” the brand told TODAY.com in a statement. “Our goal with the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, as well as the entire Dolls of the World Collection, is to celebrate cultural differences and tradition, introducing girls to the world through play.
But others see that kind of response as an overreaction. Ana Flores, co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com, said she sees nothing wrong with the Mexico Barbie. In fact, her 5-year-old daughter owns one “and absolutely adores her.”
“I don’t rely on dolls to teach my daughter accurate culture or history — that’s what books, conversations, travels and real-life cultural events are for,” she told NBC in an email. “I actually applaud Mattel for having this collection that can serve as a starting point for our girls to have a wide range of options to choose from.”
Flores also said “exploding over a Mexican Barbie having a passport and associating that with illegal immigration is taking it a bit too far.”
Monica Olivera, who runs the Latina homeschooling blog, Mommy Maestra, said she also doesn’t understand the fuss over Mexico Barbie.
“They've been doing international dolls for years now. All of them come with passports — which I love not because it has anything to do with immigration or being ‘legal,’ but because a passport is a symbol of international travel and global communication and relationships in my mind,” she said in an email before writing about the issue in a post, "What’s the big deal about the Mexican Barbie?"
Olivera pointed out that Mattel has sold similar Mexican-themed dolls in the past. “When I was a little girl, I would have loved to have owned a Barbie that actually looked like me and that wore a traditional costume I saw every year at the 16 de septiembre or cinco de mayo events we celebrated,” she said. “Why make our kids continue to feel ashamed? Boo.”