Throughout the years American Girl has created its historical characters in a special way that not only teaches about different periods of history but gives the brand’s fans a chance to see different snapshots of culture. Josefina especially does this extremely well. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month this year, which started on September 15th and will be going until October 15th, I decided to re-read her entire series as an adult. It is a story that explores loss, tackles the difficult topic of grief, and is filled to the brim with love and family. They have a doll to go with them that is a celebration of Latina history and culture in so many ways.
Josefina was the first ever American Girl doll to represent Latina girls. She was released in 1997. A special face mold was created for her to represent Latina facial features better than the Eurocentric classic mold. The Josefina mold is now one of the most popular face molds American Girl has made, being utilized in several popular Just Like You and “Girl of The Year” dolls. Her collection features items that would have been used on Josefina’s rancho that have influences from Mexican settlers as well as indigenous Pueblo people who shared the New Mexico area. There is an adobe oven to make pretend tortillas with Josefina, a Pueblo weaving loom to weave traditional blankets, and so many more unique culturally accurate items that could fill up a whole other blog all on their own. All of Josefina’s outfits, especially the Pleasant Company and early Mattel versions, are accurate depictions of the type of things that would have been worn on a New Mexico rancho that are a different style than what was being worn by European Americans in 1824. The attention to detail and rich cultural references really make Josefina stand out in the historical collection.
The stories start with Josefina and her sisters living on their family rancho in New Mexico in 1824. She is the youngest at nine years old, her sister Clara who is described as very practical-minded is the second youngest at 12. Sister Francesca is seen as Clara’s foil and is very fanciful with air for rushing things and is 15. Ana is the eldest and is already married with two sons. The girl’s mother had died the previous year and they are all struggling to get by with just their father, who is the patron of the rancho. Josefina’s tia, Dolores, comes to visit and helps them navigate their world and grieve healthily. All of them are mourning the loss of Josefina’s mother uniquely, and the story does a very good job of showing how no two people grieve the same way. The author really allows the characters to be vulnerable in a way that is very beautifully done and really makes the love they hold for each other tangible to the reader.
I am not Latin American, but Girl AGain’s store manager, Claudia, is Colombian.
I briefly interviewed her about her personal opinions on Josefina and Hispanic Heritage Month. Claudia is an incredible human being and I very much value her opinion:
Mo: How would you personally define Hispanic Heritage Month and why do you think it is important that people celebrate it?
Claudia: Hispanic Heritage Month is very special where the Latin heritage of all the Latin Americans who live in the USA is celebrated. And I think it is important because there are many Latin American people who live in the United States, and diversity is now something that is seen day to day. So I think it is very important that people know about Latin American culture and become more familiar with it.
Mo: What does it mean to you that AG made a doll like Josefina whose main goal is to teach children about Latino history?
Claudia: Josefina is one of my favorites. I love that a brand like American Girl has created a doll that represents Latin people. It is super special to me that Latin Americans are represented.
Mo: If AG were to create another Latina doll in the historical collection, what qualities would you want her to have?
Claudia: That’s a good question! Like very festive, happy. I don’t know. How Latin women, or people, are very happy, very family-oriented. We are very dedicated to our families above all.
Mo: I noticed while reading Josefina’s stories that they are extremely family oriented and really explore the love families hold for each other. As a Latina what does your family mean to you?
Claudia: So much. For Latinos especially, family is everything. In fact, I just came from Colombia to visit my family because I really missed them! My family is very important to me.
Josefina is a very special doll. I would love to see more characters like her in the future that are really focused on representing Latin American people and cultural history. Personally, reading all her books these past few weeks have been a joy and I have really been treasuring my Josefina and admiring how special she is.
Happy Hispanic Heritage month, and if you want to discover more about Josefina you can explore her stories and collection here at Girl AGain. If you never have before, you are in for a treat. You can contact us at 914.358.1460 or visit us at 10 Church St., White Plains, NY 10601 to see what items from the Josefina collection we have available.
By Yes She Can Trainee Mo