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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

OPINION: Dark humor: the Vaporub to our intergenerational trauma

Sana, Sana Colita de Rana, right?
%28L-R%29+Benito+%E2%80%9CBad+Bunny%E2%80%9D+Ocasio+and+Pedro+Pascal+dressed+as+T%C3%ADa+Rosa+and+Mam%C3%A1+Flores+at+Saturday+Night+Live+Saturday+Oct.%2C+21%2C+2023.+This+sketch+spotlighted+the+Latinx+community%E2%80%99s+use+of+dark+humor+to+cope+with+trauma.+%28Photo+Courtesy+of+Saturday+Night+Live%29
(L-R) Benito “Bad Bunny” Ocasio and Pedro Pascal dressed as Tía Rosa and Mamá Flores at Saturday Night Live Saturday Oct., 21, 2023. This sketch spotlighted the Latinx community’s use of dark humor to cope with trauma. (Photo Courtesy of Saturday Night Live)

Editor’s Note: The usage of Hispanic, Latino/a/e/x and Chicano/a/e/x is in accordance with the preference and language of the sources and/or organizations included in this story.

If you grew up in a Latin household, the smell of Vaporub is a hard one to forget. Forever imprinted in our senses, the intense smell of eucalyptus is usually associated with sickness. Thickly slathered on our chests, the soles of our feet and wherever else our guardians deemed necessary to help us recover quickly from our colds and flu.

In the same way, dark humor is the ointment of our intergenerational trauma. A perfect encapsulation of this was Puerto Rican rapper and singer, Benito “Bad Bunny” Ocasio’s time hosting Saturday Night Live last weekend.

One of the sketches, “Protective Mom 2” involved actor Pedro Pascal and Benito dressing up in drag as older Latina women. Pascal’s character, Mamá Flores and Benito’s character, Tía Rosa were meeting Luis’ new white girlfriend, Casey.

Right from the initial meeting, Mamá Flores and Tía Rosa coddled Luis and judged Casey. Casey made sure to not come empty-handed and passed over Royal Dansk Danish Butter Cookies as a gift to Mamá Flores.

In response, Mamá Flores dumps out the cookies and fills the tin with sewing tools. A true tribute to the Latin community who grew up with every butter cookie tin being filled with anything but butter cookies.

Mamá Flores is torn between anger and joy when she sees her son Luis. In near tears, she hugs him, praising the Virgin Mary and the three kings while at the same time taking off her slipper to hit him for not calling her enough.

A highly recognized scene by most Latin people, Latin mothers see their sons as babies despite their actual age. Laying on the guilt for not calling them everyday while making it known that they are praying day and night for them.

Throughout the sketch, Mamá Flores, Tía Rosa and Luis speak in Spanglish, keeping Casey out of the loop while they passive aggressively judge her. Mamá Flores is devastated at the possibility of having grandchildren named “Hailey” or “Tyler.”

Tía Rosa judges Casey by calling her “very Old Navy” and stereotyping her as a white girl with a “flat butt” who works at Starbucks.

On YouTube, the sketch has reached 1.5 million views in one day. One user commented about their own experience as a “white ex-girlfriend of a Colombian dude” with an overprotective and judgy mother. “Thanks for helping me heal from my breakup, SNL,” they said.

This bond between Latin mothers and their sons makes it difficult for any woman to be good enough for their son, unless they reflect the stereotypical values of Latin women, selflessly prioritizing the well-being of their families and being highly spiritual.

As an eldest first generation Latina American, my Mexican mother ensured that we went to church every week and that I knew how to cook, clean and take care of my younger siblings.

Why? Because this made me a woman worthy of a family and desirable to marry.

(L-R) Pedro Pascal, Marcello Hernández, Benito “Bad Bunny Ocasio and Chloe Troast during Saturday Night Live’s “Protective Mom 2” sketch Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. SNL cast member Hernández was the writer of this sketch. (Photo Courtesy of Saturday Night Live)

It all comes to a head when Casey mentions Luis’ depression diagnosis.

Mamá Flores and Tía Rosa are abhorred by this. Mamá Flores erupts with anger saying, “Mí hijo does not have depression! He just likes the dark!”

According to Mamá Flores, Luis tried to claim he had depression when he was a child. She responds, “Don’t do that, do something else!”

The YouTube comments are filled with many who relate to the various antics of Mamá Flores and Tía Rosa with many gushing at how relatable this is to the Latin American community.

Another user commented saying how relatable it was for the older parents to not recognize depression as an actual ailment.

Struggling with mental health is seen as embarrassing or shameful within the Latin community. In a culture where religion is highly regarded, mental health is over spiritualized. It’s seen as a sign of a sinful life. A simple prayer or having enough faith is the cure.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. I didn’t get officially diagnosed until I was in my early 20s. My anxiety was always seen as a ‘demonic attack’ or a consequence of my ‘sin.’

To my parents, I must have strayed away from God to be dealing with this.

Or maybe, I could just snap out of it?

Luis squirms at his mom and aunt’s comments and tries to get them to stop, but fails. Instead of daring to cross the threshold of actually defending Casey and possibly disrespecting his elders, he joins in by saying he doesn’t care if she has the face of a “bisexual barista.”

When Casey attempts to refocus everyone on the food, Luis claims to not have an appetite. To this she says, “How many times have I told you, you do not eat enough?”

Mamá Flores and Tía Rosa gush over this, grabbing either other’s hands. “She wants to feed my son!” Mamá Flores says. To them, Casey had finally shown herself as worthy of Luis by pushing him to eat.

She reaches over to Casey and says, “Gimme Tyler, gimme Hailey!”

Many comments on the Youtube video claim this is the best writing they’ve seen on SNL in a long time. One user said they didn’t notice Benito and Pascal’s facial hair because of how good the sketch was.

The response to this sketch shows how critical dark humor is to the Latin community. You can often find Latin friends laughing at their own trauma as a way to cope, poking fun at each other to find some type of silver lining.

While speaking about important traumatic events or inappropriately intertwined relationships within our families, we always find a way to cope.

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About the Contributor
Jasmine Ascencio, DEI Editor
(she/her)
Jasmine joined The State Hornet in spring of 2023 as a DEI staffer. She is now the DEI editor for The State Hornet. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism advocating for underrepresented communities.
 
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