Maids & Cholas — SNL Celebrates Latin Heritage Month

Tired, Racist Tropes are for Tired, Racist Dopes

Emily Fox


SNL Pico Rivera chola sketch Saturday Night Live
Photo by Wallace Chuck from Pexels

Late this past Saturday night, I was curled up on the couch with my sleeping cats and snoring husband (he reluctantly approved this characterization), scrolling social media on my phone. With Saturday Night Live on in the background, I was only half paying attention when I heard “…reporting live from Pico Park”. Whoa! What a blast from the past. I couldn’t believe my ears. Were they talking about the Pico Park … my Pico Park? (By the way, when Hollywood makes a movie about my life, they’ll play a record scratch sound at this point: Sofía Vergara will sexily pick up the remote to rewind the TV just like I did. She looks exactly like me. Like, exactly.)

Born and raised in Pico Rivera, any time I hear “Pico” I think of Pico Rivera. Pico Rivera is a small suburb on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where the name “Pico” is used generously for streets, parks, schools, and at least one drug den (if you go there, tell Shorty my name and he’ll hook you up!) Interesting thing about Pico Rivera: no one seems to ever have heard of it. I live in Colorado now, but when I lived in Southern California, almost nobody knew Pico Rivera existed. I’d have to say it was near Whittier, Montebello, or Downey. Even then I’d mostly get a, “Huh.” So, hearing my hometown mentioned on national television, on one of my favorite TV shows, was pretty exciting.

I went back to the beginning of the SNL sketch. “A Peek at Pico” was the title of the fictional Pico Rivera cable access channel in the sketch. Melissa Villaseñor and Selena Gomez played cholas. Outfits and accents aside, I immediately took issue with their characters’ names: Vanessa and Sofia?! This is Pico, not the valley. More like Xochilt and Marisela. Anyway, overall it was an unfunny sketch: two cholas with Spanish accents and broken English are hosts of a cable access show, with two white people thrown in to highlight their stupidity. Latinos are uneducated! Hilarious.

Although mostly a harmless sketch, the first thing that tipped me past the breaking point was a previous sketch where Villaseñor played Johnny Depp’s maid. When I saw her come out in her maid uniform with the accent and everything, I just felt angry. The Mexican maid is such a tired…