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How Latino dads are using TikTok to connect with their children

Tomás Mier, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Parenting News

LOS ANGELES -- Wearing a sultry look on his face and a long, curly gray wig, Genaro Rangel pulled his fake hair out of a ponytail and whipped it dramatically over his shoulders.

"¡Que paso!" exclaimed Rangel, a burly, mustachioed handyman, as he yanked off the wig in his Santa Ana, Calif., dining room. "It's me!"

His daughter, Wendy, burst into giggles as she recorded a shaky cellphone video for TikTok while her dad did an off-tune impersonation of Mexican legend Marco Antonio Solis, aka "El Buki." She would post it with the words, "I'm dead," and the hashtag #mexicandadsbelike.

Wendy Rangel, 22, often films her father, a natural jokester originally from the Mexican state of Baja California, because he does not mind making himself the butt of a joke on a social media app that he barely understands. If it makes his daughter happy? He'll do it. Enthusiastically.

Rangel is one of a growing number of middle-aged Latino dads making appearances on TikTok, the app best known for its goofy teen videos. From papis strutting in heels and a crop top to apas joining in on skits topapas jokingly swearing in their accented English, Latino dads are racking up the likes and views from users who see their own families reflected in the short, often candid clips.

"People don't really see this side of their dads," Wendy Rangel said. "Most dads don't like being recorded and they're more protective about what people think about them. My dad doesn't have a filter. He doesn't care about being tough. He just likes being himself."

 

And the comments under her videos, like, "Your dad reminds me a lot of mine," and "I swear Mexican dads are straight up comedy" are proof that others relate.

These TikTok dads defy the stereotype of the machista Latino father, and their growing presence on the app shows a cultural shift within immigrant families, said Alexandro Gradilla, a professor of Chicano Studies at Cal State Fullerton.

Although there is a traditional culture of respect tied to family life in Mexico and Latin America -- often embodied by the use of the more formal Spanish-language pronoun "usted" over "tu" when referring to parents -- the videos highlight a type of fatherhood that is more open and lighthearted, Gradilla said.

"One of the things that these men have experienced when they cross the border is that they don't want to be loved out of obligation or respect," he said. "They just want to be loved."

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