Spoiler alert: Spoilers for the Barbie movie follow. One of the strengths of the Barbie movie — besides choreographed dance numbers, Ryan Gosling learning about the patriarchy, and Issa Rae as president — is both the character Barbie, and the film Barbie’s, self awareness. The line between the real world, Barbieland, and the movie-goers’ actual real world is blurred multiple times throughout the film. For millennials, or fans of 2002 Disney Channel Original Movies, one of the most self-referential moments in the film isn’t when Helen Mirren calls out Margot Robbie for being too pretty. It is the Gotta Kick It Up! “Sí, se puede” moment in the Barbie movie’s final moments with America Ferrera.
Ferrera plays Gloria in Barbie, and is an instrumental part in helping the Barbies save Barbieland from the liege of Ken dolls who have gotten a taste of a male-dominated and -led society after Gosling’s Ken comes face-to-face with gas-guzzling cars and horses. But it is not the first time Ferrera has led a group of women to greatness. Just over 10 years ago, early in her career, Ferrera played Yolanda in the Disney Channel’s Gotta Kick It Up! DCOM — a movie about a school dance team who uses their Latin culture to find success in their district’s dance competition. It has a similar message as Barbie — anything is possible, or for Gotta Kick It Up!, “Sí, se puede.”
Despite being the slogan and chant many came to love after seeing the 2002 film, “Sí, se puede” did not originate in the DCOM movie. That credit can go to labor activist Dolores Huerta, who in 1972, came up with the motto for the United Farm Workers during Cesar Chavez’s 25-day fast following legislation that denied farm workers the right to strike. It translates to, “Yes, it is possible” or, “Yes, it can be done,” while the movie Gotta Kick It Up! translated it as, “Yes I can.”
In Barbie, however, Gloria’s unnamed husband — who seems to be Duolingo-ing his way through intermediate Spanish classes — says the phrase to his wife before Barbie goes to her first OB/GYN appointment, and it is the perfect nod to Ferrera’s early career (and very niche) hit. It’s a quick, take-a-loud-bite-of-popcorn-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but a satisfying one nonetheless for those who still dream about the days Disney Channel churned out original movies once a month.
I can only image Ferrera loved the chance to bring the iconic quote back into the pop culture landscape — she also launched an organization in 2020 aimed at creating a community for Latina women to use their voices and vote in the then-upcoming election, which she called She Se Puede. An icon through and through.