There have been several articles floating the internet regarding an Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism study (University of Southern California) that said that Hispanic females are more likely to appear naked or scantily clad on-screen, on top of Latinos being vastly underrepresented, anyway. Especially compared to our high ticket sales and $1 trillion purchasing power.
I have a favor to ask: Get on twitter. Tell me your favorite film (past or future) that features a Latin@ actor/director/writer and use the hashtag #supportlatinofilm – here’s the trailer for mine – and below are my suggestions for your weekend reading.
Race/Ethnicity in 600 Popular Films: Examining On Screen Portrayals and Behind the Camera Diversity :: via USC/Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism – read the study here for yourself.
One Absurd Statistic Shows Just How Bad Hollywood’s Latino Problem Is :: via Arts.Mic – I don’t know if the author read the whole study. He points to the “banner year” for black films, which the study showed didn’t coincide with continued under-representation of blacks in film since 2007. The author feels that politics is the solution.
Shut up and Take Off Your Clothes :: via Latina.com – This article, by a magazine targeted at Latinas, actually bothered to interview a Latina actor.
Why We Can’t Blame Latinas for their Hollywood Image :: via Latina.com – According to this article, because there’s nothing else, and hey, we gotta pay the bills.
This problem is complex one and these articles all pointed to different sources for the disparity and solutions. The NY Daily News article quotes Demián Bichir as saying that Latinos should support smaller films with Latino directors/actors in lieu of blockbusters. He said:
“You would think that with Hispanics being so powerful in terms of spending that there would be a Latin superhero by now. You’d think Marvel would say, ‘Super Charro is here! Come see him fight against the bad guys!’ But in terms of superheroes or spectacular films like ‘Transformers,” the Hispanic community already is packing the theaters, so it’s not necessary.”
Let me make this clear: I don’t think that feminism can’t exist on par with owning your sexuality or being beautiful. Plenty of white actors are also playing strippers, and their nudity is often also very controversial. So if you think the role is good, take it. But it can’t be the only way we are represented.
I think the problem lies in a deep-seated national narrative that ignores Latinos. It also reflects our under-representation in other areas, such as politics. Quick! Think of Latino politicians! I thought of two off the top of my head. Uh, there are 100 Congress persons and 435 Representatives. And hey! I’m not far off. The 2011 Directory of Latino Elected Officials says there are 2 Latino senators and 31 Latin@ representatives. Um, that’s 2 percent and 0.07 percent, respectively.
I heard an NPR interview with Helen Mirren this week about lack of meaty roles for women in general and what she said really struck me, and I’ll leave you with the quote as something to chew on:
“Don’t worry about roles in drama. That’s not your concern. Worry about roles for women in real life, because as night follows day, roles for women in drama will follow. And when you have a female president of America — which hopefully, maybe you will very soon — when you have female heads of hospitals, of legal firms, of schools, of universities, you will have roles for women in drama.”
After reading and reviewing Seven for the Revolution, I was fortunate to also be able to interview the author, Rudy Ruiz.
Ruiz grew up in Brownsville, Texas, and learned English when he entered school. Ruiz began writing as a child and has always used his experiences on the U.S.-Mexico border and his heritage as inspiration. A Harvard graduate, Ruiz founded Interlex Communications and published ¡Adelante! in 2003 and Going Hungry in 2008. He has written columns for CNN and his own website, Red Brown and Blue. Seven for the Revolution, his fictional debut, garnered several awards from the 2014 Latino Book Awards: First Place in Best Popular Fiction, the Mariposa Award for Best First Book – Fiction, and Second Place for Most Inspirational Fiction Book and Honorable Mention for Best Cover.
Read on for the interview after the jump, as well as to find out how to win my review copy of Seven for the Revolution.
I have another article in the works, and a book or two I’m reading. In the meantime, I’m sitting here eating huevos con chorizo, tortillas de maiz, and my Nescafe (yay weekend!). Here’s some weekend reading to go with your breakfast:
Five Reasons to Stop Relaxing Your Daughter’s Hair :: via Latina magazine – My daughter has super curly (3c) hair, and it takes a lot of work to maintain those curls (maybe I’ll post a how-to?). At 3 years old she has already looked at her friends, and her dolls, and asked for “flat” hair. But she left that idea behind after we pointed out that her curly hair is sooo beautiful, people stop us everywhere to tell us how gorgeous it is and also to ask if it’s real. (What’s with the fake hair, people?)
Oscar Hijuelos novel to be published posthumously :: via Houston Chronicle – this will be published in fall 2015.
Lack of Latin@ characters addressed by San Diego author :: via KPBS San Diego – This story reports that less than 5 percent of children’s books feature African Americans, and EVEN LESS Latinos or other cultures. Check out this interview of Kevin Gerard, who self-published Diego’s Dragon, a fantasy featuring a Latino main character, and professor Phillip Serrato, regarding this lack of diversity. Sadly, the chart at the bottom shows that the number of diverse characters has only decreased in 2013.
Watch the trailer for Harvest of Empire:
If you are interested in the history of the U.S. meddling in Latin America, read Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism by Greg Grandin.
I decided to conduct an experiment at my recent trip to Barnes and Noble and see what Latin@ authors are prominently displayed. By prominently displayed, I mean that the books were placed face up on a table of featured books or had their cover displayed on a bookcase where the other books are primarily displayed with the spines facing out. My analysis: More than I expected for a bookstore in Alabama. The authors are the major ones, but I’ve heard that in order for your book to be featured in a big-box bookstore, it basically has to be a bestseller and your publisher has to make arrangements. There was one pitiful shelf on the “Cultural Studies” bookcase, which carried about 11 books by or about Latin@s, pretty outdated, alongside an equally dismal selection for LGBTQ, social studies, Native American, and African American books. Anyway, this is going to be a photo post – see below for the results:
I just finished reading Seven for the Revolution by Rudy Ruiz. Ruiz’s inaugural fictional work recently won several categories for the 2014 Latino Book Awards: First Place in Best Popular Fiction, the Mariposa Award for Best First Book – Fiction, and Second Place for Most Inspirational Fiction Book and Honorable Mention for Best Cover.
Seven is a collection of short stories about U.S. Latinos. Read all the way through, and you’ll see the connections between the stories. A motif of bridges resonates through the book and serves as a symbol of the back-and-forth lifestyle of immigrants.
The book begins with the story of Enrique, a Mexican colonel in the Porfiriato era. His story introduces us to the intertwining Mexican-American border story and the stories progress chronologically from there.
I identified and enjoyed most of all the story “Bending the Laws of Motion,” a coming of age story in which a entrepreneurial young boy sells “chile” candy (what I grew up calling by the brand name “Lucas’ or just “picolin”) in an attempt to get an Evel Knievel-inspired bike. I don’t know if it’s the story of the hardworking family, the plucky young boy, or maybe just how they go back and forth across the border, but this story struck a chord with me. I saw myself as a child, a native El Pasoan growing up on the border, probably for the first time in a book.
But really, it’s probably the candy. This Buzzfeed video about Mexican candy makes me laugh until I cry as I remember my childhood:
The book ends with two stories set in the future, in a dystopian United States. The main characters of those stories are barely Latino, by which I mean they really don’t identify with any Latino culture and you don’t see the hallmarks of Mexican-American or other Latino culture in the setting. This really mystified me. After much thought, it finally occurred to me that as the story progresses through time, like a real multi-generational Mexican-American or Latino family, after so many generations the family will branch off and some will no longer identify with the culture. The dystopian stories weren’t my favorite (where did they get cake from? exactly what happened?) but I think they provided the most thought fodder.
Overall impression: there are parts where the language is somewhat clunky and a there is a very unusual use of many, many ellipses, but overall the book is an enjoyable read. I would feel comfortable sharing this book with a YA reader, as well. The book’s areas of excellence are the storytelling, the ability to convey our culture so well, and originality.