LOS ANGELES – A delegation of the United States Congress’ Hispanic Caucus began on Thursday a series of discussions in Los Angeles with influential Hollywood executives and activists to discuss the “negative and unrealistic portrayal” of the Latinos in the American television and film industry.
“The manner in which (the) Latinos are portrayed in the media and news is very important, but it is hardly realistic and it is affecting the views of the majority of the US society on how it sees the Latino community in general,” Joaquin Castro, president of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a round table with activists.
The group of lawmakers began their visit to Los Angeles by meeting activists who advocate the inclusion of Latinos in Cinema, to establish an alliance that would allow them to present a united front to the big Hollywood production houses.
Castro, along with Democratic lawmakers Jimmy Gomez, Nanette Barragan, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda Sanchez, and Sylvia Garcia expressed concerns over the portrayal of the community in cinema.
“When things become extreme and there is a bad portrayal of a community, it could even end in something like El Paso,” said Castro, referring to the mass shooting that took place in the border town in Texas on Aug. 3.
According to documents from the investigation into the shooting – in which 22 people were killed in an attack on a Walmart store – the suspect Patrick Crusius confessed to the police that he wanted to kill “Mexicans.”
“If someone fundamentally resents Latinos, it is because in his head they are represented badly,” Castro insisted.
The Texan lawmaker said the responsibility also fell on those who had not made efforts to ensure a realistic depiction of these communities, referring to studios and executives.
Congresswoman Sanchez said that Latino men in TV series or films were usually stereotyped as traffickers and criminals while the women were portrayed as service personnel, janitors and nannies.
“We have known this for a long time but now we are at a turning point, where we are getting attention and collectively we can begin working to resolve this serious problem,” Sanchez said.
Olga Segura, co-founder of Latinx House – an organization that works for further inclusion of Latinos in the entertainment sector and participated in the round-table – told EFE that the community could make Hollywood hire more Hispanic talent, which could tell real stories about Latinos, only by joining forces.
She emphasized that support from the Latino audience was also needed to take the fight forward.
Congresswoman Garcia, who represents a Houston constituency, said it was time to be more aggressive to tackle the problem because these days the public gained most of its knowledge from audiovisual media.
The lawmakers cited a recent study of the University of South California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which revealed that only around 3 percent of the people working in front of and behind the camera in the US were Latinos.
Of the 112 directors involved in the 100 biggest films of 2018, a tiny 2.7 percent were Latinos.
The study also found out that 70 of the 100 films lacked Latinos characters.
“This has to change, we have to press for a realistic portrayal of our community, which also helps us in getting empowered,” Castro told representatives of eight organizations who participated in the meeting.
On Friday, the delegation of Hispanic lawmakers was set to hold meetings with executives of Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, Netflix, Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros, and the Motion Picture Association of America.