WASHINGTON – A character in the soap opera “Mas sabe el diablo” (“The Devil Knows Best”) will urge Hispanics to participate – enthusiastically and without any fear – in the 2010 U.S. Census, Telemundo, the country’s No. 2 Spanish-language network, announced Tuesday.
“It’s important that they count all of us,” actress Michelle Vargas, who portrays “Perla Beltran” on the successful soap, told Efe. “And it’s important that people know that the information the Census collects is confidential, that they shouldn’t be afraid.”
The head of the Census Bureau, Dr. Robert M. Groves, and Telemundo president Don Browne, participated on Tuesday in a press conference along with Vargas in which they described the government’s efforts to carry out next year’s Census.
“For this campaign, the Census Bureau is hiring so many people that it’s having an effect on the national employment index,” said Groves. “We hope to hire some 3.8 million people in what will be the largest mobilization of civilians in the country’s history.”
Brown, for his part, said that Telemundo, in contrast to its giant rival Univision, which acquires and distributes soap operas produced abroad, “has the capacity and goes to a lot of trouble (to produce) its own soaps.”
In the soap opera broadcast for about 26 weeks in the evenings, Perla is a secondary character – the girlfriend of Gregorio, who is killed by a gang member – who one day sees a person with Census questionnaires on the street.
Perla becomes curious, asks what the person is doing and when she is told that she, too, can qualify to get hired to conduct the Census, she applies and gets the job, the actress said at Tuesday’s press conference.
U.S. population Censuses originally served to define congressional districts. But over the years, they have been used for a variety of other purposes, from allocation of funds for public projects to the distribution of resources for health care and education.
Groves emphasized the care with which the Census Bureau and every one of its employees protect the data obtained on the population surveys, and Vargas acknowledged that “many people, because they don’t have immigration documents, are afraid that the information will be used against them.”
The 2010 Census will begin next February when the surveys will be distributed either by mail or door to door, and the work of tallying the data will get started on April 1. The questionnaires will be available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian, along with help guides in 59 languages.
To ensure that the ever more diverse U.S. population can respond to the questionnaire precisely and completely, authorities will send out “some 13 million bilingual questionnaires, in Spanish and English, by mail to homes in neighborhoods where a great need for help in Spanish has been identified,” Groves said.
Between May and July, the surveyors hired by the Census Bureau will visit the homes that have not received their questionnaires by mail.
The Census Bureau calculates that in 2010 the U.S. population will total about 310 million.
The questionnaire, Groves added, takes into account the concern among many Hispanics that the U.S. government formerly did not give them a proper set of options to choose from when identifying themselves by “race” or “ethnic group.” Many Hispanics had insisted that the categories “white” or “black” did not strictly apply to them and asked for additional options.
For the millions of Latin American immigrants who are of mixed European, Amerindian and African descent, Groves said, the form now provides a place where people can describe themselves as they want to be considered. EFE