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Latinos continue to be invisible in Hollywood and the media, a new report finds

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) attends the Netflix premiere of <em>Gentefied</em> in D.C. earlier this year. With actors J.J. Soria, Julissa Calderon, Karrie Martin, Carlos Santos, Annie Gonzalez, and Joaquín Cosío.
Shannon Finney
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Getty Images for Netflix
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) attends the Netflix premiere of Gentefied in D.C. earlier this year. With actors J.J. Soria, Julissa Calderon, Karrie Martin, Carlos Santos, Annie Gonzalez, and Joaquín Cosío.

Despite making up nearly 19 percent of the population, Latinos continue to be underrepresented or misrepresented in Hollywood, news and book publishing, according to a new report released by the Government Accountability Office.

"Latinos are effectively excluded or sidelined from much of American media," says Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which requested the report. Castro told NPR, "That's not only culturally inconvenient for this community, but also, I think, dangerous. Because in the lack of visibility, in the lack of Latino stories that are told in American media, there are stereotypes that fester and grow from that invisibility, from that black hole and narrative. And that's dangerous for Latinos, but I think it's also dangerous for Americans in general."

The first such report, released last year, found that only 7% of workers in the media are Latino, and only 3% are Latina. That includes talent in front of and behind the cameras in film, TV, and in news, and as book authors, editors and publishers. The new report found that from 2010 to 2019, the percentage of media workers who are Latino or Latina grew only by 1%, compared to a 3% percent rise for Latinos in other fields. The report found that most Hispanics in media are service and craft workers.

"Hollywood in particular is still the main image-defining and narrative-creating institution in American society," Castro said when that report was released. "And Latinos are still largely invisible in this industry."

He also called out large newspapers, television and streaming networks, and book publishers for failing to recruit and retain talented Latinos. He said some media companies are doing better than others, but the issue remains.

"One of the ways that you begin to fix that problem of negative portrayals and inaccurate representation is by including more Latinos and Latinas as C-suite executives, as showrunners and writers in Hollywood, but also as journalists in newsrooms, as published authors," Castro said. "In other words, you get voices from the community who can speak to the real life, authentic stories and representations of the community."

He said the findings also demand federal intervention. The new report recommends that, among other things, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Communications Commission share data about discrimination complaints against media companies. And it recommends the unions file demographic reports.

Castro has been meeting with dozens of media companies to try to get them to do better by the Latino community. He told NPR he was spurred to act on the historic imbalances after the mass shooting in El Paso in 2019.

"You had a mad man who drove 10 hours to El Paso to kill 23 people and injure more than 20 others because he considered them 'Hispanic invaders,'" Castro said. "You ask yourself, how does somebody come to that conclusion? American media, from hard news to Hollywood, has been running what I would consider a kind of negative ad over generations against the Latino community ... Over the generations, Latinos have been disproportionately characterized as criminals, as gang members, as ex-convicts, Latinas as prostitutes, as hypersexualized on screen and on film. Those portrayals have been lopsided, they have predominated much of the media coverage." He said that affects how Americans see Latinos, "and also, quite frankly, how Latinos see themselves."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.