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Latino misrepresentation in the entertainment industry results from lack of Latino representation in the media

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Netflix's "Selena: The Series" chronicles the life of the Queen of Tejano and her family. Gabriel Chavarria (left) as A.B. Quintanilla, Christian Serratos (center) as Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, and Ricardo Chavira (right) as Abraham Quintanilla. | Credit: NETFLIX © 2020
NETFLIX © 2020
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Netflix's "Selena: The Series" chronicles the life of the Queen of Tejano and her family. Gabriel Chavarria (left) as A.B. Quintanilla, Christian Serratos (center) as Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, and Ricardo Chavira (right) as Abraham Quintanilla. The series features Latinos in front of and behind the camera.

Latinos are one of the fastest growing demographics in the U.S., but this population continues to be severely underrepresented in the media industry including TV, film, news and publishing.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform commissioned a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which found Latinos make up 12% of all workers in this industry.

That translates to approximately 14% in radio and TV broadcasting, 16% in the film and video industry, 5% of all speaking characters on screen between 2007 and 2019 and 4% of film directors.

Contrarily, Latinos make up more of the service and custodial workforce within the media industry, such as those who provide security, food preparation and cleaning services.

“I think the Latino narrative in the United States is missing from the larger American narrative,” said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who sits on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' advisory council. “I'm convinced after all of this work and my experiences in the past that Americans really don't know who Latinos are. They don't know who among us has made important contributions to the success or the prosperity or the development of the United States.”

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National Press Club - Twitter
Rep. Joaquin Castro addressing the National Press Club on Sept. 21, 2021, about the GAO report, "Workforce Diversity: Analysis of Federal Data Shows Hispanics Are Underrepresented in the Media Industry."

For the Latinos who do belong to the small pool of public representation, some are concerned stereotypes continue to be perpetuated and network executives fail to depict relatable experiences that resonate with a diverse Latino audience.

Ricardo Chavira, actor and South Texas Native, was acutely aware of this while portraying Abraham Quintanilla in Netflix's Selena: The Series.

“I was so happy to do it, I love that story,” said Chavira. “Now, take the movie that was done 25, 26 years prior to (the series), look at all those years in between and name me a television show or a movie about another South Texas Mexican-American story.”

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Theo and Juliet
Actor and South Texas native, Ricardo Chavira

The normality of Latino experiences and how often they align with generalized American life, Chavira argued, is a narrative less valued by the media industry but an important step in achieving diverse representation.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren