Even then, a new study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative that was published this week, shows that Latinx representation in film is significantly lagging.
There’s something inherently wrong when the Latinx community, who represents 18% of the total U.S. population and 24% of frequent moviegoers, is nearly shut out from the big screen.
In partnership with the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and Wise Entertainment, USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released the report, titled Latinos in Film: Erasure on Screen & Behind the Camera Across 1,200 Popular Movies. The report looked at the 1,200 top titles at the box office from 2007 to 2018 as well as about 47,268 Spanish speaking or named characters.
One of the report’s biggest findings, however, was that within that time frame, only two Latina lead roles were played by an actor over 45. Both were the multi-hyphenate Jennifer Lopez, and with her upcoming role in Hustlers, she’ll be breaking her own record.
The study found that in the 12 year research period, 4.5% of all speaking or named characters were Latino, but only 3% were leads or co-leads. More findings included that in the films that were studied, 4% had a Latino director and most of those filmmakers (71% to be exact) were from outside of the U.S. And that’s not the shocking part. Out of 1,335 directors, only one of those was a Latina woman. Among producers, only 3% were Latino.
Latinx filmmakers, creators, and actors took to Twitter to express their frustrations over the findings of the study.
One Day At A Time co-showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett called upon Hollywood to increase the inclusion of the Latinx community by “demanding a 20% increase in representation both in front and behind the camera.”
A Twitter user replied to the One Day at A Time co-showrunner and shared how joyous she feels when she sees Latinx folks credited in the acting and also production roles.
The Twitter user also added that we need more stories from more than one Latinx point of view as well and that “casting needs to diversify as well, since we come in all shades, hair textures, etc.”
Actor, producer, and director Eva Longoria also took to her Instagram to comment on the story, she said: “Only 1 Latina directed a top film over 12 years & 1,200 movies. Studios, why are you erasing Latinas?”
In her caption, she also noted that Latinas are leading as grassroots organizations in many different fields but even then, Hollywood fails to notice their talent and potential.
Latinx Actress Dani Fernandez brought up another important point that we fail to outwardly discuss and that’s agents and acting coaches allegedly telling white actors to change their last name to a Latinx sounding one.
Twitter user Benita Robledo replied to Fernandez’s tweet and recalled a time when someone she knew told her they’d been thinking of changing their name because being “Latina is so so big rn.”
Film critic Alonso Duralde further drove the point home about Latinx people playing a huge part of the moviegoing demo, yet still continued to be overlooked by Hollywood.
“But studios insist on leaving this particular money on the table,” he added.
Superstore actor America Ferrera also took to Instagram to express her thoughts on the study and its findings.
“It’s easier to accept the mistreatment and dehumanization of Latinx people when they are invisible in our culture,” Ferrera wrote in her caption. Like Longoria, Ferrera demand that Hollywood take responsibility for the “stories you reinforce & perpetuate.”
We hope this report shakes things up and causes Hollywood to really look closely at how it not only portrays but also casts Latinx actors, directors, and producers in the future.
Talking about our primos in prison is taboo. If you ever had a family member in prison, you may avoid talking about it outside your family circle. The incarcerated family member then becomes a ghost, a cautionary tale, or a source of shame. We forget how they arrived in this situation and hesitate to offer support. Looking closely at issues that contribute to mass incarceration in this country can offer insights into the matter. It’s time we take a new approach to incarcerated family, and offer help in ways the correctional system refuses. It’s time to humanize our imprisoned primos and primas, showing love and empathy that we would want to see if we were behind bars.
However, looking at social issues that plague the Latinx community, it is no surprise that low levels of education, poverty, and structural discrimination lead to incarceration. With the latest instances of aggression toward the Latinx community at the presidential level, it will be no surprise if acts of discrimination and targeting of Latinos continues to rise.
What other factors contribute to the incarceration of Latinos?
Credit: Bill Oxford / Unsplash
The Pew Research Center reports that in 1991, 60 percent of Latinos were sentenced in federal court for drug-related offenses, and 20 percent for immigration crimes. Yet, these figures changed dramatically, with 48 percent of sentences for immigration crimes, and 37 percent of sentences for drug-related crimes in 2007.
The incarceration of Latinos is feeding into the conversation around the school to prison pipeline.
Credit: @LatinoPPF / Twitter
What is the prison experience really like? Netflix series like Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” and “Orange is the New Black” help pull back the curtain on the harsh realities of prison life. More than just TV shows, these depictions exposed micro and macro ways the U.S., home to the largest prison population in the world, focuses not on prisoner rehabilitation, but recidivism instead.
When we think about our family members in prison, we need to remember that they could be facing sexual violence, lack of access to mental health services, solitary confinement, and denial of their reproductive rights.
Credit: Mitch Lensink / Unsplash
It may be the case that an incarcerated family member’s situation is shrouded in mystery and whispers, but this need not be the case. It is not only time to confront these matters at the family level, but to address them at the social level as well. The first step may begin with actually accepting that inmate call. Ask what your family member is going through and share that with the family if he or she permits. You may feel a sense of hopelessness, but there is so much you can do to help not only your own family members but the greater incarcerated Latino community too.
Moving beyond thoughts and prayers—although they’re good too—here are substantive ways you can help incarcerated family members.
Credit: @Art4JusticeFund / Twitter
Visit if you can. Even if it is only a few times a year, the impact of human contact cannot be overstated. Ensure you are on the approved visitor’s list before you go. Bring identification and arrive early. Be a good listener and most importantly, show that family love.
The experience of visiting prison can be inconvenient or even traumatic, so if you feel you cannot commit this fully then try a virtual visit. Apps like JPay offer inmate services like email, video visitation, and secure payment transfers. Send pictures of the family or a video of a holiday gathering.
If apps prove to be intimidating, try sending a letter. Have picture printed out—old school style—and include them in your letters. Families are full of births, marriages, and so many other beautiful life events. Share them with your primos and primas who can’t be there with you. If you feel like you simply don’t want to communicate with your incarcerated family member, but you still want to contribute to the cause in some way, join a prison pen pal organization and bring a sense of human connection to others.
Another way to help the family behind bars is to send books. The organization, NYC books through bars, understands how much books can help with the rehabilitation and the education process in prison.
Another act of solidarity with your incarcerated family member is to donate to the ACLU Prisons Project. “Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, we work to ensure that conditions of confinement are consistent with health, safety, and human dignity and that prisoners retain all rights of free persons that are not inconsistent with incarceration.”
If you have a family member in prison, it is important to their own recovery and reformation to know they have people who love and support them.
Credit: aclu_nationwide / Instagram
With an array of opportunities to help our family members in prison, it is important to note that reintroduction to society can pose a major challenge for former inmates. These are areas where you can help too. Our imprisoned family members may have been victims of the system, they may have survived the only way they know how, or maybe they just made a mistake. Whatever the circumstance, the key is to remember they are human, and most importantly, they are familia. So ask yourself, for their sake and the sake of our community, what can you do to help?