Written by | Salvador Gutierrez
In the past few years, the Latino community in the United States has been the focus of a great deal of criticism. People blame Latinos for illegal immigration, abuse of government aid and increased crime. The Latino community has a bad reputation, and each one of them must bear the burden of being Latino in the United States. Several days ago, I was reading an article about Latino portrayals in American media – written by a Latino – and I realized why American society identifies Latinos as people with little value: the media is to blame.How often do we see a TV show with a Latino playing a successful doctor or lawyer instead of playing a gardener or construction worker? How often do we see a news report about a Latino succeeding in the science field instead of about a Latino arrested for possessing drugs? The answer is: “Not very often.” Not often at all.
I concur with the idea that media has created the poor reputation of the Latinos in the United States, but this is where the divergence begins: Is the negative image of Latinos really the fault of the American media? Or is the way that Latinos represent themselves in media the cause of this conflict? It seems easy to say that Hollywood is responsible for labeling Latinos. Famous Latinos such as Sofia Vergara, Danny Trejo, Jennifer Lopez, Damian Bichir and Penelope Cruz (who actually is not even from Latin America) have contributed to the tarnished image of the Latino community; however, we should not ignore the fact that Latinos have their own space in American media. Radio and TV stations, newspapers and film are just some of the branches of media that Latinos in America own and control. The Latino-American media has made it clear that they have a voice and they want to be heard, but are they really making good use of that voice? Are they leaving their non-Latino audience with a good impression of their own community?
The answer is definitely not. As the number of Latino media outlets in America has increased, the bad reputation of Latinos has not changed. The stereotypes have not disappeared. On the contrary, the image of the Latino community has worsened.
Today the perception of the Latino community is increasingly negative. Latinos are arrogant, scandalous, unfair jesters who spend their time thinking about soccer and earn their livings selling drugs. It seems incredible that Latinos themselves are responsible for corrupting their own image. But it’s true. Currently the most popular shows produced by Latinos are about the lives of drug traffickers. These TV shows and soap operas portray drug-related crime as common in the Latino community. They show drug traffickers as gods.
As for music, Latino radio stations usually play music with vulgar lyrics and references to sex and drugs. Those lyrics celebrate the lives of drug traffickers. Is this the inspiration the Latino community wants young people to hear? I believe there is no doubt that Latinos are mainly responsible for the view that other people have about them. The Latino media must stop creating and reinforcing these harmful stereotypes, and the Latino audiences must stop consuming these empty contents that paint a negative picture of their culture. Latinos are more than gardeners, drug dealers, maids and trouble-makers, but, until the Latino media stops contributing to this bad reputation, the negative image will remain.