Improving the Image of Latinos in the Media

By Maria Cardona

The recent developments on the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who according to Forbes is the world’s most powerful drug lord, has led me to think about the image of our community and how we are portrayed in the media. Even though Latinos are the fastest growing community in the entire country, there is no doubt that we are not adequately represented.

Recently, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) sent a letter to NBC producer, Lorne Michaels, highlighting the lack of Latina cast members involved in “Saturday Night Live” during its 39 years of existence. While we wait for the mainstream media to recognize us, we must improve our current representation within our own platforms and improve the narrative that we ourselves establish. It is essential to mobilize our leaders to overcome and diversify the presence that we have in the media.

I speak and write a lot about the achievements of our community, but today, it is very difficult to turn on the TV and find programs that do not associate us with drug traffickers, gangs, or kidnappers. The capture of “El Chapo” is a victory against drug trafficking, but if we want a good example for our children and the entire country, we need to discourage programming that glorifies the types of characters that throughout history have damaged the reputation of Latinos and has diminished the contributions the Latino community has brought to this great country.

We all love a good TV show, and we are known for producing some very good and interesting ones. But it is very worrisome that one of the most anticipated shows of this year is about the history and life of “El Chapo” entitled The Man of Drugs. The promotion of this type of TV show, along with the latest one about Griselda Blanca, Queen of Cocaine, and the popularity of “La Reina del Sur” in recent years, instills that drug trafficking is a great thing to our children and that it is a good example to follow.

As a mother of two young children, and like all Latina mothers around the country, we acknowledge the importance of our children learning to speak Spanish. Spanish language programming is a portal through which we can expose our children to both the language and the culture of our countries, but this is becoming more and more difficult as you cannot turn on the TV without seeing promotions of shows that worship this negative and unlawful behavior.

We have to find ways to raise the image of Latinos in the United States and be careful not to glorify characters that are bad examples for our children. Without a doubt, parents have to decide that they want their kids to watch, and it would help tremendously to have TV networks highlight more positive images and stories containing characters that are heroic or at least ones that do not embarrass us.

Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist and a Principal at the Dewey Square Group, where she founded Latinovations  and shares insightful commentary on current events. She is also a former Senior Adviser to Hillary Clinton, and former Communications Director to the Democratic National Committee.