Latin Looks: Images of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. Media

By Clara E. Rodríguez | Go to book overview

Introduction

What are Latin looks? At first "blush," it seems that there is a Latin or Latino look that everyone recognizes. This person is slightly tan, with dark hair and eyes. Upon further thought, we find other factors that contribute to the "Latin look," for example, Spanish usage, accented English, occupation, education, residence, relationship to Anglos, 1 self-identification, and identification by others. But does this image accurately reflect Latinos and their history in U.S. media? The more I reflect on these questions, the more I would say that--as the authors of many of the chapters in this volume argue--Latin looks are to a considerable extent determined by political, economic, and historical contexts, and the images are often at variance with current and past Latino realities.

Victoria Medina, founder and president of The Studio, an organization in New York City established to help Latinos in the business of acting, illustrated the difference between realities and images in an anecdote (personal communication, March 22, 1995). When a casting call went out for an actress to play a Latina part, three "genuine" Latinas showed up. One was fair-skinned, blond, and tall. Another was tan and of medium build and had dark hair and eyes. The third had darker skin and was of African descent. These three genuine Latinas represented the heterogenous reality of Latinos in the United States. This is the reality that surfaces when a casting call goes out with the generic term Latina attached. Yet, those who present Latinos on the screen seek certain images. By the same token, those who satisfy "Latino" images are not viewed as appropriate for other (nonethnic) parts. Victoria Medina's conclusion? She believes it is unfair to specify one Latino look. Instead, the right person should be cast for each particular role.

In 1995, The Hollywood Reporter, in a survey of Hollywood's most bankable stars, listed Rosie Pérez as the second most popular Hispanic star ( Andy García was the first) ( Avila, 1996:26). Among my undergraduate students at Fordham University in New York City, Pérez is without a doubt the best-known and most frequently identified Latina actress in Hollywood today. But her name invariably elicits extreme reactions especially from Latina students. One response is that she is an "embarrassment to her race." In other words, her image, the way she projects herself, her manner of speech and dress, and her general style are viewed as embarrassing to other Latinos. (Some Latinos are concerned that all Latinas will be judged by the image Pérez projects.) Other Latinos feel there is nothing wrong with Pérez's image: It is a tough one that should be put out there. Latinas should be respected as tough.

-1-

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Latin Looks: Images of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. Media
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 11
  • Part One - Latinos on Television and in the News: Absent or Misrepresented 13
  • Notes 19
  • 1: Out of the Picture 21
  • 2 - Hispanic Voices: is the Press Listening? 36
  • Notes 53
  • 3: Distorted Reality 57
  • Part Two - The Silver Screen: Stories and Stereotypes 73
  • Notes 79
  • 4: Visual Retrospective 80
  • 5: Citizen Chicano 85
  • 6 - Stereotyping in Films in General and of the Hispanic in Particular 104
  • References 119
  • 7 - Chicanas in Film: History of an Image 121
  • Notes 139
  • 8: From Assimilation to Annihilation 142
  • 9: West Side Story 164
  • 10: Keeping It Reel? Films of the 1980s and 1990s 180
  • Part Three - Creating Alternative Images: The Others" Present Themselves" 185
  • 11 - From the Margin to the Center: Puerto Rican Cinema in New York 188
  • Notes 199
  • 12: Unofficial Stories 200
  • 13: Type and Stereotype 214
  • 14 - Two Film Reviews: My Family/Mi Familia and the Perez Family 221
  • 15 - Hispanic-Oriented Media 225
  • Notes 236
  • References 236
  • Part Four - Strategies for Change 239
  • 16 - Promoting Analytical and Critical Viewing 240
  • Notes 247
  • Notes 250
  • Notes 253
  • 17 - Questions and Reflections About the Reading in This Book 254
  • 18: What We Can Do 261
  • References 271
  • About-The Book, and Editor 275
  • About the Contributors 277
  • Index 279
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