Latino Representation in the Media

By Milo Nunez Lopez

If you are Latino, how do you want to see your people on television? What parts of the culture of Latin America are wrong? Do Latin-identifying people believe that representation in American media is fair? 

Most importantly, what does it mean to be Latino in film and what does it look like when caricatures or archetypes are being followed in lieu of individual representation?

For Latinos in the film industry for an estimated past 16 years, less than 5% are represented in media with important roles. That number may seem inaccurate for a population of 18.9% of the United States, but unfortunately, it is correct. The Latino Community Foundation found that only 3.1% of Latinos were main protagonists in media, 1.5% for showrunners, and 1.3% for directors. Examples of famous films with Latinos as the main focus are, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023), Encanto (2021), and Blue Beetle (2023). But why is accurate representation so scarce?

According to a Government Accountability Office report, the reason why Latinos don’t exist much in production scenes is primarily because of a lack of opportunities even to reach places like Hollywood. Lack of diversity in these spaces, and financial and educational struggles are also reasons, because of these barriers for Latinos to get to these places most of the community can only take up service jobs.

“Hispanic workers comprised an estimated 12% of the media industry’s workforce; outside of the media, however, Hispanics are an estimated 18% of all workers,” the GAO said. 

Well, then what is the representation provided? Unfortunately, the representation of Latinos isn’t what it should be. Depictions of Latinos are monolithic with the following, they all look the same, come from the same country, are angry and temperamental, low-income, criminals, service employees and fragile. For example, Counsela (Family Guy), Gloria Delgado (Modern Family), “Pedro Esquivel and Dionicio Gonzales-Mexican Duel” (1894), and “Carmencita” (1894). In reality, the media doesn’t show the actual diversity of the Latino community. Even in advertisements they profit off of various stereotypes made by the media of Latino people. 

Representing the entire community is important especially when it comes to Latina women, Afro-Latinos, Indigenous Latinos, LGBTQ+ Latinos, disabled Latinos, and the diverse aspects of every country’s culture in Latin America, and there’s even more to list. Instead, those same depictions have stood the same for such a long time. 

“Story films or narrative films emerged, and those representing Latines were plagued with denigratory depictions.” (Library of Congress)

Latino representation goes further for the community in big ways, the way the community is represented on screen can influence the way people view the Latino community in real life. It influences the way Latinos see themselves as well, for the community to view a big portion of their community as criminals or as poor limits how far Latinos feel like they can go in life. The Latino community should be shown on television with their diversity, achievements, and as people worthy of recognition.