Eva Longoria and Zoe Saldana break taboos in conversation about priorities for Latinx in 2020

Zoe Saldana Eva Longoria BELatina Latinx Conversation
Photo Credit IG @BESE

BESE, the online magazine platform founded by actress Zoe Saldana hosted a conversation with artist Eva Longoria to address pressing issues for the Hispanic community in the United States. Launched in 2018, BESE is a platform that operates primarily on social networks and aims to “showcase stories of American figures –past and present– that have impacted the very fabric of our nation on a local or national scale,” Saldana said to Forbes.

“Mainstream media misrepresents and omits positive role models or figures that are actively bringing change and reshaping their communities. They do a good job of being sensational in a way that sells, but not in a way that informs and unites our community,” Saldana said. 

“I wanted to find a way to encourage mainstream media to evolve so it can better represent what the American public really looks like today versus 80 years ago,” she said.

Now, with the critical situation facing Latinos during and after the pandemic, Saldana invited her colleague to address the issues that most impact the community.

“There are so many taboos in the Latinx community”, Longoria said in a streaming video available in BESE’s Instagram account. “We never talked about sex or any of that. Condoms or birth control, you just don’t talk about it.”

“We don’t talk about sexuality and being gay or being part of the LGBTQ community, we don’t talk about mental health, we don’t talk about health problems,” she added.

Shame is an issue deeply rooted in our culture, a subject examined by Dr. Lisa Aronson Fontes of the University of Massachusetts in her 2007 research Sin Vergüenza: Addressing Shame with Latino Victims of Child Sexual Abuse and Their Families: “Shame is a powerful concept in traditional Latino cultures” where parents may “actively control their children’s behavior through shame-inducing practices.” For Latinas in particular, discussing sexuality is often seen as taboo, within a patriarchal culture where the presumption that all women must be virgins at marriage is common. 

Longoria hopes the times are changing. “What gives me hope and strength is this young Latino generation,” Longoria added. “When you see young Latinas and Latinos protesting or doing social disobedience or civil disobedience just to create change in their communities, having a voice, using technology in a way that our generations don’t use, I actually have a lot of hope of breaking those taboos.”

Although this generation is more politically active –one need only remember Emma Gonzalez during the #NeverAgain movement– the coronavirus pandemic will impact participation in the civic culture.

“Because of COVID-19 we’ll have to lean on vote-by-mail, and absentee voting and technology,” explained Longoria, “and, A, it’s easily hacked, so that’s a danger, and B, there’s more suppression of rights through voting by mail.” 

As reported by the Texas Tribune, The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas arguing that “the state’s absentee voting restriction is unconstitutional and violates the federal Voting Rights Act’s prohibition on discrimination against voters based on race,” explained the Texas Tribune. In its complaint, LULAC alleges that “all voters will face substantial health risks by voting in person. But the consequences of voting in person will not be equally shared among Texas’ demographic populations,”

Few people are aware of these kinds of mechanisms that go under the table when it comes to suppressing votes, especially in deeply Republican states, according to Mother Jones journalist Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot, who explained to NPR how the restrictions imposed by states such as Alabama, Ohio, and Georgia on voting requirements have been “bolstered” since the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder 2013 ruling. 

For that, Longoria has also a solution: “Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, so we have to be diligent in getting this information out there,” she concluded.