Joaquin Castro Reflects on the Love-Hate Relationship Between Hollywood and Latinos

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A few weeks ago, The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which examines diversity in the film and television industry every year, released its latest report, showing minorities starred “in 32 of the top 100 films” in the U.S. last year.

“The data from 2019 reveal that no significant increase over time in the depiction of underrepresented characters has occurred, although since 2007 the percentage of White characters has declined significantly,” the study authors wrote in their analysis.

According to CNN, “only 5% of the speaking roles in last year’s top 100 movies went to Latino actors even though that demographic group represents 18% of the US population.”

“Latinos were the only major racial and ethnic group that was underrepresented in on-screen speaking roles last year, according to the USC report, which notes that a small sample of non-White actors are getting the bulk of the roles,” the media added.

For Congressman Joaquin Castro, this is simply unacceptable.

In an opinion column for Variety, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus reflected on the Hispanic community’s visual representation and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes, both on and off the big screen.

Castro opened his thoughts to the terrible shooting in El Paso just over a year ago and left the question open about what might have motivated the shooter to carry out “the deadliest attack on Latinos in over 100 years.

“Today there is a dangerous nexus between the racist political rhetoric and the negative images of Latinos as criminals and invaders that Americans see on their screens,” he wrote.

Castro argued that film and television are responsible for expanding the community’s image in a derogatory way, without embracing the growth and presence of Hispanics in all spheres of American society. The representative stated bluntly that Hollywood “looks like an America of yesteryear,” where a “clear line can be drawn” from the lack of positive representation of Latinos on the screen to the increase in hate crimes against them.

“In this moment of pandemic and protest, Hollywood needs to reckon with its systemic injustice and exclusion of our communities,” he added.

Citing the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study, Castro highlighted the findings that Latinos have a speaking role in less than 5% of films, and how, among those people, nearly 50% were “criminal or angry.

He also criticized the lack of Latinos in positions of power behind the camera, in production, or at the big decision tables, while outside, in the real world, “from astronauts who traveled to space to farmworkers keeping us fed, there are more than 60 million Latinos in the U.S., each with a unique story.”

From the trenches of Congress and as director of the Hispanic Caucus, his commitment has been to meet with studios, talent agencies, and other industry stakeholders to open the discussion and seek tangible solutions.

“Latino stories are universal and more than capable of selling tickets and winning awards if told right,” he concluded.

“Hollywood has a civic duty to tell Latino stories — and by so doing, to take a stand against hate. The only question is whether Hollywood will finally give Latinos the opportunity to tell our stories.”