As part of Temple University’s ongoing Latino Heritage Month, America Rodriguez, an Associate Professor of Radio, Television and Journalism at the University of Texas, spoke to a crowd of around thirty students assembled in Anderson Hall about the portrayals and representations of Latinos in the American Media.
Rodriguez, a former correspondent for WHYY-90.9 FM in Philadelphia and former co-worker of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, discussed the importance of Latino journalism and its goal of rectifying the false stereotypes and representations of Latinos that are shown on many American telecasts and American newspapers.
In her latest book, Making Latino News: Race, Language, Class, Rodriguez defines Latino journalism as: “News that is purposely and strategically created for U.S. residents of Latin American decent which nationalizes Latinos as it re-nationalizes them as American Hispanics. It creates a detailed world in which Latinos are included.”
Rodriguez said that while illegal Latino immigrants make up less than 10 percent of the Latino population in the United States, this 10 percent is the main focus of the majority of the news reports on American Latinos.
She also said that Latinos are rapidly increasing in population. By the year 2020, 1 in 4 U.S. citizens will be of Latino heritage. By 2050, one-half of California and one-third of Texas will be Latino, while major news outlets, such as ABC, devote less than one percent of their daily on-air newscast to news about Latino Americans. She said that news reports that do concern Latino Americans usually portray them as criminals or otherwise socially deviant.
“Lack of knowledge [about Latino people and culture] is a cause of many of the misrepresentations,” said senior psychology and sociology major Carlos Beato.
The solution to the problem of misrepresentation lies in educating the public about the various facets and diverseness of the Latin American people and culture, not focusing solely on the wrongdoings, according to Rodriguez.
“Latino oriented media–more than 1,000 television affiliates, some 400 radio stations, and hundreds of Spanish, English, and bilingual publications–are one facet of the increasing visibility of the ethnoracial group that will soon be the largest minority group in the United States,” Rodriguez said.
Many Latin American students at Temple believe that as the public becomes more educated about the diversity within the Latin American people and they gain prominence socially and economically, many of the stereotypes that plague the Latin American community will cease to exist.
“Our generation has more Latinos that are born and raised in the United States so they have a better chance of getting a better education, like myself,” said junior film and media arts major Yirelis Rodriguez.
“As Latinos become more educated they will feel obligated to teach more Latinos, which will improve the Latino community as a whole,” added Legna Serrano, a sophomore whose major is undeclared.
When asked about the effectiveness of Latino Heritage Month, Serrana said: “They (the organizers of Latino Heritage Month) do some good but not that much. They need to do more than just put up calendars. Maybe have a Spanish party that isn’t just about Salsa.”
“I think it [Latino Heritage Month] helps bring awareness about their [Latinos] culture and it brings unity within the Latino community,” countered sophomore journalism and English major Erin Taylor. “Everyone should be educated about other cultures therefore that would take away stereotypes other minority groups have about each other.”