Has Spanish language TV violated its trust to maintain Latino cultural identity?

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: November 2, 1999


For Latinos living in the USA, Spanish language TV is as foreign and disingenuous to our lifestyles as 90210. Everything portrayed on Univision, Galavision, and Telemundo reflects a "Euro-Cute" opinion of beauty, one that has tormented normal-looking Latinos for generations. To me, light skinned, light eyed, wealthy people represent the Patron, not the Peon.

Why when I travel down south to the motherland, is it always the Festival of St. Cara de Burro? I have never seen anyone even close to novela-quality, walking the streets, or even working the hotels.

Spanish-language TV has made a strangely twisted anti-affirmative action effort to hire any Spanish-speaking white person on the planet who can over-act on cue. I have never seen a Benito Juarez looking leading man, or a leading lady like Frida. Brown is bad, and Guero is always good.

Spanish TV ambitiously perpetuates this myth, and people go to church with these novelas five times a week, to learn the value of racial misinformation. No one says anything about it because these people happen to be speaking Spanish. Come to think of it, so is George Bush Jr.

Cortez spoke Spanish and taught it to La Malinche, and she sold out the Aztecs. Her name is remembered when you bang your thumb with a hammer, stub your toe on a bedpost or, realize that your brother-in-law won the lottery. Is Spanish TV selling out American Latinos, indoctrinating them into a universal Anglo ideal of beauty? Of course they are. It's all about giving the advertisers what they want ? our money, not our cultural integrity. This, via foreign-programmed Spanish TV, is for sale.

I was amused to find that Captain Crunch, Colonel Sanders, and the Cocoa Puffs bird could speak Spanish. Advertising in Spanish media is now a multi-billion dollar a year industry, which seems redundant. Real, (un-LULACed) numbers indicate that at least 70% of Latinos living in this country can communicate in English and prefer English as the language of commerce.

What concerns me is the visual image values that is conveyed on the novelas and the variety shows night after night. Few Latinos have light hair; light eyes and are draped in designer labels. Those who do pass for Anglo and avoid the sting of American racism. We should continue to reject the American notion of "Euro-Cute" beauty, as it is inherently colonial and racist. Many of us would protest such caricature on Network TV. Why do we accept it as legitimate, just because the racist message is in Spanish? Our kids for whom we buy cereal should not be subjected to situational values assuming as true from birth that the Anglo ideal of beauty is good and ideals of color is evil.

I find it also true that most of their programming is a corny cheap knock-off of what we American Latinos call, "played out". That being said, my monolingual sons watch Spanish TV to see the babes, with the volume off while listening to rap, and I like the guy who blows the horn on the whacked singing contestants on Sabado Gigante. We try to sit down as a family and watch every Miss Venezuela pageant. No losers there.

We rant, we boycott about the conspicuous lack of real Latinos on Network TV, as well we should. They don't even pretend to respect us. What we don't realize is that while the viewing numbers of Spanish TV soar into the hundreds of millions of households, they dwarf network ratings worldwide. And speaking of dwarfs, I saw a Mexican midget rodeo and almost laughed my way into the emergency room, I sincerely hope that the program was a comedy. If not, I volunteer my sincerest apologies.

Spanish networks, especially the local affiliates, should be held incredibly accountable to the community. Their's is a scared trust to maintain and sustain Latino cultural integrity. They pitch their commercials to the advertising agencies claiming to speak for the people. But how many Castillian-speaking, blonde-haired, green-eyed busboys have you met in East Los?

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos Hernandez is a screenwriter.

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