The image of Latina women has changed drastically since the Hollywood stereotype of the heavily accented hot tamale first hit the silver screen in the early 20th century and entered the national consciousness. But if the image getting out now is more of a woman who strives to better herself and her family, part of the group that opens more new businesses than any other and that commands considerable purchasing power, that’s thanks to very “deliberate” work by Latinas themselves, said a panel of top Latina media execs at a talk during the National Council of La Raza’s annual conference on Sunday.
“We’ve moved forward, we’ve evolved, but that doesn’t just happen on its own, its part of a very deliberate effort,” said Monica Lozano, CEO and publisher of Spanish-langauge newspaper La Opinion. Lozano moderated the Latinas Brunch, during the conference, which runs through Tuesday at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington DC.
On the panel were Lisa Quiroz, Senior Vice President of Time Warner Inc., Jacqueline Hernandez, Chief Operating Officer of Telemundo Communications Group, Julissa Marenco, President of ZGS Station Group (which runs 13 Telemundo affiliates) and Latina’s own editorial director, Galina Espinoza and co-president of parent company Latina Media Ventures.
The women detailed the challenges they faced pushing for positive images in the media. Espinoza talked about having conversations with advertisers in which they asked whether Latinas “buy cars by themselves or if they need their husband’s approval. I still hear from corporate America that they’re surprised that we all have mobile phones and we all have Internet.”
“There are still so many horrifying stories and stereotypes out there,” Espinoza said, “and I feel like if we’re not the ones fighting to change those stereotypes no one else is going to do it. There’s still a very long education process.”
Marenco said part of her job is ensuring that not only is the on-camera talent diverse, but that the decision-makers behind the camera are diverse in many ways, beyond racial, including diverse in thought and experience, and empowered to make decisions to portray people accurately.
Hernandez recalled bringing La Reina del Sur to fruition. “We’re really hoping to portray real Latinas today—lawyers, doctors, women who are strong, modern, not just the love interest.”
Though set in in the drug trafficking world, where real-life mexicana Teresa Mendoza builds her own empire, “what was so amazing about the story is that she was loud and proud, strong, traveling and overcoming any male-female stereotypes. What readers keep telling us that they want to see.”
She pointed to a study by the network that revealed that Latina women value career and education more than the general population and place them at the top of their priority list. She also said that a recent study of young Latinos revealed that they flow smoothly between English, Spanish and Spanglish as well as between cultures and that they want to see themselves portrayed
She added that the Telemundo and parent company NBC were developing programming across different platforms to address that.
Espinoza said “the flip side to that is that [Latina consumers] need to support: we need to watch, we need to buy, we need to read.”