I seem to be choking a lot on my Smoking Loon these days. First it was watching Sofía Vergara rotating like a Christmas lechón at a Vega Alta party. The #lechonasadogate.
This time, I lobed invectives and inanimate objects like hand grenades at my computer screen. Target? The Dickensian face of El Gordo y la Flaca’s Raúl de Molina. Reason for the projectile swearing? Mr. De Molina waxing poetic on HuffPostLive about the stereotyping of Latinos in the media. Bloody hell. To have De Molina, a white Cuban from Miami, verbalize on the subject is like asking the donkey to talk about the problem that comes with having humongous ears.
HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill (who later admitted he should have challenged De Molina some more) also had on his show columnist Juan Vidal and BuzzFeed’s Alex Alvarez, two voices of another generation, alongside Charles Ramírez Berg. That stopped the lobbing. I thought—good. The conversation centered on pigeonholing Latinos in the media, with the bone of contention being Vergara’s “turn” at the Emmys. But Lamont Hill’s unfortunate fawning over De Molina turned the discourse one-sided. It never really unmasked the elephant in the room—which is that Latino media in its present incarnation is much to blame for the perpetuation of the stereotypes.
De Molina was whining about the underrepresentation of Latinos in the media. Or the lack of presence. What Vidal and Alvarez were trying to get through, if they were allowed a word in edgewise, was not the lack of presence, but how that presence was portrayed. As Shakespeare would say, the fault, Dear Raúl, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. Or more specifically, you and the generation you represent. Truth to word.
We can shake our fist, gnash our teeth and tear our hair out, while pointing to someone else as the culprit. But, at some point, we have to own it. It is our own fault. The truth is the Latino media perpetuates the myth. Why? In my opinion, because it looks down on its own public. Tan sencillo como eso. The suits behind U.S. Spanish-language media still believe that their viewership are all uneducated immigrants who want to see a shirtless Jorge Negrete wearing a ten gallon hat astride a horse, or the poor country girl falling in love with the owner of the hacienda.
They feed the U.S. Latino public a daily fast food diet of beauty pageants, talent shows and bottom of the barrel talk shows that celebrate sexism and racism. Para un detalle, un botón. Just sit one whole day and watch the programming. (I suggest purchasing some Xanax and Bacardi before you do this. Indulge and then watch.) The individuals that run the kiosko, mostly men in upper level positions, want to keep it that way. But —and here in lies the rub— my daughter’s generation does not watch Los Ricos También LLoran and the abuelas who do are on their way to don the wooden kimono. No longer will the generation represented by Alvarez and Vidal tolerate “men in suits and the girls in bikinis.” The hour of the mameyes approaches. As Bob Dylan once sang:
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.
De Molina’s generation —and the media “vision” that goes with it— are on their way out.
I don’t think they know it yet. They sit in what they believe is an impenetrable Ivory Tower—like Prince Prospero in a masquerade ball. But outside, ready to storm the castle, is the new generation. Thank God.
Susanne Ramirez de Arellano is the former News Director for Univision Puerto Rico and a writer and journalist living in New York City. She has a blog in El Nuevo Día called Susanne en la Ciudad. Comments can be sent to email@example.com. You can follow Susanne on Twitter @DurgaOne.
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