This was supposed to be our summer. There are finally too many Latinx movies and shows distributed by mainstream studios to count, and one of them is Marvel’s Blue Beetle.
“It’s not the first Latino superhero, but it is the first superhero movie that’s directed by, written by, and starring Latinos,” Ruben Garcia told Latino Rebels.
Garcia spent more than 11 years at the famed Hollywood talent firm Creative Artists Agency working to increase diversity in the industry. But instead of the creators and stars of these projects celebrating what amounts to the cumulation of years of work, they’re now on the picket line.
“Latino and Latina creators are negotiating and fighting for their livelihood,” said Frankie Miranda, president and CEO of the Hispanic Federation.
The Hispanic Federation is one of 27 Latino organizations that recently drafted, signed and distributed an open letter calling on the industry and members of the viewing public to support work done by Latino filmmakers, actors, writers and other creatives—especially in the midst of a combined writers and actors strike in Hollywood that puts Latino creatives disproportionately at risk.
“We’re calling on the studios to do their part and (make) the right investments in promoting these films when actors and people that are in front of the camera are unable to,” Miranda said.
“This is a moment where we have to come together and be the voices for those that cannot promote their projects,” Ivette Rodriguez told Latino Rebels. She’s the co-founder of LA Collab, one of the signatories, as well as the president and founder of American Entertainment Marketing, a boutique PR firm focusing on the Latino market.
“It’s really heartbreaking that Xolo Maridueña cannot promote his movie because he is a movie star,” she added.
“Blue Beetle signifies our right to be part of the conversation and have our rightful place in American society,” Miranda said. “In every segment of American society, we contribute greatly to these great companies but we’re often invisible. And this is one opportunity to be seen, not only by our community and see ourselves reflected, but also for general audiences to recognize how important (our) work is.”
Miranda is encouraging everyone to go see the film when it opens nationwide this weekend, and to help, the Hispanic Federation is hosting screenings for Latino communities in Chicago, Puerto Rico, New York and Orlando.
But, of course, it’s not just about Blue Beetle or any single production. For Rodriguez, the letter and the work behind it to organize and unify Latino organizations is about “creating more and more power.”
Miranda agrees, saying that he sees a direct line from the box office to the ballot box. “This is about mobilization… Let’s make sure that we have the right representation and (are) part of the decision-making process”—whether that’s in Hollywood or Washington, D.C.
For his part, Garcia, who is one of the unnamed organizers behind the letter, was inspired by the process and says the coalition already accomplished its first goal, building “a sense of unity among an interdisciplinary network of Latino leadership, who all carry the same level of investment in our future. Whether you are Voto Latino trying to make sure that people have equitable access to the voting booth, or you are the Hispanic Heritage Foundation that’s building youth programs and teaching kids how to code and get excited about STEM for their futures, or you are the Latino Film Institute that is really all about kind of showcasing and celebrating artists—all of our investments are equal. And to have shown up together in this moment is goal number one, so I’m super proud of that.”
Still, the next task, that of changing the narrative in Hollywood about Latinx productions, may prove harder to accomplish.
“Latino content is not a genre,” Garcia explained. “We are not a genre. We can tell comedies, we can do dramatic stories, we can do the whole thing. And just because we put a little bit of our cultural flavor in, it doesn’t mean that it’s exclusively for us. And on top of that, it’s not intended to say that little bit of flavor, that little bit of cultural nuance, is meant or intended to represent the entire Latino community.”
If Latinos are to have greater representation in Hollywood, such beliefs will have to change—both for audience members and studio execs. That’s what the Support Latino Creatives coalition is working towards. They’re stepping out together not only to support Blue Beetle but create a new normal for Latinos in entertainment—one of proportional representation.
It’s the opposite of the oft-mentioned crabs-in-a-bucket mentality that’s supposed to characterize the Latino community. Instead of fighting each other or even staying in their lanes, these Latino leaders have come together to say they support Latino creatives and their artistry at a time when those creatives are so busy fighting for the future of their professions that they can’t promote their work.
“So for everybody that will read this piece, we say: ‘This is our moment. Let’s go and see Blue Beetle and support this film,'” Miranda said. “Continue supporting this and other films or any creative products… And then connect with nonprofit organizations to understand how (to) get activated around some of the many other issues.”
Cristina Escobar is the entertainment reporter for Latino Rebels. She is also the co-founder of latinamedia.co, uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media. She’s a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and writes at the intersection of race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @cescobarandrade