We all know the grim statistics. Hispanics are less likely to graduate high school than other ethnic groups, and Latinas, in particular, still have higher rates of teen pregnancy and fewer college degrees than other young girls do.
So what can be done about this appalling situation? Well, perhaps something as simple as giving Hispanic girls a camera is a start.
The Las Fotos Project, based in Los Angeles, is a nonprofit that aims to create positive change for Latinas who live in poor neighborhoods. The program offers free photography workshops to over 200 Latinas, aged eleven to seventeen, in California and satellite locations throughout the United States and Latin America.
Eric Ibarra, the founder and executive director of the organization, says that the Las Fotos Project encourages critical thinking, stimulates the girls’ imaginations, and builds their confidence and self-esteem.
Now maybe it’s not popular to talk about squishy concepts like art and self-esteem, particularly in a nation where the failure to make acres of money is grounds for dismissal from American culture.
However, creating art teaches positive communication, problem solving, and lifelong learning skills. It also allows these young women to gain some perspective on their lives, primarily by allowing them to step back and analyze their environment through the unflinching lens of a camera.
In addition, the program offers mentoring and provides of a sense of structure for young girls who are subjected, more than most, to societal assumptions that they are inferior or unworthy.
The Las Fotos Project, which is active on social media, has partnered with other nonprofits and is always looking for people to donate their time or photography equipment to the cause.
Recently, the organization held a public exhibition of the students’ work. The walls were lined with captivating images and arresting shots of the young women’s lives.
In the artist bio accompanying one of the images, a teen Latina photographer stated that her ambition is to attend Harvard Medical School.
There’s no reason to believe that she can’t succeed.