Growing up we had one, count it, just one black and white television in the house. We all crowded around to watch boxing or my parents’ favorite novella, ‘Los Ricos Tambien Lloran.’ If actress Veronica Castro was brought to tears, we experienced it as a family. This was probably the only time my large family made the effort to sit down all at once, because even dinner time was a challenge. At that time we had a few channels and only one Spanish language channel which was important to my parents. No one thought about age appropriate ratings, everyone was escaping to a story. While some things have changed the desire for a good story is ever present, especially for Latinos.
A recent article says Latinos are still seeking escape via stories, we are said to be the most enthusiastic moviegoers and are more likely than any other ethnic group to attend movies in groups of four or more. The article cites successful Hispanic-centric films which cross over to a broader market such as “Machete” or “Paranormal Activity” which grossed more than $350 million. A marketing firm is focusing on Latinos’ high smartphone use to look up movies while others focus on Spanish language ads such as with the movie “Ted.” The animated “Despicable Me” title was changed to “Mi Villano Favorito” to accommodate the Spanish speaking communities. Some companies are trying to capitalize on this trend by making movies for the Latino audience. However, the article warns there is no formula and suggest this strategy can backfire.
My first writing instructor wanted me to write about Latino issues instead of my ill-fated technology thriller. Despite the advice, I finished my first novel, Bringing Down a Giant, which still sits in draft form. At the end of this mass effort I thought Latinos’ care about technology, Latinos’ care about injustice, and if this book was made into a film Latinos could star in almost any role. How many stories are truly just Latino or non-Latino? If Hollywood wants more of our hard earned dinero, start with a good story. If Hollywood wants to add some diversity, start with the writers and the cast; the rest will follow. Hollywood or any media company, who wants to bring in a Latino audience, should start by giving our talented writers, actors, producers, and directors a place at the table.
John Adams is credited with saying “it takes three generations to raise an artist.” One for the menial jobs, the second for professional jobs, and the third has the option to pursue arts or leisure. Author, Russell Banks, doesn’t agree, saying that any writer or artist does so against the wishes of those who surround him. This is probably true of anyone who takes a risk. The fear of poverty or the fear of returning to poverty can be stifling. Hollywood, give our risk takers a chance and we’ll see you at the movies.