For second and third generation Latinos living in the USA, Spanish language TV is as foreign and disingenuous to our lifestyles as Jersey Shore. Everything portrayed on Univision, Galavision, and Telemundo reflects a "Euro-Cute" opinion of beauty; a visual that has tormented normal-looking Latinos for generations. To me, light-skinned, light-eyed, wealthy people represent the patrón, not the peón.
Why, when I travel down south to the Motherland, is it always the Festival of St. Cara de Burro? I have never seen anyone even close to novella-quality walking the streets or even working the hotels.
Spanish-language TV has made a strangely twisted, anti-affirmative action effort to hire any Spanish-speaking white person on the planet who can over-act on cue. I have never seen a Benito Juarez-looking leading man or a leading lady like Frida. Brown is bad and guero is always good.
Spanish TV ambitiously perpetuates this Aryan beauty myth. People go to church with these novelas five times a week to learn the value of racial misinformation. No one says anything about it because these people happen to be speaking Spanish. Speaking Spanish doesn't make one Latino. I met several Spanis- speaking Chinese folks at Popeye's Chicken.
Cortez spoke Spanish and taught it to La Malinche - then she turned around and sold out the Aztecs. Her name is remembered when you bang your thumb with a hammer, stub your toe on a bedpost or realize that your brother-in-law won the lottery.
Is Spanish TV selling out American Latinos and indoctrinating them into a universal Anglo ideal of beauty? Of course they are. It's all about giving the advertisers what they want: our money not our cultural integrity. This, via foreign programmed Spanish TV, is for sale. I cannot relate to Spanish TV. It has even less quality than Network TV and we are excluded from that media as well.
I was amused to find that Captain Crunch, Colonel Sanders, and the Cocoa Puffs bird could speak Spanish. Advertising in Spanish media is now a multi-billion dollar-a-year industry, which seems redundant. Real numbers indicate that at least 70% of Latinos living in this country can communicate in English and prefer English as the language of commerce.
What concerns me are the visual image values that are conveyed on the novellas and the variety shows night after night. Few Latinos have light hair, light eyes, and are draped in designer labels. The irony is that those whose actual lives mirror that description would never be caught dead watching Univision. Those who do pass for Anglo avoid the sting of American racism. We should continue to reject the American notion of "Euro-Cute" beauty as it is inherently colonial and racist. Many of us would protest such caricature on Network TV. On the other hand, they hired Blair Underwood to be a Black Cuban President. Seriously? It seems like they go around the block to avoid us.
Why do we accept caricature as legitimate? Is it just because the racist message is in Spanish? Our kids should not be subjected to situational values (assumed as truth from birth) that tell them that the Anglo ideal of beauty is good and ideals of color is wrong.
I find it also true that most of Spanish TV programming is a corny, cheap knock-off of what we American Latinos call, "played out." That being said, my monolingual sons watch Spanish TV to see the babes, TV volume down, while listening to rap. I like the guy who blows the horn on the whacked singing contestants on Sabado Gigante.
We rant. We boycott about the conspicuous lack of real Latinos on Network TV, as well we should. They don't even pretend to respect us. What we don't realize is that while the viewing numbers of Spanish TV soar into the hundreds of millions of households, they dwarf network ratings worldwide. And speaking of dwarfs, I saw a Mexican midget rodeo and almost laughed my way into the emergency room. I sincerely hope that the program was a comedy. If not, I volunteer my sincerest apologies.
Spanish networks, especially the local affiliates, should be held incredibly accountable to the community. They have a sacred trust to maintain and sustain Latino cultural integrity. It was second and third generation Latino activists who rallied and demanded a bigger Latino presence in modern media. We built the house. Spanish TV foreclosed on us. Now we have no real community presence on Network TV.They pitch their commercials to the advertising agencies claiming to speak for the people. But how many Castilian-speaking, blonde-haired, green-eyed busboys have you met in the barrio?
And if you have never been to the Barrio, you are unqualified to comment.
"Pretty is something you're born with. But beautiful, that's an equal opportunity adjective."