Media

Publish or Perish

It may be apocryphal. But supposedly an unnamed New York publishing executive was once asked why there were so few books by Hispanic authors, or novels featuring Latino characters.

His response was a blasé “Hispanics don’t read.”

This is indeed bad news, as apparently none of you Hispanic readers are literate enough to even comprehend this article. And I’m not literate enough to write it, which is quite the paradox.

Escher-1024x963

In any case, that publishing exec was clearly not familiar with Latin America’s rich literary tradition, exemplified by the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the greatest writer of all time (let’s not debate this). He also didn’t know that one Latin American country, Cuba, has the highest literacy rate in the world.

But closer to home, why hadn’t this exec heard of the brilliant Junot Díaz or the groundbreaking Sandra Cisneros? Or did he believe only white people were reading those authors?

For whatever reason, our anonymous publishing executive refused to believe that the largest ethnic minority in America was interested in books. And in this refusal came justification for the continued blackballing of Latino authors.

“There are several factors contributing to the paucity of published books written by Latinos,” says Marcela Landres, an editorial consultant who publishes the award-winning e-zine Latinidad and co-founded the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference.

“Primarily, we need more Latinos on the inside working in key positions, such as agents, publicists, sales reps, bookstore owners, and especially as acquisitions editors,” she says.

Landres adds that Hispanic culture itself is another barrier.

“Latinos immigrated to the U.S. so their kids could live the American Dream, which is defined by financial security,” Landres says. “Writing generally does not pay well, so our parents understandably pressure us to choose more sensible careers. In order to be successful as artists, Latinos need to respect our parents but perhaps not obey them.”

As any Hispanic can tell you, disobeying your parents is a tall order. But that is another story.

In any case, some Latino advocates believe that the big publishing houses have hoodwinked us into buying their mainstream books, giving them little impetus to change the formula.

Of course, one strategy to force change is to bypass the big publishing houses altogether. That’s what I did with my novel Barrio Imbroglio.

After some nibbles of interest from the majors, I got the picture that my black comedy tale — about a reluctant detective named Hernandez — didn’t fit in with the preconceived notions about Hispanic literature. Yes, I had the word “barrio” right there in the title, but where were all the undocumented immigrants and magic realism and metaphors using avocados? It was a little too different. So I’ve done what more and more authors — Latino and otherwise — are doing, and publishing directly to Amazon.

But this end run has its drawbacks.

“There are few Latino self-publishing success stories,” says Landres. “I have yet to see literary writers, and/or writers who take years to produce a single manuscript, whose self-published books have sold well. If you write genre and have a bunch of books ready to go, the odds are in your favor. If you’re a literary writer who spends years polishing a single manuscript, not so much.”

In addition to the self-publishing crapshoot, there is the unpleasant fact that — like it or not — the NYC houses still have the most influence on what people read. And they are not packing the midlist with Hispanic authors.

Now, this isn’t just a matter of fairness, nor is it even all about artistic integrity and the myth of meritocracy. A more fundamental reason becomes clear when one considers that “Latino children seldom see themselves in books.” Education experts say, “the lack of familiar images could be an obstacle as young readers work to build stamina and deepen their understanding of story elements like character motivation.”

Basically, there are only so many tales of brave and adventurous white people that Hispanic kids can read. At some point, they disconnect.

And if that is the future we want — a self-fulfilling prophecy where Hispanics truly don’t read — then we should just preserve the status quo.

 


The Tiebreaker

We here at Hispanic Fanatic world headquarters have always had a complicated relationship with Jennifer Lopez.

On the one hand, she’s a beautiful and talented Latina who has had an enormous impact on an industry that is notoriously dismissive of Hispanics.

On the other hand, she is responsible for an ungodly amount of bad movies and wretched music.

So you see the dilemma.

Well, news came out recently that puts J Lo firmly on the positive side of history. It seems that you have her to thank for the invention of Google Images.

One of the founders of Google claims that it was Lopez’s infamous green dress, which she wore to the 2000 Grammys, that provided the impetus to catalogue images on the search engine.

Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says that “J Lo green dress” (or some variation on that) was the most popular search query the company had ever seen. But they had no surefire way of getting users exactly what they wanted, which was Ms. Lopez wearing that dress.

So they tinkered with the code, allowing pictures and graphics to come up in queries, and in the words of Schmidt, “Google Image Search was born.”

That settles it. Jennifer Lopez is all right with us.

And as a public service, and just in case you don’t remember that famous dress, here it is.

42nd Annual Grammy Awards - Pressroom

Yes, that’s very little fabric for such a cultural milestone and technological breakthrough. But that’s just J Lo for you.

 


Encroachment in the Neutral Zone

Accusations of “selling out” are often flung around when Hispanics clash over controversial topics, like immigration reform or Obamacare or whether Jennifer Lopez has ever recorded a decent song. It’s an easy way to discredit your opponent while bolstering your own bona fides,

But usually, it’s all just talk. I have to admit, however, that the selling-out label may actually fit in one particular debate. And it’s over the dry concept of net neutrality.

Bonlie-Net-Neutrality-Cartoon

As we know, net neutrality is the concept that everybody should have equal access and priority on the Internet. It seems obvious enough that this is a good idea.

But telecommunications companies see an opportunity to make extra bucks by charging for access. So they’ve enlisted organizations like the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership, which says that net neutrality policies could inhibit investment and leave disenfranchised communities farther behind. 

This is absurd, of course. And anyone who supports the telecoms must be getting paid off (i.e., selling out).

Sane parties, such as Latinos for Internet Freedom, point out that an open Internet means more job opportunities and better educational opportunities for Latinos. The group says, “creating new hierarchies of faster and slower websites means a new variation on the ancient theme of discrimination.”

The fight is getting personal. The Latino advocacy group Presente.org has started a petition titled, “They Don’t Speak for Us,” which harshly criticizes those Latino organizations that support the telecoms.

One way or another, the outcome will greatly affect Latino consumers’ access to the Internet. And it will provide a perfect example of what selling out really means.


The Big Picture

As I am fond of mentioning, I live in beautiful Southern California, where I frequently soak up the sun, hike in the hills, hit the beach, and hobnob with celebrities.

Well, in truth, I have rarely hobnobbed in general, and even fewer times with anyone who could remotely be called a celebrity. But we LA residents do see A-listers out and about on occasion.

Very few of those stars are Hispanic, as I’ve pointed out before. But now we have statistical evidence that Latinos are not getting their shot at the silver screen.

A new study shows that over the last six years, there has been “no meaningful difference in the representation of characters from underrepresented backgrounds.”

Since 2008, the number of Hispanics onscreen rose from 3.3 percent to 4.9 percent. Latinos are about 17% of the American population, so Hispanic representation in film would have to triple to even be close to reflecting reality.

In fact, another study found that there are actually “fewer Latino lead actors in the entertainment industry today than there were seventy years ago.” Ouch…

Now is a good time to point out that Hispanics (including me) are avid fans of the cinema. In fact, Latinos bought more than one-quarter of the tickets to movies last year. And we don’t even want to get into how much we support certain genres (e.g., horror movies) more than most people.

But there was one positive note in the report. Surprisingly, Hispanic females were more likely to be featured in popular films than were white females or Asian females.

Still, even that comes with a caveat. You see, “Hispanic females were also more likely to be shown either partially or totally nude onscreen than any other race [and] seem to be more hypersexualized than their female counterparts from other groups.”

Yes, when it comes to American movies, Latinas are both underrepresented and underdressed.

Of course, the idea that the entertainment industry would objectify a Latina is ludicrous.

sofia

Yup, just plain crazy.

 


Small Screen Quartet

I live in Los Angeles, so updates about the entertainment industry count as local news. As such, I couldn’t help but notice the following item:

In a “first in U.S. English-language television history,” four Latinas are headlining their own series. Cristela Alonzo stars in Cristela, Callie Hernandez is in The Club (both on ABC), Gina Rodriguez is in the CW’s Jane the Virgin, and NBC’s Shades of Blue stars our old friend Jennifer Lopez.

Jennifer+Lopez1

Now, I have no idea what these shows are about, or if any of them are remotely good. For all I know, they will all be cancelled a month into the season.

Regardless of their fate or pedigree, however, it is unquestionably a positive development that Hispanics are getting more representation on television, and even better, that starring roles are becoming more plentiful. And yes, that’s true even if JLo is involved (just kidding, Ms, Lopez; you know we all love you).

I’ll try to check out these shows when they come on. In the meantime, I will continue pitching my own idea for a show, which is about a gritty, truth-seeking Latino blogger who is smart, sexy, and devilishly handsome.

What can I say? The idea just popped into my head.


I’d Like to Thank the Academy

I’ve written before about the poor representation of Latinos at the Oscars, and in the world of cinema in general.

So I was pleased to find out that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the people who hand out the little gold men) have recently decided to get on the Latino bandwagon and throw open the doors to more Hispanics.

The Academy just released its list of new members, and of the 276 additional people who will get to vote on Best Picture, there are 22 Latinos.

Among the new members are Jennifer Lopez, Rosario Dawson, Michael Pena, and, yes, Danny Trejo.

trejo

That’s right, Machete himself is now a member of the Academy.

How cool is that?

 


Let’s Do It Again

Once again, I’m happy to announce that I’ve collaborated on a post with the very insightful Louis Pagan. Our second joint effort can be found at HuffPo Latino. You can click here to see it.

Perhaps you officially need three instances to call something a trend or tradition, but I think two times is sufficient to say that we’re on a roll.

 


Very Superstitious

We Latinos love our horror movies.

If there are shrieking demons, knife-wielding maniacs, or bloodthirsty poltergeists up on the screen, there are probably lots of Hispanics watching it.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


More News at 11…Maybe

A while back, I wrote about the tragic death of Brisenia Flores, the little girl murdered by right-wing nuts in Arizona.

As I stated, what made the story even more grotesque (if such a thing were possible) was the national media’s virtual silence about her murder. Well, I’m happy to report that journalists have learned their lesson, and thus humbled, are back to covering the news that matters.

Yes, of course, I was only joking there.

How else can one explain the news blackout over the death of Jose Guerena, a former U.S. Marine who was gunned down in his home a few weeks ago? Guerena, who served two tours in Iraq, was shot more than sixty times when he grabbed a rifle and tried to defend his home against invaders.

The shocking nature of his death should warrant a mention in the mainstream press. What makes the tale even more interesting, however, is that the invaders turned out to be a SWAT team. They were executing a search warrant, but “no drugs, cash, or criminal evidence of any kind were found in the home. Neither Jose nor his wife Vanessa has a criminal record.”

Also intriguing is the fact that the SWAT team fired more than seventy times at Guerena, who died without releasing the safety on his rifle. And we should mention that, despite a quick call being placed to 911, it took “about an hour for waiting medics to know what happened, and the man is dead before fire crews are allowed into the home.”

And we should also point out that law enforcement keeps changing the story about what happened. Furthermore, “details of the search warrant have not been made public, and deputies would not comment.”

As a kicker, and you must have seen this coming, the shooting took place in everyone’s favorite state: Arizona.

Now I understand that the national media has important things to cover, like whether an ignorant blowhard who has no chance of ever getting elected president decides to run or not. And there are fast-breaking items about pampered British royalty to write, and catfights on one of those 6,308 Real Housewives spinoffs to cover. Yes, I feel for those overwhelmed journalists.

But is it too much to ask that they notice when, for example, a decorated Marine, who was resting after a hard day’s work, winds up getting shot five dozen times in his kitchen by cops? Maybe they could get curious in light of the fact that hostility toward Latinos is sky high in a state where tragic shootings are alarming frequent.

No, I guess not — nothing to see here, folks.

Of course, we have no idea how this story will turn out. Maybe it will come to light that, despite appearances and all indications so far, Guerena was a notorious criminal.

Actually, now that I think about it, that might be the only way to get the press to pay attention.


An Awesome Display of Force

You can’t be too careful out there. Nobody knows this better than Joe Arpaio, the self-described “toughest sheriff in America.”’ Arpaio, renowned for his obsessive focus on illegal immigration, recently sprung into action to protect his Arizona community.

Acting on a tip that dangerous criminals lurked in the Phoenix suburbs, Arpaio recently deployed a tank. Yes, he called in an armor-platted, cannon-thrusting behemoth.

He also brought in the SWAT team, got a bomb robot, and organized a convoy of armored vehicles. He then rolled this caravan of firepower into a residential neighborhood, surprising people in the sleepy enclave who no doubt had been unaware of the booming crime wave in their midst.

Was Arpaio bringing down a massive drug-running operation? Was he busting lethal gang members who murder and rape at will? Could he have been targeting a domestic terrorism plot, or arresting scores of heavily armed desperadoes?

Well, actually, he was after one guy. And that guy’s crime was… cockfighting.

Yes, “in a massive show of force [Arpaio] executed a search warrant and arrested the homeowner, Jesus Llovera, on charges of suspected cockfighting. Llovera was alone in the house at the time of the arrest, and he was unarmed.”

Now some might say that it’s a bit of overkill to conduct a militaristic operation that “cost tens of thousands of dollars” to arrest one unarmed guy. But you would be missing the point.

This is about being tough on crime, and in any case, the sheriff’s office says, they “err on the side of caution. We’re going to make sure that we have the appropriate amount of force in case we do run into anything.”

One presumes that “anything” includes several highly agitated chickens.

Many residents of the suburb were understandably alarmed to see a tank rolling down their placid streets. Their surprise must have been compounded when they discovered that washed-up action star Steven Seagal was riding in the tank. It was all part of an upcoming episode of Seagal’s new reality-television show “Lawman.” For filming purposes, Seagal has ”carte blanche to go along with the sheriff as he arrests people.”

And what an episode that will be! Arpaio and Seagal, busting down a wall with a tank, blowing out the windows on the suspect’s home, and sending in the SWAT team in full gear to bring down the cowering cockfighter. One can only imagine the scene when the cops busted in and bellowed, “Drop the chicken!”

You can’t tell me that isn’t entertainment.

As it turned out, the cops confiscated 115 chickens and euthanized them. Allow me an aside to say that I once knew a Latino guy who claimed that it was ok to raise fighting roosters because “It’s our culture.” I guess that excuses torturing animals. But that’s another post altogether.

The point is that Arpaio has once again proven that he is not to be fucked with. If he uses a tank to arrest one guy, imagine what he’ll do to undocumented immigrants… Well, maybe we don’t want to visualize that.

Anyway, let’s hope the cameras keep rolling on Arpaio. With luck, some Arizona teenager will shoplift beer from a 7-11, and Arpaio and Chuck Norris will give chase in a helicopter outfitted with rockets.

Cool!


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