After viewing the widely publicized CNN Special “Latino in America” I have to admit that I was quite underwhelmed by the whole undertaking. Rather than discussing issues pertinent to any growing community in this country, such as political influence and economical power, the two-hour special focused on a handful of stories that were not an accurate representation of the Latino community as a whole, and left viewers with no message of hope or empowerment.
As Ms. Soledad O’Brien reports, by the year 2050 the Latino population will nearly triple what it is today. We are all familiar with the saying “there is strength in numbers”. However the growing numbers of Latinos do not seem to mirror this statement, especially if you viewed this documentary which, in my opinion did nothing more than to magnify a handful of hard-luck, extraordinary cases. Imagine someone who has little contact with Latinos, tuning into the special in an effort to expand his/her horizons? What is learned by an irresponsible display of the stereotypes that we, as Latinos attempt to rise above? CNN and Ms. O’Brien failed miserably in delivering a snapshot into the lives of Latinos and the part they play within this society in the twenty-first century.
I will be the first to confess that I was looking forward to viewing the documentary, however my anticipation quickly turned to frustration within the first fifteen minutes when I realized that this was to be nothing more than a sampling of troubled teens and violence. The very things that not only Latinos, but every ethnicity battles in their respective communities. My wish for the documentary was to focus on the Latino population as a force, perhaps up and coming, but a force nonetheless, to eventually be reckoned with. And, discuss how we, although strong in numbers, are quite weak in political power, and perhaps some of that is due in part to Latinos segregating themselves from one another, in reference to their cultural background, rather than coming together as a whole, such as the Black communities which have experienced much success due to their solidarity.
I would have also liked to perhaps seen an interview with someone of Latino decent who is a successful portrayal of the upwardly mobile future as it would have provided an example to our children, to our people, that there is indeed something worth striving for. As statistics suggest the Latino dollar possesses economic power, and Madison Avenue mirrors that suggestion with numerous ad campaigns directed towards the Latino community, I do not understand why it was not addressed when every commercial during the special was targeted toward the Latino audience. I am appalled that a news institution with a reputation such as CNN would produce a sub-par sampling of our people to introduce to its’ viewers.
Where CNN’s special wronged us is rather than accentuating the positive and showing stories where Latinos are making strides, successful, educated or talented Latinos in America, they chose to focus on a handful of unfortunate youths (no disrespect to those involved), that in effect do not address the Latinos as a community because there are too few parallels. Although I do feel there is a place for the Pedro Pans story and even the one which featured Together Car Club from East Los Angeles, it was not here. Believe me, I am not dissing Together, as they have chauffeured me to many a quinceanera back in the day. I’m simply suggesting that none of these stories served the cause as well as it could have and I’m certain, not as well as we, the Latino viewers were hoping.
As a matter of fact, the one and only successful story discussed former Pico Rivera mayor Gracie Gallegos and the positive changes she has successfully executed in her city, ends with a disclaimer that she stepped down from office due to writing a bad check, although the Los Angeles Times stated her reasons for her resignation having more to do with her fathers’ recent cancer diagnosis. In my opinion, it was in poor taste. The only story that offered some sort of redemption ended on such a sour note. Where was that story to motivate Latinos as a populous and come together to invest in the success of one another on a larger scale?
I am uncertain who is to blame for the disgrace entitled "Latino in America", and by no means would I expect a re-do. However, my hope was that all Latinos, whether they be natural born Americans, or transplants, and regardless of where they transplanted from, Mexico, Cuba or Ecuador, they would be sent a message of empowerment. I believe that is what the sole purpose should have been is to empower a community that as a whole has been powerless in achieving the American Dream, not to relive the nightmares of prejudice and poverty that we continue to work so hard to eliminate.