During Hispanic Heritage Month – which officially concludes today – America celebrates the enormous contributions that the Hispanic and Latinx community has made to our country’s economy, society, and culture. This includes the artists and actors, shows and characters that have made TV history. This year, celebrating Hispanic and Latinx representation on TV is particularly important. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, U.S. Hispanics have significantly increased the amount of TV they watch. In fact, 71% report watching more TV shows now than before the pandemic.
When it comes to representation on TV, the Hispanic and Latinx community has seen tremendous gains over the past decade. Who can forget George Lopez turning his standup act into a hit TV series? Or more recently, Jane the Virgin, which successfully combined elements of telenovelas, a popular genre among many Hispanic viewers, together with modern comedy and a groundbreaking treatment of the topics of sex and pregnancy. Authentic and inclusive representation both on and off the screen is critical for the growing Hispanic population in the United States. Not only does it empower Hispanics when they see themselves and their culture on TV, but it can also lead to greater understanding of difference.
In recent years, several recent high-profile shows have brought multi-faceted Hispanic and Latinx individuals, families and communities to viewers across the nation. To wrap-up Hispanic Heritage Month this year, we’re taking a deeper look at three of those shows:
Vida, Starz Network
Vida, created by Tanya Sancho and based on a story by Richard Villegas, Jr., the series follows Lyn and Emma Hernandez, two very different sisters (played by Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada) coming to terms in very different ways with the barrio of Los Angeles in which they grew up and left behind. Vida offers a unique Latinx perspective on issues of colorism, discrimination and gentrification while telling the Hernandez sisters’ story. In a 2018 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Sancho describes the show as “a love letter to brown females with agency, who are coming to terms with their power and trying to figure that out.” The Starz drama also features an all-Latinx cast and writer’s room, and many people of color also hold positions behind the scenes.
Mayans M.C., FX
Mayans M.C. – a spinoff of the popular Sons of Anarchy – which took a Latinx supporting character, Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (played by JD Pardo), and made him the lead. In creating Mayans M.C., a show with a predominantly Latinx cast that told a uniquely Latinx story, showrunner Kurt Sutter knew that he would need to bring authentic Hispanic and Latinx perspectives to every element of production. That lead him not only to bring on Elgin James, who is multi-racial, but to also contract a predominantly Hispanic and Latinx crew. While the show’s material still tips into the problematic space of portraying Latinx characters as criminals, James sees this as a chance for the cast and crew to blend history and fiction to tell their own stories. “A lot of the people on ‘Mayans M.C.,’ both in front of the camera and behind the camera, actually grew up in the cycle of poverty and violence and then incarceration,” he told an audience at TCA in 2018.
Hogar de HGTV, Discovery Inc.
Hispanic stories and culture also blend together on Discovery’s Hogar de HGTV, a new, Spanish-language destination for food and home enthusiasts. Launched during the pandemic, a time when much of its core audience found themselves hit hard by COVID-19 or under “stay home” orders, Hogar de HGTV caters to the interests and demands of Hispanic and Latinx viewers. “There is so much Hispanic talent in the home decor, real estate, and culinary space. We are proud to provide a new platform to showcase the richness and diversity of the Hispanic culture.” says Michela Giorelli, Vice President of Production and Development at Discovery U.S. Hispanic. It gives its viewers a chance to both retreat and relate.
More and more, Hispanic and Latinx talent can be found in many shows and networks on TV. As the U.S. Hispanic community grows, now making up more than one fifth of the U.S. population and project to grow to 30% by 2060, these shows offer viewers a look behind the scenes at Latinx culture and experiences in America.