Latinos are Now Mainstream; Just Ask Sofía Vergara

Aug 13, 2012

By Laura Morales, Hispanic Media Relations & Business Writer 

Early this year, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign released an ad which accused then-rival Newt Gingrich of referring to Spanish as the language of the “ghetto.” Of course, Newt denied it.

CNN’s Truth Squad ran a story that included Newt’s actual quote from a 2007 speech to the National Federation of Republican Women:

“We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and so they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto,” Newt told the ladies.

The Truth Squad gave him a pass because he didn’t utter the word “Spanish.”

Well, I’m calling horsepucky on that one. By setting up a contrast with English as the “language of prosperity – and if you consider that my native tongue is by far the second most widely-spoken language in this country – it’s quite clear that Newt was, indeed, taking a cheap shot at Spanish.

Boneheaded move, particularly in an age when we have both YouTube and a booming Latino population.

For the haters who would apply to all of us the disproportionately negative image of Hispanics that prevails in the news I have two words: Sofía Vergara.

That’s right. The August 6 issue of Forbes featured the Colombian actress and Modern Family star on its cover because the girl is about as “It” as it gets: she’s the highest-paid actress on American TV. However you may feel about her perpetuating the “sexy, ditzy Latina” stereotype (and I do have a few concerns), this is still quite an accomplishment. Modern Family is a mainstream, critically-acclaimed show and Vergara has been nominated for two Emmys and two Golden Globes for her comic performance.

Vergara’s clearly got some brains on board. She’s managed to parlay the bombshell persona not just into a lucrative film and television career, but also into a $7 million clothing-line deal with K-Mart, a company that sees the value of Hispanic-oriented marketing, to judge from its 2003 merchandising deal with Mexican singer/actress Thalía. She and her business partner have built production company Latin World Entertainment into a powerful firm that pulled in $27 million last year.

The same issue of Forbes included an article about the rapid mainstreaming of the Hispanic market wherein Univisión CEO Randy Falco bragged about his network beating NBC in ratings 195 nights last year.

With the growing influence of our community on cultural touchstones such as food, fashion and marketing, I’m hoping that this is the start of a “new normal” with onscreen representation of Latinos that truly reflect the wide diversity within our demographic.

Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll see Sofía playing an astronaut or a journalist. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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