Several years ago I attended a TedTalk style event featuring Cristina Saralegui, otherwise known as the Latina Oprah. She was having a conversation about the state of Latinos on Television and the power and the importance of her show, although on a Latino Network (Univision) she was experiencing great crossover success with her guests and audience. She had guests from all walks of life mostly Latinos and some “Americanos” who would sit with her and talk about their experiences, life issue, and pop culture. Needless to say, she was the QUEEN of the talk show market for Latinos.
Nothing like it since.
During the event, there was an opportunity for a Q &A, and I asked her if she would consider producing shows in the “Anglo” market that represented Latinos. A show that would showcase Latinos in a way our children would one day be able to relate with and see their home experiences and see themselves on television. She immediately said I don’t have any immediate plans, but “You do it.” I was slightly startled and embarrassed. I thought, me? How? No one knows me? So I sat down and guarded that charge in my heart.
Since then, there have been several television shows that have showcased Latinos that have enjoyed some success. Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin, Devious Maids, Cristela, and One Day at a Time. Yet there is one thing they all have in common.
They are no longer on the air!
The cancellation of One Day At A Time has been extremely personal and actually quite devastating. You see this was the one show that my entire family could relate to. The first time I attended a taping, I had the honor of meeting Rita Moreno, and I cried. I have pictures to prove it. I was a bumbling mess, told her how much I admired her body of work, how I read her memoir, and how much she reminded me of my mother. She was so lovely. She gently touched my face and told me, “you are too kind.” I expressed to her how this show was so relatable and how at times I felt they had a camera in my home with some of the scenarios that were played out.
My angst of why it was canceled… We LATINOS are once again denied the representation of a whole and healthy family. No drug dealer, no maids, no criminals. Just a family that was trying to live their best life, working out their personal problems, and loving hard!
The incredible disregard of how these types of starring roles are never represented and once they do get an opportunity to be aired, they are immediately canceled. Are the Latinos not supporting these shows? Are Latinos not standing up for their own? Are Latinos unable to come together to stand for what is right which is an equal and respectable representation on Broadcast TV of any form?
So here we are again. They thought we were not good enough to invest in. They thought it not significant enough to trust that a cast of LATINOS about LATINOS could continue to carry the torch with dignity and respect.
So! What do we do next? I can still hear Cristina Saralegui saying “hazlo tu”/ “you do it,” but even if I do, will it be received…when does the disregard stop! When do our representation of brilliant writing and acting matter more than the bottom dollar?
Lesson: Hopefully, “they” will do better, because Lord knows we are trying!
-Annette Ortiz Mata