Roughly 100 protesters marched on Saturday to the Dolby Theater where the 90th Oscars ceremony will take place, calling for increased representation of Latinos in film.
Organized by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the demonstration is their second tied to the Oscars, which this year — like many years — featured no Latinos nominated in any of the acting categories. But the protest is not aimed at the Academy. Instead its targets are movie studio heads and executives whom organizers say have not done enough to diversify their own ranks and to hire Latino actors and writers.
Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the coalition, told demonstrators gathered that the organization would demand meetings with studio executives from the six major studios. “They have ten days at the very most to come and talk,” Nogales said. “And if they do not, there will be a boycott.”
Speakers included Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel for MALDEF, a civil rights organization for Latinos, decried the fact that Latinos make up 18% of the U.S. population but accounted for just 3% of speaking roles in top films, according to a recent study.
“The time is now,” Saenz said, noting that Latinos’ continued invisibility will no longer be tolerated. “If that was happening anywhere else in the world, Hollywood would be protesting.”
Marissa Herrera, a producer and third-generation Mexican-American, said at the rally that she has faced discrimination as she sought work in the entertainment industry. She said she has been told to change her last name to get work. When she’s tried out for work, she said she was told to speak with an accent. “Enough is enough,” she said.
Demonstrators carried signs that read “Latino leads now” and “Hollywood A-Listers Join Us!” They chanted “Hire us Latinos!” and “We’re asking, we’re demanding!” as they marched north from Hollywood High School toward the Dolby Theater.
On the boulevard, tourists and other onlookers looked curiously as the group worked its way to the barriers were the Oscars construction was underway Saturday. Some cars and others passersby honked their horns or cheered in support.
Nogales and other activists pledged that the campaign would not end once the Oscars conclude, promising to keep pressure on studios to work with them.