As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, more than 270 Latinx show creators, television showrunners and writers for screens both big and small have written an open letter calling for systemic change in the entertainment industry.
“We are incensed by the continued lack of Latinx representation in our industry, especially among the Black and Indigenous members of our community. Our stories are important, and our erasure onscreen contributes to the persistent prejudice that prevents real change in this country. This prejudice is not as overt as the one that keeps immigrant children in cages and separates families at the border, or as violent as the racism that is killing our Black, Brown and Indigenous community members at the hands of police. But when we are onscreen, we’re often relegated to stereotypes or villains,” the letter says.
Stemming from an initiative started by Untitled Latinx Project (ULP), which was founded by “Vida’s” Tanya Saracho, the letter calls for five key things, including greenlighting projects by Latinx writers and producers, diversifying the content of what projects are greenlit in order to represent the Latinx experience as more than a monolith, advancing Latinx writers beyond “diversity hires,” hiring Latinx writers for more than just Latinx stories, and first and foremost, not telling stories about the Latinx experience without Latinx voices.
“Writers create television and films, the arenas where national conversations about culture take place. But while Latinx are 18.3% of the U.S. population, we only make up 4.7% of feature writers and 8.7% of TV writers. As Latinx writers move up to showrunner level, the stats only get more dismal,” the letter says. “By refusing to tell our stories AND by refusing to put us in charge of telling them — Hollywood power brokers are complicit in our exclusion.”
ULP is an all-Latina advocacy group formed to increase representation of Latinx created stories for television, but this letter was signed by all genders. Among those who signed are Saracho, “Riverdale’s” Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, “Pose’s” Steven Canals, “One Day at a Time’s” Gloria Calderón Kellett, “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance’s” Javier Grillo-Marxuach, “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda and comedian Felipe Esparza.
Read the full letter below:
As we come to the end of Hispanic Heritage Month in the midst of a global pandemic and continued racial injustice, many of us in the Latinx community have found it difficult to celebrate. Inspired by the activism of the Black and Indigenous communities, many of whom also identify as Latinx, we stand in solidarity with our fellow Black, Native and Indigenous writers, co-signing their WGAW Open Letters and echoing their demands for systemic change in our industry.
As Latinx showrunners, creators, TV and feature Writers, we are incensed by the continued lack of Latinx representation in our industry, especially among the Black and Indigenous members of our community. Our stories are important, and our erasure onscreen contributes to the persistent prejudice that prevents real change in this country. This prejudice is not as overt as the one that keeps immigrant children in cages and separates families at the border, or as violent as the racism that is killing our Black, Brown and Indigenous community members at the hands of police. But when we are onscreen, we’re often relegated to stereotypes or villains. And as a recent New York Times OpEd states, “White elites cannot muffle a huge, vibrant community for decades and not expect consequences. For Latinos in the Trump era, these consequences are deadly, from Hurricane Maria to the Walmart shooting in El Paso and the pandemic, as well as soaring hate crimes.”
Writers create television and films, the arenas where national conversations about culture take place. But while Latinx are 18.3% of the U.S. population, we only make up 4.7% of feature writers and 8.7% of TV writers. As Latinx writers move up to showrunner level, the stats only get more dismal.
By refusing to tell our stories AND by refusing to put us in charge of telling them — Hollywood power brokers are complicit in our exclusion.
We are tired of Latinx projects being developed with no Latinx writer, director, or producer attached. We refuse to be filtered through a white perspective.
We are tired of hearing “we couldn’t find any Latinx writers to hire.”
We are tired of Latinx writers being asked to repeat staff writer and lower staffing levels, which not only ensures that we stay at those levels, but also helps perpetuate the narrative that Latinx writers don’t exist at the showrunner and other upper levels.
We are tired of being painted with the same brush. We are made up of an array of backgrounds and ethnicities.
We are tired of stories that are only about our trauma. We contain multitudes.
We are tired.
Movement on this is critical. Inclusivity is not enough. We want action. Here are our demands:
1. No Stories About Us Without Us
Make room for us to tell our own stories. It is not enough to hire one Latinx writer and expect them to be the sole representative of a vast and heterogeneous group of people. Hire more of us. Listen to us. Put us in positions of power. Don’t know how to find us? Reach out to the WGA, or go to one of the TV writer lists created by members of our community. (La Lista, The Latinx Writers, Afro-Latinx List)
If you’re a non-Latinx White writer and are offered a Latinx-centered project with no Latinx writer, director or producer at the helm, consider partnering up with someone who is, or even passing it on to and advocating for a Latinx writer. While we recognize that writers can tell stories about an array of voices and experiences, until the Latinx community is close to reaching parity, we need to be included in the telling of our own stories.
2. Greenlight Our Projects
Make a plan to reach demographic parity. It is not enough to buy our pilots, you must also greenlight them. Only a handful of pilots by Latinx writers are bought each year, and most of those are never made. Likewise, if studios, networks, and production companies were more intentional about hiring BIPOC executives, more of our stories would be championed to production. And with the recent commercial and critical success of “Pose,” “One Day At A Time,” “Vida” and Gentefied,” it’s clear Latinx stories find loyal audiences and receive accolades.
3. Represent All Aspects Of Our Lives And Culture
Make sure the projects you greenlight reflect the diversity of our population. We are a diaspora from more than 20 different countries. We are more than just white Latinx and Mestizxs. We are Black and Indigenous. We are LGBTQIA. We are undocumented. We are Disabled. We have different religious backgrounds and spiritual beliefs. We are more than our trauma. We write stories of joy, origin stories, genre stories, children’s stories, and much more. We demand to be seen and heard in our entirety.
4. Do Away With Repeating Levels
In television writing, we want advancement of all writers and regular promotions like our non-Latinx white counterparts. For too long, BIPOC writers have had to remain at staff writer level for multiple years, either because they are dismissed as “diversity hires” or due to the loopholes that diversity and inclusion programs have unintentionally helped foster. Our talent is wasted for years at the lower ranks, keeping us from showrunner positions. Rather than hold us back, invest in our growth.
5. Hire Us For Non-Latinx Projects
We are able to write more than identity stories. In fact, our stories are also American stories, stories of resilience, of liberation, of hope. Stories of business owners chasing the American dream, little girls that one day will be president or work for NASA, war veterans, nurses, musical artists and fashionistas.
Because we are steeped in the dominant culture, we speak at least two, if not more, cultural languages, well versed in yours as much as we are in ours. Our voices and our perspective will undoubtedly enhance yours and that of all Americans.
We submit this open letter in good faith that you, as our peers and colleagues, will consider it, likewise. And we will continue to demand an industry that sees us, hears us, and values our contributions so that the world will do the same through the stories we tell.
Stories are powerful. Stories change the world. Let’s get on the right side of history so we can continue to create needed change and tell captivating stories together.
Marcela Davison Avilés
Alfredo Barrios Jr.
Samuel Garza Bernstein
Tawnya Benavides Bhattacharya
Diana Mendez Boucher
Marta Gené Camps
Maria Agui Carter
Alejandra Castro Castillo
Eliza Jiménez Cossio
Chad Gomez Creasey
Victor De Jesus
Christina de Leon
Jessica Elaina Eason
Juan Carlos Fernandez
Kelly DeLeon Fullerton
Zoila Amelia Galeano
Alexis C. Garcia
Julia Ahumada Grob
Aubrey Villalobos Karr
Gloria Calderón Kellett
Laura Jean Leal
Eric Reyes Loo
Gabriela Revilla Lugo
Michele Saenz Marburger
Joseph I Martinez
Marcelena Campos Mayhorn
Erik Francisco Medina
Ana Maria Montoya
GiGi Rios New
Sierra Teller Ornelas
Katrina Cabrera Ortega
Emilio Ortega Aldrich
Ashley Soto Paniagua
Jorge C. Perez
Tatiana Suarez Pico
Jorge Ramirez – Martinez
Leah Benavides Rodriguez
Maria Elena Rodriguez
Pamela Garcia Rooney
Marcial Rios Salcido
Nancy De Los Santos
Janine Salinas Schoenberg
Charise Castro Smith
Rebecca Delgado Smith
Natalie Mercedes Smyka
Debra Moore Muñoz