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Caitlin Henke

MSC 06 3910.
1 University of New Mexico.
Albuquerque, NM 87131.
crhenke@unm.edu
March 4, 2016.
Dear Caitlin Henke,
I am pleased that you have considered working on and I issue that I find to be of
great importance. Therefore, I am writing this report about the media portrayal of Latin
woman, with the main focus of finding how it affects the way the are treated in the U.S.
specially the Albuquerque area.
In the report you will find a compilation of research explaining the issue, along
with surveys and interviews that support the information, and a list of recommendations
that should be taken into account in order to help reduce the problematic. I truly
appreciate you time and hope that you find this work helpful.

Sincerely,
María José Gil
El Bosque, Tamarindo Street, I20.
MajoGil95@unm.edu

Media Portrayal
OF LATIN WOMEN
How does the media portrayal of Latin Women affect
the way they are treated in the USA?
María José Gil.

Introduction
The media constitutes a big part of the American culture, especially in recent years
and with the advance of technology, people seem to be more attached to it than ever.
Some of the most common ways of media are the audiovisuals we know as Television and
Movies, and they have a great impact in our society. Since the early years of these means,
they have created certain images of Latinos that have become rather stereotypical,
especially for Latin women. Images regarding the hypersexualization of their
personalities and bodies, among other characteristics like their average income are the
most emphasized factors by the media. So it is not hard for society to create stereotypes
based of this portrayal. With that in mind, the main goal of this report is to explore the
correlation that might occur between the media portrayal of Latin women and the way
they are treated in the United States.
It is important to touch on this subject because everyday, Latin women in the US
have to face incidents about the matter. Numerous studies have stated this as a fact, so
in order to address this problem we should focus on how, or why exactly, Latina woman
are affected by these images. This report tries to answer those questions or at least find
a correlation between media and treatment of Latin woman, more specifically, Latin
women that attend The University of New Mexico. Apart from that it gives
recommendations on how to improve this situation in order to avoid incidents.

Methods
For this report various stages of research were done. Starting with secondary
research in which information relevant to the subject was acquired by recurring to peer
reviewed academic journals, articles, books and certain websites. After enough material
was compiled and analyzed, I moved to the formulation of the surveys and interviews that
constituted the primary research. For the surveys, I used a sample of 53 people whom I
personally asked the questions. The locations I visited were the Duck Pond, Student’s
Union Building, and La Posada Dining Hall, all of them part of The University of New
Mexico Main Campus (UNM). Also, I interviewed two Latina Women, both Albuquerque
residents and UNM students. Followed by that, the results of the primary research were
analyzed and compared to those in the secondary research in order to support them and
find an answer to the research question. Finally, after examining the outcome of the
report, recommendations were made in order to properly address the issue of the
portrayal of Latina women by the media.

Limitations
A limitation that might have affected my primary research was the fact that I am
Latin women myself, and since English is not my first language, a noticeable accent can
be heard when I speak it. This means that when I was asking the questions, people could
easily identify me as Latina, some of them even asked if I was, so I think this could have
created some sort of bias. Some of the people even expressed that they did not know if
they could be honest because they did not want to sound offensive towards me. However,
I explained that I was executing a research, therefore I would not be offended and would

appreciate their honesty in the matter. Hopefully these individuals took my word and were
honest on their responses. Additionally, I knew some of the people I interviewed. They
are my personal friends and have an idea on how passionate I feel about the subject, this
as well could have been a source of bias.

Results

Secondary Research
While conducting my secondary research, I came across subjects that are crucial
to the report and give a certain amount of background to the problem and why the current
situation might be happening. In this section, I introduce those concepts.

Marianismo Vs Machismo Vs the Media
Two basic concepts that need to be taken into account are Marianismo and
Machismo, they both give some background on why the media portrays Latin woman the
way it currently does. First we have Marianismo, “a passive, nurturing role for women”
(Villegas, 329). It should be noted that Catholicism is the most followed religion is Latin
America, according to the Pew Research Center, “Historical data suggest that for most

of the 20th century, from 1900 through the 1960s, at least 90% of Latin America’s
population was Catholic”. (2014). So this concept comes from the idea that women
should act in an almost saint-like or biblical way. The word itself comes from the Spanish
name María, which translates to virgin Mary.

On the other side, we have the term machismo, “an exaggerated masculinity for
men” (Villegas, 329). This term is more known than Marianismo, and it can be compared
to the concept of misogyny in the English language because of the way machistas think
about women. Men and women that support the machistas lifestyle tend to think that the
only way a woman should behave is the marianista way, therefore, if a woman does not
fit into these extreme parameters she should be addressed as a “bad” woman and
categorized as lowlife or promiscuous. As explained by Vera López: “race, ethnicity,
gender and class often inform the classification of girls as either "good" or "bad."” (2014)
These concepts can be problematic, because the media has somehow embraced the
machista ideals and mostly portrays Latin women in this binary way. They are usually
shown as either the religious virginal girl whose goal in life is to find her prince charming,
or the hypersexualized woman with a voluminous body and a fiery attitude.

Where are the Latinas?
It has been stated that the media represents Latin women in a binary way, but in
fact this is not far from how it portrays women in general. The issue is that Latin actors,
actresses or figures, are quite scarce in the media, therefore the few ones that actually
get TV or movie appearances, have a very strong impact in the stereotypization of the
Latin image. So by only exposing Latin women as “good” or “bad” the media creates a
window for society to stereotype them, and of course, the negative image sends a
stronger message and therefore leaves a bigger influence in people, reason why this bad
image is the most prominent of the two and the one the public is mainly exposed to. In
her book, Latin Looks: Images Of Latinas And Latinos In The U.S. Media, Clara Rodríguez

touches on this subjects and explains: “what makes Latina images so different is that
there are so few images, that they are so narrow, and that lately they are so consistently
negative and lower class. To a degree, this may reflect a general perception of the
position of Hispanics in the U.S. Society”.
We can resort to numbers in order to support this information, for example,
according to the census published in July 1, 2014, by the U.S. Census Bureau, 17% the
country is composed by Latinos (Census). However, statistics by the Center of Media and
Public Affairs, show that since early years, the numbers of Latinos in the media has
always been low:

Figure 1: TV Ethnic Portrayal Over Time.

We can narrow this numbers even further and separate them by gender if we pay
attention to the results showed by Frances Negrón-Muntaner in her report The Latino

Media Gap (2014):

Figure 2: Percentage of Latino Actor Lead Appearances in Ten Highest-Rated TV Shows by Gender

Figures 1 and 2 clearly show the discrepancy between the Latin population and
their appearances in the media, supporting the previously stated argument.

Primary Research
After gathering information about my subject I formulated 4 survey question in
order to further investigate and find answers to the research question.
1.   What is the first thing/word that comes to your mind when you think about Latin
women?
2.   How would you describe the stereotypical Latin Woman?

Figure 3: Compilation of words gathered for questions 1 and 2.

Figure 3 shows the words I got the most in response to questions one and two,
they are organized in order in repetition, the words bigger in size where obtained the
most.
3.   Where did you get this image from?

WHERE  DID  YOU   G ET  THIS   I MAGE  FROM?
Media

Hear  around

Personal  experince

6% 3%

91%

Figure 4: Where did you get this image from?

In figure 4 we can see that the majority of the people interviewed (91%) stated
that the stereotypical image they have in mind, comes from things they have seen on the
media. I was pleased to see the results the surveys coincide and reinforce the ones of
my prior research.
4.   Do you think Latin women tend to be treated differently because of this
image/stereotype?

DO  YOU   T HINK  LATIN  WOMEN  TEND  TO   B E  TREATED  
DIFFERENTLY  BECAUSE  OF  THIS   I MAGE/STEREOTYPE?
Yes

No

15%

85%

Figure 5: Do you think Latin women tend to be treated differently because of this image/stereotype?

In figure 5 we can see that 85% of the people interviewed agree that Latin
women tend to be treated differently because of certain stereotypical images. However,
I did want to go a step further and interview the real people that experience this
mistreatment, therefore I went ahead and asked 2 Latin woman if they had ever
experience any incidents regarding these stereotypes, to which I have attached their
interviews bellow:

23 years old, Venezuelan
“Since I moved here when I was little I don’t have an accent; people usually think
I’m American. But when I tell them I’m Latina the say things like: “Oh but you don’t look
Latina, you are quiet and shy, you don’t act like a crazy Latina” like if Latinas had to fit
in that “I have an attitude because I’m Latina” stereotype; what even is considered a

crazy Latina? I have even heard things like: “Oh you are Latina that is so exotic” I mean,
I am not exotic; I am a human being”.

21 years old, Ecuadorian
“Once I was at a souvenir store in Old Town and everything was going great until
my friend started speaking Spanish to me. The owner, a white man maybe in his 50’s,
heard us switching to Spanish and then told us that his store had expensive things, for
people with money. He repeated the word money a few times before he kicked us out of
the store”

Discussion
After studying the research, it is clear that the way Latin women are treated in our
society can be linked to the “good” vs “bad” image the media portrays them as. The
problem lies in the way society can stereotype this look and leave aside the real aspects
of a person that should actually matter, like their goals, values and achievements.
Research performed by Robert Lichter, Professor of Communications at George Mason
University, show that “About one-third of those with an opinion say that the ethnic
characters they see on television affect their attitudes toward ethnic groups in real life.”
(Robert) Because of these stereotypes, society tends to see Latin women as objects
rather than humans, especially when it comes to their bodies, and forget that they are
more than what TV and movies portrays them as, they are just like any other woman and
by any means should they have to fit into any of these highly unrealistic “good woman”
parameters.

Another aspect to be noticed is the result of the first survey question. Based on it
we can see a pattern in which elements related to body image, attitude and income are
the main characteristics noticed by people when it comes to Latin women. The word with
the most repetitions was fiery, and related to it, I also got words like outspoken, attitude,
bitchy, angry, shallow, among others. This gives us an idea on what people think about
Latinas and their personalities types, these words are all related meaning that a specific
attitude is expected from Latinas. Followed by that we can see words like hot, sexy,
beautiful, promiscuous; showing that Latin women are believed to have a certain body
image and therefore to act a certain way (promiscuous) because of it. Word like poor,
lowlife and cholas, also came into the picture, demonstrating that the stereotype of a low
income or a not so luxurious lifestyle is attached to Latin Woman as well. Finally, the
names of famous Latin women entertainers, JLo (Jennifer López), Selena and Sofia
Vergara were mentioned at least one. This is interesting because the fact that these
women are immensely related to media, and are often portrayed in the binary way
previously mentioned, shows a clear correlation between stereotypes and the media.

Conclusion
After all of the research and results had been analyzed, it was clear that there is
a big correlation between the Media portrayal of Latin women and the way they are
treated in the U.S. These results illustrate the things and situations Latin woman in the
U.S have to deal with every day. As reflected on the interviews, incidents regarding what
people think Latinas should act like, how their personality should be like, or even what
their monetary income is; have become normal and acceptable, when the truth is that they

should be inexistent. Regarding the surveys, it is clear that people have a certain level of
awareness of what is happening to Latin women, they understand there is a stereotype,
and they know where it comes from, but they do not pay attention to the effects this has
on them because it has become a natural thing.

Recommendations
So now that we know what the issue is, and how it is affecting Latin woman, it is
almost mandatory that we do something in order to address it. One of the things that could
be done is to demand more Latin characters from the media, since we know the lack of
them highly affects our problem. But not only do they need to be introduced, they should
also be portrayed in a different way, rather than using the same old “good” vs “bad”
image. By introducing a broader and more realistic spectrum of Latin characters, with
different personalities, body images and characteristics, stereotyping of Latin woman
could be avoided.
Likewise, education could have a tremendous influence on the problem. If our
society were to be more educated about different cultures, these images about people
from different ethnicities could be avoided. By using cultural education as a base to
minimize our problem, we could also make it media proof in a sense. By educating society,
the media would not have such a strong effect on stereotyping, because even if they kept
portraying Latin woman the way they do, people would probably not agree with what
would be shown on screen, because they would have a better and more realistic sense of
reality.

Works Cited
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