The Right Age For Drama

I am middle-aged.  There I said it.  Not a simple admission for someone who is also female and Latina in Hollywood.   Which should make me a variation of a triple threat.  It doesn’t.  It gives me a triple handicap when casting comes into play.  So as I ponder branching out from the career I so love I got to thinking if my gender, my cultural background and my age range were properly being represented on TV and film.  Not separately, of course but as a package.  And if not, why not?

I had my ideas but I wanted to get other’s point of view.  Is it a bit strange that the two first people that came to mind to pose this question to were male?

My agent, Jaime of JFA (Jaime Ferrar Agency), answered the phone and readily responded.  He’s been in this crazy showbiz business for innumerable years, first as an actor and then as an agent.  I hesitate to say for how long since, though I think he wouldn’t mind, I haven’t gotten his approval if I could reveal it.  That may be one of the problems.  In Hollywood we all want to be ageless.  Actually we all want to be young.  This is not the case with men so much but with women.  If we can’t admit we are middle aged how can we expect to be represented?  An actress friend, who I also approached, wanted me to define middle age before she even considered herself part of the group.

My agent and I---and mostly everyone I asked---are in accordance that the middle-aged Latina group (which for brevity sake I will refer to as MALG) is not represented often or even accurately on screen.  According to him, we are still mostly presented in the stereotypical blue collar, victim role.

Has there been any progress?  Yes, indeed there has, Jaime says. Glee has a good lead Latina lead character, albeit a young one.  Drama series, such as The Bridge offer more opportunities. Welcome to the Family (unfortunately cancelled) also has given us a few new characterizations. There have been good strides taken, particularly recently. Is it enough?  No.  Hollywood needs to be educated that there are countless Latinas that hold positions of power and note and excel in their fields, he says.

Next I questioned Rick Najera, writer of Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood. On route to one of his many engagements he answers me. He too believes that the MALG is under represented and cites numerous reasons for it.  A lot goes back to the writing he says.  Hollywood is populated by young, white writers that are not fully in touch with the existing range of age and culture... or don’t want or need to be.  And when they think Latina, another stereotype comes to their mind: the hot, young, fertile woman.  Besides, with youth comes arrogance. In large part Latino writers in Hollywood are few and far between.  Women writers less and middle aged ones even less so. We write what we are familiar with.

Yes, there has been progress, Najera says, but it has been slow.  When there is no consequence in not writing the MALG in, why do so?

Before I throw my arms up in the air in complete surrender, along with a cry of sheer frustration I asked myself, and my interviewees, if there was something that could be done to remedy such injustice. Both agree that it goes back to the writing. The writers ink the words and therefore hold the power that will include the MALG.

Rick has done his part and is still doing so in moving us forward.  With his film Nothing Like the Holidays he showed a wide range of Latino characters.   His award winning comedy, Latinologues has been performed on Broadway as well as many other stages.  He is filming a CBS pilot.

And to my mind come two Latinas that have and are contributing as well.  Josefina Lopez, a well-respected screenplay and theatre writer, who with Real Women Have Curves put assertive Latinas with extra pounds on the map.  Nancy De Los Santos, who is the first Latino (male or female) to serve on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America, west.   She wrote young, energetic Latinas for the Disney Channel’s Gotta Kick It Up as well as young sexy Latinas in Lifetime’s movie One Hot Summer.  And although she has not written middle-aged Latinas in yet she said, when asked, that MALGs are certainly on her radar.  “It’s the right age for drama, discovery, and.. sex!” she says.  I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Rick emphasizes that we need more Latino element behind the scenes writing.  He cites that “he who writes history wins”.  I believe so as well. Though my contemporaries will not benefit from it, perhaps we should nurture Latina women, convincing them of the feasibility of writing careers in Hollywood where they can be the ones to create veritable characters that will give us a voice.

And as the chant goes:  ¡Sí se puede!

By Lidia Pires

English, Spanish or Spanglish?

Like every adolescent growing up, I went through many moments of uncertainly about my  identity.  Moments during which I questioned where I came from, who I was and to whom I could most relate.

 Born in the heart of Washington DC, with parents` from South America, I was the typical second generation child who was raised speaking Spanish.  I remember my first day of Kindergarten with absolute clarity because it was the first time I was spoken to in English without an immediate translation.

 Over the years, my once-flawless Spanish became increasingly broken, interrupted by middle school slang, pop culture phrases and my favorite English expressions.  Slowly but surely I replaced English with Spanglish, a habit highly unpopular with my mother, father and grandmother.

 As I moved through my career, I often felt uncomfortable speaking imperfect Spanish, wondering if that meant I was not Latina enough. However, the more people I met and the more I advanced in my company, I began to see that this dual language battle was in fact, a sign of my acculturation and integration into the American way.

Today, as the General Manager of Telemundo Washington DC my primary responsibility is to inform, entertain and empower our audience each day.  As such, I must always be aware of the ever-changing psychographic landscape in order to understand how best to formulate content that will impact our local community in a meaningful and valuable manner.    Fortunately, Telemundo, and its mission as a Spanish-language television network to develop and broadcast programs aimed at Hispanic Americans in the United States, serves as the perfect vehicle to do exactly that.  As a company, Telemundo understands that Latinos in the U.S. are, like myself,  interested, driven, and ambicultural individuals with a desire to obtain information in both Spanish and English.

 This desire is reflected in the most recent addition to the Telemundo Washington DC local programming line-up, Hispanic Agenda or simply Agenda as our viewers call it.   In partnership with ABC7/News Channel 8, this dual-language public affairs show is the first and only show in Washington DC produced in both English and Spanish.  Hosted by media personality Alejandro Negron, Agenda arrives as more Hispanics are consuming news in English. According to the Pew Research Hispanic Center, 82% of Hispanic adults said they got at least some of their news in English in 2012, up from 78% in 2006.

 The idea for Agenda  came about from noting that my own conversations about these critical topics were taking place in both languages.  As such, I wanted to develop a dual-language program to give our viewers a choice.    The reality of it is that I, as an American-born Latina, represent  millions of Hispanics who are experiencing this integration of cultures, and while choose to speak predominantly in English, preserve their Spanish language and communicate with family members and friends en Español.  Agenda presents in-depth interviews with community leaders, business owners, government officials and other Hispanic guests who provide thought-provoking insights into topics such as education, immigration, jobs and the economy, racism, domestic violence and health care.  Agenda showcases the Hispanic point of view in both languages without apology.

 In its initial phase, Agenda ran on a monthly basis until my partner, WJLA VP and general manager Bill Lord, made the call to broadcast it weekly, a surefire sign of its future success.  “It’s off to a good start,” he said. “It has great potential as it becomes better known.”

 Not only does Agenda connect with the Hispanic-American viewer, it also provides a strategic position for advertisers to reach this powerful market.  While second and third generation Hispanics are adapting to U.S. culture and customs, they still maintain Latino traditions and value systems via their language.  In Washington DC, advertisers can reach this audience in English or Spanish through this unique program.  And if a corporation wishes to experience continued growth in the future,  there is no longer a choice but to build strong ties to the over 50 million U.S. Hispanics as they continue to develop brand loyalty and buying habits.

Looking to the future, I often wonder if Spanglish will become an official language.  I tend to believe that it just might.   I often smile when remembering the many embarrassing moments I experienced when speaking a flawed Spanish with a slight English accent that was, many times, corrected in a less-than-compassionate way.  That is what I am benefiting from the most.

Today, I am happy to have front row seats to the evolution and advancement of the Hispanic population and look forward to witnessing all of the success stories that will ensue because of this vibrant, influential and multicultural community.  Today is a different día.


Nicole Quiroga is the General Manager of Telemundo WZDC in Washington DC and Telemundo WZTD in Richmond VA.  Agenda airs every Saturday on News Channel 8 at 1pm and, as of December 2013, every Sunday on Telemundo WZDC at 5:30pm.

Lend a Hand,Help a Latino Student, Build a Better Community

I don’t know how many times I hear grown ups complaining that we’re losing the younger generation to smartphones, video games, Twitter and reality TV.  I’m sure there are several teenagers who are addicted to a few of those. But if Latino teens are spiraling down a tunnel of problems, how are you helping to stop their journey of doom?  How are you making a difference?

Today’s young generation is facing the same challenges many of us faced growing up.  But sometimes I think today’s young Latinos have a double dose of uphill battles in life compared to other kids their age. The facts are out there, just take a look. The Partnership at reports that Latino teens are more likely to use and abuse illegal drugs compared to other teens. The National Center for Education Statistics reveals that Hispanic teens lead in high school drop out rate compared to other students. And a study by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that more Latino kids are living in poverty compared to children of any other racial or ethnic group.

Maybe some of the problems teenagers have today can be blamed on the obvious: video games, the internet and cellphones. But their parents have to take part of the blame too.

Today many Latino parents are working two jobs to make ends meet. They have little free time to spend with their kids. There is no one at home to help with homework or even toss a football after school.Parents who are immigrants have more challenges. They’re adjusting to life in this country and trying to learn English. Because of the language barrier, parents who are immigrants can’t help their children with homework or even have a dialogue with a teacher.

I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s with much of the same issues. I had good parents, but they were working all the time.  I saw my father when we went along with him to conventions, meetings or on business calls.  My mother didn’t speak or read in English. She couldn’t help us with homework.

Today I have witnessed the same going on with Latino kids.  Since 2008, I have mentored girls in junior high school in Dallas. Several are children of immigrants. Some have joined there parents in this country after years of being apart.  The family dynamic is strained because after years of being apart they have become strangers trying to get to know each other.  Some teenage immigrants not only trying to survive school, but grasp on to a new culture and language.  Then there are the teens who are raising their siblings, because both their parents are at work. The stress many Latino kids are experiencing today is tremendous.

LATINO Magazine recently heldan  AHORA Student Day in Dallas.  Publisher Alfredo Estrada contacted some local Dallas schools about a career awareness program for Latino teens, and invited me to be one of the panelists.  In one morning, several professionals and I got to talk about our upbringings, education and jobs. A couple hundred students filled an auditorium at the Latino Cultural Center.

From where I sat, I could see the eyes of those kids light up as each professional shared their journey---from a childhood with struggles to a life of success.  In a few hours we empowered the lives of these high school students.  We made them realize that no matter the circumstances they are living in now, hard work and passion will help them become the person they want to be in the future.

I told them I wasn’t much different then many of them. I grew up with parents who were immigrants from Mexico.  My parents worked all the time, and we didn’t have much money . But I worked hard to go to college and was able to carve out a successful life as a journalist. By the time I got home that afternoon, I knew I had made an impact on those young minds.  About a dozen wrote me on Facebook.  They were glad that I shared my life with them.  I gave them hope.

If you take one hour of your week and spend it on one Latino student, you’re bound to make an impact. You can also give hope to Latino parents struggling to raise their children and may be to proud to ask for help. I guarantee if you stop at your your local church, community organization or school and offer to mentor a student, you will be welcomed with open arms. If they don’t have a mentoring program, start one. School principals are desperate for someone to lend a hand. Schools have shrinking budgets and many principals just need help to keep kids in school.

We can’t save every Latino child from falling through the cracks of everyday life, but we can try.  You can try.  Remember when we help one young person today we are building a stronger Latino community for everyone. A better community.

Rebecca Aguilar is a Emmy-award winning journalist with 32 years of experience. She’s also the Vice President with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists, Fort Worth Chapter.


Because Families Care

We were loved and cared for as children. Now as adults, most likely with children of our own, we must often provide care for the parents or loved ones who cared for us growing up.

Sí, Mamá. Sí, Abuelita, yo me encargaré de ti. An AARP survey of adults ages 45 to 64 found that 20 percent have major caregiving responsibilities for a parent, older family member or adult child. And among baby boomer caregivers in the U.S., more than half need help with their caregiving responsibilities, which can be exhausting.

Caregiving typically includes providing assistance with activities like cooking, cleaning house and bathing. It may also cover help with transportation, finances and even home health care.

Increasingly, caregivers are expected to perform tasks that require some degree of medical know-how---like tube-feeding, wound-dressing, catheter maintenance and managing multiple medications. At the same time, many caregivers do not know where to turn for help. Services, if they exist, are fragmented and potentially expensive.

 Latino families may face particular challenges. We often live in traditional multi-generational homes and typically take on caregiving for older loved ones as a normal part of family life. Regardless of whether the primary caregiver feels stressed or not, seeking outside help typically isn’t considered to be an option. This puts great pressure on the caregiver. And over time, many Latino families in the U.S. often live farther and farther apart, which greatly reduces familial support to caregivers.

As challenges increase for everyone across the country, hardships for caregivers have also grown. There are approximately 42 million unpaid family caregivers in the nation providing many levels of care – most for at least five years, some for many more. Their need for respite, financial security, job security, time to address their own mental and physical upkeep and other personal responsibilities, is even greater now, especially in a time of cutbacks to a variety of programs that help keep many families afloat. There’s also a need for training on the best ways to provide certain types of care, as well as how to manage personal stress related to caregiving responsibilities.

Many caregivers juggle jobs and careers in addition to their caregiving duties. They risk losing income and even their jobs if their duties at home take too much time away from their work or their job performance falls below expectations. Yet another source of stress.

Interestingly, caregivers usually don’t refer to themselves as ‘caregivers.’ They say they are simply sons or daughters, in-laws or grandkids doing what needs to be done; helping out and comforting someone they love, respect and honor. They often regard their role as a unique, personal duty that they alone are obligated to carry out. It’s not unusual to discover that caregivers feel isolated and believe it would be shameful to seek outside help. Pride or tradition may keep them from asking for assistance. But this attitude can pose physical and financial hazards to caregivers, who risk burning out if they do not get sufficient support.

As baby boomers age and more family caregivers are called into action, people will need to tap into supportive and ideally affordable resources, for the well-being of individuals – including caregivers, care receivers and other family members – as well as the well-being of the nation.

AARP recognizes the challenges facing caregivers and wants to make sure people get the help they need. This past year, AARP and the Ad Council have been working together to increase caregivers’ awareness that they’re not alone, and to increase public awareness of the challenging circumstances facing caregivers – circumstances that most people will eventually be immersed in.

Additionally, AARP is working with policymakers to develop and advance policies that support family caregivers.  Because of the role family caregivers take on, their loved ones can often remain in their homes and communities---as most desire to do. AARP has also developed the Caregiving Resource Center, which is an online collection of caregiving resources available through AARP’s website and AARP’s mobile application (mobile app).

Through AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center, caregivers can connect with one another, participate in online forums, and ask questions of a variety of professionals. They also have access to tools and information to help them manage day-to-day activities and care for their loved ones and themselves. One of these tools is the caregiver support line, available in Spanish and English. For Spanish call 1-888-971-2013, and for English call, 1-877-333-5885.

Find out how these resources can be helpful to you or share them with friends and family members who are caregivers. For AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center in Spanish, or  I know these resources have helped my family and I as we have navigated my mother’s care.

The realities of caregiving, now and in the future, will touch all of our lives. We will either need care or be called on to provide care for someone we love. Caregiving is invaluable. It really can mean the difference in whether a family member is able to live at home---a goal that most people cherish---or must be moved into an institution. Let’s all recognize the importance, value and needs of unpaid family caregivers.

Rocky Egusquiza is Vice President, AARP Multicultural Markets & Engagement.