Latinos in US Media: Stereotypes, Values, Culture

Media is one of the most powerful sources of information about people, events, nations, and any type of progress. Though its quality is hard to control, consumers cannot neglect an opportunity but rely on the material they observe in movies and find in articles online. Despite the number of concerns about media credibility, it plays an outstanding role in people’s intentions to learn different cultures, understand human behaviors, discover the reasons for prejudice, and establish social expectations.

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Media determines the way of how people accept each other. In this paper, much attention will be paid to Latinos and the ways of how they are represented in US media. Latinos introduce a fast-growing ethnic group in American society, comprising about 17% of the total population of the country that is about 50 million people (Main). In addition to the fact that this group of people becomes one of the most frequent consumers of US media, they also contribute to its development and represent the whole nation through movies and articles.

This paper focuses on such aspects as stereotypes, values, and culture of Latinos through the prism of US media. It aims at discussing the impact of Americanization on Latin culture and the attitudes developed to Latinos. The main argument of this paper is that despite the existing variety of freedoms and choices for Latino population, US media continues penetrating people’s styles of life and relationships and adding ambiguous stereotypes and values regarding the role of culture in Hispanic heritage.

Media Sources in American Society

To clarify the role of US media in understanding Latinos, their norms of behaviors, and living principles, it is important to define the peculiarities of media and its variety in American society. As well as the number of Hispanics continues growing in the United States, the expansion of media sources cannot be ignored (Arias and Hellmueller 4). Today, people can use different methods to gather information about each other, share their opinions, and discover what other groups think on the same topic. Many media sources are available to the population, including print media (books, newspapers, booklets, magazines, etc.) and broadcast media (the Internet, television, and radio) (Westgate 83).

The effects of different media sources vary. For example, print media is defined as a composition of more official, politically active, and regular sources of information, so that millions of people find it necessary to trust only such sources of information and use broadcasting for entertaining purposes only. In its turn, broadcasting (radio and TV) is usually characterized by the presence of a personal opinion and the intentions to inspire and motivate the public.

Modern people use broadcast media sources more frequently than the print type sources. On the one hand, such choice can be explained due to easy access to information. Today, it does not take much time to surf the web and find an answer to any required question. On the other hand, people prefer online sources as they provide them with an opportunity to share their opinions and assess the material given.

In case people do not agree with an idea, they are welcome to create a message and send it to an author. The Internet helps to promote the importance of feedback and direct communication between users. Television, including movies, shows, and even soap operas, focuses on the development of a general image of a nation, the discussion of common topics, and the evaluation of different situations from one particular point of view (as a rule, this point is chosen by a director, and people are not able to share their own views). In all cases, media is used to exchange news, introduce a topic, or underline the necessity of a discussion.

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Millions of Americans do not imagine their lives without media and a possibility to check the latest news. However, the impact of this usage is hard to predict because of the existing stereotypes, prejudice, and a variety of attitudes. Therefore, Latin representation in the US media, as well as the representation of other nations and traditions, is associated with a number of concerns and doubts because each person is free to develop individual approaches and evaluations.

Growth and Decline of Media

The progress of media in the United States is an interesting topic for discussion as it is characterized by certain rises and unpredictable falls. For example, before the 1960s, people were interested in the information offered via radio and printed in newspapers. In a short period of time, US television turned into an impressive and multiplatform industry with the value of billions of dollars (Arias and Hellmueller 4). In the 2010s, the use of social media and the Internet became not only a fashionable idea or a style of life, but a possibility to exchange information, develop business, advertise, and entertain (Main).

People want to share their achievements and prove their progress online. They use different materials, images, and facts to attract each other’s attention. Unfortunately, not all people understand the impact of the information they can offer on others. In addition, if such media sources as radio or television should pass certain standards and requirements to be allowed for public use, the Internet is the source where much unedited and personal information may be found.

At the same time, the Internet and people’s devotion to social media challenge many communities worldwide. Such benefits as the fast speed of information exchange, connection from different parts of the world, and multiple perspectives attract attention and promote the growth of media impact. Media outlets aim at capturing the context and bringing together various population groups (Montilla 107).

Some demerits are based on the necessity to protect personal information, consider confidentiality issues, and check data credibility that signalizes about the importance to slow down the progress and investigate the impact of media on people. Mass media may easily imbricate every aspect of American, Hispanic, and any other nation’s life (Dávila and Rivero 3). Therefore, in spite of the progress of pop culture and its coverage in the media, each piece of information has to be checked in order not to be as prejudiced and based on stereotypes as it happens to the representatives of Latino/Hispanic culture.

Latinos in Media

During the last several decades, the presence of Latinos in American media cannot be neglected. Still, even if many people associate social media with freedom and personal opinions, Latinos are portrayed negatively because of stereotypes and previously built opinions. Latimer defines Latinos as one of the most “avid movie goers” in the country though even a half of them can hardly be seen on screen. The studies also prove that many screen stories fail to represent the actual “demographic composition of the U.S.” or try to mediate their knowledge and attitudes (Arias and Hellmueller 11).

The representation of Latinos becomes problematic as soon as the findings demonstrate that Hispanic characters are virtually absent in much entertainment media (“Latino Portrayals in the Media”). Almost all the texts chosen for this project prove that Latinos are frequently mentioned in the US media because of the facts that Hispanics introduce one of the biggest ethnic communities in the county and that Hispanics have a rich and educative history in terms of fights for freedom, love, and justice.

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The texts by Arias and Hellmueller, Main, or Latimer help to understand one simple truth – the topic of Latinos in the US media cannot be closed or ended in one particular conclusion. The readers do not want to know what Hispanics think or achieve in their lives. Their main intention is to understand how the representation of the nation occurs, why stereotypes, as well as cultural values, play such an important role in the media, and if there are any methods to cope with existing prejudice.

In addition to a number of online articles and books chosen, it is recommended to pay special attention to the movies about Latinos/Hispanics and the ways of how directors introduce this population with its diversity, unpredictability, and other characteristics. The representation of Latinos in Hollywood and mass media is closely connected to such themes as the American Dream, immigration, family issues, friendship, love, and revenge that may be accompanied by violent behavior, blood, racism, and religious disbeliefs.

Media sources, including journal and magazine articles printed or offered online, movies, and books, cannot be used to create one specific argument about Latinos in the US media and prove its appropriateness. Still, this information can motivate the reader to investigate this topic and develop an independent position about Latinos and their cultural values, considering the existing stereotypes, past experience, and historical representation. The role of media cannot be ignored. It helps to gather the material to build an opinion, evaluate what other people think on the chosen topic, and give several important examples on how Latinos live, work, make decisions, develop social, family, and love relationships.

Media Sources and Latin Culture

Latinos perform the role of frequent media consumers and contributors in one of the most effective ways. On the one hand, they continue using different media sources to penetrate American society and learn social norms, expectations, and rules. On the other hand, they become the main topics for discussion and chosen by online content creators, as well as by movie directors. There is also another group of people who watch movies, read articles, and observe the reactions of communities in order to protect or blame Latinos.

However, regardless of the purposes of the media, a variety of sources helps to underline Latino talents, rewards, contributions, and achievements (Montilla 301). For example, Main describes Latinos as the key leaders and innovators in media and social services even if their representation is one of the worst in the media environment. In fact, the presence of Hispanics in movies and articles promotes a chance to look at ordinary things like family or friendship in a new, unpredictable way.

Each media source has its own goal and impact on how Latinos can be accepted in American society. Movies are usually created from one perspective and based on the way of how a director sees a situation and understands a topic. Therefore, it is wrong to expect that movies (even if they are documentary) can represent a true picture of how Latinos live in the United States. Reading books is also not the best solution as fictional books lack evidence and facts, and non-fictional works are used to educate the reader and introduce enough background information for learning. In other words, book readers, as well as movie spectators, are not able to develop their own independent interpretations because of being guided and limited by the authors.

Another situation can be observed among the readers of online articles and blogs. The authors of these sources can use facts, visual materials, and personal experience to develop a discussion. However, they never aim at convincing or educating the reader. They offer statistics, investigate examples, and without a “chance to build a high, national image” (Latimer). They are ready to bring up questions and the necessity to know who may determine images (“Latino Portrayals in the Media”).

They do not create boundaries but underline that the attitudes to Latinos have already being changed and restricted due to stereotypes and the public perception (Main). Therefore, the US media should not judge the Hispanics or describe how challenging and provocative their past was. All these sources should be used to support the population and recognize their needs.

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Main Topics in Media

Today, it does not take much time to find information of how Latinos live, what values they choose, and what stereotypes define their attitudes. The representation of Latinos may have positive and negative characteristics at the same time. After watching such movies as Machete or Once Upon a Time in Mexico, it is hard to image the Hispanic population more than just a group of violent, aggressive, and irreligious people who are ready to kill and prove their freedoms in the cruelest ways.

Though the main characters in the chosen movies are introduced as devoted to family and friendship citizens, their readiness to take lives and use violence as the main means of revenge confuse and disorient many people. It is strange to see a priest with a gun and readiness to pull the trigger or dangerous and firm Machete being betrayed and confused. However, it is necessary to admit that their style of communication, their goals, and their explanations impress millions of people. These scenes and dialogues demonstrate how people can hate and love, trust and neglect, believe and lose hopes.

Other good examples of how Latinos are represented can be found in such movies as Frida or Selena. The ways of how women love and develop their relationships with different people, the words they choose to speak to their family or strange people, and even the goals they are ready to set in order to change their lives – all this differs from those examples given by Machete or El Mariachi. Still, after a thorough evaluation of these characters and reading the texts of articles, one single thought can be developed about Latinos. These people are able to demonstrate a variety of feelings and attitudes, and despite their social status, gender, or family history, they are always ready to protect themselves and strive for justice by any possible means.

Lessons from Latino Media Sources

Taking into consideration of pop culture texts and media sources with the help of which people can learn about Latinos, their styles of life, traditions, and culture, people have to understand how it is difficult to develop one certain attitude to the chosen group of people. Though media coverage is an essential part of everyday life, it can hardly give the answers to all questions and discover all possible opportunities the Hispanics may have.

People want to know how helpful media can be in their intentions to know more about Latinos without even realizing how many stereotypes and wrong judgments are usually promoted via different media sources. The task of this paper is not only to prove that Latin communities are mentioned in the US media and represented in multiple ways. The main intention is to realize what outcomes of such prejudiced media coverage for the Latin population are.

Evaluating the chosen media, three main lessons can be identified. First, it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that movies about Latinos may be directed and produced by an American or the representative of another nation. The story in the movie is the interpretation of one person who guides the crew. Second, Latinos representation in the media has a long history that began even not in this century. During the second half of the 20th century, Latinos faced many negative stereotypes, as well as the situations when their popularization was developed in a positive way (Arias and Hellmueller 10).

As a result, the current representation of Latinos can be based on past stereotypes, and people should be ready to use their personal experience and observations to make sure their opinions remain unbiased. Finally, the representation of Latinos in the US media is a phenomenon that includes a variety of things. Movies, online articles, and other media sources can contain much information about Latinos lives, relationships, goals, and abilities. Therefore, it is useless to believe that one particular opinion can be developed about the whole nation via media.


In general, the work with different texts and media sources shows that the representation of Latinos in the US media is not an easy topic for discussion. There are many controversial issues and concerns that cannot be neglected by those who want to use this information in order to learn as much as possible about a particular ethnic group. The investigations prove that Latinos may be introduced in media in a variety of ways, including a number of positive situations when family values, love, friendship, and devotion are appreciated, as well as certain negative cases when violence, guns, and betrayal are used to achieve the desired goals.

The peculiar feature of modern media is its dependence on already offered stereotypes and values. It is hard to create a new opinion while watching a movie or reading a book. Therefore, online articles and a possibility to leave feedback and evaluation are better sources of information compared to television and print media. Despite the role of media in modern life, the representation of Latinos in the media is not as full and perfect as it is expected to be.

Works Cited

Arias, Santiago, and Lea Hellmueller. “Hispanics-and-Latinos and the U.S. Media: New Issues for Future Research.” Communication Research Trends, vol. 35, no. 2, 2016, pp. 4-21.

Dávila, Arlene, and Yeidy M. Rivero, editors. Contemporary Latina/o Media: Production, Circulation, Politics. NYU Press, 2014.

Latimer, Brian. “Latinos in Hollywood: Few Roles, Frequent Stereotypes, New Study Finds.News. 2016. Web.

Latino Portrayals in the Media.Latino Markets and Media Advertising. Web.

Main, Summer-Joy. “Latinos in Mainstream Media Are a Disappearing Act: The Latino Media Gap Crisis.Huffpost. 2014. Web.

Montilla, Patricia M., editor. Latinos and American Popular Culture. ABC-CLIO, 2013.

Westgate, Christopher Joseph. “One Language, One Nation, and One Vision: NBC Latino, Fusion, and Fox News Latino.” Contemporary Latina/o Media: Production, Circulation, Politics, edited by Arlene Dávila and Yeidy M. Rivero, NYU Press, 2014, pp. 82-102.

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