When I was little, I used to hate when my Mom watched her Novelas on Univision or Telemundo. Back then, I rejected all Spanish language media. I felt very connected to my Latino culture, and while I could speak and understand Spanish, I preferred English. As it turns out, I am not that unusual. I’m a typical 2nd generation bicultural, bilingual Latino American. When I was a teenager, there really was no television outlet for me, where I could see myself reflected. On the news, Latinos were, and still are, undocumented immigrants.
While not always represented, Latinos continue to be the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. and with an average age of 27 they are about 9 years younger than the average age of other Americans. According to a study by The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, 75% of Latinos watch television in both English and Spanish. The same study found that in two-thirds of the households surveyed children preferred English-language television, a clear reflection of the lack of Spanish-language programming aimed at youth, and the generational language gap.
For Latinos, identification is complicated. They often refuse to fit into pre-defined categories. In the 1980 and 1990 Census many Latinos rejected the given categories of race, choosing “other.” In the media, there have traditionally been two categories: Spanish language (Univision, Telemundo, etc) or English language television (everything else). Latino viewers divided their TV time between the two.
Now, networks such as SiTV, Mun2, LATV and MTV Tr3s are redefining that. These hybrid bilingual, or the case of SiTV, English-language networks serve young Latinos who want to be part of mainstream American culture while still identifying with their Latino roots.
In September 2006, MTV decided to capitalize on the young bilingual audience, launching MTV Tr3s. The programming is in both English and Spanish, often with subtitles in both. “Quiero Mi Quinces” follows teenage girls as they prepare for their Quinceañera, the traditional Latino coming of age ceremony held on a girl’s fifteenth birthday. The show is much like MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. I chose this clip from the show “Quiero mi Quinces,” because it most obviously portrayed bilingual, bicultural American teenagers. The parents speak Spanish and the teenager speaks both, but narrates in English.
Recently, while watching MTV Tr3s, I saw a station promotion that simply stated, “MTV Tr3s: We Get You.” It was affirming and a message I would have liked to hear as a teenager. However, I find it encouraging to see how the media is evolving to reflect how Latinos see themselves.