Here we are again and we’ve got our cozy sweaters on. We’ve already re-watched Coco AND Hocus Pocus. Our Halloween costumes are picked out. And we’re again approaching Latina Equal Pay Day. So yeah, we’re frustrated. Frustrated that Latinas have to work until OCTOBER 21 to earn, on average, what white guys took home last year.
There are all sorts of reasons for this pay gap (looking at you, xenophobia, racism, and sexism) and amazing folks who are working on the structures that keep us from making our fair share. But we can’t help but think part of it is a crisis of imagination: that the size of Latinas’ paystubs is tied to how invisible we are.
Maybe it’s just because we spend our days in media criticism land (or maybe that’s why we got in it), but we at LatinaMedia.Co believe the stories we tell have real-world impact. And too often, the media narrative about Latinas has either been extremely limited or not present at all. And this helps those who fail to consider us for that promotion, assume we’ll settle for less coin, or ‘forget’ to mentor us in so many higher-earning professions.
But it doesn’t have to be that way and we have the receipts to prove it. We’ve rounded up the working Latinas in TV and film to remind you that we can do anything. That regardless of the profession, all work has value. To declare loudly, that we are not ashamed of our labor, whether it’s with our hands or not. We just want to be seen, recognized, and compensated already. Now that would be equal pay.
The Domestic Worker: Yalitza Aparicio in Roma
Child care, maintaining a house, caring for a family. It’s the type of labor that so often goes unpaid or underpaid, stuck in the “woman’s work” category that somehow makes people think it’s not work at all. In Yalitiza Aparicio’s performance in Roma, we saw the physical labor of domestic work, the humanity behind the often-quiet toil, and something much rarer – the domestic worker honored as a subject worthy of our most celebrated stories. With her numerous accolades for the part, including being the first Indigenous American woman nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Yalitiza broke barriers and helped bring us with her.
The Nurse: Rosario Dawson in Marvel
As we enter yet another month of the pandemic, it’s become cliche to say that medical professionals are heroes. But they ARE heroes and they have been. As Claire Temple, Rosario Dawson helps to prove that point, healing those with special abilities (aka superheroes) despite being a normie herself. Thanks to her street smarts and medical training, she’s arguably just as powerful as Luke Cage or Jessica Jones and there’s a lesson for all of us in that.
The Artist: Salma Hayek in Frida
We would not have half the unibrowed tchotchkes that exist today without Frida. The film, starring and produced by Salma Hayek, helped make Kahlo a household name in the US and an icon in the Latinx community. The film also pushed on the idea of what it means to be Latina, asking us to see beauty and genius in a disabled, bisexual, Mexican woman who painted her pain. And in case you were wondering what Latina artists go through today, remember that Hayek had to weather harassment from Harvey Weinstein to get her film made.
The Maid: Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan
We know, we already did domestic worker with Yalitiza, but this one bears repeating – there’s nothing shameful about cleaning for a living! The problem is with society – how we fail to protect these workers, having exempted them from traditional labor protections, and how we fail to value their much-need work, as seen in their paychecks. Maid in Manhattan is just a silly Cinderella story but it is classic JLo and it does drive home the fact that the women who clean hotel rooms are people, the main characters of their own lives.
The Biomedical Engineer AND Waitress: Jeanine Mason in Roswell: New Mexico
On Roswell: New Mexico, Jeanine Mason plays Liz Ortecho, a biomedical engineer who returns to our sleepy (but alien-filled!) hometown. While there, in addition to uncovering decades-old conspiracies, she helps her father out as a waitress in his restaurant. What’s particularly nice about this setup is that Liz can clearly do both jobs – science and serving – and Roswell is clear that one is not easier than the other. Plus, Liz is the same person whether she’s wearing an apron or lab coat, and either way, she’s the heroine of this story.
The Farmworker: Ashley S. Pavon in Fruits of Labor
The documentary Fruits of Labor follows Ashley S. Pavon as a high school senior and farmworker. The oldest of four siblings, she’s trying to help her mom support the family and graduate high school. Interspersed with footage of Ashley working, going to school, and hanging out with friends, we hear her read what sounds like autobiographical poetry. Indeed Ashley is a co-writer on the film and the voice of it is undeniably hers. Farmworkers may be essential but they’re still largely invisible, something movies like Fruits of Labor help chip away at.
The Political Strategist: Sara Ramirez in Madame Secretary
As the brilliant, nonbinary Kat Sandoval on Madame Secretary, Sara Ramirez re-defined what we thought we knew of them. While previously most famous for playing femme orthopedic surgeon Callie Torres on Grey’s Anatomy, Ramirez spotted a side shave and more masculine look on the political drama. They even eventually came out as nonbinary themselves, further reminding folks that there is no one way of being Latina.
The President of the United States: Gina Rodriguez in Diary of a Future President
Just, one more time, for the people in the back: Latinas can do anything! Including becoming President of the United States, arguably the pinnacle of American ambition. In Diary of a Future President, we mostly watch Elena Cañero-Reed make it through middle school – dealing with the trials and tribulations of puberty, being an academic overachiever, and finding her voice. But as is baked into the title (and we see in flash-forwards), our young protagonist rises all the way to the Oval Office with her older self portrayed by one Gina Rodriguez, who also executive produces the show.
The Lawyer: Gina Torres in Suits
Of course, we had to include the legal profession and luckily there are a lot of Latina lawyers to pick from (honorable mention to Selenis Leyva on Diary of a Future President). But we love Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson in Suits. Yes, she got to pal around with a future ex-princess. And yes, her spinoff Pearson deserved more than one season. But those things aside, Jessica Pearson is an icon, the sort of complex boss you root for even when you know she does wrong. We just want actresses like Torres to get more opportunities to play Afro-Latina characters instead of being typecast into representing just part of their identities.