Recently, my landlord both blessed and cursed my roommates and me when he bought us a brand new flat-screen TV for our fully furnished suite. Since that faithful day last week I have spent more time in front of the telly than I have in the all the days since 2005.
Last Wednesday afternoon was no different — I sat glued to the tube yet again. That day, however, I thought I would brush up on some Latin American programming, maybe give a Spanish-language show a go.
To my surprise, I couldn’t find any.
With Statscan reporting that Latin Americans make up one of Canada’s largest non-European communities at a 2001 population of 250,000, I thought Latin American programming would be a given.
I was even more surprised by the American channels. I foolishly assumed that Ugly Betty was one of many such programs. Where did the George Lopez show go? It seems Mr Lopez said adiós back in 2007 (much to the content of at least one Lopez-hating blogger).
With a modest 44 million Hispanics making the US home, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, I foolishly assumed there would be loads of quality programming centered on the Latin American community both in English and Spanish.
Flummoxed, I flicked to Shaw’s Multicutural Channel on 119. Boring. OMNIs Channel 8? Yawwwn. I needed a nap. Apart from long salsa-dancing segments there was little Latin American content to be found.
Then I remembered Telelatino. I grew up trying to tune out the cheesy commercials and embarrassing love scenes I overheard when my mom tuned in for her telenovela (the topic of another post, rest assured).
I quickly searched the Internet for the channel number on which I could find this cornerstone of Canadian Latin American TV. But, as it turns out, you can only get this specialty channel if you have digital cable. Dios mío! Where were those without digital supposed to go when they were craving an episode of Latin Lovers?
I was beginning to despair. Seventy-plus channels and not one offering me a stereotypical Spanish accent: “Kan ju estop doin dat?!”
Latin Americans existed on TV, didn’t they? Surely, they did. But, where?
And then . . . like the pot of guacamole at the end of the rainbow, I found it.
Thank you Jerry Seinfeld.
“La puerta esta abierta. LA PUERTA ESTA ABIERTA!”
When Antonio, the busboy who George accidentally gets fired, screamed that the “door is open,” I was satisfied at long last.
Finally, a minimum wage earning, hot-blooded man in a muscle shirt. Reality reflected back at me. Phweph. I was worried there for a minute.
Bitter sarcasm and negative stereotypes aside (a future post), the scene did get me thinking.
Maybe, the door is open. On TV, perhaps the door is open for Latin Americans to make their mark.
There is an underserviced community waiting for quality programming and sensitive representation. The door is wide open for Latin Americans to come in and fill the holes. Nobody else can do it.
The New York Daily News reported this week that English-language programming for Latinos is just now starting to increase in the US. Indeed, la puerta esta abierta.
While no one is holding the door open, and yes it might get slammed shut without notice, that threshold is just begging to be crossed.