Latinos are a powerful force in American society. Topping fifty-three million, Latinos constitute one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, comprising 17% of the population and over 20% of the key 18–34 marketing demographic. Relative to the general population, Latinos also attend more movies and listen to radio more frequently than do any other U.S. racial or ethnic group. In addition, their purchasing power is steadily increasing. By 2015, Hispanic buying power is expected to reach $1.6 trillion. To put this figure in perspective: if U.S Latinos were to found a nation, that economy would be the 14th largest in the world.
Yet, with few exceptions, Latino participation in mainstream English-language media is stunningly low. A review of the top movies and television programs reveals that there is a narrower range of stories and roles, and fewer Latino lead actors in the entertainment industry today, than there were seventy years ago. Likewise, whereas the Latino population grew more than 43% from 2000 to 2010, the rate of media participation— behind and in front of the camera, and across all genres Latinos are not only avid media and formats— stayed stagnant or grew only slightly, at times proportionally declining. Even further, when Latinos are visible, they tend to be portrayed through decades-old stereotypes as criminals, law enforcers, cheap labor, and hypersexualized beings.