I was standing onstage before a packed auditorium at the El Paso International Museum of Art yesterday, getting toward the end of my keynote presentation for the Wise Latinas International Mujeres & Amigas Conference. I was talking about the plans to make my first novel into a film, and about how one of the important marketing pieces we are putting together for this venture is assembling an email list of people who pledge to attend the film on the first weekend it is in theaters. I mentioned that the African American film community had done something similar 20 years ago when they created the First Friday movement.
Suddenly, a woman stood up in the back of the room. “I want everyone here who plans to go to this movie the first weekend to stand up, right now!” she cried. Without hesitation, hundreds of people, mostly Latinas who, like me, are sick and tired of their lack of non-stereotypical representation in US film and TV, got to their feet. Some were senior citizens, others were adolescents. As I stood there, I got goose bumps. My heart raced. Tears formed in my eyes. I have known, logically, that there is a tremendous audience for this project, and this knowledge has propelled me forward as I formed my own production company, put together a kickass advisory board, and have begun to solicit investors and sponsors. But it was not until that moment, that incredible moment, with all of those women demonstrating their solidarity with me and my vision, that it REALLY hit me: We are on to something that is not just big, but HUGE.
This moment came shortly before another women asked me my opinion on Devious Maids. When I answered, simply, that I found the show pathetic, “not because there’s anything wrong with being a maid, but because there is something pathological about an entertainment industry that seems to think that’s all we are,” this same crowd broke into thunderous applause.
There are nearly 60 million Latinos in the United States, with $1.3 trillion in buying power. There are zero movies being made about us, and the few films that feature us show us as sickening stereotypes. I see you, all of you beautiful Latinas waiting for someone to tell a story of you that makes you proud, that gives you hope, that reflects you as you really are. And after these magical moments in El Paso, I know that you guys see me, too.
Let’s do this.