As you may or may not be aware, it has been reported that Gina Rodriguez is bringing two shows focused on immigration to television! The first The CW’s Illegal, which will feature the first undocumented family on TV. The other is CBS’ Have Mercy, which will follow a Latina doctor unable to practice after she immigrates to Miami and how she decides to jeopardize everything and open a clinic in her apartment.
It was also recently announced that she will be producing with her company I Can and I Will a brand new show called Femme, which according to Variety, “follows four millennial women from different walks of life who become unlikely friends and fierce allies after meeting online in a secret feminist social media group.”
The two first projects are extremely important not only because of their perfect timing—as Donald Trump has decided to repeal the DACA program and threaten to eliminate so much potential and talent from immigrants from the country—but also because of the extreme lack of proper Latino representation on the media, which has been a consistently worrying topic in the last few years. In fact, a study carried by The Opportunity Agenda titled “Power of Pop: Analyzing Portrayals of Immigrants in Popular Television” concluded that a large number of storylines about immigration on TV are related to unlawful activities like murder, human trafficking, and drug dealing. An astonishing 50% of Latino immigrants took part in those activities while only 9% of white immigrants were involved. 38% of Latino immigrants were also incarcerated.
Clearly, Latinos are not the only ones aware of this problem with many producers and actors speaking out about it. We now have great representation in shows like Netflix’s One Day at a Time, NBC’s Superstore, and The CW’s Jane the Virgin. The third one is probably the one with the biggest impact, with millions of viewers per episode and 30 awards to its name. Jane the Virgin stars Gina Rodriguez as a young religious woman whose world is turned upside down when she accidentally gets artificially inseminated and is forced to rethink everything she had planned for her life.
“[I remember] how much it mattered to me to see Latinos on screen who were playing characters of the doctors and the lawyers and the investment bankers because then it made me feel like I belonged to that demographic or could. Latinos are not just our nannys and our landscape artists, although both of those jobs are very admirable and pay a lot of money, thank the Lord. But that’s not all we do.”
— Gina Rodriguez
Although she is already breaking barriers in television to make Latinos feel represented, Gina has also been an activist outside of entertainment. In 2015, she joined the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Board of Directors: the largest non-profit organization in the United States to support higher education for Hispanic Americans. Being a recipient of their scholarships herself she attended Columbia University and graduated from the New York University, and now says that “serving on HSF’s board is a great opportunity to say thank you and to help open doors for the Latino students to follow. I wish I could tell every one of them how much my college education means to me.”
In her role as Jane, the show managed to talk about real topics that concern Latinos, like documentation. In Season 1, her grandmother Alba feared that she would be deported because she had been in the country illegally for many years. In Season 2, she finally went through the journey of getting a green card: one of the most touching storylines on the show. She won her first Golden Globe for Best Actress in 2015 and gave an incredibly inspiring speech, in which she said “This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.”
Other roles she has taken include Andrea Fleytas in Deepwater Horizon, Majo Tenorio in Filly Brown and the lead in Netflix’s animated series Carmen Sandiego, which will premiere in 2019. She has also partnered with Naja (a lingerie line that intends to empower women), helped the environment, and employed single mothers. She established the We Will Foundation which aims to help young people with scholarships to attend art schools. The organization has donated $10,000 to the Westside Family Health Clinic and $10,000 to the Mar Vista School Enrichment Group.
Her presence in social media has also been relevant as she has constantly used it for her activism.
As a Latino myself, I see Gina Rodriguez as an incredibly powerful figure in the media who truly cares about the issues in our community, so I could not be happier about the rising popularity she has received. She is not only an amazing actress, but she is also a great speaker and businesswoman who wants to do what she loves the most. We can only hope that one day Latino actors and actresses will be receiving awards on screen and thanking her for the motivation and visibility she has offered to our community. She is definitely changing our world and we are so here for it.