Before the 1980s, the Latino culture in America was portrayed in a stereotypical fashion that damaged the image of Latin Americans. If Latinos were not being displayed as negative stereotypes, they were often no present at all – an excluded ethnicity from mainstream cinema. However, the 1980s began to bring about significant change for the Latin American cinema community. Previously, Latin Americans were portrayed as very similar in appearance, culture and behavior, even though there are hundreds of diverse Latin American cultures in the word today. Most portrayals were of immigrants that spoke poor English or possessed a thick accent, and were often sexually promiscuous. However, in the 1980s an influx of Latin American directors and filmmakers marked a significant change in the portrayal and participation of Latin Americans in the cinema.
The first change that the 1980’s brought was Latin Americans rejection of negative stereotypes in film. In the early 1980s, a group of Latino actors formed NOSOTROS, an association that protested these detrimental depictions. They were especially combating the violent gang portrayals in the media. Their outrage, along with rising stars from the Latino population, caused a serious decline in typecasting parts and stereotypical roles for Latin Americans. The United States was also beginning to recognize the growing Hispanic population, and filmmakers were starting to address the serious, nearly nonexistent representation of Latin Americans in mainstream cinema.
Another factor that contributed to Latin American media success in the 1980s was the increasing involvement of Hispanics in film production. A large population of Latin American film directors began working in major studios during the 1980s. This was the first time Latinos had a significant impact on the media in Hollywood. For example, Latino director Luis Valdez made several significant movies during the 1980s, all of them starring Latino actors and actresses. His films, like Born in East L.A., were extremely popular and provided an optimistic, close-up look at Latino culture. These types of movies depicted Latino culture realistically for the first time, attempting to address the plight of Latino population in America.
Despite the strides made in the 1980s, there are still rampant stereotypes in the media today. Most Latinos are still portrayed as they were fifty years ago: dark-haired, tan-skinned people with Spanish accents (amongst other stereotypes). However, thanks to the 1980s – a time known to many as the ‘Hispanic Hollywood Boom’, or the ‘Decade of the Hispanics’ – Latino Americans have made great strides towards success and equality in the media.