Sundance and Super Bowl Speak to Latinos

So Can We Give Novelas and Soccer a Rest?

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Rochelle Newman-Carrasco Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
The proclaimed "queen" of the Sundance film festival was Melonie Diaz, a young Nuyorican actress with roles in four Sundance selections. A special Sundance En Español event featured panel discussions and a collection of six Spanish-language films and four films in English by Hispanic and Latino directors selected from the 2008 Festival program. And, as with last year, this year's award winners included Latino-focused films from both the US and Latin America.

I personally got to see Alex Rivera's sci-fi award winner "Sleep Dealer," as well as "Hamlet 2." A quirky comedy, "Hamlet 2" features Ms. Diaz and a storyline that satirizes young Latino gang-banger stereotypes in fresh and unexpected ways. One of several Sundance films that touched on immigration, "Sleep Dealer" takes a futuristic look at outsourcing jobs to Tijuana.

It has been a long time coming, but Latino talent, both on-screen and off, are finally breaking out of the molds in which they have been consistently cast. For every drug dealer, maid, whore and illegal immigrant, there are finally a significant number of Latino doctors, lawyers, intellectuals and geeks. For every novela-like tale of down-trodden victims on a rags-to-riches journey, there are finally stories that shed a more three-dimensional light on the lives of Latinos, both factual and fictional.

Today, Hispanics in Hollywood can be counted on more than one hand.

So can Latino NFL players and Latino NFL fans.

The NFL continues to increase its marketing investments directed to bilingual, bicultural Latinos, both in the states and abroad. The top-selling video game, Madden NFL is now marketed in Spanish. Featuring San Diego Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo on the box cover, Madden NFL 08 en Español is not simply a translation of the English language product. It contains exclusive Spanish language content, including additional music tracks, and Spanish play-by-play and game analysis voice-over.

On Univision.com you'll now find an NFL site, and Univision Radio airs NFL games en español. There's also NFLatino.com. The day before the Super Bowl, Telemundo will run the Coors sponsored Tazón Latino II, a flag-football game featuring Latino celebs and NFL greats. They will also air the Pepsi Musica Super Bowl Fiesta with a line-up that includes Latin Grammy nominated, multi-platinum rock/pop group Camila and two-time MTV Latin Video Award winner and Latin Grammy nominee Belinda, both of whom will join the internationally acclaimed pop group RBD.

During the Super Bowl itself, spots will feature an array of Latino notables including Shakira for SunSilk Shampoo and the return of Carlos Mencia for Budweiser. Not to mention Brazilian model Adriana Lima for Victoria's Secret.

And during this week's Media Day, it was Mexican newscaster Inez Gomez-Mont of TV Azteca who garnered media attention by proposing to Tom Brady and Eli Manning while wearing a wedding dress that was more fantasy than football.

Whether it's sports or cinema, Latinos are not just adopting iconic "American" cultural activities. They are transforming them and making them their own.

So as we re-create Latino consumer behavior in advertising, can we all agree to move beyond the novela and the soccer game as knee-jerk symbols of culturally relevant recreation?

Latinos in Sundance. Latinos in the Valley of the Sun on Super Bowl Sunday. Just a few more reminders that the Dark Ages are over and it's time to look at Latinos in a whole new light.
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