Commentary: A Hispanic who may change our Hollywood
SAN DIEGO -- Many nativeborn Americans worry that their jobs are headed to India or China, that globalization is destroying the working class, that the country's best days are behind it, and that the future is filled with doom. Even though theirs is the most powerful nation in the world, they see themselves as powerless to direct the course of their own lives.
For a reminder of just how much hope and opportunity there still is in this country, sometimes you need to strike up a conversation with an immigrant.
Or you could just spend a few minutes with Fernando Espuelas, the Uruguayanborn wunderkind who sees pathways where others see boundaries. In the 1990s, Espuelas made and lost a fortune in the dot-coms when he launched StarMedia, an Internet portal that provided visitors with content about Latin America.
Espuelas bounced back and raised millions of investment dollars to launch Voy Group, a New York-based media company target ing English-speaking Hispanics. It includes something that is among the first of its kind -- a bilingual blog.
The company also includes a division dedicated to creating television and film projects, so Espuelas recently moved to Hollywood. It's been a culture shock -- not just for the media entrepreneur but also, I imagine, for Holly wood.
Espuelas wants to produce substantive and uplifting programming filled with inspirational characters. And he thinks the entertainment industry is ready for that.
Silly boy. Would this be the same industry that gave us the hit show, "Desperate Housewives," which recently kicked off its second season with its two main Hispanic characters -- Carlos and Gabrielle Solis -- spending less time on Wisteria Lane than in Cell Block C?
Note to the show's creator, Marc Cherry: We in the Hispanic community really do appreciate that you thought to include a Hispanic couple in the series to begin with. And many of us were downright amazed when you managed not to fall back on Hispanics when the time came to cast gardeners, maids, or nannies. Way to go! Muy bueno! But then you went and put Mr. Solis in an orange jump suit.
This is happening just as ABC, which carries the show, announced that it would become the first English-language television network to provide its primetime programming in Spanish by using dubbing and subtitles.
Espuelas is -- surprise -- more optimistic.
"What I think has happened is that the country has begun to interpret Latin themes in positive ways," Espuelas observes.
He has had some early success with Voy Pictures, the film division of his media venture, which recently produced and sold a documentary to HBO/Cinemax Documentary Films. Now the company is working on a feature film.
Espuelas admits that prejudice and racism still exist in Hollywood, not to mention limited perspectives born of the fact that most of the Hispanics that those in the Hollywood establishment come in contact with on a daily basis are tending to their kids, trimming their hedges, or cooking their meals. Espuelas has seen it up close. Not long after he came West, he and one of his associates were meeting with an executive at a major studio when the executive noted that Hispanics were hardworking and offered his gardener as an example.
I would have made a scene. Not Espuelas, who tossed the executive a lifeline by saying that, as a matter of fact, when he was growing up -- as a blond, light-skinned kid in Connecticut -- he too worked as a gardener. But, he said, he also went to college, and other opportunities opened up. And that's part of the Hispanic narrative, the same story he wants to share with the rest of the country through his television and film projects.
If he succeeds -- and I wouldn't bet against him -- Hollywood will never be the same.
Ruben Navarrette's e-mail address is email@example.com.