In 2016, YouTube Channel and Facebook page Pero Like, on behalf of mother-company Buzzfeed, was founded as a digital platform specifically catering to Latinx voices. This platform showcases talented Dominicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Hondurans and more, who create relatable content about everything from abuela’s crazy cleaning habits to depictions of different Latinx uncles, Selena Quintanilla trivia, comparing types of Spanish slang, and multicultural cooking recipes — Pero Like covers it all.
And with this fun, hilarious and relatable YouTube channel comes great responsibility in representing the Latinx community to the rest of the world. With criticism from white audiences that don’t have a full understanding of social references, famous singers, or cultural terms, there also comes criticism from the Latinx and Hispanic world. What’s the most accurately Salvadorian way to eat a pupusa? Is this content ‘Mexican enough’? What’s the most effective and least-abrasive way to squash machismo stereotypes in this video? The list goes on. But of course, it already goes without saying that there are Latinx audiences craving specific representation in their media, on television and in film, of which has been egregiously lacking for decades.
For example, in Gina Rodriguez’s ‘73 Questions’ interview by Vogue Magazine, she stated that in 2016, only 5.8 percent of speaking roles were said by a Latinx in film and television. This sobering fact, pulled from the latest report from the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, remains a shock, considering there are 55 million Latinos in the U.S.
The study, as also mentioned in an article from the Los Angeles Times, found that “among 1,200 popular films released between 2007 and 2018 (a sample of the top 100 films per year), just 4.5% of more than 47,000 speaking or named roles went to Latinx actors. Only 3% were lead or co-leads.” Considering that 77% of U.S. states and territories have a Latinx population larger than the percentage seen in major Hollywood films, this is quite the contrast.
Fortunately, Gentefied, the Netflix dramedy series created by Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez, as described in an article, has taken tremendous strides for representation with its layers of unpacking Latinx identity, intersectionality, queerness, class-struggles, and, of course, gentrification.
Starring actress Julissa Calderon describes the series as more than “just a Latinx story.” And while the show mostly portrays Mexicans (except herself, a Dominican woman), she believes anyone can form a connection with Gentefied:
“The storyline is about humans. It’s about their real lives and what we go through; whether it’s relationships, with love with our partners, or relationships with our family, and conflicts with our family, this is not just a show for Latinx and that’s why it’s being received so well. Because anyone can relate to it.”
As a former staff member of Pero Like herself, Calderon has been featured in videos comparing Puerto Rican and Dominican cuisine, doing fitness challenges, learning about her family’s genetic ancestry, discussing her Afro-Latina struggles and starring in skits as a rowdy, loud Dominican mother. These are just a few of the raw, unflinchingly honest sides of Calderon that aren’t typically portrayed in the media.
“We are not just maids and gardeners. You get to see the real arc and real people behind what we say are Latinos,” she said.
“We’re launching as a Facebook and YouTube channel, making content that resonates with English-speaking Latinxs (who are, to put it mildly, kind of a big deal). We’re a group that’s historically been under- and misrepresented in media, and we’re here to change that. The purpose of this initiative is to feature the best, funniest, smartest, and most in-depth look at the myriad identities under the ‘Latinx’ umbrella. This is for blaxicans in LA, Tejanos in Corpus Christi, Cubans in Miami (and their abuelitas), and everyone who’s been told they don’t ‘look Latina.’ It’s for the bold, the proud, the creative, and even the hopelessly awkward. We’re here for you too, man.”
This recent video shows an interview with the four original founders of Pero Like, who explain exactly how it all began, what obstacles it took to get the “entire table, not just a seat at it”, and how there is a real Latinx audience that is hungry for relatable content. According to Pero Like co-founder Briceño, it was very daunting to stand up for the audiences and content that he felt needed to be recognized:
“It felt weird asking for so much. It felt weird to ask for our own table. And it always felt like we had Imposter Syndrome: that maybe we’re not good enough. There was a fear of taking that lead… When you’re the only Latino person in that all-white room, you’ve gotta be the one to speak up. That’s what the four of us did.”
With the glistening beacon of most popular shows representing these voices like Jane the Virgin, Vida, On My Block, George Lopez, One Day at a Time, and Ugly Betty, it’s obvious that Pero Like isn’t doing this important work alone. Latinos and Hispanics are now gradually being portrayed as more than the stereotyped roles of gang members, maids, and factory workers that they’ve been boxed into for so many years.
Admirably and deservingly, from Pero Like stemmed Calderon’s first big Netflix debut. And for all of these YouTube talentosos, hopefully they’ll achieve the same successes on the big screen someday, because the work they’re doing right now is worth doing: content created by the culture, for the culture, that’s launching the Latinx community forward. Giving a voice to those without one. Creating a platform where there otherwise wasn’t one.