LOS ANGELES-The red carpet lit up. The gowns dropped the wow factor. The star power came in banging. The buzz was plentiful at the Latinos de Hoy Awards that took place at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on Oct. 11. This was a time to celebrate, a time to rejoice in the accomplishments of Latinos in leadership, service and culture.
“It’s real exciting,” said actress Andrea Sixtos (East Los High). “I’m so honored to be here with my fellow Latinos. I love my culture. The culture is so bold, so rich and the people are so generous and kind-hearted. We’ve come a long way, especially this generation. We’re making things happen.”
Latinos have grown in political and economic clout enormously in the last 15 years. According to the American Immigration Council, Latinos accounted for $1.7 trillion in buying power-just in 2014 alone. That number is expected to rise to $1.7 trillion by the year 2019. In the 2012 elections, Latinos made up 8.4 percent of all qualified voters, a growing number.
Yet, despite these gains, there still remains hurdles and challenges to overcome, said Sixtos, who also stars in “Dead Bullet” and “There Is Another Sky.”
“I think it is getting past equality,” said Sixtos. “I think we need to fight for that, and stand our ground, being equal and being seen for equal opportunities for everybody else.”
For “American Horror Story” actress Liana Mendoza, the challenge is getting past the oversexualize stereotype that she and many other Latinas deal with.
“My biggest challenge being a Latino woman is that I have to overcome the idea of being idolized sexually, and only looked at in that manner first before my talent,” Mendoza said. “Thankfully, I’ve continued to be on my grind and continue to work and show up for auditions. I’ve been given an amazing opportunity by F/X on American Horror Story. I feel like I’ve overcome that hurdle by sticking to my guns and just sticking to what I believe in.”
Sticking to her beliefs have paid dividends for Mendoza, who currently has six projects in pre-production or in post-production. Her role as a law enforcement officer in “American Horror Story,” was a door opener for her. It also gives her an opportunity to pay homage to family members in that line of work.
“I actually play opposite one of the the main actors in the crime investigation unit as a police officer, which is kind of cool, because of my family members who are in the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department),” Mendoza said. “So I kind of had that inspiration when I play this character, which is pretty cool because I kind of play it down, with no makeup and my hair is put up in a bun. So to be glamorous and dressed up is such a different side.”
Being in the mix of so many successful fellow Latinos also served as inspiration for Mendoza. When you consider legendary actor James Edwards Olmos being on stage as a presenter and longtime civil rights activist Dolores Huerta being feted with the Civil Rights Icon Award, it was a wonderful atmosphere to bask in, Mendoza said.
“It’s absolutely amazing for me to here supporting, of course, my heritage, and the fact there is such a thing as higher education for us,” said Mendoza. “A lot of us come from backgrounds or families that haven’t gone to college. I know for myself that I am the first one in my entire linage to go college and higher education to further myself. I think it has helped me tremendously. I live by this model. If you know better you can do better. If I hadn’t gone on to continue my education I would have been stuck. It’s just tremendous to here to support that idea.”
For television personality Liz Hernandez (Access Hollywood), cultural pride is what welled up inside of her when asked about what the evening meant to her.
“It’s a great honor,” said Hernandez. “It’s a great sense of pride to be able to stand on the stage knowing how hard my parents have worked for me to here today, to represent for so many Latinas that are working hard and continue to work hard, it’s a great privilege to celebrate these amazing individuals who are doing the best that they can to give back to our own.”
This was the first time that actress Jaina Lee Ortiz (Rosewood) had attended the show. But she echoed Hernandez’s comment about the unity of Latinos all coming together.
“I’m very excited and proud to be here amongst all these Latinos because it feels like home,” Ortiz said. “You have Latinos fro all over. At events like this it doesn’t matter whether you’re Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, Mexican , Guatemalan. When we get together, we’re one. And there’s so much pride. It’s exciting.”
While there’s obvious pride and buzz around the forward progress Latinos have made over the years, there are some things to be cautious about and climb over. One of those obstacles is negative thinking about Latinos in general. The misguided labeling of Latinos such as the way presidential candidate Donald Trump has done, is just one example, Hernandez said.
“I think sometimes we can be misrepresented in the press,” said Hernandez. “You know you have people like Donald Trump who will say certain things that take us back ten steps. But it is also an opportunity. Sometime with negativity, there is a silver lining in there.
“That’s an opportunity for us to really step and show what an amazing people we are, how hard working we are and what we’ve done for this country, and that we’re not alone. When you segregate us, you segregate a lot of people. We’re all part of this big blanket and we’re all moving together.”