Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro Says Publishers Are Failing Latino Stories

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Last November, hundreds of workers at HarperCollins went on strike to protest low wages and racial inequity at their employer, one of the nation’s largest publishers. As their strike reaches a tentative end, HarperCollins workers have forced the publishing industry to reckon with practices that have long made it one of the least diverse fields in media.

Since the early days of our republic, publishers have helped shape the national narrative. Today, publishers are gatekeepers, selecting the heroes who are lionized in history textbooks and the novels that are later pitched for film adaptations.

In 2020, as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I commissioned research from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Latino employment in media. I wanted to know whether our nation’s largest minority has a voice in America’s narrative-creating and image-defining industry. The answer was a resounding no.

Latinos make up 18% of the American workforce and nearly 20% of the overall population. But in its report, the GAO found that publishing is just 8% Latino—making it the worst field in media for Latino representation.

When the data is broken down to authors and contributors, the numbers are even more dismal. Last year, in data that likely reflects industry trends, Penguin Random House found that just 5% of its authors, illustrators, and translators identified as Hispanic or Latino.

The dearth of Latinos in publishing contributes to a blind spot in the industry. Too often, literary portrayals of Latinos are reduced to harmful stereotypes of menacing narcotraffickers, desperate migrants, or hypersexualized women—depictions that become fodder for racism and political exploitation, and obscure the real-life roles of Latinos as essential workers, immigrant entrepreneurs, and trailblazers across industries.

The lack of a basic understanding about Latinos is painfully clear at the highest levels of the publishing industry. In 2020, I convened a meeting between Congressional Hispanic Caucus members and publishers to talk about the industry’s diversity problem. Less than a year before, a madman in El Paso, Tex., killed 23 people in the worst anti-Latino hate crime in U.S. history, and I wanted publishers to understand their role in fomenting bigotry. To start, I asked one of the executives a simple question: as someone who publishes thousands of books a year, could he name three Latinos or Latinas who made significant contributions to U.S. history?

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly