The number of Latino writers in the television industry has grown. Pictured here: the cast of “Modern Family” at the 2013 SAG Awards. (Photo/Getty Images)

Number of Latino television writers is at an all time-high

There’s Santana Lopez of “Glee.” There’s also Dora the Explorer on Nick Jr., Dr. Callie Torres (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Detective Christian Arroyo (“Golden Boy”). The list of Latino characters on television has steadily increased and behind the scenes, the numbers of Latino writers has grown too, reaching an all-time industry high.

According to a new report released by the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), the number of Latino writers for television has grown by four percent since 1999. According to WGAW’s 2013 TV Staffing Brief – which surveyed employment patterns among 1,722 writers on 190 broadcast and cable shows – the number of Latino writers has grown from 1.1 percent of television staff during the 1999-2000 season to 4.0 percent in the 2011-2012 season.

The Latino employment share is now represented by approximately 66 writers. With 269 minority writers now represented in the industry – an overall jump from 7.5 percent to 15.6 percent – the number of black, Asian and Latino writers is higher than ever.

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But the news regarding writers of color isn’t entirely positive. Yes, the numbers have increased but “because minorities continue to grow as a share of the U.S. population, these writers have made little headway toward reaching anything approximating proportionate representation,” wrote Dr. Darnell Hunt, the report’s author and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles.

The numbers of female and older staff writers remain disproportionately low as well, and both women and minorities  are underrepresented in the television industry as executive producers.

“Just because the numbers of Latinos behind the scenes has increased doesn’t mean that the portrayal of U.S. Hispanics is more accurate,” says Juan Flores, a social and cultural theory professor at New York University. “On one hand, it’s great that the industry is more diverse but we have to look at what’s being produced and question its authenticity.”

Dr. Flores says that television characters – for example, think “Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara’s sassy Gloria Delgado, a Latina immigrant who married a wealthy white man – still reflect a certain level of fantasy that doesn’t reflect the diversity across the Latino experience.

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“In many cases, writers are so interested in presenting a positive image, a success story,” says Flores. “And in the process, many issues are overlooked.”

“I don’t think it’s safe to assume that just because someone comes from within the community means that our portrayal is being created without distortion.”

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