Hispanic Invisibility: Somebody else notices it
It was sad to read about some Mexican singer lady who died in a plane crash. Flying around in private planes sounds glamorous, but it can be pretty terrifying. American musicians don`t die in plane crashes as often as they used to, but the Third World plane crash rate is still pretty high.
But, then, it turned out as I read more that this Jenni Rivera wasn`t Mexican, she was a 43-year-old Mexican American born in Long Beach and living not far from me, in Encino. Among her various marriages was one to a pitcher on the Dodgers.
And I had never ever heard of her.
A writer for the Washington Post notices the same thing:
By Paul Farhi, Tuesday, December 11, 5:38 PM
The Chicago Sun-Times declared Jenni Rivera “a heroine” and quoted an entertainment executive who lauded her “extraordinary gifts.” The New York Times compared her to Diana Ross and Tina Turner. Numerous media accounts labeled her a superstar.
Chances are, this was news to you. Chances are, you’d never heard of Rivera until you learned that she died in a plane crash in Mexico on Sunday.
The American-born Rivera has sold at least 15 million records — more than many other successful and widely acclaimed singers in the United States. But she did not enjoy much attention from the English-language media. Although she was bilingual, Rivera sang only in Spanish. Her most ardent, record-buying fans reside primarily in the American Southwest and farther south, across Mexico.
Rivera’s life and death suggest once again that it’s possible to live in parallel Americas, with the larger part only dimly aware of the enormous things happening in the other one. For all our instant connectivity, it’s possible for someone to be hugely famous and perfectly obscure — all at the same time.
… The Washington Post had never mentioned Rivera’s name until Sunday, nor had the news divisions at ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC, according to Nexis. Rivera’s hometown newspapers in California — she grew up in Long Beach — weren’t much more attentive. The Los Angeles Times name-checked her in about a dozen short pieces over the years; the paper’s most prominent treatment of her was a story about her purchase of an Encino estate. …
This degree of cluelessness elicited an acid-laced comment on Monday from the Orange County Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano, who writes the paper’s amusing and often thoughtful “Ask a Mexican” column. Arellano upbraided the mainstream news media for “their pathetic record on reporting on a mega-superstar [who] operated in plain sight under a media that, like usual, didn’t bother to pay attention while she was alive because she was a Mexican and popular mostly to Mexicans — and they never matter unless you can get a diversity grant to cover them.
“Now that she’s dead? Look everyone: we cover Mexicans!”
Actually, Rivera was an American who racked up huge record sales in the United States, but point taken. Added Arellano: “For all the racket that the [mainstream media] has made about diversity over the past 15 years, they continue to fail — as if we ever expected them to succeed in the first place?”
For American elites, Mexicans and other Central Americans make an ideal new people to elect because they are so little competition for their own kids.