Using Media Literacy to Explore Stereotypes of Mexican Immigrants

Lucila Vargas and Bruce dePyssler

Exposure to the mass media is now a central means by which young people learn and internalize the values, beliefs, and norms of our political system, a socialization that lays the foundation for much of later political life.1

óDavid Croteau & William Hoynes


Historically, many Americans have held negative feelings toward immigrants. This appears especially true, as recent political campaigns and voter initiatives indicate, in the case of Mexican immigrants. Media misrepresentations of immigrants, and particularly Mexicans, play a significant role in shaping public attitudes and opinion.

For those without any first-hand experience, the media are the main source of information, assumptions, and sentiments about immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants. For immigrants, media portrayals constitute Americaís evaluation of them and their immigrant experience. In describing the role of film as a social educator, Carlos E. Cortés writes that Hollywood movies offer ìa kind of popular curriculum on immigration.î2

In this article, we examine media portrayals of Mexican immigrants, and the interplay between these images and portrayals of U.S.-born Latinos. Examining media images has become a pedagogical imperative because media saturationóin the form of billboards, movies, radio, television, and the Internetóhas reached levels scarcely imaginable just 25 years ago. ìBy the time they graduate from high school, children will have spent 50 percent more time in front of a television set than in front of a teacher,î says Madeline Levine.3 Children between the ages of 2 to 11 watch 28 to 30 hours of television a week, and view between 300 and 1,600 advertisements a day, while young adolescents (12 to 14 years old) watch an estimated 26 hours of television per week.4 Later in adolescence, teenagers do shift away from television viewing, but become heavy consumers of recorded music, making up 25 percent of all record, CD, and cassette sales.5

Beginning with a short look at Mexican immigration, we proceed to examine media stereotypes of both Mexican immigrants and U.S.-born Latinos, since we believe these portrayals buttress one another. The public and media producers often fail to distinguish between these groups. One consequence of this failure is that Mexican immigrants and their descendants seem to maintain forever the status of ìpermanent immigrant,î while European arrivals are able to ìmelt inî and become ìreal Americans.î Perhaps this is why Mexican Americans are sometimes offended by the question ìWhere are you from?î It may also explain their occasional irritation with the expectation of others that they speak Spanish.

Finally, we suggest a media literacy framework. Above all, media literacy is the ability to read media texts critically. It involves developing cognitive, emotional, aesthetic, and moral abilities for interpreting media messages. Its purpose is to give students control over the influence of media. We hope this media literacy approach to the misrepresentation of Mexican immigrants and U.S. Latinos will be useful for social studies teachers working with immigrant and non-immigrant students.

Immigrationó The Misunderstood ìThreatî

We are a nation of immigrants that sometimes feels threatened by the complex socioeconomic and political phenomenon of immigration. Ten million immigrants were granted legal permanent resident status in the United States between 1987 and 1996. In 1996, the U.S. admitted 915,900 legal immigrants, of whom 18% (163,572) originated from Mexico. About 1.9 % (5 million) of the total U.S. population is illegal, or undocumented. The Mexican undocumented population has grown about 150,000 annually since 1988.6

A longitudinal analysis of national opinion polls from 1937 to 1990 shows that, historically, most Americans have favored restrictionist measures in immigration.7 A 1993 Newsweek poll found that 60% of respondents stated that immigrants ìare a bad thingî for the country.8 Much hostility has been directed at undocumented Mexicans. But it has also been directed at documented workers, and even at those Mexican Americans who were, as they say, ìcrossed by the borderî when the U.S. seized half of Mexicoís territory in 1848.

Failing to understand the complex political and economic forces behind transnational immigration heightens our inability to think clearly about immigrants. A common perception is that people emigrate to flee poverty, overpopulation, and economic stagnation. But Alejandro Portes and Rubén G. Rumbaut question this perception in a book indispensable to the social studies teacher, Immigrant America: A Portrait:

... contrary to the conventional portrait of Mexican immigration as a movement initiated by the individualistic calculations of gain of the migrants themselves, the process has its historical origins in North American geopolitical and economic expansion that first restructured the neighboring nation and then proceeded to organize dependable labor flows out of it. Such movements across the new border were a well-established routine in the Southwest before they became redefined as ìimmigration,î and then as ìillegalî immigration.9

As has happened elsewhereófor example, in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, El Salvador, Taiwan, South Korea, and the PhilippinesóU.S. political, economic, and military linkages set in motion the conditions supporting immigration. A popular immigrant saying puts it this way: ìWeíre here because you were there.î

Immigrants in the Mass Media

While Latino media (e.g., Spanish-language TV stations and newspapers, as well as bilingual and English-language magazines) now thrive in the United States, the influence of the general-market media remains paramount. We focus on the images offered by the latter. However, teachers should be aware that Mexican immigrant youth are often exposed to alternative images from Latino media.10 There is little doubt that media offer powerful representations of immigrants. Though students may receive contradictory messages, such as when a PBS documentary celebrates the many contributions of immigrants, on the whole they do not see immigrants faring well in news and entertainment media. And this repeats a historical pattern.

For example, a content analysis of immigration coverage in leading news magazines that spanned 110 years (1880-1990) and included Time, Life, Atlantic Monthly, and Readerís Digest, concluded that most magazines advocated restrictive immigration policies:

The large majority of the magazines surveyed (and they represent a cross section of the industry) were always ambivalent about how many foreigners ought to be allowed to come to our shores. In the timespan of the survey, there were always more people who wanted to settle in the United States than the magazines thought ought to be permitted; and they seemed always to be coming from the wrong countries. When the largest influx of immigrants was coming from eastern and southern Europe, the magazines bemoaned the loss of the sturdy, independent, hard-working northern and western Europeans. When the direction shifted and the neighboring southern countries of the Western hemisphere were the major sources of origin, the European immigrant of yesteryear took on a rosy glow.11

Immigration during the 19th century was dominated by immigrants from Ireland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Norway/Sweden. From 1900 to 1920, the largest immigrant groups were from Italy, Austria/Hungary, and the Soviet Union. Since 1961, Mexicans have been the largest immigrant group.12 In their content analysis, Simon and Alexander found that Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants, as well as those from Asia and the Pacific, were seen as social and economic burdens unable to assimilate into U.S. culture.

The general-market mediaís anti-immigrant sentiment hardens when it comes to people of color. In her content analysis of three elite U.S. dailies in cities that are traditional immigrant areas (Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles), Katrin Pomper says that ìthe press overcovers Asian and Hispanic immigrants, but almost ignores Europeans. This indicates a clearly racist pattern.î She concludes that ìoverall this study offers a gloomy picture of immigrant coverage.î13

Stereotypes of Mexican Immigrants and U.S. Latinos

Media use stereotypes to convey meaning expeditiouslyóthat is, as a kind of shorthand. In a 15-second advertisement, an audience might be shown that an elderly woman is a grandmother by seating her in a rocking chair and having her knit. Such stereotypes, positive or negative, simplify the communicatorís job. They get a lot of communicative work done quickly.

In the general-market media, stereotypes of Mexican immigrants are overwhelmingly negative. In part, this is because most foreign minorities are constructed by the media as a problem. ìWhenever immigrants make the news these days, it seems itís always bad news,î says John J. Miller.14 This trend is compounded for Mexican immigrants by the fact that media images of U.S. Latinos have long been negative.15 In this way, two fields of meanings intersect to portray Mexican immigrants negatively. Jorge Quiroga underscores the overlap between media stereotypes of U.S. Latinos and images of impoverished Latin American immigrants. U.S. Latinos, he writes, are ìregularly presented as uneducated immigrants who are unable or unwilling to help or speak for themselves.î16

Two types of media representations of Mexican immigrants and other Latinos can be distinguished. One is of immigrant groups who ìcome in wavesî or as a ìrising tide.î The other is of individual immigrants, who appear most often in entertainment media.

Group Representations

Although we found no studies comparing the two, our reading suggests that media representations of Mexican immigrants as a group are much more common than images of them as individuals, especially in the news. ìWho hasnít seen some television crew film of a herd of poor Mexicans swiftly weaving their way through the borderline traffic jams near San Diego? Itís a grim sight, and it feeds popular misperceptions,î says Miller.17 When media present group portrayals of Mexican immigrants, these people typically appear as outsiders unable or unwilling to assimilate, as ìwelfare cheatsî draining society, or as people who do not pay taxes wresting jobs from citizens who do.18 Here, media foreground immigrants caught in criminal activity as well as ìillegal aliens,î often neglecting to distinguish between documented and undocumented immigrants. This stereotype appeals most to conservative appetites.

Studies of television networks and major newspapers (key media sources that establish the standards of the journalistic profession) are not encouraging. In their annual analyses of news stories broadcast on three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) in 1995, 1996, and 1997, Rod Carbeth and Diane Alverio have found what they describe as a ìnetwork brownout,î in which the total number of stories focusing on Latinos and Latino-related issues has fluctuated between 1 to 3%. They also show that when Latinos do appear, it is most often in affirmative action, immigration, welfare, crime, and drugs stories.19

In the news, there is a complex juxtaposition of stock-in-trade media portrayals of Mexican immigrants as criminals (ìillegalsî or ìsmugglersî of drugs and people) and as victims (naïve peons). A 1992-1995 content and textual analysis of North Carolinaís most influential newspaper, the Raleigh News and Observer, found Latinos consistently portrayed either as ìcriminal aliensî or as helpless victims/peons.20 Here, the immigrant is stripped of the courage and strength characteristic of a survivor in a patronizing media construction that evokes pity from outsiders and humiliation on the part of the immigrant. The victim/peon portrayal appeals to liberal appetites.

A CBS news report on migrant farm workers provides a group portrait of Mexican immigrants. The video is of undocumented immigrants caught crossing the border. Dan Ratherís voiceover says:

These two are both prototype and stereotype of the migrant worker: a husband and wifeóshe is seven months pregnant; he is a farm worker. They are two of thousands who will try to cross the Rio Grande this night without papers, without money, and without prospects.21

One is left with a senseógiven this desperate and humiliating beginningóthat had the couple eluded border patrols, their child would inevitably become one of the Latino criminals apprehended in the reality-based television program ìCops.î Such victims, alongside criminal aliens, are the stock-and-trade background of Hollywood films like Borderline (1980, starring Charles Bronson) and The Border (1982, starring Jack Nicholson).22

Individual Representations

In contrast to group representations, portrayals of individual Mexican immigrants are rare. This runs in tandem with the scarcity of images of Latinos in the general-market media. As mentioned, general-market media seldom make clear distinctions between recent immigrants and U.S.-born Latinos. Latinos are consistently portrayed ìmore negatively than any other racial or ethnic group,î concludes a literature review on Latinos and the media done by the largest national Latino advocacy organization, the National Council of La Raza.23 This review reports on data found in several studies that have systematically monitored minority inclusion in the media, such as the Annenberg School of Communicationís massive Cultural Indicators Project directed by George Gerbner.

It is unusual for Latinos to play lead characters either on films or in television series. For instance, in 1994, only 11 of 800 national prime time roles were played by Latinos.24 Only once has a Latino family been the focus of a prime time series (ABCís short-lived ìCondoî).25 Latinos are scarce in magazine advertisements, too. One recent study found that ìonly about 1 in 21 ads contained a Latino model, and just 1 in 45 contains a Latino in a major role.î26

Latinos do, however, appear as supporting players and background figuresófor example, as the law-breakers and victims in fiction and reality-based programs.27 Typically, they are portrayed in narrow stereotypical ways. Film researchers have identified six Latino media stereotypes: (1) dark lady, (2) Latin lover, (3) female clown, (4) male buffoon, (5) half-breed harlot, and (6) bandito.28 Sometimes these stereotypes appear in combination. For instance, the Frito-Lay ìFrito Banditoî advertising campaign created a bandito-buffoon.

The dark lady and the Latin lover were established early in Hollywood with the prototypes of Dolores del Río (Mexican, 1930s) and Rudoph Valentino (Italian, 1920s). These fair-skinned and European-looking Latino stereotypes had irresistible erotic appeal to Anglos. Though considered positive, these stereotypes reduce the diversity of a large social group to a few characteristics, as well as highlighting real class and/or race distinctions that exist among Latinos.29 The representation of recent Mexican immigrants seldom draws on these stereotypes, since these immigrants are constructed as an underclass.

The female clown and the male buffoon appear more often. They provide comic relief and have an uncanny ability to make fools of themselves. They speak ìfunnyî English. They are unable to control their emotions. Desi Arnaz, Lucyís husband in ìI Love Lucy,î and Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian famous for her fruit-covered hats, played early versions of these stereotypes. Rosie Perezís character in It Could Happen to You (1994) is a recent example of the female clown.

The bandito is dirty, irrational, treacherous, and violent. In silent ìgreaserî films, this stereotype was so distasteful that the Mexican government once banned these films. Common in early westerns, the bandito has managed a comeback as drug lord and inner-city gangsta. Like the bandito, the half-breed harlot has difficulty controlling her passions. She is a slave to her sexuality.

Typically, banditos and harlots are not major characters, but they often play minor roles in film (e.g., Terminator 2, 1991; Pretty Woman, 1990) and television (e.g., ìHunterî and ìHill Street Bluesî). A shameless construction of Latino youth as both banditos and harlots can be found in the recent film 187 (1996).

Negative group and individual stereotypes of immigrants and Latinos are rarely balanced by positive representations, such as lawyer Victor Sifuentes played by Jimmie Smits on NBCís ìL.A. Lawî (1986-1994). One has to turn to Latino media to find the economic and cultural contributions of Mexican immigrants and U.S. Latinos in the foreground. Immigrant hardships are constructed differently in Latino media. For instance, Univision and Telemundo (U.S. Spanish-language television networks) often portray immigrants as courageous survivorsóeven as entrepreneursówho persist in holding families together despite adversity. Chicano films, such as The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982) and My Family/Mi Familia (1995), portray Mexican immigrants who possess strength, dignity, and prideógroup identities that are culturally reaffirming for Latino youth.

A Media Literacy Approach for Social Studies

Research suggests that teen attitudes toward current affairs derive more from the mass media than from teachers, parents, or peers.30 This influence calls for a commensurate educational response, one that alerts students to the power of the media, enables them to apply critical skills when examining media texts, and helps them problematize their media experiences.

Media literacy attempts to meet this challenge by tapping studentsí media-based perceptions and helping them to ìde-naturalizeî media texts by identifying the interests and processes that guide their production. ìWidespread media literacy is essential if all citizens are to wield power, make rational decisions, become effective change-agents, and have an active involvement with media,î writes Len Masterman.31

The media literacy movement has hammered out a conceptual framework that is extremely useful for the social studies educator. What follows is a brief tour of the movementís key principles,32 plus suggestions on how social studies teachers can apply this framework in their classes.

> The starting point for media literacy is this: Media do not provide a ìwindow on the worldî; rather, they present ìconstructionsî of reality. Media producers select small pieces of the real world and use them as building blocks in their constructions. All media content is the end product of innumerable filtering processes, selections, and choices made by certain social actorsótypically white, male, and middle class. Social studies teachers can apply this fundamental concept of media literacy to help students deconstruct media images of Mexican immigrants and U.S. Latinos.

> All media texts can be deconstructed because all are constructions. Deconstructing news texts, however, is the biggest challenge, since the ìrealismî of news media makes it seem that they are reflecting or transmitting reality. Teachers might begin by examining a newspaper story on Mexican immigrants. Ask students who they think assigned this story, who did the reporting, and who made the editing choices (most likely non-Latinos, since Latinos constitute just 2.2% of the U.S. journalistic workforce).33 Then explore and discuss what biases might be operating on this story (by offering ìcommon senseî assumptions about immigrants, by influencing the approach to the story, or by determining the selection of people to interview).

> Media texts are produced within, and thus shaped by, a number of overlapping contexts. Teachers should help students appreciate how different production contextsósuch as historical, political, social, economic, or aestheticóshape media images of Mexican immigrants. The teacher might show film clips of Mexican immigrants from a mainstream Hollywood movie such as The Border, and from an independent Chicano film such as My Family/Mi Familia. The class can then discuss how the differing contexts may have influenced the strikingly different representations of Mexican immigrants in these two films.

> Media rely on ìlanguagesî or ìcodesî to create meaning. The conventional symbol systems that media use are complex and layered rhetorical forms. A film, for example, combines the expressive code of editing (a grammar that takes the viewer from one shot or scene to another) with other cinematic codes (camera angles and movement, sound, color, costume, and acting) to advance a convincing plot. Similarly, a newspaper conveys meaning using such journalistic conventions as story placement, headlines, and graphics. Understanding how these languagesólike the discovery that the laughter accompanying a sitcom is cannedóis critically liberating. Teachers can, for example, guide students into an exploration of how filmmakers can use media languages to portray a Mexican immigrant as a bandito/gangsta by helping students to consider plot devices, camera angles, light, soundtrack, costume, casting, and other choices.

> Media representations contribute to our definitions of social reality. They are ìpublic textbooksî and their representations are pregnant with value, especially for those becoming socialized.34 Media sell products, ideas, personalities, and worldviews. At best, they define reality and exercise a form of cultural leadership, by articulating relatively stable and coherent ways of seeing the world, and by offering models for appropriate attitudes and behavior. Given this, it is critical that social studies teachers help students think through their attitudes and assumptions about Mexican immigration and how these might have been influenced by powerful media portrayals.

> Audiences actively interpret media texts. Meaning-making is an interaction between the text and a culturally bound reader. In the final analysis, meaning is an interpretation constructed by media consumers in the act of ìreadingî media texts. But the cultural tools that readers interpret with are not uniform. Social locationógender, class, age, race, ethnicity, and other social distinctionsóshapes readersí interpretive frameworks. Teachers can help students understand this by asking students to compare their interpretations of, for example, advertising images of Latinos. Teachers can point out that, because social location favors one interpretation over another, media representations of Mexican immigrants are likely to be interpreted in significantly different ways by Anglo and Latino students: the former may interpret Taco Bellís recent advertising campaign using the Chihuahua, Dinky, as funny and ìno big deal,î while the latter might interpret it as an affront.

Final Remarks

Immigration is a complex process that social studies teachers must explore with students. In this article, we have examined the tendency of the general-market media to portray Mexican immigrants negatively. These media constructions shape non-immigrant studentsí views on Mexican immigration, and they are likely to diminish the self-esteem of both Mexican immigrant and U.S. Latino students. Using a media literacy approach, the social studies teacher has a unique opportunity to guide students to a rich appreciation of immigration generally, and Mexican immigration specifically. With this approach, the social studies teacher can help future citizens in our democracy make well-informed, objective, and morally sound decisions.


1. David Croteau, William Hoynes, Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1997), 212.

2. Carlos E. Cortés, ìThem and Us: Immigration as Societal Barometer and Social Educator in American Film,î in Robert Brent Toplin, ed., Hollywood as Mirror: Changing Views of ìOutsidersî and ìEnemiesî in American Movies (Westport: CT: Greenwood, 1993), 53.

3. Madeline Levine, Viewing Violence. How Media Violence Affects Your Childís and Adolescentís Development (New York: Doubleday, 1996), 6.

4. W. James Potter, Media Literacy (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998), 90, 139.

5. Levine, 157.

6. U.S. Department of Justice, 1996 Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996), 13, 15, 18, 21, 197. On the web at: statyrbook96/index.html.

7. Rita J. Simon and Susan H. Alexander, The Ambivalent Welcome: Print Media, Public Opinion and Immigration (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993), 41.

8. Tom Morganthau, Newsweek (Aug. 9, 1993), 16-23.

9. Alejandro Portes and Rubén G. Rumbaut, Immigrant America: A Portrait (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 226.

10. Federico A. Subervi-Vélez and Susan Colsant, ìThe Television Worlds of Latino Children,î in Gordon L. Berry and Joy Keiko Asamen, eds., Children and Television (Newbury Park (REF): Sage, 1993), 227. The authors convincingly argue that ìthe television worlds of many Hispanic children in the United States are potentially more complex than the single television world of Anglo children.î

11. Simon and Alexander, 244-245. The content analysis was performed on a cross section of the industry that included the following publications: North American Review, Saturday Evening Post, Literary Digest, Harperís, Scribnerís, Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, Christian Century, Commentary, Commonwealth, Readerís Digest, Time, Life, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, plus editorials from The New York Times.

12. US Department of Justice, 1996 Statistical Yearbook, 14.

13. Katrin Pomper, ìReinforcing Stereotypes: Press Coverage about Immigrants by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, 1985-1994.î Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education and Mass Communication, Anaheim, CA, Aug. 1996, 18-19. Pomperís study examined a 10-year period for each newspaper and used a random sample of 296 immigrant-related stories indexed under the term ìimmigration.î

14. John J. Miller, ìImmigration, the Press and the New Racism,î Media Studies Journal 8, no. 3 (Summer 1994), 19-28.

15. For comprehensive reviews of the media portrayal of U.S. Latinos, see Clint C. Wilson and Félix Gutiérrez, Race, Multiculturalism and the Media (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996) and Federico A. Subervi-Vélez, Charles Ramírez Berg, Patricia Constantakis-Valdez, Chon Noriega, Diana Ríos, and Kenton T. Wilkinson, ìMass Communication and Hispanics,î in Felix Padilla, ed., Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States: Sociology (Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 1994), 301-57.

16. Jorge Quiroga, ìHispanic Voices: Is the Press Listening?î in Clara E. Rodríguez, ed., Latin Looks: Images of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. Media (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), 21, 36-56.

17. Miller, 27.

18. Eric Schlosser, ìIn the Strawberry Fields,î Atlantic Monthly (Nov. 1995).

19. Rod Carbeth and Diane Alverio, ìNetwork Brownout: The Portrayal of Latinos in Network Television News,î Washington, D.C., June 1996; ìNetwork Brownout 1997: The Portrayal of Latinos in Network Television News,î Washington, D.C., June 1997; and, ìNetwork Brownout 1998: The Portrayal of Latinos in Network Television News,î Washington, D.C., June 1998. All three content analyses were prepared for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists using the online Vanderbilt University Network News Archives. Approximately 12,000 stories were analyzed each year.

20. Lucila Vargas, ìGenderizing Latino News: A Content and Textual Analysis of a Local Newspaperís Coverage of Latino Current Affairs,î unpublished study. Using the Raleigh News and Observerís CD-ROM archives, the author searched 181,088 news items and found 259 items with Latino content. Standard content analysis techniques were used to classify the datasetís 259 items, and a textual analysis was conducted on the datasetís 16 front-page stories. Photocopy available from the author at: School of Journalism and Mass Communication, CB #3365 Howell Hall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.

21. CBS, Inc., ìCBS Reports: Legacy of Shame,î Transcript of television program (June 20, 1995), 2.

22. David R. Maciel and María Rosa García-Acevedo, ìThe Celluloid Immigrant: The Narrative Films of Mexican Immigration,î in David R. Maciel and María Herrera-Sobek, eds., Culture Across Borders: Mexican Immigration & Popular Culture (Tucson, AZ: Univ. of Arizona Press, 1998), 149-202.

23. Lisa Navarrete and Charles Kamasaki, Out of the Picture: Hispanics in the Media (Washington, D.C.: National Council of La Raza, 1994), 1.

24. Wilson and Gutiérrez, 102.

25. Federico A. Subervi-Vélez, ìInteractions between Latinos and Anglos on Prime Time Television: A Case Study of ëCondo,íî in S. Chan, Ed., Income and Status Differences between White and Minority Americans: A Persistent Inequality (Lewiston: NY: Edwin Mellen, 1990), 303-36.

26. Charles R. Taylor and Hae Kyong Bang, ìPortrayals of Latinos in Magazine Advertising,î in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 74, no. 1 (Summer 1997), 285-303, 297. Taylor and Bang examined a representative sample of 1,616 ads from nine magazines in 1992-1993 (Time, Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Business Week, Fortune, Scientific American, Popular Science, and Popular Mechanics).

27. S. Robert Lichter and Daniel R. Amundson, ìDistorted Reality: Hispanic Characters in TV Entertainment,î in Latin Looks, 57-72.

28. Charles Ramírez-Berg, ìStereotyping in Films in General and of the Hispanic in Particular,î in Latin Looks, 104-20.

29. Clara E. Rodríguez, ìVisual Retrospective: Latino Film Stars,î in Latin Looks, 80-84.

30. Croteau and Hoynes, 212.

31. Len Masterman, Teaching the Media (London: Routledge, 1985), 13.

32. Renée Hobbs, ìThe Seven Great Debates in the Media Literacy Movement,î in Journal of Communication 48, no. 1 (Winter 1998), 16-32.

33. David H. Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit, The American Journalist in the 1990s (Arlington, VA: Freedom Forum, 1992).

34. Cortés, 53.

Teaching Resources


Teachers wishing to bring media literacy to the study of social issues such as immigration will find background information and instructional support in the following books:

Brown, James A. Television Critical Viewing Skills Education. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1991.

Buckingham, David, and Julian Sefton-Green. Cultural Studies Goes to School: Reading and Teaching Popular Media. Bristol, PA: Taylor and Francis, 1995.

Croteau, David, and William Hoynes. Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1997.

Grossberg, Lawrence, Ellen Wartella, and D. Charles Whitney. MediaMaking: Mass Media in a Popular Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998.

Masterman, Len. Teaching the Media. London: Routledge, 1985.

Potter, James. Media Literacy. (REF)

Silverblatt, Art. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.

óóóóó, with Ellen M. Enright Elliceiri. Dictionary of Media Literacy. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1997.


The following websites offer specific ideas for teaching media literacy and/or broader theoretical discussions of media and their effects. For additional websites on this topic, see the pullout in Social Education 61, No. 5 (September 1997).

The Media Literacy Online Project

Media Literacy Clearinghouse

Directory of Media Literacy Sites Worldwide

Center for Media Literacy

The Media and Communication Studies Site

Lucila Vargas is assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Bruce dePyssler is assistant professor in the Department of English at North Carolina Central University in Durham.