Hispanic artist celebrates her heritage in all aspects of life

Lisette Oler

She used to stand on a chair with corn husks in her hand and maza on a spoon, spreading the mixture around messily as her grandmother reassured her that she was doing well.

Now, radio-television-film junior Elyanna Garcia is highlighting her Hispanic heritage in her photography and filmmaking. Garcia is writing her first script and plans to pitch it to Univision, the Spanish-language network in the U.S. She hopes to paint Hispanic worlds more holistically than they have previously been represented.

“There are so many stereotypes that are in the media for Hispanics, and I’d like to change that,” Garcia said. “[I want to] give it a more realistic view, rather than it be generalizations.”

The show revolves around a woman who kills her two children’s fathers, a detective who’s trying to find their killer and a staged death. Garcia said she hopes her show will resemble “Jane the Virgin,” a Venezuelan telenovela which was adapted for the U.S.

By decreasing the gap between American dramas and Spanish telenovelas, she hopes she can reduce stereotypes. Garcia said not every woman fits the description of the sassy, hot Latina.

This is particularly relevant in a time when Hispanics are underrepresented in mainstream entertainment. According to the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, although Latinos make up 17.4 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 5.8 percent of speaking characters in film and television. 

“It’s overly played out. [Latinas] are supposed to be ‘spicy’ or ‘sassy’ and all these other types of [stereotypes],” Garcia said. “The realistic side is that Latinas work extremely hard to get to where they want to be in life. They can be ‘mean’ and ‘spicy,’ I guess, but they can also be really smart and determined.”

Garcia moved to Austin for school, but the small border town of Brownsville, Texas, is her home. Growing up, Garcia spent a lot of time with her grandmother, but as she moved farther away from her, she felt less connected to her Hispanic culture. 

“I wasn’t looking for [Hispanic culture],” Garcia said. “I just assumed it would be around me, because that’s how it was growing up. I got to Austin and it was culture shock.”

Garcia started taking Spanish classes and joined a mariachi group to stay in touch with her culture. As a result, Garcia said her relationship with her grandmother, who only speaks Spanish, has gotten stronger.

“There are more things I can ask my grandma,” Garcia said. “I was pretty fluent before coming here, but it blossomed into more [and] different types of conversation. Just this weekend I was asking her what her favorite mariachi songs were. She gave me 15 songs.”

Morgan Boone, a public relations junior who is familiar with Garcia’s work, said Garcia’s connection to her culture will help her in the future.

“She’s very proud of [her heritage], and I think even though she moved from Brownsville, it never left,” Boone said. “She has the best of both worlds. She has her own cultural heritage, but she also has the culture here in Austin. She still holds that culture from back home inside, and that will definitely help her writing the telenovelas.”

For now, Garcia is working on her telenovela, practicing her Spanish and memorizing her next mariachi routine, all with hopes that one day her generation and her grandmother’s will not be so detached.

“I hope my work will be interesting enough to bring both generations together and [help them] bond,” Garcia said.