La Poderosa Janet Murguía

The name “Janet Murguía” may not be known in Latino homes across the country -- but it should be. From Sofia Vergara to Selena Gomez to Zoë Saldana, more Latinos than ever walk the red carpet each year. And we can thank Janet Murguía for that.

As the President and CEO of National Council of La Raza, the largest U.S. civil rights and advocacy organization, and the producer for the annual Alma Awards, Murguía has empowered la comunidad through voting and increased visibility in the media. We recently asked this trailblazer to spell out how showcasing Latino talent in music and entertainment is changing the lives of Latinos across the country.

“[Our country] is incredibly diverse,” Murguía says. “But you wouldn’t know that based on the amount of Latino representation in the media.”

Hispanics, she points out, are just as much a part of the American fabric as any other group. “We think it’s important that Latino faces are fairly represented on television, in the movies and in music, as well as behind the scenes in the entertainment industry.”

That’s why Murguía founded the annual ALMA Awards, which celebrates Latinos in the entertainment industry. There were just a few Hispanics on television when the awards were created. But today there are more than 40. Having an awards show during primetime hours on a major network provides huge exposure for la comunidad.

Murguía hopes that increasing the visibility of Latinos in the media will inspire others to pursue their dreams. “Seeing somebody that looks like you on television or on a stage at a concert sends the message that, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I do it too?’” she says. “Having these forbearers is in a sense both comforting and inspiring.”

All this just goes to show there’s no reason a viewer with the talent and drive shouldn’t follow their dreams, says Murguía. “Who knows, maybe they’ll be on stage accepting an ALMA one day?”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (pictured right)