Telenovela Outreach to Latinos: The GOP’s Future?

Camilla serves a house special at her family's successful NYC restaurant (impactony.com).

Camilla serves a house special at her family’s successful NYC restaurant (impactony.com).

Businesswoman Clara Del Villar wants to help the GOP. A Dominican-American, Del Villar has watched conservatives and libertarians repeatedly fail to connect with Latinos. She believes it’s time for a more creative approach.

Toward that end, Del Villar has filmed 12 Webisodes of “Familia Con Fuego,” or “Family With Fire,” a new pro-free-market telenovela about the Flores family. The first aired July 14. The story centers on Camilla, a beautiful, rising political star, who leaves Washington, DC, for her hometown of New York City to help her mother and brothers run the family restaurant after her father’s sudden death. Inspired by unusual sources, Camilla’s mother becomes committed to addressing immigration reform, while Camilla experiences heartbreak and becomes the Latina star of a Food Network show.

Aimed at English-speaking Latino citizens, whom Del Villar estimates are over 60 percent of the more than 50 million Latinos in the United States, “Familia Con Fuego offers a new twist on Republican outreach, one that informs, while also entertaining. Could this be the GOP’s future? Del Villar recently spoke with The Federalist about her new venture:

Is the proper term “Hispanics” or “Latinos”?

“Hispanic” was a term coined during the Nixon Administration by the Commerce Department to identify people from South America and the Caribbean who speak Spanish. Mexicans identify as Latino. I use them interchangeably just to clarify that I want to reach Spanish speakers, however they choose to identify. The broader use is probably “Latino” because 65 percent of the population in the U.S. is Mexican.

Why does Republicans’ Latino outreach flop?

Conservatives and Republicans typically share their message through newsletters, cable news, websites, or other ways that Hispanics don’t tune in. FoxNews Latino is the only one out there with a good website; their audience has primarily emerged from the big brand name that Fox has.

How are Latinos different?

Latinos have bigger families. The average age of Hispanics in the U.S., which also influenced our web focus, is 27. The general population is average age 36. Latinos are the top demographic on Facebook and for mobile video content. They have a tendency to be lower income. Average per capita income in the U.S. is between $55,000 and 60,000 per year, but for U.S. Hispanics, it’s $35,000. Many Hispanics use their smart phones for lots of things, including content. They don’t watch cable TV as much because fees are so high.

Who is your target audience?

Citizens, for a few reasons—aspirational roles are much harder for those who aren’t citizens. What I’m trying to do is energize and show the professional accomplishments Hispanics have achieved in this country and share that with a younger audience.

What motivated you to create a free-market-oriented telenovela?

Conservatives are slow movers on creative ideas, using humor, satire, or drama to promote their views. It’s urgent that we do that, talk about things beyond just policy. When people take The Daily Show seriously, there’s a transition going on in politics and everywhere.

Are free-market values inherently part of Latino culture?

Free-market values are incorporated in the culture, sometimes the culture just doesn’t realize it. They have to open up stores or businesses to make a living. Most of the people who’ve come to the U.S. have left authoritarian or dictatorial regimes. In South America or the Caribbean, the professional class leaves because the government won’t let them lead their lives. Republicans don’t take advantage of that enough, saying, “We understand why you came.”

Are Latinos open to Republicans’ message?

It worries me that Hispanics think the GOP doesn’t care about the community, is hostile. I wanted to send a message that we all understand why we’re here, we’re not all nativist. As a party, our name is not respected. Univision and Telemundo do a lot to damage the GOP brand. It’s a very active and aggressive anti-Republican group. Univision is for sale, so hopefully that’ll change.

One of the main characters is a congressman. Is he a Democrat or Republican?

He’s working on immigration reform, but it’s purposely left vague whether Camilla’s boyfriend is a Democrat or Republican. I wanted a [Sen. Marco] Rubio-type character to run for president as time passes, so the importance of political engagement comes through and the leadership possibility rings through the story.

Are you communicating other conservative values to your viewers?

Absolutely, it’s no coincidence that one of the characters is a Navy SEAL. 1.3 million veterans are Latino. That’s something people can relate to. Many Hispanics are looking for educational opportunities, and the military offers that.

The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement character is a real nativist. Is he meant to be realistic or a caricature?                                                                                                    

He’s meant to be realistic, but over-the-top so it’s in telenovela form. You need a very clear bad guy for the audience to hate.

Why do a tomato and avocado talk to Camilla’s mother about immigration?

The Krieble Foundation, one of our key sponsors, provided funding for the topic. I didn’t want the audience to get mad at the characters. People get so vicious about immigration, both within and outside the community. For example, while many are opposed to illegal immigration, they have humanitarian concerns for those trying to escape poverty and violence, but border security and law and order is a serious issue in border states. I thought maybe [viewers] would listen more carefully if the ideas came from a different source. The mystery will be whether she’s crazy or not. Also, mysticism plays a large part in telenovelas. It’s not unusual to have voices or visions. There was a Santeria aspect to religion in the Spanish-speaking community. Nothing’s out of the realm of the possibility.

Curious to see more? Watch the webisodes at HispanicPost.com Mondays at 4 p.m.

This article appeared in The Federalist.

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