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Last Thanksgiving weekend, when the pilot for his new show, TV Ñ, was to air, Luis Vasquez-Ajmac says he felt as if he were in labor. He was in Los Angeles at the time, anxious and excited: TV Ñ (pronounced EN-ye) was going to make its debut at 1 p.m. on WUSA Channel 9 in D.C. He paused to calculate the three-hour time difference before deciding when to call his mother here to get her reaction.
Vasquez-Ajmac, president of MAYA Advertising and Communications, conceived TV Ñ to fill a void in programming for young Latinosa demographic largely ignored by mainstream media. The idea was also born from Vasquez-Ajmac’s disgust with both news programs that don’t seriously address Latino issues and commercials that perpetuate stereotypes. (“That accent was not designed to be flattering,” he says of Taco Bell’s trademark chihuahua.) He observes that even during the presidential electionwith its focus on Latino-filled FloridaLatinos were left out of discussions about the voting debacle. Instead, they continued to be tapped to speak about immigration and gang-violence issues. “It’s a total slap in the face, and it contributes to the stereotype, ‘Oh, they’re only good for that,’” he says.
So, instead of boycotting TV altogether or writing letters to the major networks, Vasquez-Ajmac, in partnership with Armando Almanza, president of Ventana Productions, decided to create a different kind of program. TV Ñwhose target audience is “Generation Ñ,” today’s young, progressive Latino populationwill feature fashion, music, sports, career news, and technology updates (whatever is, Vasquez-Ajmac says, caliente) in a style that combines the energy of MTV with the instructiveness of “news you can use.” Segments of TV Ñ will be filmed in major cities such as San Antonio, Los Angeles, and New York, though the creative production will continue to be based in D.C. Vasquez-Ajmac’s ultimate goal is to syndicate the show nationally. Fundraising to create additional episodesscheduled for production this summeris under way.
Vasquez-Ajmac decided to shoot the show in English (unlike many Latino shows, which are presented in Spanish) to emphasize how embedded Hispanic culture is in American society. According to census projections, each year from now to 2050, Hispanics will add more people to the overall U.S. population than any other single race or ethnic group. “There are many Latinos who speak Spanish, [but] there are a large number who dream, think, and speak in English, as well: the future leaders of America,” he says.
More than three months after the airing of the show’s pilot, Vasquez-Ajmac is still on a high. He will sing the show’s jingle in MAYA’s colorful office at 1850 M St. NW without any prompting. His biggest challenge with TV Ñ, he says, is securing enough sponsorship; so far, companies including Verizon and PEPCO have signed on.
“I know that people do want change,” Vasquez-Ajmac says. “When people see [TV Ñ], they’re going to be motivated to see that there’s room for great programming for Latinos in English.” Ayesha Morris
For more information, visit www.mayadc.com.