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CLALS | Las Mujeres, The Women

Las Mujeres, The Women: Latina Lives, American Dreams

Las Mujeres, Latina Lives, American Dreams

Producer/Director: Carolyn Brown, American University

Executive Producer: Lázaro Lima, University of Richmond

Director of Photography: Leena Jayaswal, American University

Composer: Paul Oehlers, American University

Las Mujeres, The Women is a documentary currently in production. It examines the struggles, successes, and changes facing Latina women living in the United States. This film follows the lives of multiple Latinas living in different parts of the country who are often balancing the expectations that stem from traditional Latino values and gender roles. But the traditional role of Latina women is evolving. Many Latinas are managing multiple identities as professionals, students, head of households, and matriarchs.

Latinos represent the country’s largest “minority” group at over 54 million strong. According the Pew Hispanic Center, Latino women are much younger than non-Hispanic women; their median age is 41, compared to 47 for non-Hispanic women. The reality for Latina women living in the United States has changed considerably the last few decades. More and more Latinas are entering the work force and are earning college degrees at a higher rate than Latino men. In 1974, 44% of Latinas were in the labor force. In 2010, 58% of Latinas were in the labor force. In 2007, 53% of Latinas lived in low-income households. They are also more likely to be unmarried when giving birth, compared to non-Latina women (42% verses 34%).

Las Mujeres considers the framing conceits of the “American dream” of social mobility and civic participation to be incommensurate with the lived reality of the nation’s largest “minority majority.” The documentary explores what it means to aspire when labor, home, country, institutions, and even family—often all too painfully—delimit our possibilities for self-making and being fully in the world. What does it mean to dream big, fail, and aspire again? What does it mean to imagine success when the odds are stacked against you? Through the varied stories of Latina women, Las Mujeres situates timely questions about Latina and Latino civic personhood at an historical juncture in need of moving beyond “possibility models” and toward a more complete understanding of how and why democratic practice is failing, rather than enfranchising, such a significant segment of the population.