Friday, September 25, 2009

Hispanic telenovela to feature 2010 census storyline

Telenovela to Feature 2010 Census Storyline
By Tina Irgang,, September 22, 2009

WASHINGTON -- The devil knows best -- and he's about to share his knowledge on the 2010 Census.

NBC's Spanish-language affiliate Telemundo will incorporate a storyline on the upcoming decennial census into its most popular telenovela, "Mas Sabe El Diablo."

The storyline is set to begin in about 10 days, and will last until the series' projected end in November. This marks the first time the census has ever been written into a telenovela, although these Spanish-language soap operas often deal with pertinent social and political issues, Telemundo President Don Browne said Tuesday at a news conference to announce the script addition.

The storyline's purpose is to tackle misunderstandings and educate viewers, Browne said, "in a way that communicates the importance and the simplicity and the safety of the census, in their own words, with characters that they know and love."

Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said fears in the Latino community that census data might be used to identify illegal immigrants are groundless.

"The president could call me right now and demand your census data, and I wouldn't be able to give it to him," he said.

Participating in the census can have long-term benefits for the Latino community, Groves said.

"A lot of movement of taxpayer money back to local communities that need support is based on the census," he said. "Over $400 billion a year is indexed to census counts."

In the upcoming storyline, actress Michelle Vargas portrays Perla Beltran, who is hired as a worker for the 2010 census.

"The federal law protects the information that's shared during the census. And it's easy. You answer those questions in less than 10 minutes," she said at the news conference.

Earlier this year, some Latino groups had called for a boycott of the census in protest of current immigration laws.

Telemundo's efforts are designed to counter those boycott calls and convey the benefits of the census, Browne said.

"We are going through incredibly fundamental demographic changes in our country," he said. "That's what the census is designed to manifest, so the more accurate it is, the better it manifests the true reality of who we are."

Maryland has traditionally been home to a large immigrant population, including an estimated 300,000 Hispanics, according to the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The state's Hispanic community was disturbed when, in April 2008, Frederick County began to participate in a program that allows local police to enforce federal immigration laws. Maryland's immigrant community criticized the move, fearing arrests based on racial profiling would be the result.

Gigi Guzman, chairwoman of the Maryland Hispanic Career Council, said the telenovela plan has the potential to educate viewers about the census using familiar characters and situations.

"If it helps to alleviate the community's misunderstandings and fears about the census, I think it's a really beneficial thing, and I applaud their efforts."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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