Celine Valeria Sarmiento Valdiviezo, 20, London

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Latinos. The Latin American community in the UK has been regarded as an ‘invisible community’ that thrives in pockets of London like Elephant & Castle or Seven Sisters. We have an abundance of restaurants that sell ceviche, calentados, almuerzos, and countless hairdressers and clothing stores where our mothers would spend ages deciding on which pair of Colombian jeans to buy. And yet we still don't have our own ethnic category that we can tick on forms. And so all of our different foods and clothing and music and cultures become invisible. 

Whilst growing up I thought that I would never turn on the TV and see a Latino on Good Morning Britain or chatting on Channel 4 or ITV2, so the representation of my community that I settled for was Consuela the maid from Family Guy or any stereotypical character named Pablo, Pepe or Juan that I came across on TV. However, most recently, I’ve noticed Latina’s being mentioned in songs from UK artists that describe us as ‘super freaky’ and only caring about drugs and sex. These lyrics only serve to promote existing stereotypes of Latinas being hyper-sexual beings. These lyrics are not compliments because they present us as caricature versions of people who are no different to the characters like Consuela on TV.

Our own ethnic category is only the first step to improving the socioeconomic conditions of Latinos in the UK. It would provide a way for local authorities to finally monitor how many of us live and work in the UK and to begin to understand the challenges that the older and younger generation are currently facing. We can no longer go on being considered an ‘invisible community’ when a report by Queen Mary University of London concluded that over 40% of Latin Americans have experienced workplace exploitation, and that 11% are illegally paid below the national minimum wage, a figure that is 10 times higher than the average rate for the UK population. Although asking to be able to tick our own box on a form may seem insignificant, having no box to tick makes us feel as though the only voices that truly matter are the ones that come from caricatures who do not reflect who we are.

Celine is  a member of our Young Leaders programme. The Almeida Young Leaders is a scheme giving young people with something vital to say the tools and platform to do so. Each young leader has been mentored by a writer and director to develop their ideas, structuring a speech and skills in public speaking.