Viva la Bienestar – Latino Alternative Television Gives Voice to the Unspeakable

Andres Palencia, Curly, Jennifer Rodriguez
Andres Palencia, Curly, Jennifer Rodriguez

The stage manager scuttles away, leaving the singer alone with the thought of cockroaches…until that thought scuttles away, too. The audience rustles unevenly within the shared darkness, left and right, front and center—the singer is surrounded, and utterly alone. She squints at the only source of light, the backs of four space-age leisure chairs, each embossed with a name that might affect the change that the singer wishes for with all her heart.

Ghost music asserts itself, seemingly from everywhere, and she thinks, “No, I’m not ready, not yet,” but it’s too late for that. Suddenly: light, light everywhere—primary colors, secondary colors, all colors, no colors, light, light, light, flickering and flashing and fanning, and the singer takes a moment to lament the cold comfort of the dark, but it’s too late for that, too. Hit the post, she thinks, focusing on ghosts and drawing a diaphragm breath. Here comes the post—hit it.

Of course, there are less drastic ways to find one’s voice. Such a route is provided by Latino Alternative TV, which describes itself as “well-known for being a direct link to the growing voices of Latinos.” My Health Agenda is an exclusive, online digital series intended to give voice to a sub-community that has been all too often voiceless: LGBTQ+ Latinos. This voice draws attention to a topic all too often ignored by that same sub-community: personal wellness.

“As Latinos, it can be difficult to bring up health-related conversations for a number of reasons,” says series creator and director, Andres Palencia. “We decided to create this series as a loving and creative ‘ice breaker’ of sorts so we can normalize health-related conversations for LGBTQ+ people—especially Latinos.”

Of course, the terms health and wellness are often subjective. “[The name] My Health Agenda made sense because we’re sharing personal experiences and different definitions of ‘healthy,’” Palencia elaborates. “Having the ‘My’ in My Health Agenda empowers our viewers to define health in terms of their own experience. We wanted to emphasize the real personal nature of conversations around health while providing more updated and relatable perspectives to normalize these conversations.”

A press release promoting the series trailer offers a wide, rainbow array of “My’s”: “We invite you to get to know our special guests Erick, Curly, Jennifer, Dr. Ourian, and Vasillos who share their personal, insightful, and informative journeys to help us share a common message of encouragement, hope, and love.” The featured folk trudge through treacherous topics like abuse, addiction, sobriety and HIV/AIDS.

Viewing these guests’ testimonies is accentuated by realtime illustrations of described ideas and notions—such abstract concepts as meditation, pleasure, abandonment, grief, or even out-of-body experiences, to name a few—created by a team of “queer creatives.” In fact, with the direction and production design handled by members of the LGBTQ+ community, My Health Agenda is just as gay behind the camera as it is in front of it. Continues the press release, “We want you to feel empowered to take the important steps that bring you closer to your own definition of ‘healthy.’”

That self-determination is key to helping any given individual find their voice. Using such a voice might at first be as nerve-wracking as a televised audition, but unlike someone singing as contestant on a game show, members of the My Health Agenda family will never, ever be judged.

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