Images of youth media
logo Glocal Youth
logo Glocal Youth

Youth representations in media productions in Latin America

Being young

After Africa, Latin America is the area with the highest percentage of young people in the world. It is proven that one third of the whole population does not have 18 years yet. Subsequently, the notion of "youth" in Europe is different from the one in Latin America. The demographic structure of the continent influences the age boundaries that define what is "young". In other words, in Latin America youth is regarded as a shorter time compared to Europe. Within the European context, a person can be placed within the "youth" category even if s/he is over 20, while in Latin-America - as a consequence of a different life-style, and a shorter average life duration - it is quite unusual to speak about youth after the twenties.

Moreover, in these countries youths and especially those living in big towns, have to deal with different problems compared to European youths or other wealthy youths: social and financial difficulties, poverty, unemployment, conflicts and wars that affect many of these countries, abuse, violence and marginalization immigration and the high number of children that each woman bare especially in the big cities.


In such a difficult context, where the possibilities of improvement and development for young people are small, it is interesting to point out the effort that some countries put into the promotion of information technologies and communication, in order to be updated with all the changes going on in the world.

With activities that can be compared to those promoted by Spanish didactic reviews, such as El periódico del estudiante ("The Student Newspaper"), or Primeras Noticias ("First News"), it is possible to identify, especially in the southern part of Latin America - better known as the Southern Corn - several initiatives that aim to promote the interaction between youth and media. These initiatives are grounded on the awareness of the focal role played by the new technologies for adults, and the attempt to foster tangible activities carried out by young people. A meaningful example is given by the article edited by a group of students in relation to the project promoted by the Argentine Ministry of Education Periodistas por un día ("Journalist for a day").

Life style

Besides all the different attempts to keep Latin American youths updated, it is quite important to drive the attention on their life style, their preoccupations and challenges. A large portion of youth and Latin American society is devoted to analyse and improve youths' difficult conditions of the poorest and most marginal areas.

Nunca lo sabrás ("You'll never know") is a radio program, realised by a group of Argentine youths, which focuses on humanitarian activities, the promotion of culture, and the attempt to improve the general situation.

Some important film directors are also moving in the same direction, using these means of communication to report the dreadful conditions of the people still living in the poorest areas of Latin American big towns.

The Brazilian movie Uma onda no ar ("A wave in the air") is an example of this kind of productions. Poverty, apartheid, censorship, and the terrible conditions in which many youths live, are all analysed in the movie, which points out the real state of things of the huge suburban areas in this part of the world.

Also in conditions of extreme hardships there is always space for hope. Friendship, the spirit of improvement, youth's motivations are other themes which are dealt in the media. This often gives the space for hope and the expectation to change the situation and improve the life's conditions of many young Latin American.

Being citizens

All the considerations made so far, lead to one inevitable conclusion: despite young Latin Americans are extremely numerous they are often marginalized and not considered, and this is often due to the social and economical difficulties of many areas.

In order to change this situation, many groups have taken actions, attempting to improve the conditions by eradicating poverty and dreadful life conditions, in which many youth still live. These are different types of organisations: governmental institutions, associations or religious groups mainly protestant, secular NGOs (less numerous).

The Colombian web site Red Camaleón is the result of one of the projects listed above. It contains information tailored by young people for young people, supported by organisations devoted to produce intellectual and cultural contents specifically for the youth.

The same orientation is taken by the review Pionero. although it has different routes as it is linked with Cuban politics. This publication edited both on the web and on paper, is addressed to young Cubans, and promotes social activities among boys, girls and children, while discussing about friendship, culture and solidarity.

Generally, it seems that a new way of looking at the means of communication, (i.e. as an effective catalyst for improvement for young Latin Americans) is finally arising, and this opportunity is sometimes becoming real. But the path is long and arduous: it will take time and hard work to change the situation at all the different levels of society, so that youth can change their lives and spread attitudes and values that are so difficult to find in places where poverty and misery prevent improvement.

Being "others"

Social and economical problems: unemployment and immigration

Many young Latin Americans face on a daily basis all the problems related to either unemployment or hard and not well-paid jobs. This situation regards both rural areas, where expectations are quite low, and urban ones, where the economic crisis has not changed for years, causing a real crack in the social structure.

In facing all these hardships, not many alternatives are available. The structural problems due to underdevelopment and the incapacity to re-generate the countries starting from their own resources, lead to disillusion and in the worst cases despair. Violence, drugs, crime, families' break up, hunger and misery, most of the times create a thought situation to cope with and therefore flight and the search for new opportunities far away from natal places are the only way out.

The U.S. and Europe are the destinations of many thousands migrants from South and Central Americans. That explains why a new social consciousness pointing out this situation has arisen. A very good example of these phenomena is given by the Argentine movie El abrazo partido ("Hug interrupted"), which effectively describes these issues. Another theme that is expanded in the movie refers to ethnic, religious and social minorities that live isolated from the world that surrounds them: this problem although its minor scale and it is often silenced, does exist and it is rather common not just in Latin America, but also in the rest of the world. In this case it has been selected a movie that analyses minorities in large cities, and the issue of indigenous minorities have to be taken into consideration.


The Latin American society is divided into two main social groups: on the one side there is the minority that holds power and wealth, and on the other the majority of the population who struggles with their economic hardships.

In any case, in relation to some social behaviours, the two different groups tend to be quite similar. Maybe the influence of other cultures, like the European, or North American has been determinant to determine stereotypes, which are then maintained.

The typical example of the young superficial and trendy boy, or better, girl who is not interested in social problems and daily reality, and tries to escape from the problematic world that surrounds him/her, finds its reference in many magazines targeted to youths with no concerns. These magazines, like the Chilean , ("You"), revolve around fashion, music, sportsmen, love and sexuality (usually the latter is treated in a less outspoken way than in Europe)...

At a first sight, these publications seem to target the medium-upper class, but often this impression does not correspond to reality. Many girls from these countries, who do not belong to these groups and social classes, see their desires and aspirations reflected in the contents of the publication: dating, wear the latest trendy cloths and getting to know their idols. All this happens without them having any aspiration to to fight for improvement and against injustice.

In this sense, it is worthy to mention a different stereotype presented by the Cuban Pionero. The values emphasised in this review are opposite to those presented in the previous example, yet, both reviews tend to provide stereotyped visions of young people, although it presents an diametric opposite vision that reflects the image of the "the young communist".

Youth's problems

So far we have described a scenery dominated by despair, disillusionment, lack of opportunities, difficulties and problems not just financial and social, but also personal and psychological.

We can mention the Argentine short-film Una pesadilla ("A nightmare"). This work deals with all the fears, insecurities, restlessness that affect the youths from this part of the world, and probably in most parts of the world.

Generally Latin America and youths in particular provide an example of all the different issues that affect most people in the world, and the consequent efforts needed to solve them. The selected media productions show their lives and their difficulties, and they teach us that, if correctly used, they can be used to implement changes and improvements, if possible, in relation to the terrible conditions in which most mankind still live.

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