Interview with Dr. Henry Puente: Marketing and Distribution Lessons from Hispanic Hollywood

By: Jose Rodriguez, Jaime Figueroa, and Jon Espinoza

Dr. Henry Puente is an Associate Professor of Communications at California State University, Fullerton. His research areas include examining U.S. Latino films, U.S. Latino media outlets, and race/ethnicity. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, an MA in Communication Management from U.S.C., and a BA in Radio-Television-Film from CSU Fullerton.

Puente has published a book entitled The Promotion and Distribution of U.S. Latino Films. He has also published journal articles in Bilingual Review and Studies in Hispanic Cinemas and contributed to five books. These include Images that Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media and Contemporary Latina/o Media: Production, Circulation, Politics.

Read more: Interview with Dr. Henry Puente: Marketing and Distribution Lessons from Hispanic Hollywood

In Dr. Puente’s research study titled, Marketing and distribution lessons from Hispanic Hollywood, he focused on the Hispanic Hollywood era of 1986-89. This was the era in which Hollywood recognized Latinos as a people group, thus creating films for them. The films referenced in this study are “La Bamba,” “Stand & Deliver,” “The Milagro Beanfield War,” “Born in East LA,” “Salsa,” “Break of Dawn,” and “Romero.”

While he had a few questions to ask himself, the one that he made the main focus to be was; “How did the studios and independent distributors promote and circulate U.S. Latinx films during the late 1980s?” 

Photo provided by Dr. Puente’s research study presentation.

Dr. Puente spent the majority of his time at the USC Cinematic Arts Library, as well as at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, to conduct research for his study using both periodization and generative mechanisms to help analyze Latinx films during the 1980s. He believes that periodization can be applied through any point of time, and even mentioned he would use this method nowadays if he were to conduct the same study. It can be applied to almost every study when it comes to researching ethnic groups, as this form of research and analysis can help show the history of how the group has changed historically. It was also important for him to look at this study through the lens of generative mechanisms, which focuses on explaining why certain events occur, as at the time, Latinos were beginning to push themselves into the mainstream and film industry. 

What led you to do your study on Hispanic Hollywood?

Puente chose to do the topic of Hispanic Hollywood because no one had done it before. It would be an original research study. He had a lot of work to do, as much of the data still needed to be recorded or not recorded conveniently.

When you’re first starting your research, what type of research method would you recommend for someone to start with? Qualitative, quantitative, or does it depend on the topic of the research?

Puente says that choosing the type of research method will depend on the kind of information that one would want to gather. Quantitative and qualitative research both have their strengths and their weaknesses. If choosing to compile data or numbers, then quantitative research is the method to go with. If interviewing people and pouring through notes from the interview, piecing together information, is what is desired or required, then quantitative research is the method to go with.

When brainstorming, Puente suggests asking yourself, “What is my endgame?”. According to him, this will help determine the method to use. 

He does acknowledge that figuring out which research method to use can be difficult. He struggled with figuring out the first question in his research process, as he didn’t know what his research would ultimately consist of. He recalled how tricky it was to start.

Puente stated that being open to pivoting during the research process is essential. You may focus in one direction, but other information and data may take you down another path. You can’t be married to your idea at that point.

For the 1980s films, you looked at them through the lens of periodization. What kind of scope would you look at it nowadays in general?

Puente wouldn’t look at the films he researched in a different way than he did before publishing his findings. While he referred to the lens that he used as periodization, he also implemented PESTLE. This is similar to periodization, but it takes a closer look at the political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental aspects. This is a good way of looking at the market or society when you’re doing a study. It gave an overview of how these movies were made, when, and how their production, distribution, and promotion were impacted.

One aspect revealed by using this method was that Hollywood didn’t know that Latinos existed. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Latinos were counted as part of the census. Hollywood then discovered that there was a people group that they weren’t making movies for.

Periodization can be used as a way to analyze anything.

Photos provided by Dr. Puente’s research study presentation.

Periodization is a good way of researching any topic. Especially like how you honed in on one specific group, the Latinx community. Would that transfer over to any kind of research study?

Periodization can be used to research a specific group. These groups include but are not limited to LGBTQ+, women, African-Americans, Asians, etc. It can also be used when studying movies, music, and TV. 

It provides a larger lens to look at things, but at the risk of showing too much information, it can be challenging to focus on the main point you’re researching. You have to have to be aware of keeping a fine line.


Our interview with Dr. Puente improved our understanding of conducting proper research. He gave us insight into how a study may incorporate qualitative and quantitative research elements. My group mates and I now know better how to conduct our research for our research project. From what we have learned from our Principle of Communication Research course, we as a group will conduct cross-sectional surveys using different types of interval response scales such as comparative, Likert, and linear numeric scales. In the mix, we may also perform one-on-one interviews with people allowing us to note a more in-depth response regarding our research topic. Dr. Puente has become our reference point, and we will integrate his well-given tips and suggestions into our research process. 

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