How the racism he experienced as a kid inspired him to become a media mogul and advocate.

September is Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate Latino culture and people like Alex who work to infuse it into everyday American life.

"When I was a kid, it was not popular to be Mexican," says Alex Nogales.

"Mexican restaurants went by 'Spanish cafes.' That sounded better," he laughs. "But it was really a Mexican restaurant that sold tacos!"

Alex is the founder, president, and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which is dedicated to increasing visibility for Latinos in media and entertainment.


Photo courtesy of NHMC.

Alex's desire to shine a spotlight on Latino culture stems in part from the discrimination and ignorance he faced growing up.

"I am first-generation, born in this nation. My parents were immigrants from Mexico. We were farm laborers, which meant that we worked the fruits and vegetables in seasons," Alex says.

Photo via iStock.

He and his family would start harvesting cotton in California's Imperial Valley, near the Mexican border. When school was over, they would go to Delano for grapes, then to Manteca for tomatoes, to Northern California for plums and peaches, then back to Manteca before heading back home. They were away from their home in Calexico for six months at a time. Alex enjoyed traveling and meeting people from different walks of life. "But it was a difficult life in many ways," he says.

"Mexicans were not treated very well by the ranchers," he says. "There were signs up and down the state that said, 'No dogs or Mexicans allowed.'"

Today, Alex works to get more — and more accurate — representation of Latino culture into the mainstream.

In fact, he created the National Hispanic Media Coalition to give people a vehicle to do just that.

"It took me years to get over those kinds of discriminatory comments and prejudices," Alex says. But as an adult, when he began work as a writer and producer, he encountered more of the same thing. "I saw who got the jobs and who didn't and why," he says. "A lot of it had to do with, who were people culturally close to?"

Alex and "How to Get Away With Murder" star Karla Souza at the NHMC's 2017 Impact Awards Gala, where Hispanic and Latino actors and actresses are celebrated for their work in the arts. Photo via NHMC/Flickr.

In places where Latino representation is sparse, people sometimes believe inaccurate, harmful stereotypes about Latinos because they've never personally experienced life within the Latino community. People rely on media for real portrayals of people who are different from them, which is why it's so important to Alex that Latinos are characterized correctly.

The importance of visibility is also why Alex chose Los Angeles to live, work, and champion his mission.

More than any other city in the United States, Los Angeles is where you can get an accurate understanding of what the Latino community actually looks like.

Photo by William Garrett/Flickr.

"Our community is no different from other immigrants that have come to this country," Alex says. Individual roles vary so widely that any stereotype is bound to be inaccurate. "We're doctors. We're lawyers. We're cops," he says. He ticks off the names: "The head of the state Senate is a Latino. The head of the Assembly is a Latino. The attorney general is a Latino," he says.

"If you really want to know more, engage us," Alex says. "Go to festivities — any of them that occur during Hispanic Heritage Month."

Visibility is important year-round, but the events held during Hispanic Heritage Month are a great opportunity to learn more about and celebrate Latino culture.

A dancer at a Hispanic cultural event in downtown Los Angeles called the Blessing of the Animals. Photo by Ray_LAC/Flickr.

In his view, the celebration of Hispanic and Latino cultures is something to be shared among everyone.

"I like it when we have people outside our own community coming to our own celebrations," he says. "You know, anything that is ethnic is to be celebrated. The food is great, the cultural things are great, the people are great. And how are you gonna not like something that's happy?"

In Los Angeles, SoCal Honda is helping people celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. To find out how and where to participate (or to get some inspiration for your own town's celebrations!) follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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