Gina Rodriguez, who has always been an advocate of Latinx representation in Hollywood, wrote a powerful essay published by Variety Thursday outlining the unfortunate reality that Hollywood is still not investing in Latin American voices.
"Latinos are not only prominent and loyal in the consumer market but also make up one of the largest demographics at the box office every opening weekend," Rodriguez pointed out. "The fact that we are not seen on screen despite our vast contributions is devastating."
"Yay Sony for putting a Latino as the lead, because barely people do that!" she said. "We do make 55 million plus of the country. No big deal. You should throw us in a movie or two. It would make sense. We do buy one in four tickets every single weekend, and make sure that your movies do well."
In her essay, Rodriguez elaborates on Miss Bala, which will come out this summer. She points out that not only does the movie feature a Latinx lead, but it also employed a 95% Latinx crew and was filmed in Mexico. The movie also stars Ismael Cruz Cordova, a Puerto Rican actor, as well as Mexican actor Ricardo Abarca and Cristina Rodlo, star of the NBC Universo series El Vato. (The first season of El Vato is on Netflix!) This is wonderful news but, as Rodriguez points out in her essay, this movie is the exception.
Among this year's Oscar nominees, only Guillermo Del Toro, nominated for directing The Shape of Water, is Latinx. (Del Toro was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.) This is a step above last year's count — at the 2017 Oscars, there wasn't a single Latinx actor or creator nominated. And, in the five years preceding, only three people of Latinx descent were nominated across the five main categories. A grand total of two were Asian. This was the same year the Oscars seemingly self-corrected after 2016's #OscarsSoWhite.
At the time, Alex Nogales, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, told Refinery29, "After [the 2016] debacle with the film industry, Hollywood focused on the African-American community — so Latinos are the forgotten ones. The truth is that there's still a lot of guilt amongst white people as a consequence of slavery, and rightfully so. But because whites don’t have as much of a history with the Latinx community, there's a lot of ignorance about who the Latino community is in this nation — and a lack of interest."
This year, in response to the Oscar nominations, the NHMC announced a plan to target the Academy for its neglect of Latinx representation. The coalition plans to demonstrate Monday, February 5 at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ honorees luncheon and Saturday, March 3 at a location to be announced.
“Hollywood continues to be challenged by gender and ethnic diversity,” Nogales said at a press conference Thursday. “Our upcoming demonstrations are only the first of what will become increasingly aggressive wake-up calls to Hollywood studios to end institutionalised racism against Latinos. By targeting the Academy Awards, we’re serving notice to the motion picture industry that we’re not asking for equity anymore. We’re demanding it.”
This isn't even just about a lack of roles for Latinx characters — Hollywood also has a habit of casting Latinx roles with white actors. The website Latina.com has a comprehensive list of the times throughout history white actors inhabited roles written for Latin American characters, e.g. John Turturro as Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski. A Washington Post opinion editorial from 2016 pointed out that, even more recently, Ben Affleck played Tony Mendez in Argo, which earned a few Oscars, and Mark Ruffalo played Michael Rezendes, a Latinx reporter, in the Oscar-winning Spotlight.
While we have the Time's Up platform, it's important we broaden the scope: We don't just need equal pay for women or more women in the directors category. We need equal representation for all minorities, Latinx included. What can we say? We're very needy.
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