“In Hollywood, there is no Magical Latino.
That honey-tongued Mexican American dude who can help the white guy with his golf game while, more important, imparting life lessons before disappearing over the horizon? He doesn’t exist. That Salvadoran woman wisely guiding the “Chosen One” — another white guy — through an alternate-reality maze to his appointed destiny? You won’t find her.
A Latino playing God as he gives up control of planet Earth to help a funny white TV reporter having a bad day at the office? Get out of here.
Since the Academy Award nominations were announced, much of the #OscarsSoWhite conversation has focused on black actors. But consider Latinos, the nation’s largest minority group, even if Hollywood very often doesn’t.
Social media erupted recently with “whitewashing” accusations after the film“American Drug Lord” gave the starring role of Mexican American cartel kingpin Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez to the British actor Charlie Hunnam.
But that dust-up distracts from a problem that reaches deeper into the casting process. Latinos have a particularly hard time getting even the kinds of cliched supporting roles that have become commonplace for black actors — the wise or wisecracking, sometimes magical guides for white protagonists.
“The industry thinks we’re foreign,” said musician and veteran actor Rubén Blades, who after many years in the entertainment business has a coveted regular role in the AMC series “Fear the Walking Dead.” “We are culturally excluded.”
And yet, according to several studies, no group buys more movie tickets when compared with their proportion of the U.S. population than Latinos. In the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s 2014 Theatrical Market Statistics report for U.S. and Canadian moviegoers, Latinos were 17% of the population but “oversampled” at 25% of North American frequent moviegoers.
As this year’s Oscars host, Chris Rock wrote in a 2014 essay for the Hollywood Reporter, “Forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You’re in L.A., you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans.”