Culture

Here Are Some Latinos You Might Not Have Known Have Jewish Heritage

The Spanish Inquisition and imperialism may have catalyzed a Roman-Catholic dominant Latino community, but it’s wrong to assume we’re all Catholic (or recovering Catholics). Just as Latinos can be every shade of skin color, we can also be practitioners of every major religion. While the number of Latino Jews living in the United States is minuscule, there are thriving Jewish communities living throughout Latin America, with as many as 300,000 Latino Jews living in Argentina alone. It’s important to underscore that the majority of Latino Jews’ ancestors immigrated to Latin America to escape religious persecution and rising anti-Semitism in Europe during the Holocaust. Of course, if you go back far enough, you’ll find that the first Spanish-speaking Jews to immigrate to Latin America did so during the Spanish Inquisition when they were either forced to convert to Catholicism or be expatriated. Many traveled to Italy where they were able to arrive by boat to “The New World.” 

Immigration, courage, and identity in the diaspora is a part of Latino Jewish stories, which is why we feel it’s so important to honor those stories. Next time someone makes an assumption about Latino identity, rattle off this list of proud Latino Jews who made their mark on the world.

1. Frida Kahlo

CREDIT: @HARVARDLIBRARY / TWITTER

That’s right! Frida Kahlo is beloved in both Latino communities and Jewish communities because Kahlo advocated for her full identity, even when it was dangerous to do so. Kahlo may have been just 47 years old when she died, but she spent the last couple of decades of her life shouting from rooftops her pride in her Jewish ancestry. She did so during an unspeakable time when 6 million European Jews were mass murdered. Kahlo has claimed that her father, Guillermo Kahlo, was a Hungarian Jew who immigrated to Mexico in 1891 but letters from her father himself claim that he comes from a long line of Lutherans. Historians are torn over the truth of the statement given that the stain of Nazi Germany caused so many fear-based lies about family origins.

2. Joaquin Phoenix

CREDIT: @ACTUALLY_INSANE / TWITTER

While we typically associate Joaquin Phoenix’s religion with the religious cult he was raised in, his mother is actually Jewish. Phoenix was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to a mother of Russian and Hungarian Jewish descent. When his mother, Arlyn, moved to California and met Phoenix’s father (while hitchhiking), the two would later marry and join religious cult Children of God. Phoenix spent the early years of his childhood traveling around South America with their cult until they left Venezuela for the U.S. mainland when Phoenix was 4 years old. “My parents believed in God. I’m Jewish, my mom’s Jewish, but she believes in Jesus, she felt a connection to that. But they were never religious. I don’t remember going to church, maybe a couple of times,” Phoenix said during an interview with Buzz.ie on his role as Jesus in “Mary Magdalene” (2018).

3. Monica Lewinsky

CREDIT: @PEASANTMURPHY / TWITTER

Monica Lewinsky is best known as the young intern that President Bill Clinton sexually pursued while he was in office, she’s gone on to use her experience as a nationwide cyberbullying survivor to advocate against cyberbullying. Once you look more closely into her ancestral history, it’s easy to see how surviving persecution is ingrained in Lewinsky. Her father, Bernard Lewinsky, was born in El Salvador after his parents escaped Nazi-Germany. When he was 14 years old, the Lewinsky family moved to the United States. 

4. Bruno Mars

CREDIT: @BRUNOMARS / INSTAGRAM

While Bruno Mars has referred to his identity as a “gray zone” of ethnicity, the Hawaiin born singer is Latino, Jewish, Filipino and Hawaiian. His father is Puerto Rican and Ashkenazi Jewish and his mother is Filipino. 

5. Sammy Davis Jr. 

CREDIT: @WORLDVIEW_TODAY / TWITTER

The infamous singer, comedian and television personality Sammy Davis Jr. found the Jewish faith later in life. He was born in 1925 in Harlem to Elvera Sanchez, a Cuban-American tap dancer and stage performer. Davis had a near-death experience during a terrible car crash in San Bernadino, California. His friend and fellow comedian Eddie Cantor had given Davis a mezuzah the year prior. Davis wore it around his neck every day for good luck and says the only day he forgot to wear it was the night of the accident. In the hospital, Cantor and Davis had a lively discussion about the similarities between Jewish and Black cultures. Years later, he converted to Judaism and practiced its faith until his death.

READ: Disney Is Debuting Their First Jewish Princess And Surprise! She’s Also Latina

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Reports Of A New Series Depicting The Life Of Frida Kahlo Has The Internet Asking All Sorts Of Questions

Entertainment

Reports Of A New Series Depicting The Life Of Frida Kahlo Has The Internet Asking All Sorts Of Questions

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There are few people in this world that are as iconic as Frida Kahlo. She’s captured the minds and imaginations of generations of people from all over the world. We’ve seen her story told before, including on the big screen, but fans have long awaited a Netflix rendition of the artists unique story and now it seem like we may finally be getting what so many of us have wanted for so long.

The Frida Kahlo Corporation is developing a TV drama series based on the artist’s storied life.

Acording to a report by Deadline, the Frida Kahlo Corporation is working with a media company and famed Venezuelan composer and singer Carlos Baute to produce a drama series following the life of the iconic artist.

Frida Kahlo has inspired and influenced fans around the world and has had a major impact on the Latinx diaspora, the art world, feminism and culture as a whole. So, it seems that producers are pulling out all the stops to make sure they do right by the artist.

The series is being written by Latino talent, lead by Joel Novoa and Marilú Godinez. Novoa, who has worked on Arrow, Blood and Treasure and the feature film God’s Slave is attached to direct. The partnership will create a slate of content to celebrate the life of Frida Kahlo in different genres.

“The idea is to talk about what the books don’t,” said the writing duo in a joint statement. “The subtext behind each painting, the richness of Mexico’s 20th century and the revolution. Themes that are incredibly relevant at this unprecedented time.”

Carlos Dorado of the Frida Kahlo Corporation added, “Frida Kahlo corporation is always looking for talented people who know how to exalt the life of an icon like Frida Kahlo. In this case the professional team that has been formed is distinguished by its great professionalism, experience and most importantly the sensitivity to be able to approach a project as important and transcendental as Frida Kahlo. This high professional team will always have the support of Frida Kahlo Corporation.”

So when can we expect to see a series about one of the world’s greatest artists and feminist icons?

The team expects to start production of the series during the second half of 2021. A studio has already shown interest and the presentation of the project to the market is expected to occur in February.

“We are currently developing and writing the basis of the series and expect to be ready to present the project in the upcoming weeks,” the team said in a statement.

Also, why has it taken so long?!

Should the series find a studio and distributor, this would be the first drama series focusing on Kahlo in recent history. It’s been almost twenty years since her story was told on the big screen, when Salma Hayek portrayed the icon in the 2002 film Frida. That film went on to earn six Oscar nominations, winning for Best Makeup and Best Original Score. More recently, Kahlo was voiced by Natalia Cordova-Buckley in the Oscar-winning Pixar pic Coco. 

In addition to this, in 2019 it was announced that there would be an animated film about the painter.

But fans of the iconic feminist and artist have long hoped to see a TV series depicting her larger than life personality and role in shaping the world we live in today and it looks like we may finally get what we’ve asked for.

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If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Culture

If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Bettman Archives / Getty Images

So many of us have been moved the art of the late Frida Kahlo. Even in death she’s gone on to inspire entire generations with her Surrealist self-portraits, lush depictions of plant and animal life, and magical realist tableaux. Not to mention her incredible life story.

She also inspired future generations of artists, many of whom are alive today creating beautiful works of art. These are just a few of the artists who have similar techniques, subjects, and styles to Frida Kahlo that you’ll definitely love if you’re a fan of Frida Kahlo.

Maria Fragoso – Mexico City

Credit: Teach Me Sweet Things / Theirry Goldberg Gallery

Influenced by the style and narratives of Mexican surrealists and muralists, Maria Fragoso creates work that celebrates her Mexican culture, while also addressing notions of gender expression and queer identity. Her brightly colored canvases offer voyeuristic glimpses into intimate moments, with subjects engaging in acts that seem at once seductive and mischievous—often while gazing directly out at the viewer.

Recently featured in Forbes’s “30 Under 30” in the “Art and Style” category, the 25-year-old artist is quickly rising to prominence. Born and raised in Mexico City, Fragoso moved to Baltimore in 2015 to pursue her BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. While in school, Fragoso was the recipient of the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship at the Yale Norfolk School of Art. Since graduating, she has completed residencies at Palazzo Monti and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Nadia Waheed – Austin, Texas

Credit: Message from Janus / Mindy Solomon Gallery

Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, Austin, Texas–based artist Nadia Waheed explores notions of relocation, displacement, and vulnerability in her work. Her life-size figurative paintings are both allegorical and autobiographical—the female figures represent her own lived experiences, as well as the multifaceted identities of all women.

Rodeo Tapaya – Philippines

Credit: Nowhere Man / A3 Art Agency

Rodel Tapaya paints dreamlike, narrative works based on myths and folklore from his native Philippines. Drawing parallels between age-old fables and current events, Tapaya reimagines mythical tales by incorporating fragments of the present. “In some way, I realize that old stories are not just metaphors. I can find connections with contemporary time,” Tapaya said in a 2017 interview with the National Gallery of Australia. “It’s like the myths are poetic narrations of the present.”

While the content of Tapaya’s work is inspired by Filipino culture, his style and literary-based practice is heavily influenced by Mexican muralists and Surrealist painters such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and, of course, Frida Kahlo. Often working at a large scale, Tapaya has been commissioned to create several site-specific murals, including one for Art Fair Philippines in February 2020.

Leonor Fini – Buenos Aires

Credit: Les Aveugles / Weinstein Gallery

Long overlooked in favor of male Surrealists, Leonor Fini, a contemporary of Kahlo, was a pioneering 20th-century force. Known for having lived boldly, Fini is recognized for her unconventional lifestyle, theatrical personality, and avant-garde fashion sense. Born in Buenos Aires in 1907, Fini was raised by her mother in Trieste, Italy. She taught herself to paint and first exhibited her work at the age of 17.

Fini had one of her first solo exhibitions at age 25 with a Parisian gallery directed by Christian Dior. Her work was then included in the groundbreaking exhibition “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism” at MoMA in 1936, while at the same time she had her first New York exhibition with Julien Levy Gallery. Today, Fini’s work is represented in many major public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Ramon Alejandro – Miami

Credit: Eternal Life / Latino Art Core

José Ramón Díaz Alejandro, better known as Ramon Alejandro, paints idyllic still lifes of tropical fruits set in ethereal landscapes. The surrealistic compositions have a similar spirit to Kahlo’s less iconic but equally masterful still-life works

Coming from a long lineage of artists, Alejandro grew up with the artworks of his great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle adorning the walls of his childhood home. After growing up in Havana, Alejandro was sent to live in Argentina in 1960 amidst political turmoil in Cuba, and has continued to live in exile since then.

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