Viewers Are Calling Out Amazon For Whitewashing History With The New Series ‘Hernán’

This year marks 500 years since Hernan Cortes met Aztec emperor Moctezuma. The meeting marked the beginning of the violent and dark period known as Mexico’s Conquista. In honor of the, not so happy, anniversary Amazon Mexico and Latin America dropped a series based on the historic event. “Hernán,” follows the conquistador’s journey and retells everything that happened after docking his ship off the coast of Mexico, according to him, that is.

Mexico’s conquista was an important and violent chapter in history, one that transformed, not only one country, but the whole continent. The historic event is being revisited by the heavily publicized show “Hernán, La Serie.”

Credit: ishbelbautista / Instagram

For the first time ever, a TV show will be retelling the events that went down between Hernán Cortes and the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. Set in 1519, the series starring Óscar Jaenada, turns on the conquest of Mexico by Cortés and his troops and will be narrated by the Spanish conquistador as the protagonist of this momentous time in Mexico and Spain’s history. The sailor and explorer will be meeting important characters like Moctezuma, Alvarado, Olid and the infamous Malintzin or Malinche.

The Spanish actor Oscar Jaenada, stars as Cortes, as part of a mostly Spanish cast and crew.

Credit: ojaenada / Instagram

Jaenada leads a cast from Mexico and Spain including Víctor Clavijo (Captain Cristóbal de Olid), Michel Brown (Captain Alvarado), Dagoberto Gama (Moctezuma), Jorge Guerrero (Xiconténcatl), Almagro San Miguel (Captain Sandoval), Ishbel Bautista (Marina / Malinche) and Aura Garrido (Doña Juana).

Touted as the most expensive Hispanic series in history by Dopamine, “Hernán” was shot on location and on sets built in both Spain and Mexico, with special effects by El Ranchito, whose credits include “Game of Thrones.”

The filming of “Hernán,” in Xochimilco, left the Mexico City canals seriously damaged. 


Touted as the most expensive Hispanic series in history by Dopamine, “Hernán” was shot on location and on sets built in both Spain and Mexico, with special effects by El Ranchito, whose credits include “Game of Thrones.”

The series’ cast and crew took over an area of the famous canals of Mexico city to film a few key scenes. The environmental damage was so severe that the production was fined over 74 million Mexican pesos by Sedema (Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment).

People are not exactly happy with the representation of the great Aztec and indigenous characters. 

Credit: @eduardofake05 / Twitter

Some have found that the show doesn’t seem to do justice to historic records of what Moctezuma looked like. Chronicles describe the Aztec emperor, Moctezuma, as an opulent and imposing leader who wore rich feathers, gold, and gemstones. The series, however, present the emperor in a much more modest fashion —and the actor even sports a belly. “I’m complaining about how Moctezuma was depicted, a short man with a beer belly. Go to hell,” wrote one unimpressed Twitter user.  

Another thing that left us dumbfounded, was the fact that in 2019, the series is based on the Spanish POV, not the indigenous experience. 

Credit: @feli_chuy01 / Twitter

One viewer tweeted directly at the Mexican network that produced the show “@AztecaSiete Why tell the story of Hernan Cortes and give a Spaniard such an important role instead of making a show around Moctezuma or the Aztec people?” —As we know the colonial takeovers of the Americas, led by Hernan Cortes, ended in the death of millions of indigenous people and the forced assimilation of survivors. And we still need to see his side of the story?

Twitter users were quick to express their opinions. 

Credit: @joshcotera / Twitter

Many viewers were not impressed by the angle. A quick Twitter search will show more hundreds of threads unpacking the series. “Is it just me or is this show based on the Spanish experience. According to everything I’ve read, the series has a huge Spanish influence,” wrote one Twitter user, “I’d like to see a second part titled ‘Moctezuma’, and see the experience of the defeated. But of course, let’s watch ‘Hernán’ first,” he added sarcastically. 

By retelling the Conquistador’s account of history the series supports the whitewashed narrative perpetuated in public discourse and in schools, where children are taught simplistic and incomplete information about the conquest.

Credit: @sincorteza / Twitter

Thinking back to my own childhood, I was taught that Malinalli, or Malinche, fell in love with Cortes, and she betrayed her people by giving him Tenochtitlan. The true story must have been much more complex than that romanticized version and, tbh, the story sounds suspiciously similar to that of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith. The simplistic and incomplete narrative I and many other Mexican children have been taught obscures our understanding of history and demonizes an indigenous character by turning her into the bad guy, the traitor.

“Hernán” tells the story of the infamous man in 8 episodes through the perspective of Malinche, Moctezuma, Pedro Alvarado, Xicotencatl, Cristóbal de Olid, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, and Gonzalo de Sandoval, all important characters who were around him during the conquest of Mexico.

Credit: @sergiosarmiento / Twitter

“Hernán Cortes is a character that no one loves, not even the Spanish,” explained Jaenada in an interview. The Spanish actor who played the infamous Conquistador added that Hernán “was an explosive man, every place he set foot on, he burned to the ground and exploited.” The actor read countless books on the historical period to help build the complex character.

Jaenada first started reading up on Hernán Cortes close to a decade ago, when Javier Bardem first approached him about a series based on the conquistador, produced alongside Steven Spielberg.

Credit: @vibemagazine / Twitter

The story of Cortes and his exploits in Mexico have long fascinated Hollywood.

Last year, Amazon announced that it had greenlit a four-hour miniseries titled “Cortes” from Steven Spielberg and Amblin Television. To be toplined by Oscar-winner Javier Bardem, the series will be created for television and penned by Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”), based on a five-decade-old movie script by screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The proposed film titled “Montezuma” centered on the thorny relationship between Cortes and Aztec ruler Moctezuma II. HBO had also been developing a series about the conquistador.

As one Twitter user echoed the sentiment eloquently.

Credit: @clm / Twitter

We all know the story, and it’s our job to demand that it’s told with cultural and historical accuracy, not as a one-dimensional, romanticized story that is both harmful and simplistic.

READ: Descendants Of Both Hernán Cortés And Emperor Moctezuma Urge Mexicans To Move On From The Past 500 Years Later

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Photo via George W. Davis, Public Domain

Today, March 22nd marks Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud in Puerto Rico–the date that marks the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, enslaved peoples were emancipated in 1873–a full decade after the U.S. officially abolished slavery. But unlike the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico celebrates today as an official holiday, where many businesses are closed.

The emancipation of Puerto Rican slaves was a very different process than the United States’. For one, the emancipation was gradual and over three years.

When the Spanish government abolished slavery in Puerto Rico 1873, enslaved men and women had to buy their freedom. The price was set by their “owners”. The way the emancipated slaves bought their freedom was through a process that was very similar to sharecropping in the post-war American south. Emancipated slaves farmed, sold goods, and worked in different trades to “buy” their freedom.

In the same Spanish edict that abolished slavery, slaves over the age of 60 were automatically freed. Enslaved children who were 5-years-old and under were also automatically freed.

Today, Black and mixed-race Puerto Ricans of Black descent make up a large part of Puerto Rico’s population.

The legacy of enslaved Black Puerto Ricans is a strong one. Unlike the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t classify race in such black-and-white terms. Puerto Ricans are taught that everyone is a mixture of three groups of people: white Spanish colonizers, Black African slaves, and the indigenous Taíno population.

African influences on Puerto Rican culture is ubiquitous and is present in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and even in the way that the island’s language evolved. And although experts estimate that up to 60% of Puerto Ricans have significant African ancestry, almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified as white only in the latest census poll–a phenomenon that many sociologists have blamed on anti-blackness.

On Puerto Rico’s Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, many people can’t help but notice that the island celebrates a day of freedom and independence when they are not really free themselves.

As the fight for Puerto Rican decolonization rages on, there is a bit of irony in the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the only American territories that officially celebrates the emancipation of slaves, when Puerto Rico is not emancipated from the United States. Yes, many Black Americans recognize Juneteenth (June 19th) as the official day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, but it is not an official government holiday.

Perhaps, Puerto Rico celebrates this historical day of freedom because they understand how important the freedom and independence is on a different level than mainland Americans do.

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Spanish Actor Javier Bardem Will Be Playing Cuban Entertainer Desi Arnaz in a New Movie and Fans Wish Hollywood Cast a Latino Instead


Spanish Actor Javier Bardem Will Be Playing Cuban Entertainer Desi Arnaz in a New Movie and Fans Wish Hollywood Cast a Latino Instead

Images via Getty

Recently, it was announced that Amazon studios will be producing a movie based on the lives of groundbreaking Old Hollywood power couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. According to reports, Nicole Kidman is set to play Ball while Spanish actor Javier Bardem will be playing Arnaz.

Seeing as Arnaz is widely viewed as one of the first Latino actors to achieve mainstream success in the United States, this news was positive for many. But for others, the news was less than ideal.

Some critics are lambasting the decision to cast Bardem as Arnaz, seeing that Bardem was born and raised in Spain, and is therefore not Latino.

One disgruntled Twitter user wrote: “I guess it’s really hard to find a Cuban actor so you have to hire a Spaniard…Whitewashing can happen to Latinos too.”

The criticism around Hollywood relying on Spanish actors and actresses to play Latino roles is not a new one. For years, Spanish actors like Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, and Paz Vega have played Latino characters in American movies. The preponderance of this phenomenon have led some people to accuse Hollywood of “white washing” Latino characters by casting Spanish actors.

Antonio Banderas is one of the most famous examples of a Spanish actor who built his career off of playing Latinos.

He has played Latinos for so long that many people think he is, in fact, Latino. But when he was erroneously called a “person of color” by American publications when he was nominated for an Oscar in 2020, there was quiet the outcry in Spain.

Spanish publications condemned American media for having an “absurd obsession” with race, and not understanding that Spaniards are, in fact, white.

Publications wrote arguments like: “Banderas might pass as a Latino ‘person of color,’ to an Arkansas farmer, great-grandson of Germans, but never to a California delivery man born to Guatemalan immigrants.”

To some observers, it seems that Hollywood prefers casting Europeans as Latinos because Hollywood sees Europe as more “sophisticated” than Latinidad.

25-year-old Spaniard Juan Pedro Sánchez, summed up the problem on Twitter, saying: “A lot of people in Spain are bothered if others confuse them for Latin American because Spaniards see Latinos as people of color, and they don’t want to be associated with that.”

He went on to say: “What bothers me is not being considered a person of color, but that people ignore that Spain was a colonizer country. It erases that history.”

The bottom line is, fans are frustrated that Hollywood keeps looking to European actors to cast Latin American characters.

Study after study shows that there is still a stubborn lack of representation for Latinos onscreen. And when there is finally a role that puts a Latino character front and center, Hollywood prefers to hire a European actor over a Latino one.

Javier Bardem is an exceptionally talented actor and there’s no doubt that he will tackle the role of Desi Arnaz with creativity and dedication–but fans’ frustrations at the casting choice doesn’t have to do with Bardem’s acting capabilities. It has to do with the all of the ways that Latinos are discounted–including professionally.

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