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21 Times Celebrities And Brands Were Called Out For Appropriating Latino Culture

Refinery29.com / SPLASH NEWS - Courtesy of the V&A Museum / VOGUE

Cultural appropriation happens when a member of a powerful or hegemonic culture, such as Anglo-white culture, adapts elements of a less dominant culture (such as Latin American culture) to produce art or other forms of cultural expression. This is often seen as advantageous and borderline racist. Think of Katy Perry dressed as a Japanese geisha or Gwen Stefani using dresses with African themes.

The fact that appropriation is often used to make money without any benefit for the original creator is one of the problems. Another problem is that things that could be sacred can be used in banal and disrespectful ways.

Here are 21 examples of cultural appropriation. It is important to note that the intention doesn’t necessarily matter here: it is bad in any case. The individual might not be at fault, but the structures of power within society and the media, in general, are certainly to blame.

Excuse me, Marlon Brando looks nothing like Emiliano Zapata.

Credit: 53957836944ec03f4192f25be3b5a436. Digital image. Pinterest. 

Sounds almost como un chiste, right? But yeah, the very white-looking Brando once donned a mustache and wore brown face to play the Mexican revolutionary leader in Elia Kazan’s film “Viva Zapata!” 

What about that one time that Zara used indigenous patterns to mass-produced clothing? 

Credit: bordados-plagio-960×500. Digital image. Animal Politico. 

Sometimes the line between being inspired by culture and appropriating it is very, very thin. Such is the case of Spanish giant Zara, which has been called out for getting a bit too much inspiration from Latin American indigenous women and their awesome work. 

Maria, I just…. wait a minute, Natalie Wood was not Puerto Rican, right? 

Credit: West Side Story / MGM

The entire production of the Oscar-winning “West Side Story”was marred in controversy because most of the cast was not Latino at all. 

A Spanish dude writing about the “exotic” Mexican cartels? Why not?!

Credit: ambos1. Digital image. The Telegraph

“The Queen of the South” is perhaps the most famous novel about the Mexican drug cartels, and it has been adapted into a telenovela and an English-language show. Problem is that it was written by Spaniard Arturo Perez-Reverte, who makes some big uninformed claims about Mexican culture. 

Mel Gibson making an inaccurate movie about the ancient Maya? But of course.

Credit: slice_mel_gibson_crazy_apocalypto_01. Digital image. Collider

Mel Gibson must be one of the most controversial directors ever. In “Apocalypto,”he took a lot of creative liberties to recreate the ancient Mayan civilization. For one, the Mayans were not blood-thirsty savages as Gibson wants us to believe. 

When Madonna dared to play Evita, the most beloved Argentinian of all time. 

Credit: Evita / Hollywood Pictures

The cinematic adaptation and Andre Lloyd Webber’s famous musical was controversial. The production team did travel to Buenos Aires and shot in government buildings, Madonna was great in this role, but some Argentinians never forgave this sacrilege.

Isabel Marant is a famous, rich designer. So why did she steal indigenous designs? 

Credit: mujer-mixe-modelo-diseno-isabel. Digital image. Milenio.

One of the most recent scandals involving cultural appropriation involved designer Isabel Marant, whose collection was “inspired” by the fashion of the indigenous Mixe women. Coincidence or colonial power? 

Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons as Chileans in “The House of the Spirits.”

Credit: The House of the Spirits / Constantin Films

The beloved novel “La casa de los espíritus” by Isabel Allende was adapted with big A-listers in the cast. Why didn’t they hire local talent? No offense to queen Meryl, but she just doesn’t make the cut this time. 

Ashley Tisdale as a sexy catrina.

Credit: 59d50b91d7605b32008b4ab4-960-720. Digital image. Guest of a Guest. 

The Day of the Dead is as popular as Halloween now, isn’t it? Well, catrinas are now a common costume in parties where people go crazy and drink to the supernatural. However, Day of the Dead is a religious and family tradition in its core. Not cool, Ashley, not cool.

Hilary Duff did the same in 2012!

Credit: Large. Digital image. We Hear It!

Yes, it seems like the catrina fashion is here to stay. It is important to note, however, that the Catrina is an important cultural trait for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

Steve Martin is a damn funny mariachi, though.

Credit: Three Amigos / HBO

Well, to be honest, this is borderline okay… Steve Martin plays an actor who ends up thinking he is playing a mariachi bandit when in fact it is the real thing. However, the way the film portrays Latin American culture and people is a bit over the top. 

When Beyonce decided to channel her inner Frida Kahlo.

Credit: 1414840540031_Image_galleryImage_Beyonce_Jay_Z_and_Blue_Iv. Digital image. Daily Mail

Beyonce is infamous for appropriating cultures as she pleases. She was recently bashed for dressing up in Bollywood. Here we can see her as the one and only Frida.

Katy Perry is really excited about her sombrero and ring pop.

Credit: katy-perry-sombrero-mexico-0503-400_0. Digital image. Latina. 

Katy Perry is often called out for using ethnic clothing in her shows. She has been a geisha, for example, for which she was hugely criticized. Here, the diva is unashamedly wearing a sombrero. 

Nomás no entiendes, Paris.

Credit: jq1blv. Digital image. EXAFM

The heiress not only dresses like a Mexican for fun, but she has also said denigratory comments against Mexicans even though her family’s hotel empire is in large part sustained by Mexican labor.

Miley, we know you got some spice…. but dressing up as an actual taco? No manches!

Credit: 237E8CD400000578-0-image-28_1416955185205. Digital image. Daily Mail. 

We gotta admit that this Halloween costume is actually kinda funny, but also kinda insulting nevertheless. 

Melissa Rycroft knows how to dance, but should she tango?

Credit: 5684a50578164442d94893585668c830. Digital image. Pinterest

The “Dancing with the Stars”contestant totally got her fake Argentinian fired up.

Old El Paso ads.

Credit: maxres. Digital image. YouTube

We could argue that Americanized Mexican food is cultural appropriation in itself. Old El Paso generally releases ads that fake Mexican settings, even though some feature the one and only Danny Trejo. 

Everyone involved in “The Mask of Zorro.”

Credit: The Mask of Zorro / TriStar Pictures

Seriously, Antonio Banderas can pass as Mexican, even if he has conquistador blood, but Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins? Give us a damn break!

Charlton Heston playing a Tijuana detective, Mike Vargas.

Credit: Touch of Evil / Universal International Pictures 

Yes, “Touch of Evil”from 1958 is one of Orson Welles’ masterpieces, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that both the director and the lead actor Charlton Heston appropriated Mexican border culture by miscasting the lead character!

Sorry, “Nacho Libre”fans, the movie is a tad inappropriate.

Credit: Nacho Libre / Paramount Pictures

Really? Hollywood can make one lucha libre movie and they choose Jack Black as the lead? An expected disappointment.

READ: Once Again, Kylie And Kendall Jenner Are Being Dragged All Over Social Media For Cultural Appropriation

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  1. Maria Hernandez says:

    Stop! With the cultural appropriation bullshit. Stop be offended or saying what we should be offended about. Also Nacho libre is awesome, jack black did a great job and Antonio banderas can't play a Mexican because he has conquistador blood lmao, how do you think we got Mexicans. The conquistadors had babies with the indigenous women. I saw this shit on snapchat and yes i took time out of my day to say stop!. Que viva Mexico and anyone who wants to be/dress/celebrate/cook/drink/laugh as a mexicano.