This Christmas, Give These Holiday Movies A Chance To Bring Some Latino Pride Into Your Festivities
‘Tis the season to binge-watch holiday movies with your family over coquito to avoid political discourse, mi gente! Latinos are far from a Christmas classic movie complete with a game of longana, a Tía “Y El Novio?” Marta, and the beauty of how English-speaking American-born nietos and Spanish-speaking immigrant abuelitas always find ways to connect in love over a wide dearth of experiences. We need a movie that revolves around the traditions of Nochebuena and the ritualistic chagrin of how gringos take their trees down on Dec. 26 instead of Jan. 6 as is proper. Still, while we don’t have a mainstream, high-production movie that adequately expresses Latino culture or perspectives, we still have Christmas movies that feature Latino leads living in and navigating a White Christmas, or offer the novela version of a family navidad.
Here are our tried and true favorite Latino-led Christmas movies.
1. “Nothing Like the Holidays” (2008)
This one is an oldie but a goodie. Featuring a Puerto Rican family living in Humboldt Park, Chicago, as they spend what would be a classic Nochebuena until threats of divorce are casually mentioned at the dinner table. Directed by Alfredo De Villa, the film features the largest Latino cast to date on a holiday movie with the likes of John Leguizamo, Luis Guzmán, Elizabeth Peña, Alfred Molina, Freddy Rodriguez, Melonie Diaz, Vanessa Ferlito, and Jay Hernandez. Plus, they threw in Debra Messing to play John Leguizamo’s character’s wife, who tries her best to fit in with the family. At one point during dinner, she asks, “Why is everyone fighting?” Leguizamo’s character responds by saying, “They’re not. They’re just conversating.” Welcome to a Puerto Rican Nochebuena. ????
2. “El Camino Christmas” (2017)
When did Christmas movies become action adventures? Netflix’s 2017 “El Camino Christmas” may not give you those warm holiday spirit fuzzies, but we get to bask in the glory of Jessica Alba and Emilio Rivera’s roles in a misunderstood liquor store hostage situation that does touch on the greater effects of miscommunication around the holidays. Jessica Alba essentially narrates the “Christmas Eve nightmare” where a man searching for his father gets mistakenly apprehended by police in what becomes an escalated situation. Claro, the bodega is owned by Latino Emilio Rivera.
3. “Christmas Bounty” (2013)
Francia Raisa stars in the ABC Family television film classic of a private school teacher gone bounty hunter. Raisa plays Tory, an elite school teacher engaged to be married around the holidays. Normal, right? Not quite. Turns out, Rory is a retired bounty hunter who is lured out of retirement for one last capture. While trying to maintain a sense of normalcy and keep her secret past under wraps from her fiance, Tory calls up her ex-boyfriend for help with the bounty. A Christmas classic!
4. “This Christmas” (2007)
“This Christmas” is probably the most realistic depiction of the holidays you’ll find on television, starring Afro-Latinos Laz Alonso and Lupe Ontiveros in an all-Black cast. The story revolves around the Whitfield family as they spend Christmas together for the first time in several years. A novela to end all novelas ensues, with Christmas cheating, the belt version of la chancla, and confessed hidden talents. If you’re looking for validation that yours isn’t the most dysfunctional of all the families, watch “This Christmas.”
5. “Santa Claus” (1959)
If you understand Spanish or don’t mind English dubbing, “Santa Claus” is a true Mexican classic. What starts out as a delightful look into Santa Claus’s North Pole toy workshop and his “all-seeing eye,” ends up becoming a battle between the devil himself and Santa Claus, with the fate of Christmas at stake. It’s basically the Mexican novela version of The Grinch Stole Christmas, except it’s a far more likely character: El Diablo.
6. “Holiday in Handcuffs” (2007)
Brace yourself for what, under scrutiny, is a problematic plot during which Melissa Joan Hart’s character kidnaps Mario Lopez’s character to pretend to be her boyfriend at a Christmas family gathering. Because sexually objectifying brown men is the perfect material for a rom-com. Mario Lopez’s character eventually suffers Stockholm Syndrome and falls in love with his captor, leaving his rich fiancé to be with her, months after the kidnapping. If you dissociate from how problematic the movie is, you’ll at least enjoy watching baby Mario Lopez.
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