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Latinos You May Not Have Known Were Jewish

Although Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in most Latin American countries, we all know by now that Latino culture is not a monolith. In fact, Latinidad comes in all shapes and forms, and it’s a total misconception that all Latinos are Catholics. Latinos follow a variety of religions, from Islam to Buddhism to Judaism. And while most people don’t think of Judaism when they think of Latin America, there is, in fact, a small but proud population of Jewish peoples living throughout Latinidad.

Although the Jewish population in Latin America is relatively small (only an estimated 300,000), Jewish Latinos keep their culture alive through tradition and a strong sense of community. The largest Jewish community resides in Argentina, which is considered to be the “center of the Jewish population in Latin America”. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of famous and influential Jewish Latinos who have made their unique mark on the world. Take a look below!

1. Frida Kahlo

@lrb/Twitter

Frida Kahlo was both proud and vocal of her Jewish ancestry at a time when Anti-Semitism was at its height in Mexico. According to Kahlo, her father, Guillermo Kahlo, was a Hungarian-Jew who immigrated to Mexico. In fact, many of Frida’s work have been displayed at Jewish art exhibits.

2. Monica Lewinsky

@Brittanica/Twitter

Monica Lewinsky’s father is El Salvadoran–born to Jewish-German immigrants who fled Germany during WWII to escape persecution from the Nazi regime.

3. Daniel Bucatinsky

@Deadline/Twitter

Beloved “Scandal” actor Daniel Bucatinsky was born in New York City to Argentine-Jewish parents. Bucatinsky has been candid about how his “roots” are in Argentina and how he speaks Spanish fluently. You can even catch him speaking Spanish to his fans on Twitter.

4. Sammy Davis Jr.

@MrSammyDavisJr/Twitter

One of the most talented and charismatic performers of the infamous “Rat Pack”, Sammy Davis Jr. was a Latino born to an Afro-Cuban mother. Citing a strong connection to the Jewish faith due to its people’s history of oppression, Davis Jr. converted to Judaism in 1961 and remained devout until his death.

5. William Levy

@WLevy_adicta/Twitter

Cuban actor and all-around heartthrob William Levy was born in Cojimar to a single mother, Barbara Levy of Jewish descent. At the reported urging of his friends, he converted to Catholicism in 2009

6. Diego Rivera

@vinculartemx/Instagram

Celebrated artist and husband to the venerable Frida Kahlo, Mexican painter Diego Rivera was descended from a Portuguese-Jewish family. Of his roots, Rivera said: “My Jewishness is the dominant element in my life. From this has come my sympathy with the downtrodden masses which motivates all my work”.

7. David Blaine

@THR/Twitter

Born to a Puerto Rican father and a mother of Russian-Jewish descent, famed magician and illusionist David Blaine is of both Jewish and Latino heritage.

8. Geraldo Rivera

@veeceebot/Twitter

Journalist and television personality Geraldo Rivera was born to a Puerto Rican father and a mother of Russian-Jewish descent. He was raised “mostly Jewish” and had a Bar Mitzvah ceremony. Rivera affectionately describes himself as “Jew-Rican”.

9. Bruno Mars

@BrunoMars/Twitter

Bruno Mars was born in Hawaii to a father of mixed Puerto Rican and Ashkenazi Jewish descent, while his mother is Filipino. Mars has referred to his ethnicity as existing in a “gray zone” of neither black nor white. Of his ethnicity, Mars has said: “I hope people of color can look at me, and they know that everything they’re going through, I went through. I promise you.”

10. Sara Paxton

@sarapaxtonorg/Twitter

Sara Paxton was born to Lucia Menchaca Zuckerman and Steve Paxton in Los Angeles. Paxton’s mother was originally from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, where she was raised in a Jewish family. Paxton’s father has since converted to Judaism.

11. Cecilia Roth

@lachechuroth/Twitter

Acclaimed Argentine actress and “muse” of Pedro Almodóvar, Cecilia Roth was born to parents Abrasha Rotenberg and Dina Gutkin in Buenos Aires. Like many European Jews in the 1930s, Roth’s father fled Europe to escape the rising tide of anti-Antisemitism.

12. Vanessa Hidary

@faceitfoto/Instagram

Vanessa Hidary is a Nuyorican slam-poet who has appeared on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” and starred in her own one-woman traveling show. Her work focuses on her status as a Puerto-Rican Jew, or as she likes to call it, a “Hebrew Mamita”. She’s been candid about how she likes to embrace and perform both sides of her identity.

13. Eduardo Saverin

@business/Twitter

Facebook co-founder, tech entrepreneur and multi-billionaire Eduardo Luiz Saverin was born in São Paulo, Brazil to a wealthy Jewish family. In 1993, the Saverin family immigrated to Miami. Interestingly enough, he was portrayed by the British actor Andrew Garfield in the acclaimed movie “The Social Network”.

14. Jamie-Lynn Sigler

@thesopranosquotes/Instagram

Known for her role as the spoiled daughter Meadow on “The Sopranos”, Jamie-Lynn Sigler was born to a Cuban mother and a Jewish father. Sigler’s mother converted to Judaism upon marrying Sigler’s father. Sigler has revealed that being raised Jewish, she both attended Hebrew school and had a bat mitzvah.

15. Joaquin Phoenix

@LealyBodin/Twitter

Joaquin Phoenix was born in Puerto Rico to a Jewish mother and a (lapsed) Catholic father. At the time, his parents were acting as missionaries for the cult “Children of God”. Phoenix’s father currently lives in Costa Rica. Of his Latino roots, Phoenix says, “I do like Spanish culture…I like to practice my Spanish when I am working with any actor who speaks Spanish or with members of the crew”.

16. Don Francisco

@mandyfridmann/Instagram

Cultural stalwart and host of Univision’s “Sábado Gigante”, Don Francisco was born in Chile to German-Jewish immigrants who fled their home country to escape the Nazi regime.

17. Gabe Saporta

@gabesapcrta/Twitter

Cobra Starship lead singer Gabe Saporta was born in Uruguay to a Jewish family. Like many of the entries on this list, Saporta’s grandparents fled Europe during the WWII era to escape anti-antisemitism. His Instagram bio currently reads “I was a terror since the hebrew school era” and he frequently interacts with fans on the account in Spanish.

18. Joanna Hausmann

@joannahausmann/Twitter

Joanna Hausmann is Venezuelan-American comedian, Youtuber, and TV personality. Hausmann is the daughter of Venezuelan intellectual and Harvard professor Ricardo Hausmann and CNN en Español host, Ana Julia Jatar. Hausmann has a series of videos called “Joanna Rants” on Flama where she covers a variety of issues affecting Latindad–from differences in accents to cultural stereotyping.

19. Kayla Maisonet

@kaymais/Instagram

Known for playing the sporty sister in Disney Channel’s “Stuck in the Middle”, Kayla Masionet is a biracial actress of Puerto Rican and Russian-Jewish descent. On dealing with criticism in the industry, Maisonet has revealed that she chooses to embrace what makes her different as opposed to “conform[ing] to what people say I should do”.

A New Exhibition Will Unveil The Rocky Relationship Between Frida Kahlo And Diego Rivera

Entertainment

A New Exhibition Will Unveil The Rocky Relationship Between Frida Kahlo And Diego Rivera

An exhibition on the esteemed Mexican artists, lovers, and icons Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is coming to North Carolina. On October 26, the North Carolina Museum of Art will open the Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. The anticipated exhibition will include paintings, drawings, photography and film that aims to capture the 20th century artists’ bodies of work as well as their friendships and conflicts with political figures and their own impassioned and tumultuous personal relationships.

“Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection will emphasize a remarkable chapter in art history that is at once Mexican and global,” museum director Valerie Hillings told the ArtfixDaily, a publication covering curated art news.

Today, their tempestuous relationship is as famous as some of the artists’ most popular works. 

fridakahlo / Instagram

Kahlo and Rivera met in June 1928 at a party thrown by photographer Tina Modotti. At the time, a young, bold Kahlo asked Rivera to look at her paintings to see if he thought that she had enough talent to succeed. Rivera, impressed by her work, later spoke about that encounter, saying, “It was obvious to me that this girl was an authentic artist.” The pair soon started a relationship, though Rivera was 20 years older than Kahlo and already had two common-law wives. It was the start to a messy, atypical romance.

Marrying at a civil ceremony at the town hall of Coyoacán in 1929, despite the disapproval of Kahlo’s mother, their marriage included immense heartbreak. 

fridakahlo / Instagram

Over the years, the couple experienced and fought over everything from failed abortions and miscarriages to ailing physical health, to extra-marital affairs, including same-gender relationships from the gender-bending Kahlo. In 1939, the couple even divorced, only to remarry a year later with little change in their passionate yet rocky affair. Aside from the infidelity, rage, and distress that brewed in their personal relationship, the pair was often also at odds with political leaders as well. As communists, the revolutionary nature of Rivera’s murals, as well as Kahlo’s self-portraits and party affiliations, often put them at odds with political and religious leaders.

“Diego Rivera’s personality, politics, and monumental, social realist murals made him a celebrity during his lifetime. While he once overshadowed his equally talented wife, Frida Kahlo’s fame has far outstripped her husband’s in the years since her death,” Hillings added.

The pieces presented at the exhibition come from the long-time collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman. According to ArtfixDaily, the Gelmans became Mexican citizens in 1942 and at the time started amassing Mexican art. Their collection includes Mexican modernists, like Kahlo and Rivera, who became friends with the Gelmans, as well as their compatriots Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros and more. 

The exhibition was organized by the Vergel Foundation and MondoMostre in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura (INBAL). It is a joint project between the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions. It includes research from the Ann and Jim Goodnight/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.

The North Carolina Museum of Art is presenting the exhibition alongside the Luces y Sombras: Images of Mexico | Photographs from the Bank of America Collection. 

Together, the fall exhibitions “celebrate these artists’ culture of origin as well as the diverse sources of influence they drew upon in creating their distinctive oeuvres,” Hillings said.

While the museum is commemorating the famed Mexican couple, not everyone is excited about the pair’s legacy. The fall exhibition comes weeks after the new U.S. ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau criticized Kahlo for her support of Marxism, stirring controversy on social media. The ambassador, who was appointed by President Donald Trump and sworn in last month, took to Twitter last week after visiting the late Kahlo’s home, La Casa Azul, in Mexico City.

“I admire her free and bohemian spirit, and she rightly became an icon of Mexico around the whole world. What I do not understand is her obvious passion for Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism. Didn’t she know about the horrors committed in the name of that ideology?” he wrote in Spanish. 

His comments immediately drew backlash from thousands of people.

fridakahlo / Instagram

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection runs at the North Carolina Museum of Art through January 19, 2020. To recognize the native language and cultural heritage of the artists in the exhibition, gallery information will be provided in both English and Spanish.

Tickets are already available for members but will be sold to nonmembers starting on September 17. 

Read: US Ambassador Insults Mexican Icon Frida Kahlo And Mexicans Clapped Back

US Ambassador Insults Mexican Icon Frida Kahlo And Mexicans Clapped Back

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US Ambassador Insults Mexican Icon Frida Kahlo And Mexicans Clapped Back

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Relations between the US and Mexico haven’t exactly been super warm over the last few years. Thanks, in part, to Trump’s often inhumane (and likely illegal) policies targeting migrants, many Mexicans don’t have the greatest impression of the US right now.

Although the working relationship between Trump and his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, hasn’t suffered too much – at least not publicly – that could all change after a recent gaffe by the recently appointed US Ambassador to Mexico.

The ambassador was touring the famous Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s longtime home, when he shared some choice words about the iconic Mexican artist.

The newly appointed United States ambassador to Mexico has caused a fierce social media debate after taking aim at iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo for her “passion for Marxism”.

Following a visit on Sunday to Kahlo’s house, which has been turned into a museum after her death in 1954, Cristopher Landau sent out a tweet asking if the acclaimed artist had not been aware of atrocities committed in the name of that ideology.

“I admire her free and bohemian spirit, and she rightly became an icon of Mexico around the whole world,” the US ambassador, who assumed office last month, wrote in Spanish. He then added “What I do not understand is her obvious passion for Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism. Didn’t she know about the horrors committed in the name of that ideology?”

The ambassador basically tried to mansplain the politics of Marxism and Leninism.

In a now viral tweet, the ambassador questioned her political views and whether she truly understood the meaning behind them. Many Mexicans, and people around the world, rightfully took offense to that.

Frida Kahlo was a very political person who was very engaged in the Mexican political scene. She was well tuned in to the inner workings of Communism and Marxism, so for this man to question this powerful woman’s understanding of politics rubbed many people the wrong way.

So what were Frida Kahlo’s political beliefs?

Frida was both a feminist and a socialist. She was a trailblazer not just for women, but for LGBTI people and people with disabilities. After a tram accident changed the course of her life, she struggled with and embraced her multiple identities, which can be seen in her self-portraits, making up the bulk of her work.

Frida joined the Mexican Communist Party when she was in her 20s but left when her husband Diego Rivera, also a famous artist, was expelled. After the expulsion, Frida and Diego went to the US, and it was here that they began associating with the Left Opposition headed by Leon Trotsky.

Mexicans flooded Twitter with some pretty savage responses to the ambassador’s insult.

His tweet prompted fury from Mexicans online.

Many criticised the US or its long history of interfering in the internal affairs of Latin America and other countries around the globe, often to counter socialist governments.

“In the name of fighting that ideology, the US killed children in Vietnam by bombing entire villages and supporting dictatorships throughout Latin America,” said one Twitter user.

Many Mexicans blasted the US for its long history of interfering in the internal affairs of Latin America and other countries around the globe, often to counter socialist governments.

“How many deaths have caused by US interventions? Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Vietnam, Korea, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Operation Condor … and we don’t talk about the extermination of Native Americans or the economy of slavery,” A Fuertes wrote on Twitter. 

Another user on Twitter wrote: “In the name of fighting that ideology, the US killed children in Vietnam by bombing entire villages and supporting dictatorships throughout Latin America,” said user @Quetzalcoaltl1.

Even the Mexican Communist party got in on the debate.

The Mexican Communist Party weighed into the debate, saying: “Ambassador Landau, Comrade Frida was consistent with humanism, the search for democracy and freedom of Mexico’s workers and people, and therefore she was a Marxist-Leninist, and of course Stalin’s admirer. Don’t show your ignorance any more, imitating Trump.”

While some shared her works paired with her quotes showing what she really thought when it came to politics and life.

For many, simply holding Marxist and Leninist views doesn’t equal negative politics. For many, those political views offer hope and signify community, respect, and society.