Things That Matter

13 Hollywood Movies That Misrepresented Latin America (and why it matters)

There is no way around it: representation matters in popular culture. How a country or a society is portrayed in film and television helps in shaping the audience’s perception in terms of issues such as race, gender, sexual orientation and social class. Representation is particularly important for Latinos in the United States, as everyday life is affected by stereotypes and misconceptions of who we are.

READ: Hollywood Does Latin America: 21 Movies Shot South Of The Border

Hollywood has often been the culprit of showing Latin American countries as either exotic banana republics rife with crime, booze, dictators and Carmen Miranda-looking women, or as picturesque underdeveloped nations. Save from Pixar’s Coco and a few other notable examples, the US film industry needs to do a better job when it comes to portraying its neighbors south of the border.

Here’s 13 infamous examples:

1. Touch of Evil (1958)

Credit: Touch of Evil. Digital image. Film Comment.

For all its cinematic achievements, Orson Welles’ film noir fails in representing the border town of Tijuana as a complex city. In the film, Mexico is basically a playground for Americans, a lawless wasteland populated by crooks, illegal activities and wicked women. Cultural elements such as bullfighting are exaggerated in order to provide audiences with a more exotic flavor. 

Credit: Tijuana B.C. / Quora

2. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Credit: The Serpent and the Rainbow. /  Digital image. Screen Goblin.


Haiti is often forgotten when discussing Latin America, but the Caribbean nation is part of our continent. This horror film directed by Wes Craven shows Haiti as a primitive place where superstition, zombies and black magic are normal in the everyday. This is a highly damaging portrayal that involves an extra layer of racism. We wonder if Craven would have been able to make this film in today’s political climate. 

Credit: The Iron Market, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti /  SMA Inverted

3. Three Amigos (1986)

Credit: Three Amigos. / Digital image. Just Watch.


Let’s be honest: this comedy directed by John Landis is very funny at times… but that doesn’t make it right. Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short portray a trio of actors who are mistaken for the saviors of a Mexican village, the insultingly named Santo Poco. Every single stereotype is there: the mariachi suits, El Guapo, the dusty landscape, the tequila and the siestas. Speedy Gonzalez would be proud.

Credit: Mexico City, Mexico / Visit Mexico

4. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004)

Credit: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. / Digital image. Daily News. April 18 2017.

This film takes us to pre-revolution Cuba, where an all-American girl meets a poor waiter who happens to be a master salsa dancer. The movie ticks all the boxes when stereotyping the island. Plus, Mexican actor Diego Luna can’t really dance!

Credit: La Havana, Cuba / PandoTrip

5. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Credit: Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Digital Image. PopBuzz.


Every single Latin American city is hot and humid and sensual, right? Well, that is what Doug Liman must have thought when he shot some scenes of the Brangelina extravaganza that are supposedly set in Bogotá. Problem is, the city is depicted as a tropical paradise where sweaty gringos get their latino groove on the dance floor. The Colombian capital is actually super cold, and much more European-looking than what the Liman eye candy fest makes us believe.

Credit: Bogotá, Colombia / Skyticket

6. Turistas (2006)

Credit: Turistas. Digital image. Horror Freak News.


This gory horror film rehashes a constant narrative in Hollywood scripts: innocent white characters visit an “exotic” country and are robbed and killed by the savage locals. In Turistas, a group of gringo backpackers find heaven in the Brazilian coast, but suddenly see themselves dragged into a hellish nightmare. As trashy as it gets.

Credit: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil /  Miramar Hotel by Windsor, TripAdvisor

7. The Heartbreak Kid (2007)

Credit: The Heartbreak Kid. FancyCreativeAnemonecrab-mobile. Digital image. Movieclips.


Besides being incredibly misogynist, this heartless comedy starring Ben Stiller is borderline racist. Stiller is Eddie, a man who proposes to a woman who reveals her true colors (frankly, she is alright, it is Stiller’s character who is a freak) on a trip to Cabo in Mexico. The country is shown as a mariachi-populated resort for gringos, totally devoid of character. Frankly insulting.

Credit: Cabo San Lucas, México / Hilton Hotels

8. Love in the Time of Cholera (2007)

Credit: Love in the Time of Cholera. Digital image. Alchetron.


British filmmaker Mike Newell, fresh from directing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire just two years prior, adapted the beloved novel by Gabriel García Márquez using every possible stereotype of Colombia. Colorful, busy and festive, Colombia is presented like a caricature that feels fake in every frame. The worst bit: Spanish-speaking actors like Javier Bardem… do their dialogue in English! 

Credit: Medellín, Colombia / Alcaldía de Medellín

9. Quantum of Solace (2008)

Credit: Quantum of Solace. Digital image. Little White Lies.


It is common practice in Hollywood to use a location outside of the country where the action is supposedly taking place. Sometimes, as is in the case in this James Bond adventure, this decision had grave political implications. The story is supposed to take place in the Bolivian desert, but the producers decided to shoot in Northern Chile due to budget issues. Problem is that region was annexed from Bolivia, so the filming of the 007 adventure brought back grudged between the nations.  

Credit: Baquedano Station and Railway Museum, Antofagasta, Chile / Digital Journal.

10. Fast Five (2011)

Credit: Fast Five. Digital image. The Sapphire Report.

Most of the plot of the fifth installment in the high-speed Fast & Furious franchise is supposed to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. However, only some key scenes were actually shot in the country. The rest was shot… in Puerto Rico! Well, well, well… it seems that for Hollywood producers any Latino-looking country will do. Mal hecho, Hollywood. 

Credit: Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / Metropolis

11. The Expendables (2010)

Credit: The Expendables. Digital image. CineSnob.


The first movie in the Sylvester Stallone hypermasculine saga follows a group of American mercenaries to an unnamed South American country. Once there, the white saviors try to free the locals from the iron fist rule of a dictator. Of course, this dictator is modeled after the late Hugo Chavez. This essentialist view of a whole continent is harmful.  

Credit: Hugo Chávez / La Prensa

12. Runner Runner (2013) 

Credit: Runner Runner. Preview shot. Digital image. YouTube.


This movie deals with the rise of the online casino industry in Costa Rica. Ben Affleck portrays a casino mogul who rules over the Central American country, which is shown as basically a cantina full of thugs, where women are only secondary characters. Costa Rica is rarely shown in Hollywood movies, and it is a shame that its 15 minutes of fame presented it as a cesspool of corruption and not as the peaceful and beautiful country that it is.

Credit: Rio Celeste, Costa Rica / The Costa Rica Star

13. Spectre (2015)

Credit: Spectre. Digital image. YouTube. April 7 2016.


This action flick follows Bond, James Bond in an international pursuit of criminal mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The film opens in Mexico City during a Disney-like extravagant Day of the Death parade, full of ordinary people dressed as calacas. Problem is, Mexico City had never organized a parade like that, which was the Hollywood treatment of a tradition engrained in the Mexican psyche. Since then, city authorities decided to hold their own 007-like parade

Credit: All Souls Procession, Tucson, Mexico / VisitTucson

Eva Mendes Said She Hasn’t Acted In Years Because She Isn’t Settling For Roles She’s Not Proud Of

Entertainment

Eva Mendes Said She Hasn’t Acted In Years Because She Isn’t Settling For Roles She’s Not Proud Of

evamendes / Instagram

This year’s Golden Globes awards were a complete letdown for a variety of reasons. Aside from the typical #SoWhite nonsense and long speeches, people were astonished at the lack of Latinas on the red carpet. We counted four: Jennifer Lopez, Ana de Armas, Sofia Vergara, and Salma Hayek. Depressing right? We know there are more Latinas in Hollywood, but where are they? At least one of the most recognized Latina actresses is explaining why she hasn’t acted in years. 

A fan recently asked Eva Mendes on Instagram when she’ll be in a new movie. Mendes responded by saying she won’t settle for any project partly because of her daughters. 

Credit: evamendes / Instagram

On Jan. 7, Mendes responded to a fan on Instagram when she asked her,  “When the fans going to see u in some new movies?” Mendes told her kindly that she isn’t offered roles that are good enough for her. 

“Hi! When there’s something worthwhile to be a part of,” she wrote on Instagram. “As a mother now, there are many roles I won’t do. There are many subject matters that I don’t want to be involved with, so it limits my choices, and I’m fine with that. I have to set an example for my girls now. But no worry, I got some side hustles. Ha! Thanks for asking. All the best for 2020.”

Mendes’s most recent role was the 2014 film Lost River directed and written by her baby daddy, Ryan Gosling. Things certainly changed for Mendes when she met Gosling in 2011.

The two first met while filming the 2012 movie, “The Place Beyond the Pines.” There was no denying the chemistry between the two in “The Place Beyond the Pines.” It was an extraordinary film about a Luke (Gosling) who doubles as a bank robber and motorcyclist. He meets Romina (Mendes), the two fall in love, and have a baby. Domestic life isn’t for Luke, and he cannot escape his crime-ridden life. We won’t give any spoilers, but it truly felt like we were witnessing a real-life love story.

Mendes is now the mother of two girls and has gone on to launch her fashion collection with New York & Company and has been busy with that for several years now.

Credit: evamendes / Instagram

While Mendes continues to lead a pretty private life with Gosling and her daughters, her fashion collection has been successful. She has also said that her partner has been very encouraging and proud of her work as a designer. 

“Ryan is incredibly supportive, and he’s always in awe,” Mendes told People magazine last year. “He makes me realize that [making the collection] is actually a lot of work. I have so much fun doing it that I don’t really realize.”

She also added that her in-laws and her family are extremely helpful to her as she develops each collection. 

“Ryan’s mom, Ryan’s sister, my mom, my sisters, my grandma are all my fashion guinea pigs,” Mendes told the magazine. “Nobody is going to be more honest than family, and our family is very honest. It’s something I really appreciate because when designing something, you need real feedback.”

Yet, still, with her success as a fashion designer, we cannot help miss Mendes as an actor. Remember her in “Training Day”?

Her role as Sara opposite Denzel Washington was so intense and incredibly raw. We can see why she would hesitate to be in certain kinds of characters, especially if the part calls for nudity or vulgar language. The role of Sara is also one that we have seen often, which is the stereotypical Latina as a single mother, living in the projects. That has been played out. That movie, however, was how we first learned of Mendes. 

She stretched her comedy chops in “The Other Guys” in 2010 alongside Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. 

That movie was hilarious, and she was amusing as the wife of Will Ferrell. Then again, that role was of a sexy (but smart) Latina who could whip of a home-cooked meal and be stunning all at the same time. Mendes can play the ultimate woman because she is a lot of ways. However, we understand she wants to break away from that notion that all Latinas are curvy, sexy, and feisty. 

Her Instagram is always active, so it makes us feel like Mendes hasn’t gone anywhere.

Credit: evamendes / Instagram

But we still miss you on the big screen, Eva. Come back!!

READ: Here Are 9 Latinos Who Have Become Triple Threats In The Entertainment Industry

In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative

Entertainment

In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative

beatrizacevedogreiff Verified

On the same day that many pointed criticism towards the Oscar nominations for lack of diversity, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a new initiative to help curb the issue, particularly for Latinos. The project is being called LA Collab, a historic endeavour that plans to link Latino talent to opportunities in the entertainment industry with the goal of doubling “Latino representation in Hollywood by 2030.”

According to the LA Times, the initiative has already “raised a quarter of a million dollars to finance a range of film, TV and podcast development deals and projects intended to provide opportunities for Latino filmmakers, writers and actors and crew members.” The initial funding for the project is coming from the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, the Annenberg Foundation, WarnerMedia and Endeavor Content, a press release from Garcetti’s office read. 

Garcetti co-founded the initiative with Beatriz Acevedo, the founder of mitú and president of the Acevedo Foundation and Ivette Rodriguez, founder of communications firm AEM. The trio says that the issue of Latino representation in Hollywood is one that needs attention. The announcement is spurred by a 2019 study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California that showed how Latinos are vastly underrepresented in the film industry. 

Despite making up almost 20 percent of the U.S. population, the study found only 3 percent of the top-grossing films from 2007 to 2018 had Latino actors in lead or co-lead roles. LA Collab wants to help and push more Latinos to the front and behind the camera in the next decade. 

The study was a wakeup call for many civic and film leaders in Hollywood that were dismayed by the numbers that showed the growing disparity for Latinos in the entertainment industry. The report showed that only 4.5 percent of all speaking characters from the last 12 years of film were Latino, behind the camera, only 4 percent of directors of the 1,200 films were Latino.

“Latinos are a powerful force in Los Angeles’s culture and economy, and our trademark industry should tap into the diverse pool of talent in our own backyard,” Garcetti said at a news conference Monday. “On big screens or small, in front of the camera or behind it, our studios, actors, directors and producers inspire the world with the power of their creativity and imagination, and LA Collab will elevate new voices and empower the next generation of Latinx creatives.”

The lack of Latino representation in the entertainment industry is a problem that goes back many years with some putting blame on movie studios not greenlighting certain projects and films. Thomas Saenz, chair of the National Latino Media Council, told mitú back in 2018 that the problem is these studios overlooking Latino talent.

“When studios focus on diversity that can mean any minority group. Latinos in particular have been represented in minuscule numbers that don’t properly show what this country is made up of,” Saenz said. “In the last 10-15 years, African-American representation has gone up same for Asian-American. But I can’t say the same for Latinos. That has to change.”

The LA Collab initiative hopes to be a catalyst for that change. The project already has the support of some big Hollywood names that will be part of connecting workers with various employers in the industry.

Backed by Eva Longoria, J.J. Abrams, Eli Roth, Devon Franklin, Jason Blum, and Zoe Saldana, LA Collab will be working with all of them in some capacity to connect Latinos with opportunities. Roth will help connect Latino horror filmmakers via his digital platform, Crypt TV and Lionsgate’s Pantelion Films with Pantaya will also be hiring new bilingual voices for their projects. There have also been secured deals with multiple media companies, including Endeavor Content, WarnerMedia’s 150, Shine Global and Southern California Public Radio’s LAist Studios.

For Longoria, who has long championed the need for more Latino representation in the film industry, says that she will also be opening the door for more Latinos with her production company, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment. 

“As a Latina, I want to see more actors who look like me on screen and behind the camera,” Longoria said in a statement. “I started my own production company to create content from our community, and I became a director/producer to be in a position to hire people who look like me. With LA Collab, I want to open the door for many more Latinx creators and fuel the emergence of a better entertainment industry that elevates and celebrates the diversity and richness of my culture.”

The announcement of LA Collab coincidentally fell on the day that Oscar nominations were announced. Criticism followed the nominations that had only one person of color, Cynthia Erivo, up for an award in the four major acting categories.

There was calls for multiple snubs on Monday morning as the Oscar nominations were revealed. Much of that criticism came from the lack of women of color, particularly the snub of  Jennifer Lopez for her role in “Hustlers,” for which she won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. The omission stood out for many reasons including what could have been the fifth Latina nominee in the category and the first Latina winner in the award’s history. 

This announcement of LA Collab comes at a time when the disparity in Latino roles and representation is the entertainment industry only seems to be going backwards. This year’s Oscars nominations is just one example of this continuing problem and one that Acevedo says can be fixed by working alongside studios and fellow allies. 

“The radical decline of Latinos in Hollywood was the catalyst to rally Hollywood behind this crisis to create change together,” Acevedo said in a statement. “By facilitating unprecedented collaborations between the creative community … and other influential allies, LA Collab will ultimately drive exponential growth for the industry and our community.”

READ: Latinos Are Still Waiting For Their Own Movie Moment As Hollywood Tries Casting More Diverse Films