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25 Times Latino Roles Were Unforgivably Whitewashed In Hollywood

It’s been decades since the first films hit the screen and a lot has changed. Images are sharper, in color and the same goes to some of the most mainstream movie storylines. These days, we’re getting more stories about people of color and some of them have even come to truly speak to experiences that make up non-white cultures. Still, despite all of the advances, Hollywood isn’t quite there yet when it comes to accurate portrayals of Latinos and other people of color. Particularly when it comes to whitewashing on the screen.

Here are 25 times Latinos roles were unforgivably whitewashed in Hollywood.

1. “The Mask of Zorro”

Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Mask of Zorro / TriStar Pictures

Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones was a completely unknown actress when she was first cast as Zorro’s love interest in “The Mask of Zorro.” Despite the promising box-office values of well known Latinas like Shakira and Salma Hayek, Zeta- Jones got the part. Zeta-Jones ultimately reprised her role as the Mexican beauty in the film’s sequel, “The Legend of Zorro.”

Shout out to Anthony Hopkins for appropriating another role as a person of color (we’re looking at you “The Human Stain”)

2. “West Side Story”

Natalie Wood in West Side Story / United Artists

When it comes to whitewashing, this cinematic classic is guilty of many offenses. The film, which tells the story of rival street gangs earned Latina icon Rita Moreno an Academy Award. Still, we’re gonna give this one an F  for it’s largely white casting when it came to its Latino characters. Not only was the role of Maria given to white American actress Natalie Wood, but the role of her brother Bernado, was given to Greek actor George Chakiris. Also, various members of the cast were put in brown face (including Moreno) to appear “more Hispanic”.

3. “Scarface”

Al Pacino in Scarface / Universal Pictures

Italian actor took on the role of a Cuban drug kingpin. The whitewashing is truly shamefull and embarrassing, but arguably not as bad as the actors horrible attempt at a Cuban accent.

4. “The Birdcage”

Hank Azaria in The Birdcage / United Artists

Hank Azaria has family on both sides come from Thessaloniki a Spanish Jewish community from Greece. Still, he doesn’t identify as Latino, but despite this he sure felt comfortable enough to portray one in the 1996 comedy “The Birdcage.” In the film, Azaria plays a gay, Guatemalan housekeeper named Agador Spartacus, its a role that earned him a Screen Actors Guilde Award nomination and quite a bit of acclaim.

5. “The House of Spirits “

Glen Close and Meryl Streep in “The House of Spirits ” / Miramax Films

The on-screen adaptation of Isabel Allende’s novel The House of the Spirits is also guilty of complete white washing. Even though the book’s characters are from Chile, the film’s creators chose to not only cast non-Latina actor Meryl Streep, they piled on actors Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close and Winona Ryder in the main roles too.

6. “Evita”

Madonna in Evita / Buena Vista Pictures

We love Madonna, but even we have to admit that casting her as First Lady of Argentina, Eva Perón, was blasphemy. Sorry Hollywood, casting Antonio Banderas in the film doesn’t make up for this.

7. “The Mambo Kings”

Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas in The Mambo Kings / Warner Bros.

Oscar Hijuelos book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love earned the Cuban-American writer a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It had so much potential to be a hit film, then the adapters of the film tapped Armand Assante, another non-Latino, as the lead role. Once again, Spanish actor Antonio Banderas played second fiddle to a non-Latino lead.

8. “Alive”

Ethan Hawke in Alive / Buena Vista Pictures

The true story of an Uruguayan rugby team who had survived a plane crash in the Andes mountains was portrayed in the 1993 film “Alive.” In real life, soccer player Nando Parrado, relieved the team by going on a 10 day hike out of the mountains to get help. Ethan Hawke took on the role.

9. “Before Night Falls”

Johnny Depp in Before Night Falls / Fine Line Features

Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas’ memoir Before Night Falls, was made into a film adaption in 2000. Johnny Depp took on the role of two Cuban characters including as a drag queen.

10. “The Big Lebowski”

John Turturro in The Big Lebowski / Gramercy Pictures

In 1988, Italian-American actor John Turturro famously played Cuban-American Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski. Apparently, the actor wants to play Jesus in a spin-off focused on the Latino character.

11. “La Bamba”

Lou Diamond Phillips in La Bamba / Lou Diamond Phillips

Mexican-American musician Ritchie Valens is widely praised as is a pioneer of Chicano rock. The biopic on his life “La Bamba” chronicle his life, career, and death. Still, creators chose to pick Lou Diamond Phillips for the iconic role.

12. “Argo”

Ben Affleck in Argo / Warner Bros. Pictures

“Argo” is based on the true story and efforts of CIA operative and Mexican-American, Antonio J. Mendez. During a 1980s Iranian hostage situation, Mendez helped orchestrate the rescue of six American. The director, Ben Affleck, cast himself as Mendez and ultimately went on to win The Academy Award for Best Picture.

13. “A Beautiful Mind”

Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind / Universal Pictures

“A Beautiful Mind” is a movie based on mathematician John Nash’s life and career as well as his marriage to Alicia Lardé. In real life, Alicia was a Salvadorian MIT student. In the movie however, she was played by Jennifer Connelly who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film 2001.

14. “The 33”

Juliette Binoche in The 33 / Warner Bros. Pictures

“The 33” tells the true story of 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped underground for 69 days. It also portrays the efforts of Maria Segovia, a woman who had in real life, fought to keep Chilean family members informed about the status of their trapped family members. Segovia was Chilean but portrayed by French actress, Juliette Binoche.

15. “American Drug Lord”

Charlie Hunnam in Sons of Anarchy / 20th Television

British actor, Charlie Hunnam, got quite a bit of attention a couple of years ago when it had been announced that he had accepted a part  in the film “American Drug Lord” as Edgar Valdez Villarreal. The Mexican-American drug lord had been given the nick name “La Barbie” for his blue eyes and blonde hair, and he was Latino. Many believe Hunnam’s casting of the role was still a complete injustice.

16. “Drive”

Carey Mulligan in Drive / FilmDistrict

In the movie, Carey Mulligan plays a woman named Irene. In the book, character is based off of a Latina named Irina.

17. “Casa de Mi Padre”

Will Ferrell in Casa de Mi Padre / Pantelion Films

There’s no doubting the fact that Casa de Mi Padre  was meant to be a spoof. Still, watching Will Ferrel play Armando Álvarez with the manner of a Latino stereotype still killed us.

18. “Power Rangers”

Elizabeth Banks in Power Ranges / Lionsgate
Saban Films

Fans were pumped when they learned the “Power Rangers” film would include iconic villain, Rita Repulsa— a character typically portrayed by Japanese or Latina actresses. They were pretty bummed when they learned Elizabeth Banks had been given the role.

19. “Nacho Libre”

Jack Black in Nacho Libre / Paramount Pictures

So this was another spoof but its whitewashing still isn’t likely to be forgiven. In the film, Nacho is based off of Fray Tormenta, a Mexican Catholic priest who had a decades long career as a masked luchador. Shamefully it was played by Jack Black.

20. “Touch Of Evil”

Charles Heston in Touch of Evil / Universal International

This classic Orson Welles film has been harked as masterpiece for decades. Still, we’re hardly impressed by Charles Heston’s odd portrayal of Mexican DEA agent,  Miguel Vargas.

21. “Hell To Eternity”

Charles Heston in Hell to Eternity / Universal International

Actor Jeffrey Hunter took on the role of  Guy Gabaldon, who in real life was Mexican. Vom.

22. “A Mighty Heart”

Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart / Paramount Vantage

Of course we love Angelina Jolie. Still, her decision to take on the role of Mariane Pearl, a French-born woman whose Cuban mother was of Afro-Chinese descent was not good.

23. “Spotlight”

Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight / Open Road Films

The biographical film “Spotlight” starred Mark Ruffalo playing Michael Rezendes, a Boston Globe reporter. The film won an Academy Award for Best Picture as well as an award for  Best Original Screenplay.

24. “Fiesta”

Actress Esther Williams played Mexican bullfighter Maria Morales.

25. “The Godmother”

Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Godmother / Lifetime

Of course, we had to sneak in one more Catherine Zeta-Jones pic. Her role in the Lifetime biopic about drug lord Griselda Blanco had the internet troubled.


Read: Here’s Why The Women Of Costa Rica Dressed As Characters From ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

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