‘Flamin’ Hot’ Sizzles With Latino Perseverance
It’s been a week since “Flamin’ Hot” made its streaming debut on Hulu and Disney+, and the reviews are sizzling.
In the first three days since its release, the film became the most-watched streaming premiere for Searchlight Pictures. It has screened at the White House and resonated with audiences worldwide.
The inspiring story, directed by Eva Longoria, features the story of Richard Montañez. Growing up in a poor Mexican immigrant family, Montañez, who started out as a janitor at Frito Lay, became a business executive, author and alleged creator of the Flamin’ Hot products.
For Latinos, the story goes further than your typical zero-to-hero film. It’s a portrait of how, despite the multi-generational struggle faced by our community, we keep moving forward and showing the world que si se puede.
Here’s how “Flamin’ Hot” honored Latinos and broke the mold.
“Flamin’ Hot” marked Eva Longoria’s directorial debut
“Flamin’ Hot” has broken the mold in more ways than one. Let’s start with Eva Longoria’s directorial debut. Admitting to not knowing about the story of Richard Montañez until she read the script, Longoria knew it was worth telling.
“I was like, ‘How do I not know this? He’s Mexican American like me. I love Flamin’ Hot,'” she told Yahoo Entertainment. “So it was like the flavor you knew but the story you didn’t, and so I was immediately inspired, and I thought, ‘Everybody should know this story. There are so many lessons we can learn from his life.'”
While Frito Lay has disputed the validity of the claim that Montañez invented the spicy line of products, Longoria asserts this is not the story about Flamin’ Hot Cheetos but of the Mexican American man behind it.
“People think it’s about the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, but it’s about the life of Richard Montañez,” the star told Australia’s “Today” show. “He came up with this brilliant idea to put chili on chips for the Hispanic market, and today Flamin’ Hot is the No. 1 snack in the world, and it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry that transcends snacks.”
The movie is just the start of Longoria’s directorial aspirations. In an interview with Variety, she said she had seldom felt as passionate about a project as she did with this one.
A film stamped with the seal of Latino perseverance
Aside from Longoria’s directorial debut and an ensemble cast featuring some of the best Latinx actors in Hollywood, at the heart of “Flamin’ Hot” lives a story of perseverance.
Latinos know the feeling of being marginalized and treated differently simply for our roots. The story of Richard Montañez is, after all, one we can all relate to.
Montañez had a rough childhood, growing up in a migrant labor camp in Guasti, California. He lived in a one-bedroom apartment with multiple siblings and his parents, later dropping out of school to work as a laborer.
Even as a child, though, perseverance shone through Montañez. As seen in the movie, he turned his bullies at school into burrito lovers, with his classmates paying him 25 cents a pop. However, the injustices of racial inequality and profiling led him to delinquency. He was selling drugs, stealing, and getting arrested several times before he got a gig at Frito Lay as a janitor.
We won’t ruin the movie for you, but what came after was several years of breaking through the status quo, even to get his ideas heard. An idea that, by the way, led him to become one of the most important pieces of Frito Lay’s marketing department.
“We were never telling the history of the Cheeto. That would not be a very interesting movie. I’m doing the story of Richard Montañez, who happened to have a hand in creating the No. 1 snack in the world, which is a billion-dollar brand,” Longoria told People.
Adding, “Nobody knew this market better than Richard. He’s more known as the godfather of Hispanic marketing than the creator of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos because he was the first person to go…’My community is not being spoken to. So you guys should speak to them, and they’ll show up.’ And he was right.”
Latinos are the heroes of their own American dreams
I don’t know about you, but my heart sings whenever a Latino show or film is created. Seeing examples of ourselves showcased in the stories we watch is pivotal for our community. Especially when those stories share our successes.
“Flamin’ Hot” is a story that shows us that Latinos are the heroes of their own American dreams. Our families leave everything behind in search of better opportunities for better generations, and when one of us makes it, all of us make it.
The truth is films like “Flamin’ Hot” are changing the narrative. They’re showing the world how immigrants are an integral part of the community and how our contributions matter and make a difference.
“For this movie, it’s about us and for us and by us,” Longoria told Yahoo Entertainment. “And I hope our own community shows up and goes, ‘Yes, we wanna see more of those.'”
We most definitely do.
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