Mario Lopez May Code-Switch, But He Has Publicly Embraced His Mexican Roots For Years
Mario Lopez, 50, made headlines this week for speaking about his Latinidad in light of some people not realizing he is Mexican-American. Posting a video about being born to Mexican immigrant parents, the “Extra” host explained, “OK let’s set the record straight for the people in the back… I’m a Mexican-American actor [and] TV host with slang tendencies.”
The Chula Vista, California-born actor also described his confusion at people not knowing about his Mexican roots. “I’m trending on Twitter… and I was like, ‘Why? What did I do?'”
“Apparently it’s because people don’t think I’m Mexican. Is that a trip? With a name like Mario Lopez?”
The trending topic began when Lopez posted a TikTok video eating at Mariscos El Bigoton in Riverside, CA. Snacking on some amazing-looking ceviche de camarón, coctél de camarón, and a “presidente” taco, Lopez speaks bits of Spanish in the video while using phrases like, “These are fire.” He also refers to his friend next to him as “fool” and “homes.”
“I like the Guacamaya sauce,” Lopez proclaims, making the sign of the cross before he starts eating his tostada. “The jugo is good, the camarones are real big.” He later adds, “La salsa pica but it’s really good” while eating an impossibly crunchy shrimp taco dorado. One note: we could watch Lopez eating incredible Mexican food all day — where is his food show?!
TikTok users swiftly reacted to Lopez embracing his Mexican roots in the video. One person commented, “I’ve NEVER imagined Mario Lopez spoke any other way besides his TV news anchor voice.” Another agreed, “Mario Lopez is the prime example of using the Mickey Mouse voice during work hours 😂.” Where is the lie?!
Yet another laughed, “Why did i just find out that Mario Lopez sounds like all my primos and tios??? 🤣😂.” As one other fan put it — and we have to concur here — “Never thought I’d hear Mario Lopez say ‘Chorro time’ 😂.”
While many of the comments have us rolling on the floor, Mario Lopez has actually embraced his Mexican heritage for many years. We’re looking back at all the times the actor has publicly proclaimed his Culiacán and Tijuana roots — even once revealing how he witnessed his father help people cross the Mexican-United States border.
Mario Lopez has often embraced his Mexican roots, calling them “essential” to his identity
Speaking about all the buzz related to his Mexican heritage, Lopez explained in a video this week, “They’ve been thinking I’m everything from Italian to Hawaiian, but I’m not. It’s the weirdest thing.”
“I was born in Chula Vista, border town right there in Tijuana. My parents are from Culiacán, Sinaloa,” he said.
Lopez also theorized why some people are suddenly noting his Mexican roots. “I think it’s because I’ve been doing these food videos on social with my homies, and it’s a lot of Mexican food, a lot of mariscos.”
“I’m saying ‘fool’ and ‘homes’ and a lot of slang, just kind of being yourself,” he described. He also talked about having to code-switch on television. “I can’t be like that on ‘Access Hollywood’ or on my radio show. I’m trying to cash these checks. I can’t be sounding all hood like that.”
“But my whole circle is Mexicano,” he added.
While Lopez was born in Chula Vista, California, his mother is from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico and his father is from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. Born to immigrant parents, the “Saved by the Bell” actor once told PEOPLE that he grew up in “the hood.”
“When you’re growing up in the hood, everybody grows up fast,” he noted. The actor also told GQ more recently that “it was a pretty tough neighborhood.”
Back in 2014, Lopez wrote a memoir titled “Just Between Us” that delves into his Mexican heritage. It also shares an interesting story about his father helping people cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Watch Lopez also recall the situation on the “Ellen” show here:
Lopez told Ellen Degeneres in 2014, “I was born in Chula Vista which is the border town to Tijuana, and I’m a child of immigrants, and my dad did what he to do to take care of us.”
Recalling, “Oftentimes, when we’d take little trips across the border, and this was obviously pre-9/11. We’d come back right away. He’d pull over and he’d open the trunk and sometimes people would come out. I didn’t think much of it as a kid, but then I got older and it kind of dawned on me.”
Speaking to EFE in 2016, Lopez described, “My parents… are Mexican immigrants from Culiacán… From them, I learned about love for my family and the importance of working to achieve your dreams.”
“My roots have been essential because they inculcated in me the fact that family is the number one priority,” he told the outlet. Noting how he is teaching Spanish to his children, he said he would “certainly like” to do a Spanish TV or movie project.
The actor appeared on “Finding Your Roots” for a very special episode — and once said a curandera saved his life
Telling OK! Magazine he comes “from a big, loud Mexican Catholic family” more than a decade ago, it’s safe to say Lopez has spoken proudly of his heritage for years.
He also once opened up to SF Weekly about not having much on-screen Latino representation as a child. “Growing up, unfortunately, there weren’t too many on-screen visually on-screen for me to look up to, other than Desi Arnaz or Ricardo Montalbán.”
By 1984, Lopez was cast as a performer on “Kids Incorporated,” and gave life to character A.C. Slater on “Saved by the Bell” in 1989. However, not seeing much Latino representation in movies and television made him look to TV reporters instead — surely inspiring him later in life while hosting “Extra” and “Access Hollywood.”
Lopez explained to the outlet, “I used to see a lot of local newsmen, anchormen, and they were important to the community, and I sort of wanted to do that.”
Describing how “inspiring” his friends like Eva Longoria and Sofia Vergara are, he added, “We’ve come a long way.” He also talked about what he loves about his Latinidad: “I think being Latino is a beautiful thing all the way around. The people are warm, they’re hardworking, they’re proud.”
“They embrace their culture, they’re about family, faith — and I celebrate all of those things. I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he asserted. And about Latino representation on-screen, Lopez was quite clear: “There aren’t that many Latinos telling those stories, and I think it needs to come from an authentic place.”
Lopez even appeared on the show “Finding Your Roots” last year to dive into his ancestors’ stories, finding out more about his grandfather’s immigration story:
The actor learned that his Mexican grandfather, Luciano Lopez Burgos, was a farmworker north of Los Angeles in 1952. He did not have a visa and was detained and returned to Mexico just one month later. By 1957, though, Lopez’s grandfather applied for U.S. citizenship, entering the country on foot.
After hearing the story for the first time, Lopez said: “That’s awesome. That’s really cool… I can’t wait to show my dad.” Agreeing he is grateful for his grandfather’s efforts, he described, “I’m anxious to show the family. It makes you kind of proud.”
Even more, Lopez even revealed on “Pardon My Take” once that he may owe his life to a Mexican curandera. He recalled how his father once took him to a “Mexican witch doctor” to cure a mysterious ailment he had as a baby.
“When I was little, my stomach wasn’t fully formed or something. I was born eight-and-a-half [pounds] and I whittled down to four [pounds] because I couldn’t hold anything in,” he explained. “The priest came and blessed me and I was [going to] be a goner.”
However, his dad took matters into his own hands, going for an alternative approach to American hospitals. “My dad sort of kidnapped me from the hospital and took me to this bruja, which is like a Mexican witch doctor, down in Ensenada [Mexico].”
Lopez’s father knew the curandera because she had allegedly once fixed his leg and saved him from amputation. “He took me down there and she had him mix this crazy concoction into this Carnation milk,” he described. “Slowly I started getting better, and here I am.”
Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at email@example.com