Things That Matter

A Salvadorian Animator Is Making It Big In Hollywood, And We Can Only Say “Salu, Maje!”

The wave of Latino talent in Hollywood has been widely publicized. Of course we know of the Three Amigos, the trio of Mexican filmmakers who have taken the industry by storm and basically dominated the Academy Awards. Or Salma Hayek and Jaime Camil, who have become mainstream celebrities through their talent and hard work. But there are other stories of indomitable resilience and talent that involve Latin American creativity behind the cameras. Hollywood is a vicious industry where just a few succeed (Los Angeles is full of individuals whose dreams have been crushed by the industrial entertainment complex), but every once in a while there are success stories that make our hearts sing and our Latino pride soar. Enter Edwin Aguilar, who is currently an assistant director for one of the longest running and most iconic shows in television history: The Simpsons. 

Edwin Aguilar is a true example of Latino talent in Hollywood, and how migrants can contribute greatly to American culture and business.

Credit: Agencia EFE

Edwin’s story is truly amazing. He was a Salvadorian child suffering from the consequences of the endless civil war that has enveloped the Central American nation, on and off for decades. As a child, he used to collect soda bottle caps with cartoon drawings. He would crush the caps and keep them. He would also retrace the cartoon characters he saw on the newspapers, iconic images like those of Felix the Cat, Donald Duck and “Periquita” . Among his favorite characters were also Chuck Jones’ The Looney Tunes. Years later, Chuck Jones would become his boss, as reported a few years ago by the Spanish-speaking newspaper La Opinion.

He escaped war as a child and picked up on his passion when he emigrated to the United States.

Credit: download. Digital image. La Opinion

Like many Salvadorian boys, Edwin was at risk of being recruited by paramilitary forces and be made to fight in the conflict. This of course could only end in trauma or death. So in 1982, when he was just 9-years-old he crossed the border and then grew up in East Los Angeles, first as an undocumented migrant. He told La Opinion that as a boy he would hide in the corn fields with his friends, and they would find deceased human bodies and severed hands. So the life he built for himself in the United States allowed him to exploit his full potential. He continues visiting El Salvador to be in touch with his origins, and he is interested in the social and political history of his home country, particularly on the struggles of the dispossesed 

Just look at him working on cute little Maggie.

Edwin, or “Chicle” (“Bubblegum”), as his friends call him, worked for Chuck Jones’ Warner Bros team, and also for Hannah Barbera. Then in 1989 he started tracing for The Simpsons, and he worked his way up until he became one of the leading assistant directors for the show. 

Street art was the trigger he needed to unleash the creative beast!

He recently told CNN that the turning point for finding his true vocation revealed itself when he would look at graffiti and feel like the letters were moving. Edwin’s life has been full of firsts: he was the first Latino to be part of Chuck Jones’ team and also the first to have such a prominent place in the production team that has kept The Simpsons alive and well for 27 years. 

He even created a Latino cartoon that gives us all the feelings.

With Jose Zelaya, he created the show The Garcias, a sort of Latino family animated sitcom that provides us with everyday situations to which we can relate. There is the grandpa who is forever fixing an old car, or the quinceanera dramas that many Latino families go through. He explains that with Coco’s huge success, the powers that be at Hollywood are open to producing Latino stories. Yes, of course they are looking at the dollar signs, but any progress when it comes to self-representation is to be celebrated, a que no?

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