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Courtesy Turner Classic Movies/Running Press
Courtesy Turner Classic Movies/Running Press

Stories of Latinos in Hollywood

In ‘Viva Hollywood’, Luis I. Reyes writes an in-depth history of the stars, films, achievements, and influence of the Latino community in Hollywood history

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Overcoming obstacles of prejudice, ignorance, and stereotyping, Latinos have given the world some of its most beloved stars and told some of its most indelible stories. In “Viva Hollywood”, renowned scholar and author Luis I. Reyes examines the stars in front of the screen as well as the people behind-the-scenes who have created a rich legacy across more than 100 years.

Illustrated by more than 200 full-color and black-and-white images, the book covers the films and careers of actors ranging from silent screen idol Antonio Moreno, to international Oscar-winning star Anthony Quinn, to Andy Garcia and Antonio Banderas. The book puts a special focus on Latino women: Dolores Del Rio, Rita Hayworth, Raquel Welch, Salma Hayek, Penélope Cruz, as well as on craftspeople who elevated the medium with their artistry—visionaries like cinematographer John Alonzo, Citizen Kane scenic artist Mario Larrinaga, and Oscar-winning makeup artist Beatrice de Alba.

“Latinos have been involved in the film industry since the beginning of Hollywood,” Reyes told NBC. “We are not recent immigrants or new arrivals to this world. We were there from the beginning.”

The stories of these and many others begins through a lens of stereotyped on-screen personas of Latin Lovers, sexy spitfires, banditos, and gangsters. World War II saw an embrace of Latin culture as the “Good Neighbor Policy” made it both fashionable and patriotic to feature stories set south of the border. Social problem films of the 1950s and '60s brought fresh looks at the community, with performances like Katy Jurado in High Noon, the cast of West Side Story, and racial inequality depicted in George Stevens's Giant. Civil Rights, the Chicano Movement, and the work of activist actors such as Ricardo Montalban and Edward James Olmos influenced further change in Hollywood in subsequent decades and paved the way for modern times and stars the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

As Reyes told NBC, Hollywood has “come a long way” in terms of opportunities for Latinos, pointing to stars like Jennifer Lopez and Oscar Isaac and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.  He is not concerned about Latinos still playing stereotypical roles, such as cartel leaders and drug lords, “as long as there is a balance and we see doctors, lawyers and law enforcement figures, as well.”  

Luis I. Reyes is a renowned scholar, author, and lecturer who specializes in the history of Latinos in the Hollywood film industry. Based in Pasadena, CA, he is the author or coauthor of several books on film, including Hispanics in Hollywood, Made in Paradise: Hollywood’s Films of Hawaii and the South Seas, and Made in Mexico: Hollywood South of the Border.

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