John Leguizamo demands more Latinos in Hollywood
The renowned Latino actor wrote a letter urging the film industry to recognize more Latino talent.
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Latinos make up nearly 20% of the U.S. population, but their stories account for less than 1% of those that make it to Hollywood’s big screens.
Considering that situation, Latino actor John Leguizamo expressed his anger about the lack of opportunities for Latino talent in front and behind the cameras in a recent op-ed featured in the Los Angeles Times.
Leguizamo says that just looking Latino or having a Latino last name in the United States immediately reduces any chance of being hired because prejudices and stigmas continue to be an ongoing issue in Hollywood. This forces many Latinos to adapt their names as many actors and actress in Hollywood have done.
“Even white Latinos are still stigmatized by their names and their culture. Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada is still called Oscar Isaac. Bruno Mars abandoned Hernández from him. And while our actors can't be cast, our stories are still co-opted. Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata was portrayed by Brando in the 1950s with a Brown face and flared nostrils. Eli Wallach Brown faced as a Mexican in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as Tuco, a grumpy and obnoxious thug, to fit how studio executives thought a Mexican would act. In Touch of Evil, Orson Welles played the whitest actor in history, Charlton Heston, as a Mexican. A light-haired, blue-eyed man who plays a Brown-faced Latino with dyed black hair and a fake mustache. Once again, the real Latinos were simply decorators: extras in the Mexican border city,” the actor wrote.
He also referred to the hiring of Spanish actors like Antonio Banderas in El Mariachi and Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls to play characters that would originally have to be Latino.
“Now while we're talking about that: Spaniards are not Latino. The Spanish are white Europeans. Latinos were born in Latin America or had ancestors who were born there. For the most part, we are mestizo peoples from all over Latin America. Well, all of Latin America except Argentina, which largely eradicated its Indigenous peoples. Therefore, there! I have broken it all down for you,” he noted.
Also mentioning successful cases such as that of the composer and producer Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bad Bunny, the actress, Jennifer López, and the Puerto Rican actor and producer Benicio del Toro, Leguizamo assured that there are "millions of Latinos" — including himself — have been among the few who have had a chance to succeed.
“We all need to be counted, represented and valued. (...) We need a better channel for Latinos in movies, TV shows and plays. We need a system for our stories and our projects. We need executives to give the green light,” he concluded.