After the #OscarsSoWhite movement in 2016, Hollywood has gradually opened more opportunities for African Americans to tell their stories and join the main narrative. This year marks groundbreaking diversity and inclusion from Oscar-nominated films like A Fantastic Woman, Coco, and The Shape of Water. However, the only three Latino or Hispanic nominees are behind the camera; Mexican producer, Guillermo Del Toro, being the single household name. Although the new movement for diversity should be celebrated, the system is by no means fixed, especially when Latino representation is near invisible on screen.
Hollywood has had a long history of miscasting Latino roles, either hiring Hispanic actors to play Asians or Native Americans or replacing them with Caucasian actors (e.g Al Pacino in Scarface, Madonna in Evita.) Since the Oscar’s establishment in 1927, there have only been six Hispanic winners in the main four acting categories, one of them being Rita Moreno for West Side Story, a film that uses brownface and projects hyper-sexualized and violent Latino stereotypes. Even after her triumph, Moreno dealt with turning down toxic roles. She addressed this issue in 2008 for the Miami Herald: “People said, ‘Winning the Oscar is a jinx.’ No, it isn’t. It’s just that I was being offered all this terrible stuff, and I thought, ‘No, I don’t have to do that stuff anymore.’” Although Latino representation has become less offensive there is still a disheartening lack of roles offered in television or film. Rare shows like Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin, and One Day at a Time warrant that the writers and actors are available but are often thrown in competition for the few positions available.
Even more shocking, a comprehensive study from the University of Southern California recently found that only 3 % of speaking characters in film were Latino or Hispanic. These numbers are glaringly disproportionate with the number of Latinos and Hispanics living in the United States, who make up about 18% of the entire US population. Disproportionate and even insulting, this deep division in representation affects how Latino communities are perceived by the American populace. Limiting Latino actors to a handful of roles—typically as maids, gang members, or struggling immigrants—only fuels stereotypes and negative sentiments.
In response to the lack of representation in Hollywood, Jane the Virgin’s Golden Globe-winning star Gina Rodriguez wrote a letter to Variety: “To be seen and heard is a simple human need…it’s important we celebrate, employ and represent all Latinos from European to Afro-Latinos,” she said in the op-ed.
Within her statement lies the fundamental action that needs to be taken by Hollywood and Television studios. Without reservation, Latinos need to be given as many chances as their non-Latino counterparts, especially the actors and writers who bring our stories to the screen. In the globalized world of 2018, a myriad of untapped stories is being actively ignored, and if the neglect continues, then #OscarsSoWhite shouldn’t disappear anytime soon.