Hispanic Heritage Month ended without much fanfare this past Saturday, which gave us at Remezcla some pause. Not nearly as well publicized as other history months or holidays, Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th-October 15th, the only History Month that has to cross a border hardy-har-har) usually glides in under the radar of America at large. We think we know why: there’s no good movies about it. And just like how mainstream Americans learn from movies that their independence was won by some guy stabbing another guy with a flag, that World War II was won by Americans without much help from anyone else, and the Civil Rights movement succeeded primarily due to the efforts of well-intentioned White people, we thought there should be more movies about Hispanic history.
As such, here are, in no particular order 10 Latinos That Should Have Movies About Them But Don’t, For Some Reason.
Editor’s Note: We had many a discussion about a hypothetical movie wherein Walter Mercado uses his powers to solve supernatural mysteries, but that’s probably not appropriate for this list.
Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola
Who they were: By the 1940’s, Puerto Ricans were not very pleased with their (paternalistic, imperialistic) friendly American neighbors. Puerto Rico was just making the transition from autonomous nation to partially self-governing commonwealth of the United States, right in the wake of events like the Ponce Massacre and the jailing of nationalist leader Don Pedro Albizu Campos, not to mention the alleged government sanctioned whacking of a number of other nationalist leaders. When the Jayuya Uprising failed, two members of the cause – Collazo and Torresola – decided to assassinate President Truman to bring worldwide attention to the cause of Puerto Rican independence. Waltzing up Pennsylvania Avenue in DC, the two men engaged in a protracted shoot out with police and secret service – Collazo was quickly incapacitated, but Torresola’s twenty-second rampage wounded three men and killed one. Torresola was killed in the gunfight. Collazo was sentenced to death, a sentence commuted to life-imprisonment by none other than President Truman.
Why there should be a movie: Are you fucking kidding me? Did you read the part about the gunfight on the White House lawn?
No, but seriously, the action sequence will probably be sad and disappointing. Not sad because they didn’t achieve their awful goal, but sad because of the sort of sadness and desperation that drives anyone to attempt such a grandiose act. You can’t help but feel for a pair of guys that set out to be heroes and are so blinded by their desperation that they end up being spectacularly wrong about everything. This movie could be a brooding character meditation, or it could be the darkest dark comedy to ever dark.
Who should play them: Obviously Benicio del Toro is obligated by the contract he signed with God to appear in this film. We’re thinking he’d make a great Torresola, the more worldly, experienced, and clearly more bad-ass of the two. For Collazo, we’d put Del Toro together again with Alfredo de Quesada, who appeared in Che.
Who he was: Felix Rodriguez – pictured at left (he’s the one that’s not Che Guevara) – is like the Latino James Bond minus the charm and good looks. The Cuban-born CIA operative who went by the code names Félix Ramos and Max Gomez is pretty bad-ass, we must admit, no matter what your stance is on the work he did. During the Vietnam War he flew hundreds of helicopter missions and survived the intense fighting despite being shot down five times! The ‘Cold Warrior’ believed in fighting communism by any means necessary. He trained Contras in the Nicaraguan jungle, advised Argentina’s military dictatorship and helped organize the Bay of Pigs invasion. He is most infamous for his involvement in the execution of Che Guevara. He rode in the chopper carrying the revolutionary’s corpse while caked in his blood and wearing Che’s steel Rolex watch.
Why there should be a movie: He rode in the chopper carrying Che Guevara’s corpse while caked in his blood and wearing Che’s steel Rolex watch.
Seriously, though, this guy is a tremendous figure in Hispanic history in the twentieth century. You can track US involvement in Latin America through his career, and it would be great to have a movie – whether it painted him as a hero or an anti-hero – that chronicled that. There might even be a commemorative Che t-shirt.
Who should play him: Imagine Mario Lopez in an action-packed spy thriller full of guns, explosions, secret missions, and of course – Cuban cigars. Okay, we admit we based this one entirely on appearances.
Who he is: Alberto Fujimori is Latin America’s first Japanese president. Affectionately known as ‘El Chino’ (cuz apparently, Latinos don’t know the difference) his early years in office were rocked by out-of-control inflation and constant bloody attacks from Sendero Luminoso, a group of Maoist guerillas. His super-hero complex got the best of him in his fight against a chaotic political and economic environment. During the autogolpe (self-coup) he shut down Congress, suspended the constitution, and handed out shotguns to paramilitaries willing to fight the guerillas. Eventually, this all caught up with him. Despite fleeing to Japan he was extradited during a visit to Chile to face charges of crimes against humanity. He was found guilty of abuse of power, embezzlement, bribery and ordering executions and kidnappings.
Why there should be a movie: The son of immigrants, a foreigner in his birthplace, claws his way to the top before brutally abusing that power and having to go to extreme lengths in a attempt to hold onto what he’s ruined but could have probably gone a long way to fixing. It’s a classic, epic rise and fall. It’s The Godfather. It’s Scarface.
Who should play him: George Takei, George Takei, George Takei. He’s a dead ringer (or as close as one could hope for with a big name draw) and we love him.
Who she is: Puerto Rican-born and Bronx-bred, Rita Moreno was the first actress to win an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony, and an Oscar. Beat that, J.Lo! Her most famous role was, of course, Anita in the film version of West Side Story. Even after winning an Oscar for faking an accent and singing “ay wan tu be en Amereeka” she still got offered “little señorita Lolita conchita kind of spitfire roles.” She often played sexy Latina characters but also challenged stereotypes. She’s been in countless films, tv shows, and plays. Even in her 80s she is still acting. Did I mention she was on the Muppet Show?
Why there should be a movie: Of all the rise-to-fame stories out there on film, it’s astonishing that Rita Moreno’s hasn’t made it out there. She faced adversity to reach unprecedented success on film, television, stage, and in recording, and has had one of the most enduring careers of any Latina in the entertainment business.
Who should play here: We predict a J.Lo vs. Salma Hayek catfight for this one, though the J.Lo thing might not work out; Rita told Latina magazine …
“I think Jennifer Lopez is a phenom. And as far as I’m concerned, she’s really a very smart businesswoman. But she’s not the same thing as…someone like Andy Garcia or Jimmy Smits—that’s different. Jennifer has made a choice to do the kind of films that she thought would be popular and commercial, and that’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. Unhappily, they haven’t had much success—which is really kind of peculiar in my way of thinking because she’s such a HUGE star. It’s crazy and it’s kind of bizarre that her films haven’t done that well.”
…which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Even better would be Penelope Cruz dancing the tango and beating up a Muppet. Then again, we’d rather the role went to an up-and-coming Puerto Rican actress who would herself be trying to hit it huge like Rita did, like Melonie Diaz, April Lee Hernandez, or the star of America – a film that might have stood a chance at an Oscar if the Academy hadn’t screwed it over – Lymari Nadal.
Who she is: Central America isn’t easy for any leader, let alone a lady, but this sass machine was somehow able to heal the wounds of her land and maintain peace. Violeta Chamorro was born to a wealthy family and married a prominent dissident opposed to the Somoza dynasty. As expected, the Somoza’s had incredibly thin skin and didn’t appreciate being called scumbags and thieves. The president presumably said “That shit’s only half true, argh; off with his head!” Her husband was then assassinated. Nicaragua was plunged into a brutal civil war soon after. Violeta returned as a presidential candidate in 1990 and won. Sure, the U.S pumped money to her campaign, but the win was still awesome; nobody really thought she had a chance against Daniel Ortega. Chamorro had a tough go of it; the nation was in ruins and divisions threatened the fragile country. The Sandinistas were still a force to be reckoned with and Chamorro had the hard task of striking a delicate balance between them and the Contras. She was able to overcome that as well and she stopped inflation. The economy still bears the scars of war however, but frankly anything above a brutal dictatorship would be grounds for success.
Why there should be a movie: We’d like to see a movie about a woman who rises to power and succeeds against all odds without it being about how much of an ice queen she is or how she has to choose between her career and love. You know: a movie about a successful woman that doesn’t somehow still demean women. Got that, Hollywood?
Who should play her: Maria Onetto would be a great fit; she already plays privileged people with serious issues and if she got a bit more plump, BAM! Also in that same wheelhouse: Argentina’s Cecilia Roth.
Who he was: Easily one of Mexico’s greatest writers, the guy won a Nobel Prize for Christ’s sakes. He’s probably better known for his psychological study into the Mexican Psyche, The Labyrinth of Solitude. (Latin writers love labyrinths and solitude.) We can’t be bothered to list a summary, so crack open a copy. Anyway, what really makes him awesome is his refusal to lay down to dogma, even as his fellow leftists became little more than apologists for the Soviet Union. He railed against the abuses of Stalin, which made him hated by communists but history vindicated him after the collapse of the USSR. He was basically the guy who said “Ha-ha, told you so!” Okay, he wasn’t that much of a dick but it’s nice to see that intellectuals can and will call bullshit even on their own side. Paz was also a diplomat, one can only imagine if he wowed/bored his audience with anecdotes and crazy-ass abstract and free-flowing discussions on the human experience. We can only dream…
Why there should be a movie: We love the idea of chronicling Octavio Paz’s search for the core of the Mexican psyche. What makes Mexicans Mexican?
Who should play him: Granted, he looks kind of like Jeff Bridges in that picture, but we think Emilio Echevarria would be perfect. And maybe Diego Luna as Octavio in his younger years, when he was actually pretty dreamy.
Who she is: She’s Mexico’s definition of a talented yet borderline insane star, none which is applicable to today’s Mexican stars outside of the Narco world. Ok, maybe some of you may grumble with “that’s so not true, asshole!” Well, guess what pal, it totally is. First off, our dearly beloved Gloria was a sensation in the 80’s what with her running around on stage with rubbers hanging off her chest. Were they used? Who knows dear readers, but that’s Gloria for you.
Things took a serious turn for the worse by the late 90’s. Even as Trevi became a film and music star, a book was suddenly released in 1998 by a former underling. She had accused the pop star of aiding and abetting her manager with kidnapping teen girls and forcing them to become sex slaves. At first, the accuser was seen as a jealous hack, but when the story gained traction, Trevi and her manager fled Mexico. She was able to hide until 2000 and was arrested in Brazil. Just when shit couldn’t get any more real, Trevi was somehow able to get herself pregnant in a Brazilian prison. How did it happen? Apparently, Trevi’s manager was able to bribe his way for a quick boot-knocking session with her. Fast forward a decade later and Trevi has been free for more than half a decade and she is still churning those hits.
Why there should be a movie: It’s beginning to get depressing how many of these stories of Latinos’ rise to fame and power also include their sudden, batshit insane falls from grace, too, huh? At least this one includes an inkling of redemption.
Who should play her: We’re honestly at a loss, here. We’d like to not cull teenage telenovelas in search of a serious actress, but that might be the only course of action.
Luis Walter Alvarez
Who he was: See that guy over there that looks like your best friend’s dad? He was a famous scientist, and his accomplishments do not include “shrinking the kids.” According to the American Journal of Physicists, though, he “was one of the most brilliant and productive experimental physicists of the twentieth century.” His father was a doctor, and his father’s father was a doctor (who figured out better ways to treat leprosy), but medical treatment wasn’t Luis Walter’s thing. Instead, he preferred to help the United States use radiation to win World War II. No, we’re not talking about the atomic bomb…wait, actually we are. Luis Walter Alvarez totally worked on the infamous Manhattan Project. But radiation proved to have other applications for the American war effort, such as improvements to radar systems and in discovering ways to discover whether or not the Germans were developing nuclear reactors. He was awarded the Nobel prize in 1968, and went on to work with particle accelerators, and is responsible for the theory that the dinosaurs were wiped out by the effects of an asteroid collission.
Why there should be a movie: The Nobel Prize is a big deal, and there’s just something about movies about scientists and mathematicians – A Beautiful Mind comes to, um, mind – that ring so earnest and inspiring if done well.
Who should play him: This one goes to television actor Carlos Bernard, who proved himself on 24 and we think he could acquit himself well playing someone a bit more buttoned up.
Who he is: Oh please, you know who he is. Well actually, maybe not.
Born Mario Luis Kreutzberger Blumenfeld, the man who now goes as Don Francisco is the son of German Jewish immigrants that fled to Chile to escape Nazi persecution. After traveling to New York to study to be a tailor, Keutzenberger became transfixed with television – a novelty mostly unavailable back home. In 1962, he took on the stage name Don Francisco and set out to use the variety show formulas and techniques he learned by watching American television to create a show called Sabados Gigantes in the relatively new field of Chilean programming. In 1986 – that’s 24 years after its inception, for those bad at math – the show began to film in Miami, and Don Francisco became a household name in the United States and, soon, in 185 other countries. Don Francisco has branched out into other projects, but Sabado Gigante has existed more or less in its current format for what will be, next year, 50 whole years.
Why there should be a movie: Fifty years! 50! Five-zero! Ten years, five times! Don Francisco’s completely unprecedented success, coming from such modest – and compelling! – roots leaves potential for a decades spanning (ans hopefully lighthearted) tale of success.
Who should play him: As this is probably a movie that spans more than seventy years, Francisco may need to be played by more than one actor. One of those actors absolutely must be Chilean actor Erto Pantoja, however. It must be.
Who he was: Seriously?
No, really, look him up. We’ll hold your Latino membership card, in the mean time. You’ll get it back when you know who César Chávez is.
Why there should be a movie: HOW IS THERE NOT A MOVIE ALREADY? There are rumors of one in the works, though…
Who should play him: To be honest, we can’t think of one that we think would absolutely nail the role, and that might actually be the biggest reason a movie doesn’t already exist about Chávez’s life. Any choice is bound to be controversial – it’s dangerous to make a movie about such a beloved figure.
Who do you think deserves a film? Who should be in it? Let us know in the comments.