Latinos Don’t Win Oscars

BeingLatinopng-300x67By Adriana Villavicencio, Being Latino

Latinos don’t win Oscars. They star in movies, make movies, write movies, design costumes and write scores for movies, but very few have taken the coveted statuette home.

In the history of the Academy Awards, only 15 Latinos have been nominated in acting categories and only 5 have won.

OscarWinners: The first winner was Jose Ferrer, a Puerto Rican stage actor who played Cyrano de Bergerac in 1950. Others winners include the beautiful Rita Moreno for West Side Story and the formidable Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata! U.S.-born Cuban Mercedes Ruehl won Best Supporting actress for The Fisher King in 1991, and charismatic Benicio Del Toro (twice nominated for Best Supporting Actor) won in 2000 for his role in Traffic.

NomineesEdward James Olmos was nominated for his unforgettable role inStand and Deliver and Andy Garcia for Godfather III (though he doesn’t like to consider himself a Latino actor anyways). Proud Latinas, Rosie Perez and Selma Hayek, were also nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress respectively.European winners we like to claim: Both Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem have been nominated more than once and won one each in Best Supporting categories. They may be one of the most attractive couples who speak Spanish, but they’re technically Hispanic not Latino. Sadly, no Latina has ever won an Oscar for Best Actress.

We might have had some false hope in 2006 when 18 Latinos were nominated for various categories including Best Film (Babel), Best Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), and Best Foreign Film (Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Laberyinth). None took it home and the next few years saw an even greater dearth of nominees.

The problem is bigger than the Oscars.

Partially to blame for the Oscar drought is the limited opportunities for Latinos in film. You can’t win an Oscar if you don’t get a chance to play an Oscar-worthy role. By and large, though, Latino roles are limited to archetypes and clichés – the poor maid, the gang member, the Latin Lover, the spicy temptress. And sometimes, when there are juicy roles for Latinos, it is a non-Latino who gets the opportunity to play them (see Al Pacino inScarface).

Hispanics and Latinos –  they are usually lumped together in the U.S. – make up more than 15% of the U.S. population, but they remain just as underrepresented in the film industry as they were decades ago (as are Asians and African Americans). This year in particular was heralded as “Hollywood’s Whiteout” by the New York Times film critics, who pointed out that the 2010 films nominated for best picture are even whiter than those nominated in 1940.

How many more decades will we be shut out and overlooked. When will the talent and vision of Latino filmmakers and actors be allowed to shine as brightly as the Oscars they undoubtedly deserve?

For a look at Latinos doing their thing in film, check out our series on Being Latino at the Sundance Film Festival.

This article was first published in Being Latino.

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries.

[Screenshot courtesy]

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

How a harsh criticism turned ‘Coco’ into Pixar’s most uniquely made movie yet

Victor Landa November 17, 2017

Director Lee Unkrich was hot off the box office success and Oscar win for 2010’s “Toy Story 3” when he delved into making a movie that focused on the Mexican […]

Trump Administration Targets and then Mocks Immigrant with Prosthetic Leg

Victor Landa November 15, 2017

A 20-year-old undocumented immigrant with prosthetic leg and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status has been detained by federal immigration agents and held without charges for over a month, treated inhumanely […]

More Latinas are becoming teachers and reshaping our nation’s classrooms

Victor Landa November 29, 2017

The growth of the Latino population in the United States will have a lasting cultural and intellectual impact beyond the arts, food, and celebrations. More and more, Latinas are becoming […]

As Numbers Grow, Recognizing Generations Of Latino Veterans

Victor Landa November 10, 2017

As the nation honors its veterans, government officials point to the growing numbers of Latinos in the military, while Hispanic scholars and historians remind us of the generations of Latino […]

U.S Hispanic Chamber Leader Who Has Had Turbulent Relationship With Trump May Be Ousted

Victor Landa November 22, 2017

The US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) is moving behind the scenes to oust its prominent president Javier Palomarez over allegations that he misused the organization’s money for his personal […]

How Indie Latinx Comic Book Authors Are Capturing the Latinx Experience

Victor Landa November 13, 2017

Back in 2010, comics creator Javier Hernandez was walking around San Francisco with his friend Ricardo Padilla when he had an idea: Why don’t they build a comics convention focusing […]

Half of Latino Immigrant Characters on TV Are Portrayed as Criminals, Study Finds

Victor Landa November 1, 2017

Define American, the immigration nonprofit founded by Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, has released its first-ever media reference guide for writers, directors, and producers concerning Latino immigrant characters. Immigrants and […]

Could Hispanic vote push Lupe Valdez into Texas Governor’s Office?

Victor Landa December 8, 2017

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is running as a Democratic candidate for Texas Governor after a year of speaking out on big state issues– particularly the controversial sanctuary cities ban. Experts says […]