Hispanic Representation in Media
The oddly timed beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month is upon us, and there’s no better way to start celebrating than by highlighting Hispanic characters in media.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15th to October 15th. It may seem like an arbitrary time but not fitting within the confines of a singular month like Black History Month, but it isn’t. Around September 15th was the independence day of many Spanish-speaking countries. This month celebrates the contribution and influence of Hispanic and Latino people in all aspects of culture.
Hispanics have had a weird run in tv and movies. For a long time, Hispanic people didn’t play Hispanics; they played foreigners. The accent was not regionally specific, and the darker skin was used for racially ambiguous characters, none of which are necessarily meant to be Hispanic. Such horrid stereotypes include Wilmer Valderrama as Fez in That 70’s show and Rita Moreno as Anita in West Side Story (1961). Valderrama is Venezuelan and Colombian, but his darker skin and emphasized accent were used as a punchline as Fez. Rita Moreno and her character Anita are both Puerto Rican, but she had to wear darker makeup to play her.
There is also the other extreme. Hispanic people pass for white so often in media that they can be hard to identify. A Hispanic actor rarely plays a Hispanic character. That level of representation shouldn’t be so hard to find, but it is. Whether you believe we’re a race or ethnicity, we deserve better representation in media.
The following list includes overtly Hispanic characters undoubtedly played by Hispanic actors. You know, as it should be. As always, the list only includes movies and shows I have seen.
Movie: Instructions Not Included
Played By: Eugenio Derbez
A former Mexican playboy’s life is interrupted when a former fling drops his daughter. He moves to America and becomes a movie stuntman to support her.
Show: Jane the Virgin
Played By: Gina Rodriguez
A Venezuelan- American virgin’s life is turned upside down when she is artificially inseminated with her boss’s child.
Played By: Jenna Ortega
A young Hispanic girl who puts herself in potentially dangerous situations is saved by a friendly serial killer.
Selena Quintanilla Perez
Played By: Jennifer Lopez
This is the incredible life and career of famous Mexican-American Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla.
Isador Cortez aka Machete
Played By: Danny Trejo
A former Mexican Federal with incredible skills accepts a murder-for-hire contract.
Movie: West Side Story (2021)
Played By: Rita Moreno
A Puerto Rican widow helps the neighborhood teenagers through a hard time.
Played By: Stephanie Beatriz
In a Colombian family filled with special powers, Mirabel has a different type of power.
Puss in Boots
Movie: Puss in Boots
Played By: Antonio Banderas
A Spanish-speaking anthropomorphic cat known for wearing boots seeks to regain his honor while on the run as a fugitive.
Show: Wizards of Waverly Place
Played By: Selena Gomez
A Mexican-American teenager must train to become the family wizard.
Played By: John Leguizamo
A Hispanic former line cook rejects his promotion to join his best friend, reigniting his passion for food by working on a food truck.
Show: The Walking Dead
Played By: Christian Serratos
A Mexican-American woman works tirelessly to keep herself and her family alive during the zombie apocalypse.
Played By: Sophia Vergara
A wealthy Cuban divorcee helps reignite her ex-husband's passion for food to reunite her family.
Show: George Lopez
Played By: George Lopez
Blue-collar Mexican family man deals with the struggles of life, money, and family.
Show: Mr. Iglesias
Played By Gabriel Iglesias, aka Fluffy
Mexican history teacher uses jokes to connect to his underprivileged students, helping them learn and giving life lessons along the way.
Played By: America Ferrera
Honduran-American department store floor supervisor deals with her employees and personal life as she strives to advance her career.
Princess Elena Castillo Flores
Show: Elena of Avalor
Played By: Aimee Carrera
Latina princess saves her kingdom from an evil sorceress and must learn the traits that make a great leader.
Played By: Ignacio Serricchio
A Cuban forensic anthropologist must intern at the Jeffersonian institute to redo his Ph.D. in America.
Show: Grey’s Anatomy
Played By Sara Ramirez
A Latina orthopedic surgeon must balance her family and life with her busy work schedule.