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Hispanic Heritage Month - Documentaries covering Latino & Hispanic experiences in the United States

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 2, 2009 04:00pm | Post a Comment
For Hispanic Heritage Month, if you want to get an interesting and informed look at Latino issues, you could probably do worse than checking out a documentary... Most cover a handful of issues and often from different perspectives. Check the Latino/Spanish Special Interest section at Amoeba for availability.

War - 
There are several documentaries that focus on Latino and Hispanic issues in American wars. From Juan Ponce de León and Hernan de Soto sniffing around the modern day US in search of eternal youth and gold, through aggression between the US, Mexico and Spain, to the disproportionate reliance on Latinos to fight our modern wars, these DVDs cover a lot of territory.

     

Immigration - It shouldn't come as a surprise that the number one topic regarding Latino issues is the subject of immigration, primarily of the undocumented variety. What may come as more of a surprise is that one in five illegal immigrants to the US isn't Latino... something zero documentaries deal with, to my knowledge.

          

Gangs - People love them some gang documentaries. Currently, there are suprisingly few about Latino gangs, whilst every week it seems like there's some new one made about the safely-behind-us, romanticized Cosa Nostra.

  

Artists - Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali account for nearly every documentary about Latino and Hispanic artists. I realize that neither ever became American citizens, but they worked in, interacted with, and affected the US in deeply felt ways. For example, 4 in 5 dorm residents still has some Dali poster or other, usually next to Bob Marley.

        

Hollywood -
The Latino experience in Hollywood is pretty limited, given the population make-up of the US. Perhaps that's why there are so few documentaries about the subject.
 
  

Communities - The US is still a very segregated society and established Latino communities in the US are still often separate, self-contained microcosms.

    

Cultural Observances -
These documentaries focus on holidays and commemorations... and Walter Mercado, who defies categorization in nearly every way.

    

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Silencio! - The Hispanic & Latino experience in the silent era

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 19, 2009 02:26pm | Post a Comment
Like other minorities in Hollywood (e.g. Asians, blacks, gays, Natives and women, to name a few), Hispanics and Latinos in the silent film era were almost exclusively produced by people who had little or no first hand experience of their subjects. But whilst Latinos may've been almost entirely excluded from the filmmaking process, a handful of actors found work in front of the camera and in the process opened doors for the generations that followed.

In film's first decade, a few Latinos in fact were involved in American filmmaking. Before the Hollywood era, the filmmaking process wasn't centralized and films were shot around the country by wealthy entrepreneurs, a few of which were Hispanic. However, most American films in the 1890s were under ten minutes long and tended to focus on single actions like sneezing, laughing or opening a door.

Though film roles in the 1890s tended to avoid any minority issues, there were a few minorities in film. In 1903, the first version of Uncle Tom's Cabin hit the screen and went on to be the most frequently adapted story in the silent era, suggesting that there was at least concern about black issues, if not other minorities. In the teens, with films like A Woman Scorned, The Squaw Man, Intolerance and The Italian, depictions of minorities broadened considerably.


                    

Two Latina actresses, Vera and Beatriz Michelena, were among the first to appear in film. The Michelenas were the New York-born daughters of Caracas-born opera singer Fernando Gonzalez. Like generations that followed, their "exotic looks" resulted in their sometimes being used as all-purpose ethnic types, although, in the title role of Heart of Juanita, Beatriz actually played a presumably Latina character (I haven't seen it).
Most Latino characters in the 1910s weren't afforded the occasional sympathy shown toward other minorities, with most Latinos depicted as dastardly "greasers," as in the films Tony the Greaser (1911), The Greaser's Revenge (1914) and the remake of Tony the Greaser, Tony the Greaser (1914). The latter, ironically, featured Myrtle Gonzalez as "Mary Blake." Generally, Mexicans were depicted as lazy and deceitful, which, not surprisingly, didn't go over especially well with Mexicans and when they responded by boycotting Hollywood, American filmmakers responded by carefully applying the negative stereotype to all Latinos, not just Mexicans.

          

For non-Latino, white, European Hispanics, race wasn't necessarily an issue. Los Angeles native Myrtle Gonzalez was billed as "The Virgin White Lily of the Screen" during her short career -- she died at 27 in the 1918 flu pandemic. Antonio Moreno was a Spanish-born actor/director. In his early films, he often played the Latin Lover, a stereotypical protrayal of supposedly exotic Mediterranean types popular at the time. Fetishizing Europeans was all well and good in the silent era, but with the coming of sound, Moreno's accent was viewed as a detriment and his career came to a halt.

            
 
In the 1920s, the vogue for Latins (as opposed to Latinos) like Moreno and Italian Rudolph Valentino proved so popular that actors actually concocted phony identities to pass, such as Jewish actor Jacob Krantz who was reborn "Ricardo Cortez." When people found out he wasn't actually Spanish, he tried to claim that he was at least French... which also proved untrue.

             

Actual flesh and blood Latinos, as a result of the craze, soon found work in Hollywood, including Ramon Novarro, Dolores Del Rio, Gilbert Roland and Lupe Velez. By the late '20s, they were internationally known stars, beloved for their inevitably sexually-charged portrayals, a stereotype that, some 80 years later, continues to be almost comically perpetuated on the rare occasions when Hollywood portrays Hispanic and Latino characters.

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"OBAMA REGGAETON" + "I'VE GOT A CRUSH.....ON OBAMA" = votes

Posted by Billyjam, June 14, 2007 06:35pm | Post a Comment
obama
While Hillary Rodham Clinton's popularity among Hispanic voters currently leads the Democratic pack by a long shot, the "Amigos de Obama" are slowly gaining ground and gradually growing in numbers thanks to such showings of grassroots support for Barack Obama as the recently recorded "Obama Reggaeton," which can be heard here with lyrics printed below (scroll down). it's a catchy song that calls upon Mexican and other Hispanic voters to support Obama with a call to "Listen to gente, es tiempo para algo diferente.. What we need is un nuevo presidente*… Como Se Dice…Como Se llama? OBAMA! OBAMA!" As clearly outlined in the map (below) posted on the website supporting Obama, 13 million eligible Hispanic voters live in ten states (including California, Florida, and New York) with all but one hosting primaries on or before February 5th. Note that Texas' primary isn't until March. Roughly two thirds of the nation's Hispanic residents live in nine of the states that will hold Democratic primaries or caucuses on or before early February, 2008.

Obama is way behind Hillary in popularity with Hispanic voting Democrats, as recently reported by the New York Times, which cited polls (including the paper's own and ones carried out by CBS News) from the past few months which show that about 60 percent of registered Hispanic voters who identify themselves as Democrats have a favorable view of Hillary while a quarter do not. Meanwhile Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, according to the Times, "remains a blank slate to many Hispanic voters, polls show, with 40% having no opinion of him. But his aspirational biography could prove a draw as more Hispanic voters get to know him." No doubt "Obama Reggaeton" can only help in this effort.

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