After news broke Thursday that Portuguese-Swedish-Russian (a.k.a. white) actor James Franco was cast as Fidel Castro in the upcoming film, Alina of Cuba, Latinx people across Al Gore’s Internet were quick to hate on the choice, pointing out all the problems with Hollywood’s continued erasure of our community.
I mean, if they can’t find a Latino actor to play one of the most famous Latinos in history, what roles are we going to get, besides maids and drug runners?
Media mogul and Latinx entertainment’s elder statesman John Leguizamo was quick to condemn the move. As the man behind Latin History for Morons, he reminded us that Franco’s Portuguese ancestry doesn’t make him Latinx—it makes him a colonizer.
“We’re the oldest ethnic group in America after Native Americans. We’ve been here for 500 years and not getting roles,” Leguizamo said in a video posted on his Instagram account. “We’re 30 percent of the box office—I want 30 percent of the roles, okay? Thirty percent. That means out of every 10 movies, three of those should be Latin movies, and out of 10 actors in your Marvel movies, three of those will be Latin actors.”
The thing is, Pedro Pascal is right there, as filmmaker and journalist Dominique Rémy pointed out. “Was Pedro Pascal unavailable?” Rémy asked on Twitter. “Although not Cuban, he makes a lot more sense on every level.”
Ok so I’m not done with this James Franco casting news. Was Pedro Pascal unavailable? Although not Cuban, he makes a lot more sense on every level. He’s also related to Allende, a man Fidel Castro deeply admired and supported. Like…we’re talking one degree of separation here. pic.twitter.com/rgDYsUGLyf
— Dominique Rémy (@canaryfilmmaker) August 5, 2022
Not only is Pascal loved while Franco is reviled —remember those sexual assault allegations?— but Pascal is actually Latino and has some interesting family ties to the Castros—plus more than a passing resemblance.
The brownface implications of Franco as Castro are real as cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz pointed out, managing also to get a quick jab at the actor’s famously difficult preparation process.
Breaking Hollywood News: Latino Star James Franco prepares for his role as Fidel Castro. #methodbrownface pic.twitter.com/BqrTdMrGly
— Lalo Alcaraz (@laloalcaraz) August 8, 2022
And it’s not just skin tone. The thing with Anglos playing Latinos is they bring a whole set of privileges, whether they mean to or not. And their ability to dip into our community, extract what they want, and not face any of the discrimination actual Latinx people face is infuriating, to say the least.
But don’t take it from me, as actress Sol Rodriguez illustrated this point perfectly, contrasting the demand on Franco to develop “an accent for Castro” with the demand on Latinx actors to “work hard to get rid of” their natural ones.
Not me reading that James Franco will have to "build" an accent for Castro, when my entire life I've been made fun of for not speaking English like an American and been told countless times to work hard to get rid of it…??
— Sol (@solrodriguez) August 4, 2022
Variety’s senior awards editor and founder of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association Clayton Davis sees a pattern. In his opinion piece on the matter, he connects Franco’s casting with Leslie Grace’s Batgirl never hitting theaters and the Gordita Chronicles’ cancelation.
For Davis, it’s about Hollywood’s continued lack of respect for our community. “Latinos are not disposable and are not culturally ambiguous,” he wrote. “Latinos are 500 million people that span the globe. Learn about us.”
I agree, and probably so do you. But it’s just going to keep happening if we don’t get loud and rowdy. It’s time for Hollywood to pay some consequences for their racist behavior.
“I really believe this a pivotal moment for the Latinx community in Hollywood,” tweeted Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón, UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report co-author and Latino Film Institute scholar. “The response to the continued exclusion will tell all of Hollywood what we will accept. If no significant financial or public relations ramifications are feared, the status quo will continue.”
I really believe this is a pivotal moment for the Latinx community in Hollywood. The response to the continued exclusion will tell all of Hollywood what we will accept. If no significant financial or public relations ramifications are feared, the status quo will continue. 1/
— Ana-Christina Ramón, PhD (@DrAnaChristina) August 8, 2022
“Don’t accept business as usual,” she continued. “I know some of you are tired. But, let’s make this is a turning point, where we turn towards change for the better.”
For what it’s worth, Castro’s daughter, the real-life Alina Fernández, agrees with the decision to cast Franco as her father.
“James Franco has an obvious physical resemblance with Fidel Castro, besides his skills and charisma,” Fernández told Deadline, while noting that the film is “almost entirely Latino, both in front and behind the camera.”
A writer and activist, Cristina Escobar is the co-founder of latinamedia.co, uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media. She’s a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and writes at the intersection of race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @cescobarandrade
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James Franco is 25% Portuguese, 25% Swedish, and 50% Ashkenazi Jewish.
I agree with most of what you John says.
But he needs to learn a bit more about us Mexicans. Millions of us are mestizos, a mix of Spanish, native people and Africans. Yes, there were and are Afro Mexicans. My ancestry DNA came to the unpleasant conclusion that I am more than half gachupin (Spanish). So, I suppose I should say I’m white, but I don’t and won’t. Soy mestizo mexicano y punto. Our ancestors were in what is now the Southwest and Califas long before the gringos. We even named a whole bunch of cities. As for Fidel’s daughter, sadly she was nothing more than a footnote in Fidel’s life. He had several illegitimate children. Alina might be doing better these days, but right after she landed in the US she came off as, well, emotionally troubled. There should be a movie just about Fidel. Whatever your opinion of him, he is among history’s most important people. I saw him speak, and I understood why he was able to captivate millions of people.
All this cuz of mestizo- washing of ‘Latino’. Spain is in Europe no matter what the LATimes thinks.
No doubt “Latino” has been mestizo-washed. Despite what the LATIMES believes Spain is in Europe
welcome, new random comment person
90% of us hate the phony term ‘Latinx”, but I’m certain that among the few who embrace it are the same ones responsible for the ignorance of thinking that Fidel Castro, the Spanish European white man, needed to be portrayed by someone who looks like George Lopez. Lol, poor Castro! The violent dictator who destroyed a once thriving island really deserves so much better than this! Seriously, I’ve never seen a worse hill to die on.
Google Raza Cosmica.
I realize that John was half joking. The reality is that we will never have a decisive voice in the entertainment industry unless and until we become shot callers. For now, the choice is to accept reality or walk away.
Latino Studies needs to start 1491 when everything Latino was on a galleon and everything in the Americas was a whole
‘ nother deal. By 1650 there were 120,000 African slaves imported into Vera Cruz with 20 million dead natives. The bloody spur of Spain hides behind Ceaser Chavez in Latino Studies. Start 1491. After that’s established we’ll talk mestizo history.
[…] it was revealed that James Franco is posed to play Fidel Castro in a new picture based on his life. And even though Castro’s daughter apparently approves of […]
PORTUGAL is a 100% Latin country, when Portuguese navigators discovered South America, they baptized the land with the name of Latin America, exactly because the Portuguese are the true Latins, if James Franco is the son of a Portuguese, he has Latin traits, where is your doubt?
My parents are Sicilian. To say that Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Sicily are not Latin is wrong. They are the first Latin countries with Italy being the very first. Even the French and Ramanos are Latin. The argument would have been better placed if it was stated that a Latin American should get the part for Castro, not a Latin European! To be Latin does not mean you have to be specifically from Latin America!
omg stop this nonsense, Castro was white like it’s obvious, look at his skin color , look at his features. The thing here is that you don’t want latinos being casted in movies as main characters, you want mestizos aka brown people who think they can speak for all Latin America forgetting that Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and the southern part of Brazil have at least 50 per cent of white people. Yes, white people with different hair and eye colors and of course white skin. I forgot to mention that Cuba used to have an important percentage of white people who ended up migrating to Florida after the revolution. I can testify that cities such as Santiago and Buenos Aires are quite western and different from others such as La Paz in Bolivia and Rio in Brazil , what I want to say is that you can be white and latino at the same time, thus a white person from France, Italy, Germany, Britain or the states can perfectly play in this case a White cuban. It’s not that hard to understand . Castro was geographically ‘ latino’ but racially and culturally he was white period. If you want more mestizos or brown people in Hollywood then just say it but don’t use the label latino as a synonym of brown because it does not represent the whole region at all. BTW please stop saying that this is your land cause it’s not. Just because you have 50 per cent of native central or South American in your DNA does not mean you’re native. you’re mixed, besides Many native central and South Americans consider latinos or mestizos as foreign as whites period .