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VIVA NOLA: Best of Latino Representation in entertainment 2021

By Cody Downey

With 2021 at a close, it is time to look at how Latinos progressed in representation this year. Though it can always be better, the presence of our culture and community on film and television has increased.

Below are some of the best Latino representations portrayed this year.

*Note: These films and shows are what I picked based on what I saw this year. If you believe we missed out on something, make sure to leave a comment and let us know.)

 

Best Actor: Anthony Ramos as Usnavi de la Vega in “In the Heights”

Returning to the role he last played on stage in 2018, Puerto Rican actor Anthony Ramos shines as Usnavi de la Vega in the “In the Heights” film adaptation.

The son of Dominican immigrants, Usnavi runs a bodega in Washington Heights with his cousin Sonny and hopes to return to his parents’ home country to revive his father’s business. Throughout the movie, he must deal with the changing demographic of his neighborhood, the discovery of a winning lottery ticket bought from his store, and the potential relationship blossoming between him and his crush Vanessa.

Ramos does excellent in this role, bringing his amazing vocals and acting talent to the film. He brings a charming and relatable vibe to the character of Usnavi, making the viewer want to see him succeed. Though he may not have been the originator of the role, Anthony Ramos makes sure to provide an unforgettable performance, nonetheless.

In the Heights movie scene
In the Heights movie scene. Courtesy Warner Bros.

 

Best Actress: Lorenza Izzo as Celina Guerrera in “Women is Losers”

Telling an inspiring story of a woman’s fight to rise above her circumstances, Chilean actress Lorenza Izzo breaks through as Celina Guerrera in “Women is Losers.”

Growing up in 1960s San Francisco, Celina Guerrera is a young math prodigy who faces a series of setbacks after becoming pregnant by her Vietnam veteran boyfriend. Meeting all the hardships of a young mother in this era, Celina takes it head-on, managing to find her way in a world that isn’t always looking out for her.

Izzo is an absolute standout in this film, carrying it and creating a character that is easy to root for and want to follow. Choosing the lead actor is essential in a movie like this, and Izzo effortlessly takes control of the screen.

 

Best Actor in a Series: Jaden Michael as Colin Kaepernick in “Colin in Black and White”

Traveling from the world of vampires in Vampires vs. the Bronx to the world of youth sports, Dominican-American actor Jaden Michael plays the role of the former football player and activist Colin Kaepernick in “Colin in Black and White.”

The series follows Colin through his football career as he develops into an athlete and a teenager. His unique experience shapes Colin’s world. He discovers himself through different encounters in life and with the help of his close friends and his adoptive parents.

Michael shines in the role of a young Colin Kaepernick, showing all the nuances of a young man who must go through a lot before he truly understands who he is in the world. Taking on the many twists and turns the character faces, Jaden Michael masterfully shows a bright future ahead of him in acting.

 

Best Actress in a Series: Selena Gomez as Mabel Mora in “Only Murders in this Building”

Moving past her days of being a Disney Channel star, Mexican-American actress and singer Selena Gomez shows her growth with her performance as Mabel Mora in “Only Murders in this Building.”

Drawn together by a shared love of true crime podcasts, Mabel Mora befriends former television actor Charles-Haden Savage and Broadway director Oliver Putnam. They all live in the same apartment building. When a fellow resident is murdered, the trio decides to make a podcast to investigate, quickly realizing that there is more to the murder than they initially thought.

Despite acting for years now, Gomez does a fantastic job holding up comedically against comedy legends like Steve Martin and Martin Short. She shows her versatility in this role, proving that she is more than just a former child star.

"Encanto". Courtesy Disney.

 

Best Animated Film: “Encanto”

Presenting a beautiful depiction of Colombia with an almost entirely Colombian and Colombian-American cast, Encanto is another Disney film that speaks to people of all ages.

Following the Madrigal family of Colombia, Mirabel Madrigal is the only member of her family who doesn’t have a special power like super strength or shapeshifting. However, when her family’s magical powers start to fade, it is up to Mirabel to discover what’s happening and how to stop it.

Showcasing a powerful and vibrant Latino family on-screen, Encanto helps send a message of the importance of family and how everyone is unique.

 

Best Animated Series: “Maya and the Three”

Inspired by the mythology of early Mesoamerica, Maya, and the Three is another beautifully animated tale from Jorge Gutierrez, creator of “The Book of Life and El Tigre: The Many Adventures of Manny Rivera.”

Following the warrior princess of Maya on her fifteenth birthday, the young woman discovers the world she was raised in is not what it seemed. This realization comes as the gods of the Underworld threaten her family for committing a series of misdeeds. It will be up to Maya and her three new friends to fight to save their family and fulfill an ancient prophecy.

With excellent voice acting and excellent visuals, this miniseries presents a new female hero to enter leagues with other great women icons and be a role model to young girls.

 

Best Series: “Gentefied”

Bringing the very different Morales cousins back again to protect their family, Gentefied manages to balance varying storylines to offer a tale of community and solidarity.

After their grandfather Casimiro “Pop” Morales is released from jail, cousins Erik, Ana, and Chris Morales work together to keep Pop from leaving for Mexico and keep the family restaurant alive. All the while, the cousins have their problems from new opportunities, changes of scenery, and new relationships.

Able to mix comedy and drama perfectly, this series allows each character the focus to do something new and experience it in a familiar space.

 

Best Documentary: “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It”

Telling the life of the iconic actress, activist, and EGOT winner, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It takes a look at the actress and how she paved the way for Latino actors and actresses in the entertainment industry.

The documentary follows Rita Moreno throughout her life, from coming to the United States from Puerto Rico to landing the role in West Side Story and the aftermath of that role. It also talks about other aspects of Moreno’s life from her relationships, activism, and fight for non-stereotypical roles in Hollywood.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It is a very human documentary getting to the complete essence of who Rita Moreno is without pulling any punches and being completely honest about her experiences

 

Best Film: “In the Heights”

Taking the popular musical and putting it onto the big screen, In the Heights tells a story of fighting for your dreams against all odds and finding your place in the world even when it feels like there isn’t a place for you.

Washington Heights is the film set. The plot is about a wide variety of characters striving to achieve their dreams. The story develops around a bodega owner who tries to revive his father’s business, a young woman dealing with the pressure of being one of the few in her community to go to college, and a stylist who wishes to leave her home. These characters interact with one another and face a series of challenges that include gentrification, losing loved ones, and navigating changing relationships.

“In the Heights” is undoubtedly the biggest Latino film of the year, with an almost entirely Latino cast in a story that doesn’t fall into any stereotypes. With beautiful choreography and fantastic songs, this film is an instant classic proving how Hollywood can show Latinos on the big screen.

 

Latino Creative of the Year: Lin-Manuel Miranda

From his humble beginnings to his meteoric rise of fame, Puerto Rican actor, composer, director, producer, and singer Lin-Manuel has managed to dominate, representing Latinos in 2021.

As an actor, Miranda played the bit role of Piragüero in the adaptation of his first Broadway musical, “In the Heights.” He was the voice for the titular kinkajou in the animated Netflix film “Vivo.” He composed the music and contributed to the writing of “Encanto” and directed and produced “Tick, Tick… Boom!” about Rent’s playwright Jonathan Larson. He was also the producer of the documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.”

Miranda has shown that no matter how he is working in the entertainment industry, he will find a way to put Latinos on the big screen!


VIVA NOLA December 2021-January 2022 You can support VIVA NOLA’s mission of connecting communities by donating here. Your support, in any amount, is very appreciated.
Cody Downey

Writer/Escritor

New Orleans

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