Gerard O'Neill

The Blackwashing of Latinos in the Media

This is a running list of all the instances I’ve personally observed of non-Latino black actors portraying Latinos in the media. For some reason, it’s something I never see talked about, even though people frequently discuss the issues with blackface.

I don’t think this is okay. There are plenty of Latino actors out there. If you want a Latino portrayed, then have a Latino do it.

Breaking Bad (TV Series)

The main antagonist of the series, Gus Fring, a Chilean drug lord portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito, who is of black and Italian descent. Given that he’s not Latino, nor is he from Latin America, he needed to fake an accent for this role.

Dear White People (TV Series)

One of the minor characters, Al, was randomly revealed to be Latino in the third season of the show. I haven’t found any evidence that the actor, Jemar Michael, has any Latino heritage.

Like other portrayals on this list, it’s unclear why the writers decided to make this character Latino. There’s also no explanation for why he keeps his ancestry a secret to everybody except exactly one other character — another Latino.

In general, I’m not a fan of how Latinos are written into the show, but at least the other characters are actually portrayed by Latino actors.

Kim’s Convenience (TV Series)

Nina Gomez, the pastor of the church that the Kim belongs to, is portrayed by Amanda Brugel. As far as I can tell, she is not Latina, though I’ve been unable to figure out if she is mixed or not.

The strange thing about this portrayal is that Pastor Nina’s Latina heritage isn’t brought up even once in the entire show. She never speaks Spanish, and we never see her family. If her last name was Johnson instead of Gomez, the show would be exactly the same. It’s unclear to me why this character needs to be Latina when the actress is not.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Giancarlo Esposito makes his second appearance on this list with his role as Jorge in this film. He loves to say the Spanish word “hermano” and once again, fakes an accent for the role.

Moonlight (Film)

One of the main characters, Juan, is an afro-Cuban man portrayed by Mahershala Ali, who has no Latino ancestry.

This portrayal bothered me a lot. His Cuban heritage is mentioned exactly once in the entire movie, and in my opinion, it was insignificant and unnecessary. Not only that, but he states that he’s from Cuba, though for some unknown reason, he has no accent, never speaks Spanish, and lives in a black neighborhood instead of a Cuban one.

As someone who grew up in a very large Cuban community, I found the portrayal extremely unconvincing. Also, I have no idea why his character needed to be Latino. Perhaps the writers felt that they needed to insert at least one Latino character into the movie since it takes place in Miami, a city where 70% of the population is Latino.

Man, I was annoyed when I watched this movie.

On My Block (TV series)

One of the main characters, Ruby, is a young Latino boy. His grandmother, Marisol Martinez, is portrayed by Peggy Blow, who is mixed black and white with no Latina heritage as far as I’ve been able to find.

As much as I love the character, the lack of criticism around this portrayal blows my mind. Not only does this show take place in South Los Angeles, home to a very high number of Latinos, but Blow’s appearance needs to be significantly altered and she needs to fake an accent for the role. I simply don’t understand how this is acceptable.

The Get Down (TV series)

The main character of the show, Ezekiel Figuero, is a half-black, half-Puerto Rican teenager. He is portrayed by Justice Smith, who is half black and half white. His portrayal actually isn’t bad, but I wish they had a Puerto Rican — preferably from New York — to play the role.

For the third time, I need to mention Giancarlo Esposito, who plays the role of Pastor Ramon Cruz, the father of Mylene and the brother of Papa Fuerte, both of whom are portrayed by Latino actors.