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Big screen Latinos: Breaking stereotypes or fighting back

We are all familiar with the machista stereotype. The silent, semi-bossy male who believes that his word is law and the little woman is in charge of hearth and home. Dinner is on the table and the children are clean and well-mannered with no work on his part.

There is some effort being put forth by movie makers to put a new face on Latinos in film. The last three Latino-themed films I’ve seen have all portrayed nurturing, single men raising children, cooking dinner, and buying groceries. Is it a coincidence, or is it a concerted effort to change the manner in which Latinos are viewed?

In last month’s Tio Papi, a carefree man in Manhattan suddenly finds himself the reluctant guardian to his four nieces and nephews when his sister and brother-in-law are killed in a tragic car accident. Raymond doesn’t believe he is up to the task of caring for these grieving children and so he sees his guardianship status as temporary. With the help of his own village, aka friends and family, he makes a life for his wards and falls in love with them as individuals and not solely as his sister’s kids and begins to embrace his new role as Tio Papi.

In another recent release, Instructions Not Included, A Mexican playboy has one of his casual conquests drop a baby girl in his arms and walk away. Valentin tracks his Baby Mama to Los Angeles and goes there to seek her out. A near tragedy secures him a job as a stunt man providing him a way to make a living and raise his daughter. His precocious daughter becomes his translator on movie sets and his playmate/partner-in-crime away from the set. His life revolves around her and he creates a fantasy life for her, where her mother is unable to be there because she is a hero, out saving the world. Predictably, the Baby Mama shows up and throws their carefully constructed life into turmoil.

In Pulling Strings, Alejandro is a widowed Mariachi singer raising his daughter, in Mexico City, with the help of friends and neighbors. He finds himself in trouble with loansharks, from whom he has borrowed money to keep his daughter in one of the best schools. He also finds himself in trouble with the nuns at the school who believe that he is a poor father and a bad role model. Apparently full of guilt, Alejandro decides to send his daughter to Arizona so she could be raised by her grandparents. In a made for Hollywood moment, his Mariachi group is hired to play at a party honoring the embassy employee who rejected his daughter’s visa application. After a few lies, coercion, car chases, and hilarity, the film ends with a Hollywood hero’s ending.

So, what are these films trying to tell us? Have we as a people allowed the perpetuation of  the machista stereotype assigned to our men? Are these films the way our men have chosen to fight back or are the writers and filmmakers attempting to introduce the general public to the men we already know are out there and just don’t get enough exposure?

As the daughter of a nurturing father, and as someone who comes from a family of nurturing fathers, I would like to believe that Hollywood is simply putting the spotlight on the type of man who is out there but hasn’t received the recognition they deserve. I would rather believe that than think that we have bashed our own men so badly that they’ve finally decided to fight back, on the big screen.


About Eileen Rivera

Eileen was born in The Bronx, to Puerto Rican parents. She grew up thinking the whole world was Latino. Moving to Rockland County in upstate New York taught her it wasn’t. One more move in 1976, brought her to Hudson County, New Jersey where she currently resides. She attended Rutgers-Newark where she majored in Social Work with a minor in Puerto Rican studies. Eileen credits her history professor, Dr. Olga Wagenheim, for the spark and impetus to search out her roots in a pre-computer era. The daughter of a minister, she credits her father for the activism, volunteerism and search for justice that have characterized her adult years.

The mother of two adult daughters, Eileen has worked in the Juvenile Justice system for twenty-eight years. She acts as a liaison between the Juvenile Detention Center and the Juvenile Court.

Writing was something she shared with family. Stories and songs for her children and Christmas tales for the extended family. She now shares her writing with a larger family, the Being Latino family.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Giselle Gonzalez says:

    I’m not understanding this. My Dad was a nurturing, caring Dad and a loving Father. When he passed away it rocked our world. I’ve seen my fair share of Machismo and believe me it ain’t pretty. Latino men have been portrayed as ruffled sleeved rumba dancing gigolos in the 40’s and 50’s and razor carrying gang bangers in the 60’s and 70’s. I think it’s about time a more positive image is needed, and wanted. Our young men need to see this positive role model instead of seen as a Johnny Appleseed going from girl to girl impregnigating every young woman he sees. I love these movies they show a bitter sweet reality. We need to have role models wether it’s in film, music our young Latino men need this.

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