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Latinos don't win Oscars

by Adriana Villavicencio


Latinos don’t win Oscars. They star in movies, make movies, write movies, design costumes and write scores for movies, but very few have taken the coveted statuette home.

In the history of the Academy Awards, only 15 Latinos have been nominated in acting categories and only 5 have won.

Winners: The first winner was Jose Ferrer, a Puerto Rican stage actor who played Cyrano de Bergerac in 1950. Others winners include the beautiful Rita Moreno for West Side Story and the formidable Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata! U.S.-born Cuban Mercedes Ruehl won Best Supporting actress for The Fisher King in 1991, and charismatic Benicio Del Toro (twice nominated for Best Supporting Actor) won in 2000 for his role in Traffic.

Rita Moreno

Nominees: Edward James Olmos was nominated for his unforgettable role in Stand and Deliver and Andy Garcia for Godfather III (though he doesn’t like to consider himself a Latino actor anyways). Proud Latinas, Rosie Perez and Selma Hayek, were also nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress respectively.

European winners we like to claim: Both Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem have been nominated more than once and won one each in Best Supporting categories. They may be one of the most attractive couples who speak Spanish, but they’re technically Hispanic not Latino. Sadly, no Latina has ever won an Oscar for Best Actress.

We might have had some false hope in 2006 when 18 Latinos were nominated for various categories including Best Film (Babel), Best Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), and Best Foreign Film (Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Laberyinth). None took it home and the next few years saw an even greater dearth of nominees.

The problem is bigger than the Oscars.

Edward James Olmos

Partially to blame for the Oscar drought is the limited opportunities for Latinos in film. You can’t win an Oscar if you don’t get a chance to play an Oscar-worthy role. By and large, though, Latino roles are limited to archetypes and clichés – the poor maid, the gang member, the Latin Lover, the spicy temptress. And sometimes, when there are juicy roles for Latinos, it is a non-Latino who gets the opportunity to play them (see Al Pacino in Scarface).

Hispanics and Latinos –  they are usually lumped together in the U.S. – make up more than 15% of the U.S. population, but they remain just as underrepresented in the film industry as they were decades ago (as are Asians and African Americans). This year in particular was heralded as “Hollywood’s Whiteout” by the New York Times film critics, who pointed out that the 2010 films nominated for best picture are even whiter than those nominated in 1940.

How many more decades will we be shut out and overlooked. When will the talent and vision of Latino filmmakers and actors be allowed to shine as brightly as the Oscars they undoubtedly deserve?

For a look at Latinos doing their thing in film, check out our series on Being Latino at the Sundance Film Festival.

To learn more about Adriana, visit The Radical Ideas.


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.


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About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

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. Jorge Drexel won the Oscar for his song in the Motorcycle Diaries (Rema, rema!). Gustavo Santaolalla won two Oscars back to back for the original score in Brokeback Mountain & Babel.

  2. Great article and so true…

  3. I LOVED THIS! Thanks for posting ;)

  4. Thanks soo much for the information! As a black actor its easy to forget the fight of all minorities for representation in our most praised honors!

  5. eileenrivera says:

    Movie-making and the entertainment industry are uncomfortable bed partners. It’s not always about winning awards but the acclaim from peers has to feel special. Personally, I prefer the Spirit Awards that always precede the Oscars.

  6. Maria Diaz says:

    How about if we would begin to bouycott the movies and or only patronize those who have some Latino representation? The only way to really create some real changes in Hollywood is by hitting them where it hurts—the almighty dollar!

  7. Adriana says:

    Actually several Latinos have been nominated/won for musical scores, but I focused on the acting categories.

  8. Adriana says:

    Thanks Rachel! So glad you enjoyed it. :)

  9. Adriana says:

    Hello beautiful actress! Much success in your career! ;)

  10. Adriana says:

    Keith, thanks so much for the feedback. We definitely need more strong Black actors who represent Black men in a VARIETY of roles. Much success!!

  11. Adriana says:

    “Bed partners”…well said. We should definitely check out the Spirit Awards…Oscars are soo overrated.

  12. Adriana says:

    You’re right to point out our own power in this issue. As a large and growing group of American consumers, Latinos cannot be ignored.

  13. Shine the light on Oscar’s shadowy truth! Nice piece.

  14. Andres says:

    You also forgot to mention Colombian Actress Catalina Sandino Moreno, who was nominated for best actress in her performance in “Maria Full of Grace” She unfortunately didn’t win and lost to Hilary Swank.

  15. Adriana Villavicencio says:


  16. Adriana Villavicencio says:

    Thank you for catching the oversight! Catalina Moreno is such a talent…I hope this is not the last we see of her on the Red Carpet.

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