The latest round of Oscar nominations exploded (again) in a racially-charged backlash headed up by the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. Despite the fact that Latino filmmakers received a handful of important nominations in behind-the-camera categories, Latinos are glaringly absent in front of the camera. Along with other actors of color, Latinos were completely shut out from the acting categories. While much of the outcry on social networking sites highlights the lack of good roles and awards for black actors, we’re missing part of the story. In truth, African Americans are actually far more represented in film, television, and yes, the Oscars, than their Latino counterparts working in the industry.
As a matter of fact, the last Latino actor to win an Oscar was Benicio del Toro back in 2000, while top prizes like Best Lead Actor have eluded us since José Ferrer took one home back in 1950. To top things off, the only Latina to ever take home an Academy Award was Rita Moreno back in 1961 — and that was for Best Supporting Actress. So when is someone finally going to step up and make a statement on behalf of the talented brown actors who continue to be snubbed by a whitewashed industry?
Well, the answer is today. In collaboration with UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center and director Chon Noriega, Chicana artist Linda Vallejo has taken her ironic and provocative “Make ‘Em All Mexican” conceptual mixed media project straight to the Academy with “For Your Consideration: Make ‘Em All Mexican.” The basic premise of the project involves Vallejo painting over iconic images of American pop culture, rendering them a dark shade of brown and accompanying the images with a Hispanicized reinterpretation of each name. From Marilyn Monroe we get a chocolate-colored Marielena, while Audrey Hepburn becomes Aurora Hernandez, and so on.
In the case of “For Your Consideration,” Vallejo painted over images of past Oscar winners while also including an homage to the late actor-director Emilio “El Indio” Fernández, who according to legend served the model for the Oscar statuette. Including a moreno Pablo Mundi as Pablo Mundial, and a trigueña Cate Blanchette as Catarina Blancarte, the “For Your Consideration” series is a playful but powerful statement about demographic shifts and persistent racial privilege in U.S. film and television.