Goonies never say “die,” and thirty years later it seems they’re just as alive as ever. So alive, in fact, that the small town of Astoria, Oregon is expecting a mob of up to 15,000 Goonies fanatics to storm their quaint port city in celebration of the whimsical action-adventure flick’s 30 year anniversary. More recently they celebrated the film’s 25-year anniversary in 2010, preceded by the 20th anniversary in 2005, with smaller celebrations for the 21 – 29 anniversaries in between. Apparently The Goonies has become something like the center of Astoria’s cultural life since the film cemented its place in the USA’s collective heart, and they’ve wisely milked the tourist dollars over the ensuing decades.
This is all because Astoria was the filming location of that 1985 children’s classic, and much like the town’s actual demographics, the film featured a gang of predominantly white kids adventuring around with a brainy East Asian pal named Data. But, in an important nod to the Latino community, the film’s writers included a trusty Latina maid character to spice things up with her weak grasp on spoken English. And who better to play Rosalita than Hollywood’s perennial go-to Mexican maid, El Paso native Lupe Ontiveros. So, in honor of the Astoria’s upcoming 30th anniversary celebration, we pay homage to the woman who kept the fictional Walsh family household sparkling clean, and to the late Lupe Ontiveros’ dignified portrayal of that otherwise two-dimensional plot device. (It’s the least we could do for the woman who took on the less-than-desirable job of playing Selena’s killer in 1997’s Selena. Her portrayal of Yolanda Sandívar was so realistic, people would actually hiss at her when she walked into public places!)
In case your memory has begun to fade, The Goonies follows a gang of kids who discover an old pirate map as they prepare to have their neighborhood destroyed by an encroaching country club development. As they search for the pirate’s buried pressure, the adventuresome buddies run into a family of no-good criminals with an Italian surname who complicate their plans, only to have Rosalita stumble upon a bag a rubies that saves the day and their vulnerable neighborhood from evil developers.
Early on, Rosalita’s difficulty with the English language is the set up for a classic scene in which an overeager and suspiciously polite Corey Feldman insists he can help translate the lady of the house’s instructions into Spanish, only to threaten to lock a horrified Rosalita in the closet after revealing where the family supposedly stashes their hard drugs and sexual torture devices. In this clip we can appreciate Ontiveros’ sincere effort to give Rosalita a little personality, but who in their right mind would passively mumble “Ay Dios mio” as an 11-year-old punk threatens to kidnap you and hold you against your will? You can blame the screenwriters for that one, but give them some credit for nailing Mexican drug slang.
The Mexican-American actress famously said that she played a maid over 150 times on stage and screen, but expressed that she was proud to have represented working people and always made an effort to imbue them with dignity. Yet despite this hefty CV, Ontiveros recalls her role in The Goonies as one of the most fulfilling of her career. In this clip from 2011 — the year before she tragically passed — we see a happy and healthy 68-year-old Ontiveros glowing about the experience and how much it meant for her to be recognized in the years after the film’s release.
Now we can imagine that in addition to mumbling in Spanish as she hovered in the background of the Walsh house, Rosalita might well have been struggling to support a family, sending money back home, dreaming of her kids’ future, and desperately missing her country. Maybe if they ever get around to making a sequel, it would be nice to catch just a little bit of that — what’s the word? — humanity. Until then, we give our respects to the late, great Lupe Ontiveros for never selling her characters short, no matter how limited the part.