Stars of ‘OITNB’ & ‘On My Block’ Talk Finding a Place in Hollywood’s Narrow View of Latinidad

Lead Photo: Photo by Bennet Perez. Courtesy of Netflix
Photo by Bennet Perez. Courtesy of Netflix
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When discussions of Latinidad in Hollywood take place, the main gripes and examples tend to be about how Mexicans are portrayed on screen. And with films like Peppermint basically serving as Mexican punching bags, such pushback remains quite necessary. But as Orange is the New BlackSelenis Leyva, who’s Cuban and Dominican, puts it in a new video, “People in Hollywood don’t understand that Latinos also come from the Caribbean.” To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Leyva got to talk with fellow Netflix colleagues, including her co-star Jackie Cruz, as well as with On My Block‘s Jessica Marie Garcia (who’s Mexican and Cuban) and Jason Genoa, about the state of Latinos in Hollywood.

Given that they share Caribbean heritage, their conversation necessarily ended up highlighting the specific obstacles they’ve had to overcome in their careers. Chatting over tostones and empanadas in a lush green outdoor patio, they touch on oft-forgotten aspects of the wide diversity of experiences, heritages, and skin colors that encompass the word “Latino.” Genoa, for example, has only ever played Mexican characters on-screen despite being Dominican, while fellow DR girl Cruz realized she had a better shot if she moved to New York City, where her “not stereotypical Latin looks” wouldn’t prove to be such a hindrance. Even as numbers about on-screen representation for Latinos remain appalling (and boycott-worthy), you sometimes lose the sense that this community is not monolithic. It can include the Cuban-American family from One at a Time, the second-generation Dominican gals in Litchfield prison, the Mexican kids from On My Block, and every kind of cultural blend that runs from Miami all the way down to Patagonia and across the United States.

As we move the conversation forward, these talented actors want us remember that the Caribbean and Afro-Latino experience deserves a seat at the table. Cruz puts it best at the end of the exclusive clip, “We need more of this!” Check it out in full below.

For a look at Netflix’s Latino content check out