We are all deeply weary of the unending media circus that’s been made out of this presidential election cycle – if not just for the fact that we’re forced to see Donald Trump’s appalling apricot visage day after day, multiple times a day. In fact, it’s getting so bad that psychologist have begun to pontificate about the health risks of a phenomenon known as Election Stress Disorder, suggesting that we make an effort to appreciate things like “nuance” and “complexity,” and shift to this thing they call the “adult brain” to safeguard our well-being. Whatever this all means, we here at Remezcla have come up with our own home-style remedy to cure those election blues: Vote for Pedro.
That’s right: forget about red states and blue states; blathering, bigoted madmen; and calculating political insiders. Instead, let’s take a look back at a simpler sort of election, where good-natured sincerity triumphs over superficial social hierarchies. Let’s take a look back at the 2004 indie cult classic Napoleon Dynamite and the beloved Mexican immigrant who won the hearts of Preston High School voters, and film fans around the world.
Pedro Sanchez, of course, was only one of many charming supporting characters in Jared and Jerusha Hess’ chronicle of an eccentric geek navigating small-town Idaho life. The real star, at least ostensibly, was the eponymous “numchuck”-wielding, mouth-breathing dweeb played masterfully by Jon Heder. But in practice, the film seemed to use Napoleon as a way into to a universe of absurd, eccentric, and deeply lovable characters from which Pedro emerged as the undeniable fan favorite.
The man behind Preston’s brown, mustachioed misfit is Los Angeles-born actor Efren Ramirez – who happens to be of Costa Rican and Salvadoran descent, though he perfectly captures the innocent bewilderment of a Juárez native transplanted into the vast, unsettled expanses of Mormon country. Emerging as a faithful companion and perfect deadpan foil to Napoleon, Pedro’s storyline takes off when he’s inspired to run for student body president, and takes on consummate American popular girl Summer Wheatley in a heated campaign.
The movie culminates in a brilliant, funk-fueled set piece in which Dynamite improvises a dazzling choreography and earns his best homie a standing ovation from a packed auditorium. In the end, Pedro wins out over the insufferably entitled Summer Wheatley, and “Vote for Pedro” became a global marketing phenomenon. Indeed, even a cursory Google search leaves no doubt that “Vote for Pedro” became the surprise box office smash’s most recognizable merchandising spinoff, and the film turned Efren Ramírez into an instantly-recognizable public figure, with devotees from Israel to Australia.
But Ramírez doesn’t seem particularly bothered by all the attention, or even the fact that one character has so continuously dogged him throughout his prolific acting career. In fact, judging from one 2012 interview with HitFix, he seems to take it all with the detached bemusement of a true artist. “All the characters I have played so far are with me, and they will always be with me,” he reflected on a break from San Diego Comic Con. “And Pedro, he’s such a character that’s loved by so many fans, and the film’s such a wonderful story that family’s can sit together and enjoy… I’m lucky to play a character that people love.”
With that sort of positive attitude and genuine dedication to his craft, maybe one day the actor Efren Ramírez will be just as loved as that soft-spoken Mexican immigrant whom he brought to glorious life more than a decade ago.