By Matthew Torres
“Latinos don’t exist in Star Wars”. I’ve heard it a lot and it’s something that I’m going to discuss right now because by the end of this article, you’ll realize that Latinos aren’t just in Star Wars, they are vital to it.
Let’s state some facts: Latinos account for over 20% of the filmgoing public, yet according to a USC study only 3.5% of Hollywood movies have Latinos in a lead role. Think about that: Nearly a quarter of people who go to the movies have less than a 4% chance of seeing themselves represented on screen. When you dive even deeper, it doesn’t get better. Many Latino roles are given to actors who aren’t Latino, and many Latinos in films rarely play Latino characters. The biggest example is Marvel Studios, which has an incredible nine Latino actors, yet only one is playing a Latino character (the others are aliens or playing white characters). Then we get to Star Wars; and I already know what you’re going to say: “There are no Latinos in a galaxy far, far away”, and you’re not wrong; but if you’re going to try and say that the real world is not shown in that universe, I’m gonna tell you that you aren’t paying attention.
Star Wars and the Real World
How is Star Wars a representation of our real world? All the bad guys have British accents, and the empire is a conglomeration of the Nazi Regime and the Imperialist USA. The rebels are inspired by the underdog nations in historical and current conflicts, like Mexico and Vietnam; hell, even Princess Leia’s iconic hair is inspired by real-life Mexican war heroes known as the soldaderas.
“I went with a kind of south-western Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look, which is what that is. The buns are basically from turn-of-the-century Mexico,”George Lucas to Time Magazine 2002
There are real–world elements in Star Wars, and it’s with that in mind we push forward to the whole point of this article: Latino Representation in Star Wars. In the original trilogy, there were zero Latinos. In the Prequel Trilogy, we got one (Bail Organa) who played a minuscule part. However in the sequel era, and the shows and movies that followed, we’ve had four Latino actors in main character roles. There is Poe Dameron, Djin Djarin (The Mandalorian), Ahsoka Tano, and Cassian Andor. All four badass characters are portrayed by four badass Latinos (only one of which isn’t human). And of course, we have to give a special shout-out to the showrunner of Book of Boba Fett, Robert Rodriguez.
Lightyears Ahead in Representation
It is crazy to think that Star Wars is giving us five iconic shows, and three of them star Latino actors in the leading role. Now, this wouldn’t be as incredible if not for the fact that no franchise, not Marvel, Star Trek, DC, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Avatar, or any other major franchise you can think is even close to giving Latinos this sort of representation. Marvel is about to start Phase 5 and has released over 30 movies and half a dozen shows since 2008, and still have made no announcement that they’re giving a Latino superhero their own movie. As it stands, the only actual Latino character in the MCU is the former criminal and bumbling sidekick, Luis, played by Michael Peña.
DC is doing slightly better, having given us Latino characters, it’s just usually not a good representation. In Suicide Squad, the only major character to die is the Latino who is also a Cholo gangster, The Suicide Squad is set in Latin America and all the victims and bad guys are Latino, and Birds of Prey features Renee Montoya in a supporting role but isn’t a superhero. But we are getting Blue Beetle, which is starring, written by, and directed by Latinos.
And for anyone saying “Well duh, Latinos wouldn’t be in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter,” I’d like to remind you that Rings of Power AND the third Fantastic Beasts movie both featured Latino characters. In the case of Rings of Power, the character Arondir was actually pretty cool. For Harry Potter, it… wasn’t so much. Despite the fact that the third act takes place in Brazil (correction, Bhutan), the only Latino featured (the Prime Minister) doesn’t actually get to say anything, despite her importance to the Wizarding World.
Why Star Wars is Winning
But with Star Wars, we’re introduced to something else. Poe Dameron is the greatest pilot in the history of Star Wars, showing off feats without seemingly having any force sensitivity. Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal in The Mandalorian), is the greatest bounty hunter of all time, a loving and caring father figure, and overall just an absolute badass. Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), is one of the only Jedi left during the sequel era and easily one of the greatest Jedi in the entire series. Then there’s Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), the man who will do anything to survive, a genius strategist, and an ace shot. These four characters are treated with respect, are powerful compared to their peers, and are all played by Latinos who are PROUD of their culture.
I was lucky enough to attend the Andor red carpet premiere, and I was even luckier to sit next to the casting director of the show Martin Ware. I asked him about the casting, and he shared with me something pretty damn cool (and relevant to the article). The actor who portrays young Cassian Andor was a Mexican actor (Diego Luna, who portrays Cassian, is himself Mexican). Now you might be thinking, no big deal. Well, all of the scenes for young Cassian were filmed entirely in London. Most studios would have hired a Spanish, Italian, or some POC who already lives in London and called it a day. “Latinos don’t exist in Star Wars”, after all, right? Well, Diego Luna insisted that for authenticity’s sake, they hire a Mexican actor and then fly that actor out to London.
No Such Thing?
There’s no such thing as Latinos in Star Wars. Except, there sort of is. The characters aren’t waving Mexican flags, but they proudly carry their identity with them, and it’s something Lucasfilm is happy with. Having worked with Lucasfilm on an ad, I can tell you with confidence, they are very aware and very proud of the fact that they are the industry leader for Latinos. Andor, after all, had the majority of its release window during Latin Heritage Month.
When comparing all the major franchises, there is one studio that always seeks to put people of color in front of and behind the camera, and that studio stands alone (in my opinion). LucasFilm is pushing diversity in everything they do and is constantly creating quality content, and they are very proud of both facts. I, for one, love them for it.
Read Matt’s book Fairytales Not From Europe 2 on Amazon, and find more content from Matt on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube @thestorytimeguy
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