NALIP Latino Media Awards Foster Outburst of Cultural Pride, Turn Political

Courtesy of NALIP
Vin Diesel and Zoe Saldana

“We deserve a place in this country, on and off the camera,” said honoree Zoe Saldana.

Dozens of Hollywood’s leading Latino figures, from independent film producers to trailblazing actors, gathered Saturday night to celebrate the milestones achieved within the industry over the past year. The first of its kind since the presidential election, the ceremony not-so-subtly teemed with political references and inspiring communal support.

“I’m going to use this to smash all the walls they build around us,” said The Book of Life director Jorge Gutierrez, referring to his award for Tech Arts Innovator. Gutierrez, among others, praised the recent yet incremental wave of Latino visibility in the media, which he attributes to a stronger generational desire to be represented onscreen.

One of the main honorees, Zoe Saldana, who received the Outstanding Achievement in Film award for her roles in Guardians of the Galaxy, Avatar and Star Trek, among others, gave an emotional speech that silenced an otherwise animated atmosphere, stressing the importance of surpassing race and ethnicity when it comes to talent.

“For any person of color that looks in a TV and doesn’t see a positive reflection of who they are, I want them to feel like they don’t have to be singled out because they're exotic or ethnic, but because they're powerful,” she said.

Along similar lines were remarks made by Kate Del Castillo, who won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Television, as she called out the business for limiting Latina roles to stereotyped or sexualized characters. Castillo’s public decrial of the Mexican government, as well as her controversial correspondence with kingpin El Chapo, notably brokering an interview with Sean Penn in October 2015, placed her under high scrutiny and surveillance, ultimately preventing her from returning to the country.

Despite the outcome, Castillo’s candor and appreciable conviction left no doubt regarding her intentions to continue using her fame and success as a political platform, appearing to broaden her scope of criticism.

“It is no time to be silent; we must fight against any administration that manipulates and tries to distance us all from our humanity,” she said as the crowd erupted in cheers.

Another salient theme throughout the evening was the celebration of a gradual induction of Latino actors into traditionally white-dominated roles. From the beloved butler in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel to the geeky teen in Dope, and now Flash Thompson in Marvel’s up-and-coming Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony Revolori has been paving a path for young Latino actors by broadening and diversifying casting opportunities.

“I'm playing a traditionally 6'2" blue-eyed white guy, and there's not a single line of exposition in this Marvel movie to explain why that is — and that's amazing,” he said of his new role.

Revolori was awarded the Lupe Ontiveros award, honoring his efforts to expand the character landscape for Latino actors.

Ben Lopez, executive director of NALIP, made note of the same phenomenon across major blockbusters.

“How do you engage an audience that’s typically seen you as the maid, the gangster, the gardener? Now we’re looking at a badass like Zoe battling monsters in space, or Diego Luna as a a rebel leader in Rogue One,” he added, “All doors are starting to open; a woman heroine just saved an entire franchise.”

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