Oscars: 'Long time coming' for Latinos

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With Spain's Penelope Cruz and Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Adriana Barraza and Guillermo Arriaga all nabbing key Academy Award nominations, Oscar habla espanol Tuesday morning.

"It has been a long time coming, especially since millions of people speak Spanish as their main language in this country," said Cruz, who was singled out for her role in Pedro Almodovar's Spanish-language "Volver." "It's great that it's finally being reflected in movies."

In fact, the Mexican helming troika of Gonzalez Inarritu, del Toro and Cuaron garnered a combined 16 nominations for their films "Babel," "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Children of Men," respectively.

Gonzalez Inarritu's director nom and Cruz's best actress mention also represent Oscar firsts: The "Babel" filmmaker became the premier Mexican director nominated for the craft's highest honor, while the "Volver" star is the first actress recognized for a Spanish-speaking role.

For "Babel's" Barraza, the film's high profile and Academy recognition provide an opportunity for audiences to view a story line rarely portrayed onscreen. "With my character, an immigrant worker, audiences get to see the feelings, the needs, the real reasons why they are here in the United States," she said. "People like my character, they are contributing to this society, and it's important for people to see that."

While the globe-spanning, multilanguage "Babel" earned seven nominations, del Toro's Spanish-language "Pan's Labyrinth" was right behind with six.

"I think what it means is that there is finally a very, very strong all-inclusive presence of Spanish-language culture in the mainstream," said the director, who nabbed his first Oscar nomination for his "Labyrinth" screenplay. "And by this I mean it's not an isolated case of an actor or a star, but I'm talking about technicians, artists, cinematographers, art directors, makeup artists."

"Labyrinth" art director Eugenio Caballero, who hails from Mexico, was one of several below-the-line Latinos to land an Oscar nomination.

"All of these awards and nominations are very good for Hispanic directors; it's very good for Mexico especially," he said. "There have been many nominations in technical categories that are not just Academy Awards, but in other ceremonies. It's important for a whole generation of filmmakers in Mexico, and I'm really happy for everyone."

"I think the cinema is more globalized nowadays," said Barraza, a veteran of Mexican cinema. "The talent has always been there, but with globalization it gives the opportunity for that talent to be seen, whereas before it was more limited to regional audiences."

And though Gonzalez Inarritu is honored to be his country's first nominated director, he warns against defining people with labels.

"The film 'Babel' is not about 'I am Mexican, and you are American,' " he said. "The point is we are human, and we are born naked before someone puts stupid passports on us and raises a flag."

Borys Kit in Los Angeles and Randee Dawn in New York contributed to this report.

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