Whether a classic like Selena or a new animated flick, these films honor Hispanic culture.
Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) celebrates the culture, history, and contributions of Hispanic-Americans, whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Even though there are approximately 60.5 million Hispanic-Americans in the United States, they continue to be underrepresented in films, TV shows, and other media. As we honor these inspiring figures who have influenced the world, commit to watching a film—new or old, animated or musical— that focuses on the lives and achievements of a wide variety of Hispanic people.
1 of 8/ 1. Coco
Miguel, an aspiring, young musician, lives in Santa Cecilia, Mexico with his parents, his abuelita (grandmother), and his bisabuela (great-grandmother), Coco. Even though music is forbidden in Miguel’s family because of a painful history, he refuses to give up on his dreams. After strumming the guitar of his musical idol, Miguel is transported to the colorful and vibrant land of his ancestors. There, Miguel sets out on a journey to learn about his family’s traditions and history – and discover who he truly is. From the creators of Toy Story and Finding Dory, the 2017 animated film stars the voice talents of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía and Edward James Olmos.
Spend Christmas with the Rodriguez clan, a Puerto Rican family living in Humboldt Park, Chicago. As the family sits down for dinner, the festivities grind to a halt when their mother announces she plans on leaving their father. As the adult Rodriguez children face what could be their last Christmas together, they decide to help their father win their mother back – and hilarious family hijinks ensue! Nothing Like the Holidays has an ensemble cast that includes John Leguizamo, Freddy Rodriguez, Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña, Luis Guzmán, and Debra Messing.
This classic musical drama, starring Jennifer Lopez, tells the story of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the famous Mexican-American singer and songwriter. The 1997 film follows Selena from childhood to stardom, through heartbreak and betrayal, as she took the world by storm and became the “Queen of Tejano music.” Selena’s life was tragically cut short in 1995 when she was murdered by a friend, but the movie highlights how her music continues to have an enduring influence. Selena also stars Edward James Olmos and Constance Marie.
4 of 8/ 4. Tortilla Soup
Directed by Spanish director María Ripoll, Tortilla Soup follows Martin Naranjo, a Mexican-American chef living in Los Angeles and his three adult daughters: conservative Leticia, passionate Carmen, and rebellious Maribel. Even though Martin lost his sense of taste and smell after losing his wife, he still cooks delicious Mexican meals to bring his family together. The 2001 comedy-drama stars Héctor Elizondo, Elizabeth Peña, Jacqueline Obradors, Tamara Mello and Raquel Welch.
This dramatic film is written and directed by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón; it is partially based on his childhood growing up in Mexico City’s quirky Colonia Roma neighborhood. Set in the 1970s, the story follows Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez, an indigenous Mexican woman and maid to a middle-class family, as she cares for her children while also witnessing the political unrest in her country. Shot entirely in black-and-white, Roma is a beautiful portrayal of family, class, and memory. The 2018 movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture—it won three, including Best Foreign Language Film. It stars Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira.
6 of 8/ 6. Real Women Have Curves
Based on the play by Chicana playwright Josefina López, Real Women Have Curves is a 2002 comedy-drama about 18-year-old Ana García, a high school student living in Beverly Hills, California, who is determined to go to college. Her mother, Carmen, however, wants Ana to work for the family’s textile factory. Constantly put down by her mother and others for her weight, Ana—played by America Ferrera in her feature film debut, must learn to love her body and follow her dreams. The film won the Special Jury Prize for acting at the Sundance Film Festival.
Fortuna “Lucky” Navarro-Prescott has dreamed of finding a place where she belongs. When she’s sent to live with her estranged father in the town of Miradero for the summer, she thinks she might have found it. She learns about her late mother, Milagro, a fearless horse rider; she makes friends with some young horse riders in town; and she begins to bond with a wild horse, which she names Spirit. But when Spirit and his herd are captured by horse thieves, Lucky and her friends set out on an adventure to save them. Lucky’s journey is about finding her courage and reconnecting with her Hispanic heritage. Spirit Untamed, released in 2021, is the first animated film with an all-woman led team and stars the voice talents of Isabela Merced, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, and Julianne Moore.
This 2014 documentary tells the true story of a rag-tag robotics team at a Level 1 high school in Phoenix, Arizona, who built an underwater robot for a robotics competition. Many of the students at the school, children of Mexican immigrants, lived in poverty. Just by the simple act of going up against MIT-level robots, they created a lasting legacy in their school of reaching for the stars no matter where you come from. Underwater Dreams is written and directed by Mary Mazzio and narrated by Michael Peña.
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