Stereotypes in modern Latin America through film

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            Viva Villa (1934) is a film stared by Wallace Berry as Pancho Villa , written by Ben Hecht, adapted from a biography by Jack Conway. The movie is a fictionalized bibliography of Pancho Villa. He takes to the hills after killing an overseer in revenge for his father’s death. He befriends an American reporter Johnny Sykes. Then a meeting with visionary Francisco Medero transform villa from an avenging bandit to a revolutionary general. They are commanded by La Cucaracha to sweep Mexico. After victory, Villa’s bandit-like disregard for human life forces Madero to exile him but he falls back to raise the people against a new tyrant. Pancho Villa spent a decade fighting for Mexico’s freedom but he was also a killer who was capable of tremendous cruelty. He was born loved and feared by his countrymen. We can see the stereotype of bandit character in this movie. Photography and action sequence are excellent in this movie though it is a bit on the fanciful side. The actors who play part in the movies are; Wallace Berry, Henry B. Walthall as Francisco Madero, he turns out to in the best performance of the movie. Madero, Villa use their real names, others such as John Reed uses Johnny Sykes, Victoriano Huerta as Pascal and Rodolfo Fierro as Siera. The movie runs for 110 minutes and it is credited for its classic drama.

            Moon over perador is a (1988) romantic comedy film, staring Richard Dreyfuss, Raul Julia and Sonia Braga. The movie follows the exploits of Jack Noah (Dreyfuss), who is filming in the small, fictional South America country of Parador when Paradorian president suddenly dies of heart attack. The president’s right-hand man, Roberto Strausman (Raul Julia) forces Jack to take the ‘role of a lifetime’ to continue his legacy as the two men look so much a like. Jack accepts to take up the role and eventually winning over the people and even the dead president’s mistress, Madona (Sonia Braga), but of course cannot conceal is real identity to her. A close call with Parado’s revolutionaries Sonia’s brimming social conscience pushes Noah to take command of the role. Jack finds the paradise boring and looks for away to get out while keeping Roberto out of the loop. The film is told in flashbacks, while opening a scene establishing that Jack has returned to New York City. Latin films always have a love affair character going on, they Stereotypes this roles in most of their movies. Jack winning the dead presidents Mistress shows how we stereotype love affair in their films.

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            Banana (1971) movie tells the story of Fielding Mellish (Allen), a neurotic New Yorker who follows the object of his affections, Nancy (Louise Lasser), to the Central American country of San Marcos, where she is involved in a revolution. Nancy wants nothing to do with Fielding. While his stay there, Fielding becomes a guest of the country’s dictator Carlos Montalban, before accidentally becoming the leader of San Marcos himself. Nancy wants to fall in love with someone with greater leader potential not of Fielding Mellish status but he tries to convince him that he is worthy of her his love. When fielding eventually becomes President of the country she falls for him now that he is a political leader. As a figure of a revolution that America does not support, he is no longer welcomed to his country. Wearing a disguise, he returns to America where his ex-girlfriend has renewed interest in him not knowing he is really Fielding Mellish and is not long before the CIA discovers him. He escapes imprisonment luckily after a humiliating and politically charged trail. He marries Nancy who remarkably now admires him for making great sacrifices for a cause she believes in so deeply.

            The music in the film is great, the mixing of Latin American, Dixieland jazz and the great 1812 overture moment. Allen’s direction is all over the place and the speed is relentless. Allen’ jokes were overrated but the movie is full of pure comedy with some satirical and political overtures. The funny classic funny moments are when Cosell covered political assassination like a sporting event, the returning to do the same as Woody consummate his marriage to Lasser. The satire theme comes the way the media views sports, politics, entertainment, sex and celebrity gossip as being interchangeable. The film length is shorter than most movies it runs about 82 minutes and might have benefited from an additional subplot. J.Edgar, plays a black woman testifying in court shows stereotyping in Latin movies. The purpose of the movie is to show U.S. policy and diplomacy played in a comical way (Berg, 2002, p.128).

             Although the stereotypes of Hispanic roles as lazy, criminal, house maids and gardeners, more Latinos gaining foothold as directors, writers, producers and executives in the film industry and this is trying to change the stereotypes that Hollywood has perpetuated for decades. Many of the Hispanic roles played by them were stereotypical drunken male and the female seductress who usually fall in love with an Anglo male. Latino male lusted after or idealized white women. Former El Pasoan and aspiring actress says that it is very hard to land a good role in a movie. She has only been cast as an extra in some television commercials, but the color of her skin and her last name seem to jump off at the producers before acting abilities. She recounts where she was picked out of a crowd on auditioning before she could display her skills, the producer said to her that the color of her skin is what the Mexican girl is supposed to look like, but to producers surprise she was not Mexican. Most studious have not changed much, all they want is stereotypes (Berg, 2002).

            Latin American films have been perceived to have revolutionist, the male buffoon, female marianismo and the dark lady. All these characters portrayed in their movies over the years have been defining and demeaning images of Latino in U.S. cinema. In Viva Villa for instance, we learn that Villa is a polygamist, marrying every woman who attracts his attention. More Latinos are succeeding in Hollywood. David Valdes, a Hollywood producer emphasizes that the need for better scripts for Latin people. At a 1994 screenwriter’s conference, he says “Hollywood ahs not explored the world of Hispanic who are rich, educated, middle –class, who are bisexual or who do not speak Spanish, who are 1’ 5” in height (not 5’ 1”). Hispanics need to write their own scripts for them to eliminate this stereotypes going about their culture. The film is tackles politics, government and religion. In the movie Bananas, San Marcos country is stereotyped as a poor country, When Mellish was giving a speech at a fundraiser dinner, while posing as the San Marcos president, he laments that although San Marcos is a poor country as compared to the rich United States, they can offer them locust in return for aid (Berg, 2002, p.230).

            In a scene where Woody commented “you cannot bash in the head of an American citizen without permission from the State Department.” Film Bananas shows that there is a feeling of Unites States superiority over the Mexicans with almost essence of ownership along national boundaries. The trail scene can be seen as quite critique to the American establishment’s McCarthy Style intolerance of any political dissent. Another stereotypes in Mexican films includes an extreme sense of machismo in Mexican men, a muted a sense of marianismo in Mexican Women, a network of corrupt government officials continually overthrown and replaced by revolutionaries, and different bandit to hire for any occasion. These views are prevalent throughout the United States because of the influences of the film industry, which ironically pulls the stereotypes from the views of the United States’ culture. This modern films in particular, Moon over parador and Bananas show clips from old films that demonstrate predominant of Latin America as revolutionaries, bandits and servants to the more civilized United States citizens. Viva Villa movies, some of the shots look like as though they were taken in the 1910s (Pincho & Stade, 1934).

            Machismo and marianismo are big factors throughout Latin movie. The women are delicate and the men are all stoically strong. All these themes continue in today’s movies, nothing has changed. Machismo is the essence of masculinity. A Mexican macho man conquers women’s heart in an instant, always keeps his cool in any situation, and dares to take on anything. The Mexican Hero comes through the end of the movie does not matter how bad he is hurt. In banana movie, Nancy is a shallow character, radical-chic fun revolutionary whose support for foreign revolutionary movements owes less to idealism than to a need to bring glamour and excitement into a humdrum existence. Fielding is initially shallower-his interest in the politics of San Marcos is due to nothing more elevated than his hopes to getting Nancy into bed. Mexican’s films should improve on these characters as portrayal of woman as a marianismo. In the movie Moon over Parador, there is feminism in the form of the character Madona, played by a actress Sonia Braga, she is a former nightclub dancer who is the body-stockinged presidential pleasure girl at the film’s start. Another stereotype of Mexico is a corrupt government with numerous revolutions in all these three movies (Booth & Capetanos, 1988).

            Viva Villa movie has a bandit stereotype characters. Villa was highly successful bandit leader who did not support some amount of social reform for the lower classes, but he never was committed to it as his southern rival Zapata. Villa ended up fighting the government and he retired to a large landed estate he had acquired. A lot of violence portrayed in this movie as well. On one occasion Villa was giving an interview to a newspaperman when he noted a drunken soldier who was making too much noise thereby interrupting his interview questions. Quietly, without looking vicious or nasty, he took out his gun, shot and killed the soldier. He then resumes to the interview as if nothing had happened. Villa considered killing someone like that natural. He loved women and would marry to satisfy their scruples if they hesitated having sex with him. This led to Theodore Rossevelt to make commend that Villa was an evil murderer and bigamist (Pincho & Stade, 1934).

            The Latin American has not changed their stereotype character in their movies. The characters are repeated in every new movie that comes up. Mexican American postmodernism is at odds with dominant, totalizing version of assimilation, one that has required ex-centric to renounce o forget their root culture in order to enter the U.S. mainstream. If the Latin is comfortable in their culture, they should impress it rather than being force to measure up to American standards. In a documentary presented in Mexican American borderland, present a story about Mexicans who have lived in the U.S. most of their lives without giving up their cultural ties. These films redefine assimilation as fluid hybridization that does not require cultural amnesia. The music heard in the film of Viva Villa and the two movies Banana and Moon over parador, are blending as the narration songs are of the homeland makes clear of Mexican culture. These documentaries reflect the hybrid, multiculturalism sensitivity that breaks down to nationalism, linguistic, social, cultural and racial characteristics. Guillermo Gomez writes, concepts like high culture, ethnicity purity, beauty and fine arts are absurdities and anachronism.  An example of this hybrid identity is Pedro J. Gonzalez, the of Ballad of Unsung Hero, who was  born in Mexico but fought for Pancho Villa in the revolution, ten become media celebrity in Los Angels and served his time in San Quentin the deported back to Mexico. Film stories are based on real life stories in most cases, the person who speaks the narration writes his story (Berg, 2002, p.128).

            In the first part of the Book, Berg sets forth the theory of stereotyping, defines what Hollywood sees as classic stereotypes and investigates how actors such as Raul Julia, Rosie Perez, Jose Ferrer, Lupe Velez and Gilbert Roland. Latinos are portrayed in three genes: Social problem films, John Western and science fiction films. He goes on to say that although Hispanic Americans have been involved in many American film industry, there has been little note taken of this fact in standard film-reference works. The biographical sketches and description of films and television programs have been stereotyping Hispanic films over the years. In Hollywood Latinos are not presented very often and they do, they are typically portrayed in a predictable and often unfavorable light. However, the Latin independent film makers filmmakers are are taking up representing their own moves and the results have yielding innovative portraits of Latin in particular who lead complex and multifaceted lives The  film makers are employing the well-known representation strategy of stereotyping to examine gender roles, family expectation and assimilation. The new Latin American films in particular, Luminaries by Jose Luis Valenzuela and Coke by Maria Escobedo, express the develop scenes of social conflict and contradiction, disrupting the perception of Latino social problems as they are represented in Viva Villa, Bananas and Moon over parador as they represent powerful and successful Latinas. The film’s narrative structures and the power structures represented in them propose representations that interpellate both the real and stereotypical as they still maintain their cultural norms at the same time. (Rangil, 2002, p. 8)

            So it may not be possible to narrate a Latin Story and the characters modernized in American level of movie standards. The past is seen through the eyes of one of the history of forgotten victims, that is how the whole cast should portray, exactly as the history was. Hispanic Americans, like any other minority groups in the United States, suffer from damaging stereotyping in motion pictures and on television. Hispanic American films were cast in the old clichés. There are very few films that explore the variety of Hispanic American experience. Very few of the movies feature affluent, educated, middle class, or well-to-do Latinos; gay Hispanics, Jewish or Protestants and non-Spanish speaking Hispanic. By Hollywood putting more of these characters on act, it emphasizes the change of Hispanic culture but however hard it tries, people still stereotype Hispanic culture, the images are hard to get off people’s mind. Hollywood is giving more roles to Hispanic actors to eliminate the stereotype image, actors such as Jenipher Lopez, Natalie Martinez and many others act in movies of American script without portraying the stereotypes seen in Hispanic culture (Rangil, 2002, p.9).

            Movies are based mostly in history. Narrator of the story retells story of the history through the eyes of the narrator. He is telling is as it is, for this case, Latin movie should not be stereotyped why should I want to be in American class? For Hispanic films to avoid being partial and unbalanced, narrator should add mythic and dramatic elements to appraisal of the films. Latino film makers should not necessarily heed calls for their films to offer more in-depth social critique. Films that swing too far this direction reach a small audience and preach to the converted, though these films can be constructed to work at multiple levels as well. According to Hollywood standards, the main function of a successful feature film is to reinforce worthwhile but non-controversial values. I care about Hispanic films and I would love to see future improvement on their themes as for them to gain worldwide recognition for their movies. We cannot say that we do not care what they produce as they are part of our movie culture and it is time they measure up to the American movie standards (Rangil, 2002, p.9).

            We should care about stereotypes in Latin American movies and try to stop the media continuity in airing the stereotypes programs of certain communities as this leads to racism. All forms of racism usually take action based on a stereotype. Some have argued that the solution to racism is to remove all stereotypes. Hollywood and the media perpetuates negative stereotypes about certain people for this case the Latin films, those who are rich and the black one in the community. This tends to push forward the idea that every Latin character represented should be a “representative” of the best and most positive aspects of those particular people, this is as much as distortion f reality as stereotype itself. Some of the stories in the movies may be real and others they get based on a high likelihood of generating money. Characters appear in films based on the quality of the character, for this they get assigned their part. For this case, producers stop stereotyping the Latin movies as the Latin lover, gardener or revolutionist and give them more active roles (Rangil, 2002, p.8).

            Latin women are stereotyped in movies as having love affairs and this portrays a damaging image to the society. These images have had high impacts on history that is the same way the society sees women today. We should initiate a new image and foster the empowerment of women, rather than merely reflecting the damaging traditions of Latin women and other women all over the world within our society. In Latin Movies as we have seen in the beginning of this chapter, a woman’s role is that of subordinate to man, and they are restricted to very narrow domain. This is reflected in the film media by means of portrayal and projection of negative female stereotypes, which furthers the wrong socialization of the female in the society. Negative stereotypes are reflected particularly in the thematic concerns, including prostitution and adultery in Banana and Moon over parador films. Nothing seems to be changing in the media society to stop portraying these images. The battle against stereotypes must necessarily be fought by adopting a tripartite approach, at the ideology, film-making and film criticisms (Booth& Capetanos, 1988) & (Wood &Mickey, 1971).


In conclusion, most people in the United States have a very biased view of Latin America, a bias that stems partly from the film industry. This stereotyping of people started a soon as the film industry started as illustrated by Viva Villa movie in the early 1970s. The movies after the 1970s Moon over parador and Banana, display the current stereotypes being fed to and exemplified by the United States’ public. This stereotypes include machismo factor, the lesser marianismo, corrupt government and being overthrown constantly by revolution. In the film industry, these stereotypes greatly influence and are influenced by how people that watch the films of Latin Americans. This expounds a vicious circle that the United States has fallen into. These stereotypes have not changed over the years, the only hope to it will be only if the film industry changes or more United States. We should appreciate different cultures and norms in our community but not stereotype particular nations or cultures for their given roles in movies as this does not speak for the majority in the community.


Berg, C. (2002). Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion and Resistance. Texas:   University of Texas press.

Booth, C, G., & Capetanos, L. (1988). Moon over parador. Retrieved September 29, 2008,

            From;<       Over-            arador/videos#top>

Pincho,E., & Stade,O.B. (1934). Viva Villa. Retrieved September 29, 2008,

             From; <>

Rangil, V. (2002). “Stereotypes but……: Gender Roles in Contemporary Latin Cinema.”             Afterimage, 30, 8-9.

Wood, A., & Mickey, R. (1971). Bananas. Retrieved September 29, 2008,

            From; <            Length/videos>


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