Latino Studies Film
Camilla Fojas
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 March 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0017


Latina and Latino stars, filmmakers, characters, and storylines have been present in Hollywood and independent cinema from the inception of the moving-image industry. The first depictions of Latinos in US film were mainly negative images of bandits and greasers drawn from Western-themed “dime novels” that presented colonial ideas about Latinos as uncivilized—ideas that were used to justify US conquest of former territories of Mexico in the Southwest. The first image of Latinos appeared in a silent short reel in 1894, and by the early 1900s a series of silent short films thematizing the bandit and greaser emerged, inaugurating a long history of negative stereotypes and the Latino struggle for self-representation on the silver screen, or what many critics have called the “bronze screen.” Film criticism and studies of Latino film combine several interrelated genres and categories that may follow the historical periodization of film history. The early history of cinema, the silent era, is a vital period of the formation of the industry, followed by the classical era, the postclassical era, new Hollywood, and the globalization of the industry. Independent Latino film has a different formation that grew out of the interests and concerns of Latinos across mediums, from television to film. Much Latino film criticism works across boundaries and would be better characterized as cultural studies for the integration of analyses across various kinds of cultural productions.

General Overviews

There are a number of books that give a general overview of the history of the cinematic representations of Latinas and Latinos in the United States. These books offer critical assessments of the arc of representation of Latinas and Latinos in the Hollywood film and television industry. The works listed below are foundational accounts of the history of representation from the “silent era” to the contemporary period. Woll 1980 is a major text of the history of Latinos in Hollywood and is a basis for other studies on the topic, like Hadley-Garcia 1990. Berumen 1995 reflects the work of a prolific researcher of Latino representation, particularly on the social impact of mass media. The Bronze Screen (De Los Santos, et al. 2002) is a documentary production that combines interviews with major scholars along with actors whose work spans the history of Hollywood. Kanellos 1998 is a major contributor to Latino cultural productions through his writing and as the founding publisher of Arte Público Press, dedicated to Latino cultural work. Kanellos is concerned with Latino contributions to US culture by reclaiming and resignifying what has been a negative image of Latinos. Ramírez Berg 2002 combines the theoretical analysis of stereotyping along with the major stereotypes of Latinos in film. Written by a prolific scholar on the topic of Latino representation, Rodríguez 2004 is an attempt to analyze the significance of the contributions of actors and actresses. Valdivia 2010 examines the contemporary context of Latina/o images and storylines in various forms of mainstream media.

  • Berumen, Frank Javier Garcia. The Chicano/Hispanic Image in American Film. New York: Vantage, 1995.

    This book explores how the depictions of Latinas/os and Chicanas/os in Hollywood films impact social and political formations across US history, particularly in terms of social attainment for Latinos. Drawing from reviews of these films in newspapers and trade presses, the author examines the impact of these films on mass audiences.

  • De Los Santos, Nancy, Alberto Domínguez, Susan Racho, dirs. The Bronze Screen: 100 Years of the Latino Image in Hollywood. DVD. Chicago: Questar, 2002.

    This documentary offers an overview of the history of Latinas/os in Hollywood from the silent era to the present. It combines interviews with noted film scholars like Chon Noriega, Charles Ramírez Berg, and Rosa Linda Fregoso along with interviews with major screen stars like Rita Moreno and Cheech Marin. It is divided into topical themes that relate to different film eras, like the “Latin lover” during the silent-film period.

  • Hadley-Garcia, George. Hispanic Hollywood: The Latins in Motion Pictures. New York: Carol, 1990.

    This key text expands on Woll 1980 to include information about recent stars.

  • Kanellos, Nicolás. Thirty Million Strong: Reclaiming the Hispanic Image in American Culture. Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 1998.

    This text argues that Latinas/os have a foundational role in US culture that predates the arrival of the first settler colonialists. In an analysis that includes a discussion of film, the “image” of the Latino is “reclaimed” as vital and integral to the United States.

  • Ramírez Berg, Charles. Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, and Resistance. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

    This book offers a complex theory about stereotyping through the image of the Latino in the history of Hollywood cinema. Ramírez Berg turns to contemporary Latino film to examine how the restrictive images of mainstream Hollywood can be contested and reshaped. The author focuses on the work of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and includes an extensive interview with him.

  • Rodríguez, Clara E. Heroes, Lovers, and Others: The Story of Latinos in Hollywood. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2004.

    This work offers a history of Latinos in Hollywood through its major stars, along with biographical narratives. Rodríguez explores stars and images that are not typically highlighted.

  • Valdivia, Angharad N. Latinas/os and the Media. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010.

    Comprehensive study of scholarship and contemporary media texts about Latinas/os. This work is organized around the major areas of communications research: production, content, audiences, and effects. Includes analysis of cross-genre Latino representations from advertising, film, television, music, and social media.

  • Woll, Allen L. The Latin Image in American Film. Rev. ed. UCLA Latin American Studies 50. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980.

    Woll’s text is one of the first attempts to trace a history of the Latino image in Hollywood. This seminal work is foundational for other works of the same type.

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