From September 15 to October 15, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. The nationwide holiday commemorates the beautiful cultures, histories, and achievements within the Hispanic/Latin American community. Growing up in a Latino household, my family taught me and my siblings about our culture primarily through music, food, and stories about their lives back home in Panama, but also through film and television. I strived to find myself within these different media outlets, and they inspired my love for music and film.
During this time we acknowledge the incredible diversity within the Hispanic community, including different dialects of language, cuisines, art forms, and customs. It reinforces a sense of belonging and unity among the Hispanic/Latino community living in the United States and around the world. Recognizing Hispanic achievements during this month can inspire younger generations to pursue their dreams and goals. It showcases the community's role models and success stories, demonstrating hard work and determination, and motivating anyone to achieve their aspirations.
With that being said, representation plays a huge role in people’s lives regardless of age. So to celebrate this month, I wanted to highlight some incredible films that captivate us all and show the world just how incredibly talented we can be.
Disney’s first Latin American Musical: Encanto
Encanto shook the world with its release in November 2021 as Disney’s first Latin American musical. The movie tells the story of the Madrigal family, where each member has a special power that allows them to contribute to helping the town they live in. Each member—except for Mirabel, that is. She is the only one without a special power and because of this, she struggles to feel included and seen. When things begin to turn for the worse between the magical house they live in and the town of Encanto, it may be up to Mirabel to figure out how to save everyone.
The story tackles relatable topics as well as a common family dynamic. What made me appreciate this movie even more was the fact that the people involved in the filmmaking, did extensive research to convey the culture of the country and its people properly. This included traveling to Colombia to see their day-to-day lives. The Disney directors contacted Colombian filmmakers Juan Rendon, Natalie Osma, and other Colombian consultants who helped them showcase the magic and tradition in its authenticity. Their main goal was to “highlight the specific aspects of the country that they thought were important to the culture” (LaTimes).
I also treasure how they displayed that Latinos can be all different shades and skin tones with diversity among families, which made me gravitate toward this remarkable tale. The directors even consulted Colombian journalist, Edna Liliana Valencia on the hair texture of the Black Colombian characters and specific instruments like the Marimba de Chonta.
Encanto received an audience score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and 3 Academy Award nominations, winning Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. Representation grabs the attention of the world, makes history, and opens the door to more opportunities for the community to continue to thrive. Where there is diversity, there is power.
Other movies to note with Latin American representation:
Blue Beetle (Theaters)
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (Disney+)
You can find ‘Encanto’ and many other incredible stories on Disney+, Netflix (Vivo), in theaters (Blue Beetle), and across all other streaming platforms!
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!