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Latinx Files: Do these Latinx movies deserve to be in the National Film Registry?

Photo illustration of the Selena, Frida and a film reel
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus submitted 25 movies it says should be included in the National Film Registry.
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Warner Bros.; Getty; Miramax)

According to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the National Film Registry needs more Latinx movies.

For the unfamiliar, the registry is a list of “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films” picked by the Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board. The 775-movie list is intended to encapsulate America’s film heritage and history. It includes movies like “The Wizard of Oz,” “North by Northwest” and “Die Hard.”

It also only includes 17 Latinx films — “La Bamba,” “Stand and Deliver” and “Buena Vista Social Club” among them.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus doesn’t think this is enough. In January, it petitioned that “Selena” be added to the registry. Last week, it followed up with a list of 25 other films (that’s the number of movies added each year by the board) it believes “reflect the diversity of Latino identities, histories, geographies, and political perspectives.” You can see the full list here.

“Hollywood is the main image-defining and narrative-producing industry in the United States,” the caucus said in a letter to the board.

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“As you know, Latinos remain dramatically underrepresented in this influential industry, contributing to the misperceptions and stereotypes about Latinos in our society. In effect, when we cannot tell our stories, others will tell stories about us.”

Does the caucus have a point? Absolutely!

It’s ridiculous that “Selena” isn’t already included. The legend of the slain pop star is one of the few cultural markers of pan-Latinx identity that just about everyone agrees on, and the Gregory Nava movie is an indispensable component of that myth.

There’s also “Blood In, Blood Out,” the 1993 Taylor Hackford epic that follows the lives of three Chicano cousins from East Los Angeles. Though initially panned by The Times — recently retired critic Kenneth Turan called it “a potboiler more concerned than not with getting an exploitative rise out of an audience” in his review — the movie has withstood the test of time and is easily a vital part of the Chicanx film canon. Such is the cultural impact of “Blood In, Blood Out” that it made “El Pino,” a bunya tree central to the movie’s story, a tourist destination.

But is every film suggested by the Hispanic caucus worthy of being in the registry? Hardly.

Take “Frida” and “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Two good movies for sure, but they hardly speak to the American Latinx experience. Perhaps the caucus couldn’t come up with a full list and they threw those in for good measure.

Still, kudos to the Hispanic caucus for doing this. Despite being historically shut out from Hollywood, when given the opportunity Latinx filmmakers have still managed to tell our stories, and the best of their work is an integral part of America’s film heritage that deserves to be preserved.

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Stimmywatch: The check will soon be in the mail

illustration of flying dollar bills
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

The House passed the Senate version of the $1.9-trillion economic relief bill yesterday, and President Biden is expected to sign it tomorrow, which means that the stimmy check should be headed your way within the next two weeks if you qualify.

How do you know if you qualify? Congressional reporter Sarah D. Wire breaks it down here (and here in Spanish). If your annual income is less than $75,000, or you file jointly with a spouse and make less than $150,000, or file as a head of household and earn less than $112,500, you are eligible to get the full $1,400, or $2,800 for those filing jointly. The stimmy phases out for individuals making $80,0000 or more, joint filers making $160,000 or more and heads of households earning $120,000 or more. The IRS will be using your most recent tax returns, so if you haven’t done your taxes and you made more last year than in 2019, it might be best to hold off on filing.

Alternatively, if you made less last year or you, for instance, had a baby, file your taxes. The bill also temporarily expands the child tax credit to $3,000 for children 6 or older. That figure jumps to $3,600 for children under 6. If you have kids, the Washington Post has this handy calculator that estimates how much you’ll be getting.

And if you’re currently receiving unemployment benefits, the bill will extend the weekly $300 supplement payment from the federal government through Sept. 6. Additionally, the bill won’t require people to pay taxes on up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020 for households with annual incomes under $150,000.

Things we’ve read this week that we think you should read

— Columnist Gustavo Arellano wrote about El Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana, Calif., allowing unhoused people to camp out in its parking lot. That decision resulted in fines from the city, but the center is resolute on giving people a place to stay.

— Kudos to Column One editor Steve Padilla for flagging this Gabriel García Márquez interview from the Paris Review archives. The literary journal made the Q&A available in honor of Gabo’s birthday. He would have turned 94 last Saturday.

— Mexican and Guatemalan Indigenous leaders in Los Angeles and across California are leading the charge in helping vaccinate a community that has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. “Our Indigenous native speakers are a treasure,” Oscar Marquez, who heads a four-person outreach team, told The Times’ Leila Miller. “If we can’t keep them alive to help us maintain and pass along not only the language but the customs and the culture, we start to lose ourselves.”

— Schools are reopening in California, but not every parent is ready to send their kids back. Education reporter Paloma Esquivel wrote about the concerns that Black and Latinx parents have. “Does the system really have our best interests in mind?” Maria Brenes, executive director of the Eastside advocacy group InnerCity Struggle and mother of two, told Esquivel. “You can’t separate that from the question of reopening.”

— Latinx men in New Jersey account for nearly half of the state’s coronavirus deaths among adults under 50 years old. “We are losing whole generations of fathers,” Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist at Montclair State University, told Gothamist’s Karen Yi. “And there is no way of understanding the economic, as well as the emotionally traumatic impact that that’s going to have on their families, their children, and generations to come.”

— My colleague Priscella Vega wrote this lovely obituary of Gabriel B. Zavala, an immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico, who became a trailblazing mariachi player and teacher in Orange County. “In reality, he wanted to bring kids and the Latino youth in particular to feel comfortable in their own shoes, in their own skin of being Mexican,” Oliver Zavala, who started singing with his dad when he was five, told The Times. “Sometimes it’s difficult as a first-generation immigrant to adapt to a different culture. Your friends are eating Wonder Bread, and you’re eating tortillas.” His father died on Feb. 26 of complications from COVID-19.

— Inspired by fruit vendors selling oranges by the freeway, Boyle Heights artist Francisco Palomares bought a cart and started pushing his work in the Arts District. My favorite tidbit from this great read by Times reporter Julia Barajas:

On occasion, non-Latino pedestrians respond to him in Spanish. Palomares, a bilingual Angeleno of Mexican descent, simply goes along.

Last month, for instance, a Florida couple approached him, fumbling a few Spanish phrases before finally giving up.

“Where are you from?” the woman asked.

“Oh, I grew up just across the bridge, in Boyle Heights,” Palomares said.

“Wow!” she said. “That’s the real ’hood.”

The best thing on the Latinternet: ‘This is a never forget who you are post’

Normally, I try to include a funny meme or video in this section, but hands down the best thing I saw online this week is this Twitter thread by Claudio Eduardo Cabrera, the New York Times’ deputy audience director for news SEO. In it, Cabrera recounts his journey as a Dominican kid from the Bronx who went from community college to starting out in journalism to being recruited by the paper, all the while fighting back Imposter Syndrome.

What I love about Cabrera’s thread is that it’s not a “pull yourself by your bootstraps story” but rather a “never forget who you are post.”

“But most importantly, this is me trying to demystify the road,” he writes. “Your road is your road. Pick your stops on what you want, not on what you think will get you where you want to be…”


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