The Panamanian-American actor Sarunas Jackson often hears a familiar line of questioning soon after he meets someone new. “You say you’re Black, but you speak Spanish. So what is it? Which one are you?” Jackson says people ask him.
Jackson is Afro-Latino, a label for people who identify as both Black and Latino. Many Afro-Latinos are descended from African slaves who were brought to the Caribbean and South America as opposed to the U.S.: “It’s just a matter of where the boat dropped us off,” Jackson says. Now, one in four Latinos in the U.S. identifies as Afro-Latino according to the Pew Research Center, amounting to roughly 15 million people.
But while there are millions of Afro-Latinos around the world, they are chronically misunderstood and underrepresented. Across Latin America, they are marginalized and discriminated against. In the U.S., they are less likely to go to college and are more likely to have a lower family income than other Latinos. In terms of representation, almost all of the biggest Latina entertainment stars—including Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Salma Hayek—are fair-skinned, as gatekeepers perpetuate a narrow image of what it means to “look Latina.” Afro-Latino actors are consistently shut out of roles because they don’t match that image—and when they are cast, it’s even rarer that they get to play Afro-Latino characters, instead playing characters who are Black or mixed race but not Latino.
Last year saw a rare bright spot for representation when Jharrel Jerome became the first Afro-Latino to win an Emmy for acting, for his gutting portrayal of Korey Wise on Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us. But this year, the Emmys have become a focal point for a contentious conversation around Afro-Latino erasure after an L.A. Times article, originally titled “Emmys 2020: Black nominees gain ground, Latino representation still abysmal,” was perceived to pit the groups against each other while ignoring their intersection.
In September, TIME convened a roundtable of Afro-Latino performers—Gina Torres, Dascha Polanco, Laz Alonso, Amara La Negra and Sarunas Jackson—to talk about their fraught experiences in the industry, and their efforts for increased authentic representation going forward.
Latin American colorism
While the term “Afro-Latino” only came into consistent use within the last two decades, Afro-Latinos have been “hiding in plain sight since time,” Gina Torres, an actor best known for her roles on Suits and Firefly, said during the roundtable. During the transatlantic slave trade, well over 90% of the more than 12 million Africans enslaved by Europeans were forcibly brought to the Caribbean and South America.
Many of the slaves who landed south of Florida died due to the brutal conditions, but a lineage of African descendants began to spread across Central and South America, mixing the cultures of their homeland, indigenous populations and their European colonizers. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, there are more than 130 million “Afro-descendants” living in Latin America, three times the number of African Americans in the U.S.
Despite their outsize presence in countries like Brazil, Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, colorism runs rampant in those societies—and Afro-Latinos “are 2.5 times more likely to live in chronic poverty than whites or mestizos,” according to a World Bank report. “The gut punch of it for us is understanding that our lighter-skinned brothers and sisters drank the same Kool-Aid of colonization that everybody else did,” Torres says.
Read More: ‘Latinx’ Is Gaining Popularity. But New Research Says Only 3% of U.S. Hispanics Use the Gender-Neutral Term
The actor and singer Amara La Negra experienced this type of behavior firsthand. As a child, she was cast in Sábado Gigante, the enormously popular variety show that was the longest-running show in Univision’s history. But she was almost always the only dark-skinned face among the performers, and says she was subject to constant colorism behind the scenes. “They never knew how to place me. It was like, ‘Your look is messing up the choreography,’” La Negra recalls.
La Negra later auditioned for a major telenovela, only to be rebuffed by the casting director: “‘No, there’s nothing you did bad,’” she recalls hearing. “‘You’re beautiful! It’s just that we’re looking for someone more, como que, Latina.’”
Laz Alonso, the veteran Hollywood actor known for his roles in Fast & Furious and Avatar, says he hasn’t been able to get any jobs in Latin America: “The doors are shut,” he says. “It really bewilders me how Latinos are not as aware of our Black history as we are in the states.”
While the Latin-American market has proved itself frequently hostile to Black performers, Afro-Latinos often experience double marginalization in the U.S.: not only are Black and Latino people underrepresented in most arenas of public life, but Afro-Latinos often feel shunned within each community. “When I was in the African-American environment, it was like, ‘Oh, there goes that Spanish girl,’” La Negra says. “And then when I’m in the Latin environment, it’s like, ‘You’re too Black to be here. You should be with them.’”
The marginalization of Black Latinos in African-American communities is part of something that Henry Louis Gates Jr. refers to as “African-American exceptionalism”: the idea that the Black experience is the Black American experience. “When we’re celebrating Blackness, if you think about that umbrella of Black, there’s obviously different cultures and different nationalities,” Jackson says.
In Hollywood, the Afro-Latino perspective is all but invisible. Alonso began his film career in the early 2000s, and was put up for almost exclusively African-American roles. When he auditioned for Latino roles, he got similar feedback as La Negra did: “‘Well, he did a good job, but he doesn’t look Latin.’ They thought a Latino had to look Mexican,” Alonso says.
Torres, too, was asked to play mostly African-American characters, and says that many of her peers changed their Latin-sounding last names rather than deal with the confusion. When Torres did pass the audition stage, she would find that her characters lacked depth. “I have been the eunuch in pretty much every show,” she says. “I’m always the ball-buster, the assassin, or the cop that doesn’t have a life—because to have a life means that you have to humanize me. It’s so much easier for them to fit you into that slot and check off that box. And they got a lot of boxes with me: female, mature, person of color.”
Jackson is of a younger generation, having broken into Hollywood just as the industry was starting to grapple with #OscarsSoWhite. But he faced some of the same misconceptions that his peers initially faced decades earlier. “Every time, I just had to be a light-skinned Black guy or a biracial Black guy who was just Black and white,” he says. “But you know, it is what it is. You’re going to take a role.” Meanwhile, rising shows centered on Latino Americans, like Vida and Jane the Virgin, mostly excluded Afro-Latinos as well.
When Jackson was cast on Insecure, his character, Dro, was initially supposed to be Black and Mexican. But when Jackson pushed for Dro to be Afro-Latino by way of Panama, the showrunners agreed to make the change. “That was the first time I was ever allowed to be an Afro-Latino character,” he says.
Fighting for change
Within the past decade, a movement for representation has allowed different types of stories to emerge, and a trickle of Afro-Latino stories has come to the screen. FX’s Pose features two prominent Afro-Latina actors: Indya Moore and MJ Rodriguez. The hit Netflix show On My Block features an Afro-Latina lead character, Monse (although the actor who plays her, Sierra Capri, is not Afro-Latina), while writers of Netflix’s Gentefied created the character Yessika with Afro-Latina actors in mind. “We really wanted to explore those issues of anti-Blackness and colorism within the Latinx community,” co-creator Marvin Lemus told Remezcla earlier this year.
Last year, Torres became the first Afro-Latina to create, produce and star in her own show, with Pearson on the USA Network. “I finally got into a position of power, and said, ‘We’re going to write this character as Afro-Latina. I’m going to use my Spanish as often as possible,” she says. “That was sort of my way of educating the people around me, and what I was doing was absolutely being 100% myself.”
Of course, the U.S. entertainment world has a long way to go to in terms of representation. According to a study by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, across the 100 top-grossing movies from 2007-2018, only 3% of films featured leads or co-leads with Latino actors—and Afro-Latinos make up an even smaller slice still. The contentious dialogue around the Emmy nominations showed how Afro-Latino viewpoints are erased and how African Americans and Latino Americans can be pitted against one another. Torres’ Pearson was canceled after just one season. “They’re having us fight over crumbs,” she says.
To forge ahead, Torres talks about “creating channels for sustainable access”: mentorship, education, collaboration, creation of authentic stories. One of those channels is Orange Is the New Black star Dascha Polanco’s Brown Love podcast for Netflix, in which she delves into these issues. “It is the responsibility of those that are in positions of power to push forward diversity in a way that is not a trend,” Polanco says. “This is the Afro-diaspora. This is the normalcy of life.”
Disney Plus Mulan Fails to Make an Impact
Disney Plus’s most anticipated movie of the year was Live-Action Mulan, the infamous remake of the 1998 version of the Disney classic Mulan. With a budget of almost $200 million and alot of hard work involved, the film release’s expectations and excitement were at an all-time high. Disney’s marketing team left no stone unturned in promoting the film throughout the world as Mulan was one of the most influential female protagonists in a Disney movie.
Mulan was known for her power and courage to take a step towards change and create a name for herself instead of becoming a burden for her family. She brought them honor but not through finding a compatible suitor, but through her bravery in fighting amongst the opposite gender when it was considered a taboo.
But did the real Mulan walk in the footsteps of the animated one? Did it create an impact as strong as the classic version, which people love and adore even after 23 years? Sadly, no. The live-Action Mulan was nothing like the 1998 Mulan because it was not supposed to be that way.
The old Chinese folklore inspired the Live-Action Mulan. The Balad of Mulan, which was different, more serious, and portrayed a much more feminist approach by eliminating any romantic or cartoonish elements or characters from the remake.
The elimination of the character of Mushu came as a surprise for all the die-hard Mulan fans who were anticipating the voice-over of Eddie Murphy in a better-animated dragon who is by Mulan’s side, aiding in tough times. We did see a dragon, but it was a silent companion only coming in need. The remake also got rid of all the eventful songs which were hummed as we watched the animated version all the time.
Another setback was the mediocre release of Mulan during the Pandemic, which basically ruined the official March release. Mulan eventually made the screen on September 4 on Disney+ Premier Access, a pay-to-view for $30 across the US. In contrast, countries where Covid-19 was under control, saw a theater release like China. But that hardly made 50% of the total movie budget. Disney hoped to make some dollars in China by accurately depicting the Chinese culture and actors, but that didn’t happen either.
Viewers with access to Disney+ also did not venture enough on the Premier Access service. What further disappointed the release was Mulan’s availability on multiple torrents and platforms for free in HD quality on its release. VPN users worldwide watched the movie for free without paying a whopping amount of $30 for a single film, while the whole service along with other streaming services cost ⅓ of the price.
Live-Action Mulan was also under scrutiny for shooting in the Xinjiang, the region of China where Uighur Muslims were detained and imprisoned in concentration camps. This sparked outrage over the entire social media, where Muslims worldwide protested against the Chinese government’s actions. Disney+ did not state an official apology on their platform, nor did they acknowledge their wrongdoings, probably to stay clear of the Chinese government’s atrocity.
Meanwhile, even within China, Mulan failed to impact the Chinese audience as they have a much better take and approach to recreating any Chinese epic or myths. Their cinema is far more advanced in portraying their culture with local actors and a local production house. As we all know, China has a strict censorship policy on international content, and they have an alternate of their own. It applies here as well.
Lastly, the ill-natured tweet of the lead actress Liu Yifei, openly supporting the Hong Kong Police’s atrocities when China was implementing new security policies on Hong Kong, claiming it as a part of the Chinese government. The Hong Kong police came under fire for mistreating peaceful protestors and using harsh means to disperse the crowd. This tweet leads to #boycottmulan across the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand.
Liu Yifei made no outright apology.
Despite so much anticipation, live-action Mulan came under alot of controversy and failed to make a solid impression on the audience, despite holding a strong message for its feminist audience. Wrong timing and a few wrong decisions cost Disney millions of dollars and somewhat tarnished the reputation of their remake sagas.
5 Underrated Shows on Netflix USA You Must Watch Right Now!
American Netflix is home to hundreds of TV shows across multiple genres. Still, it could be hard at times to find something binge-worthy on it. Now we all have that one friend that’s perfectly content with re-watching their favorite TV series, but the rest of us normies find it a tad boring. We’re on a never-ending hunt for the next big show hoping to inject some excitement into our otherwise mundane existence. However, with so much to choose from, it’s only natural that a few gems go unnoticed when scrolling through the recommendations.
Don’t sweat it! After spending endless hours of research, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 underrated shows on Netflix USA that are definitely worth your time.
Can’t access US Netflix in your home country? There is an easy way around. Just download a Netflix VPN, connect to a US server, and start streaming.
Season(s): 1 season; 5 episodes
Year of release: 2019
1994 is a modest 5-episode docu-series offering the perfect guilt-free, binge-watching experience. The show revolves around a promising presidential candidate in Mexico who stands to threaten the status quo. Seen as a threat by the powerful elite, he gets shot during one of his televised political rallies. If the events of the first episode seem unusual, then what follows is downright bizarre.
Viewers are in store for surreal events backed by actual interviews and real-life footage that ups the ante with each passing episode. 1994 is a fascinating, informative, and rich account of one of the most turbulent times in Mexico. It not only gives viewers a glimpse of the past but also a story that follows a narrative very close to what we’re seeing in our present political climate.
- Rise of Empires: Ottoman
Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes
Year of release: 2020
Following the wildly popular show Ertugrul—at least in the eastern part of the world—Rise of Empires: Ottoman features a historic mix of immaculate production value and dramatic re-enactment of the 1453 fall of Constantinople. A Turkish production, the show is entirely in English and revolves around the life of a young Ottoman Sultan named Mehmet. It shows how the 21-year old leader risks everything to conquer a city his father and so many others failed to take before him.
This point marked a crucial juncture in history: The fall of the Roman Empire and the transition of a local regional entity to that of a global superpower. While the show does have its set of drawbacks (such as the frequent History Channel-type flashbacks), the appeal of our protagonist is sure to have viewers in for a memorable ride.
- Wild Wild Country
Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes
Year of release: 2018
The mere mention of Wild Wild Country in front of veteran Netflix viewers is sure to garner you some respect points. Based on a true story, Wild Wild Country tells the tale of an Indian cult that’s decided to relocate to Oregon. What ensues is a series of unusual events as the locals struggle to come to terms with the new inhabits and in particular, the eccentric leader of this cult: Bhagwan. This mini-series manages to capture and re-tell a significant—albeit unusual—event in American history and media and retell it in a way that’s sure to leave some viewers scratching their heads!
- Lenox Hill
Season(s): 1 season; 9 episodes
Year of release: 2020
For those looking to embark on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, look no further than Lenox Hill. While we do recommend this docu-series especially if you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy or ER, Lenox Hill is not your average watch. It’s a far cry from what you’d call a feel-good series as it reveals the brutal reality associated with people diagnosed with really bad things.
Set in New York, the show follows the story of an ER physician, an OB-GYN, and two brain surgeons that are part of a small-time hospital competing with bigger establishments. It lifts the curtain from the otherwise romanticized emergency-ward that we’ve grown accustomed to and accurately depicts the struggles of both patients and doctors.
This highly emotional series might not sit well with everyone but if you want to watch a story about individuals that sacrifice everything to save others then this one’s for you.
Season(s): 2 seasons; 12 episodes
Year of release: 2016
The Office is the most viewed show on Netflix according to Chicago Tribune which is a pity because its contract is set to expire on January 1, 2021. Enter Borderline, a British comedy series and ‘mockumentary’ of sorts that follows a similar pattern and humor as The Office. Set in the fictional Northend Airport instead of an office, viewers are quickly introduced to a slew of funny and ridiculous personalities.
The best part of the series is that it has its own version of Pam, Dwight, Jim, and a Michael type-boss. It also doesn’t try too hard to resemble its more popular counterpart and a few episodes are enough to make you wonder why more people aren’t watching it!
Agree with our list? Know of some underrated shows that need more love? Let us know in the comments section below!
The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses
When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.
What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?
As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.
- It saves your money
Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.
- It allows you to try several games
Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.
- It will make future gambling more profitable
Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.
Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.
We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.