By Emily Feimster
's "Ugly Betty" was up for 11 Emmy nominations. Yes! Their star, America Ferrera
, already snagged a Golden Globe and an Emmy. Woo hoo! Jimmy Smits has returned to TV with the CBS drama "Cane." It's about time! There were 10 Mexican Oscar nominees this year including Alejandro Gonz?lez Inarritu for his directing work in "Babel," Guillermo del Toro for his movie "Pan's Labyrinth," and Alfonso Cuaron for "Children of Men." So talented! Spain's Penelope Cruz
was nominated for Best Actress for her work in "Volver." Que guapa! Yes, it's been a big year for Latino actors and filmmakers, but is it enough? Is the Latino community being fully represented on TV and film?
Critically acclaimed actor John Leguizamo, who has been paving the way for his people for over 20 years, believes Hispanic actors have come a long way since he first started in the business. "The biggest change is the material. Latin people are organized enough now to demand that our stories be told as true and accurate as they were," he says. "We've been here for forever. All Latin people are Native American anyway so we discovered this country, but our stories have been withheld. It's crazy. Now it's all about the retelling of the history and including the Latin experience because we are a huge part of this country."
Actor Benicio del Toro is certainly taking it upon himself to retell the story of one of the world's most controversial Hispanic figures, Ernesto "Che" Guevara. He'll be portraying Che in not one, but two new biopics on the late leftist hero, reuniting him with his "Traffic" director Steven Soderbergh. Both movies will be shot entirely in Spanish.
Non-Hispanic actress Charlize Theron
jumped on the bandwagon and is winning acclaim for the documentary she produced, "East of Havana," which claims to show a more accurate portrayal of the difficulties being faced by Cubans. This comes on the heals of Andy Garcia's movie "The Lost City," which takes place in Havana, Cuba during the fall of the Batiste regime. And let's not forget the much-touted "Motorcycle Diaries," a younger portrayal of Che Guevara, starring the hunky Gael Garcia Bernal.
However, can these kind of diverse stories attract major audiences? "I think people on the East and West coasts in the major cities are more accepting, but we still have a marathon to go," notes Puerto Rican actress Rosie Perez, who recently did her own part in helping to explain her heritage by doing the documentary "Yo soy Boricua, pa'que tu lo sepas!" "I do lectures at colleges and universities in the more Middle America areas and you realize how far we need to go - how unaccepting Americans are of different people."
Leguizamo agrees saying, "There's still a ways to go," but he's optimistic, noting, "We've got shows like 'Ugly Betty,' Jimmy Smits' new TV series, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 'Love in the Time of Cholera' coming out on film, the 'Che' story with Benicio - things are happening."
Plus, there are plenty of Hispanic stars, who are making it big on their own. Eva Longoria from "Desperate Housewives," whose wedding to Tony Parker caused worldwide attention. Mario Lopez, who made a big splash on "Dancing with the Stars." Wilmer Valderrama from "That 70's Show," and director Robert Rodriguez, just to name a few.
Yes, things are certainly moving in the right direction and Ana Ortiz tells us she's proud to be a part of it, especially considering her show "Ugly Betty" is the only one of its kind on primetime. There used to be "George Lopez," but it was cancelled after a successful six season run. "Just being a Latin woman, it's nice to have a family represented on TV and to be a part of it," says Ana. "It touches the real issues - immigration, health care, single motherhood, a son who might be a round peg in a square hole and how you deal with that as a family. It's something for people to relate to."
Other actors like Manny Perez, who starred in Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez's movie "El Cantante," believes it will still be quite a while before America fully embraces his people and their films. "We're no longer the minority, but I don't see that on TV at all," claims Manny. "Yeah, we are moving up the ladder, but Hollywood is still not making stories about us. I think we need another maybe 10 years to be truly accepted by America." We certainly hope it will be sooner than later.