On Instagram this morning, the prolific cartoonist / writer / etc., Lalo Alcaraz, posted his disdain for some promo items for the new movie, “The Curse of La Llorona“. He mentioned that he’d be skipping the movie.
I admire Mr. Alcaraz and his talent, work, and accomplishments, so I’m not criticizing him in this case—although I do enjoy critiquing public figures and fellow artists :D. I just wanted to tip-tap some thoughts before seeing “La Llorona” for myself.
I was on a Los Angeles bus when I first saw a bench ad for “The Curse of La Llorona“. I thought, “Oh cool. They’re finally doing something official, huh?”
I like some of the movies in the “Conjuring Universe” so it’s interesting to see an installment with some cultural familiarity. I looked up the production and was slightly dismayed that the first photos that popped up were of (white) actress, Linda Cardinelli. Bummer. I was hoping for the lead to be Chicano, Mexican or Latino of some sort. I’ve got nothing against Cardinelli (Freaks and Geeks, ER, Mad Men, Daddy’s Home), but the story of La Llorona is uniquely Mexican in root. It seems they could have spent a little more time searching for a Latina lead. I’m not alone in thinking this, others have brought up issues with the movie’s casting. Anyway, I noticed that the other listed characters are Latino, and thought, “Well, okay. At least.”
Although I was hoping for a more ‘ancient’ tale, I thought it would be interesting to see how they set the story in a modern Los Angeles, probably involving the Los Angeles River. I think the river is crucial to the Llorona legend.
I’m not an expert in the story of La Llorona. I know it has to do with a woman who drowned her children, and then haunts from the netherworld with terrifying moaning and weeping, seeking other living children to kill. One specific version I learned from illustrating my cousin’s Chicano ABC’s book, “E is for EZLN” many years ago. “Ll is for La Llorona” – My crummy drawing accompanied my cousin’s text about a Mexican woman who drowned her own children to spare them their possible fate at the hands of Spanish invaders. Or… the Spanish invaders killed her and her children in the river. Or something like that. It’s a very scary idea. Similar to other Mexican folklore monsters like the Cucuy or Chucabra. Raymond
Back to Lalo Alcaraz’s post. He says Linda Cardinalli’s character, Anna Tate-Garcia is a brown faced “white gringa”. I wonder if her character is supposed to be a white woman who might have been married to a Latino, explaining her hyphenated name. Yeah it would have been nice to focus the story on a Latina lead for a change. The actual “Llorona” character is played by a Latina actress, though, and there are other supporting Latino characters like Raymond Cruz. I guess we could get nitpicky and complain that only (L.A.-born) Raymond Cruz is of Mexican descent, and the actual Llorona is not Mexican. But then it opens up the discussion of whether or not we should be more united and supportive of our Central, South, and Caribbean American brothers and sisters. Mindful of a bigger Latinidad or Chicanidad as I’ve heard it described.
It sucks that we get stuck between these discussions. Upset that a usually Mexican-specific folk tale is watered down into the “Latin” marketing narrative with ethnicities being interchangeable and actively given to non-Mexicans…. While trying to be excited and supportive that our fellow Chicano and Latino artists are getting work and sharing this story on a broad scale.
I think it can be seen as a good thing when Latinos play Latinos, regardless of the particular ethnic root. At the same time we can be critical in the representation. I haven’t yet seen “The Curse of La Llorona” so I don’t know if it’s all about Linda Cardinelli’s character and her children, or if it really focuses on the story of the character of La Llorona. Also, it’s a bummer that when people DON’T see these movies, then studios (aka “Hollywood”) might take it as solid evidence that the general population doesn’t want to see Latino stories. And if we DO give them money, they think… Oh, we gotta do more like this!
With all that said, I am an actor and artist who would also love opportunities like these movies. And I’d appreciate it if people would celebrate with me should I ever gain access to these kinds of creative avenues. And I simultaneously concur with Lalo’s decree: “Try harder, Hollywood.”
I think it’s important to have a critical but positive perspective, seeking to improve the bad while celebrating the good. I think I’ll go see “The Curse of La Llorona” tonight 😉