He’s dressed in an elegant black tuxedo, projecting the refined charisma expected of a Hollywood leading man. Underneath the glamour, one can still discern the picaresque smile of his other self, the one that millions in Mexico and Latin America have come to know so well; the everyday man of the pueblo; the underdog who at the end of the story prevails over the powerful; the fast-talking pelado who could talk his way out of any kerfuffle by saying a lot without saying anything: Cantinflas.
As this nostalgic video clip of the 1956 “Around the World in 80 Days” premiere attests, Cantinflas shone among Hollywood’s top stars in a luxurious soirée fit for a film that became a box-office hit and received eight Academy Awards. If you’re a Mexican Golden Age film connoisseur, you will immediately spot Fortino Mario Moreno Reyes in two or three shots. These seconds of film captured more than a historic moment. They captured a powerful statement quietly made by the movie star on behalf of the Mexican-American community, one that resonates today.
Billed as one of the top actors in the all-star “Around the World” ensemble that included David Niven and Marlene Dietrich (and a spectacular cameo by Frank Sinatra), Cantinflas stepped back into the spotlight at the 1957 Golden Globe Awards. Of note, the Mexico City native nabbed the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy. Loved by millions of fans in Mexico and Latin America who loved him for iconic films such as “Ahí está el detalle” and the political satire “Si yo fuera diputado,” Cantinflas became the first Mexican to win a Golden Globe years before the Del Toros, Iñárritus and Hayeks graced Hollywood with their talent. His victory was a significant step that carved a pathway for generations of Latino film and television artists in Hollywood.
If we broaden the scope of his accomplishment to include the historical context during which it happened, his victory is transformed from a milestone into a powerful symbol of pride for a community that suffered civil rights violations for decades. The Mexican-American community was also under direct attack in 1954 by politicians who decided to execute the infamous ‘Operation Wetback’ to deport millions of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. During his big night at the 1957 Golden Globe Awards, Cantinflas, the activist, the philanthropist, the satirist, and defender of the downtrodden, outwitted those who sought to oppress his people. Those who erroneously believed that Mexicans and Hispanics were second-class citizens who did not deserve to stay in this country, scapegoats for imagined fears, likely witnessed Fortino Mario Moreno Reyes, who was born and raised in Mexico City, receive a top Hollywood award for his talent and genius.
Cantinflas’ triumph in the United States is an inspiration that transcends time. We are still fighting against anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric and against policies that oust us from a nation to which we have contributed our work, our talent, and our dreams. The beauty of this historical parallel is that we are all Cantinflas. Every day with our hard work we outsmart those who seek to marginalize us. ¿Cómo la ven desde ahi?
Washington, D.C.—Cristóbal J. Alex, presidente de Latino Victory Fund, hizo las siguientes declaraciones en respuesta al intento del supremacista blanco y ex Imperial Wizard del Ku Klux Klan David Duke de silenciar a nuestra comunidad:
“La contienda electoral en el distrito 34 de California para el Congreso representa el futuro por el que estamos trabajando: una contienda competitiva donde latinos progresistas estan trabajan para que nuestra comunidad salga a votar. La idea de incrementar la representación latina en el gobierno es la peor pesadilla de Steva Bannon, Steve King y David Duke.
“Mientras que hemos decidido no apoyar a ningún candidato en esta contienda, es importante que defendamos a nuestra comunidad cada vez que nos ataquen los supremacistas blancos. Sabemos que es difícil lanzar una candidatura siendo mujer, y sabemos que es aún más difícil siendo latina, siendo activista y siendo una persona que alguna vez fue indocumentada. Sigue compartiendo tu historia y sigue adelante sin complejo alguno. Estamos contigo, Wendy.”
Washington DC — Cristóbal J. Alex, President of the Latino Victory Fund, issued the following statement in response to white supremacist and former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke’s attempt to silence our community:
“The electoral race for California’s 34th congressional district represents the future that we are working towards: a competitive field of progressive Latinos working to get our communities to the polls. The idea of more Latinos in office representing our community is Steve Bannon, Steve King, and David Duke’s worst nightmare.
“While we have chosen not to endorse a candidate in this race, it’s important that we stand up for one of our own when they are attacked by white supremacists. We know that it is hard enough to run for office as a woman, and we know that it is even harder as a Latina, an activist, and a formerly undocumented person. Keep sharing your story and keep being unapologetic. We got your back, Wendy.”
Washington, D.C. — Cristóbal J. Alex, presidente de Latino Victory Fund, hizo las siguientes declaraciones en respondiendo al primer presupuesto de Trump:
“El presupuesto de Trump es inmoral. En lugar de invertir en soluciones de largo plazo para los retos más urgentes de nuestro país, su presupuesto da prioridad a contratistas militares millonarios y asigna $4.5 mil millones de dólares para su muro fronterizo y su fuerza de deportación. El presupuesto de Trump castiga a las familias latinas de bajos recursos alrededor del país quienes dependen de programas como el programa de fondos para desarrollo comunitario, programas de vivienda asequible, y asistencia para alquilar viviendas. Su plan también castiga a los latinos quienes buscan convertirse en dueños de su primera casa, previniendo que construyan vidas con sustentabilidad económica para sus familias.
“Hoy podemos confirmar que Trump mintió a sus seguidores cuando les prometió que reconstruiría la clase media. Su presupuesto elimina programas importantes diseñados para proveer movilidad y seguridad social como Meals on Wheels, LegalAid, asistencia de vivienda para veteranos, asistencia de calefacción en viviendas, programas para ayudar a estudiantes con sus gastos de inscripción por medio de empleos, y programas de entrenamientos de empleo diseñados para ayudar a familias, solo para nombrar a algunos. Le pedimos a nuestros representantes que luchen por las familas latinas y que nos defiendan frente al daño que Trump propone institucionalizar.”
Washington DC — Cristóbal J. Alex, President of the Latino Victory Fund, issued the following statement in response to Trump’s first budget proposal:
“Donald Trump’s proposed budget is immoral. Rather than investing in long-term solutions to take on our country’s most urgent challenges, his budget prioritizes wealthy military contractors and allocates $4.5 billion dollars for his infamous border wall and his deportation force. Trump’s budget proposal punishes low-income Latino families all across the country who rely on the Community Development Block Grant Program and affordable housing and rental assistance. His plan also punishes Latinos looking to become first-time home buyers, preventing them from building economically sustainable lives for their families.
“Now we can confirm that Trump vigorously lied to his supporters when he promised to help rebuild the middle class. His budget proposal cuts important programs designed to provide upward mobility and security like Meals on Wheels, LegalAid, housing assistance for veterans, heating assistance programs, work-study programs, and job training programs designed to help families, just to name a few. We urge our elected officials to stand up for Latino working families and defend us against the damage Trump is proposing to institutionalize.”
Washington DC — Today, the Congressional Budget Office released its report on TrumpCare. Cristóbal J. Alex, President of the Latino Victory Fund, issued the following statement in response:
“The CBO’s estimate makes clear that TrumpCare will cause serious harm to millions of Latinos. Twenty-four million Americans will lose their coverage, and millions more, particularly our abuelitas and abuelitos, will have to pay more and get less health care benefits while the wealthiest individuals and corporations of this country will be handed a $900 billion tax cut.
“Republicans spent seven years railing against the Affordable Care Act. Now that they control Congress and the Presidency, rather than improving the health care bill to help those caught in the gaps, they’ve chosen to rip away life-saving health care coverage from the most vulnerable members of our society. Make no mistake: this plan will hurt Latinos, working Americans, and ironically, the Trump supporters who were begging for repeal.”