Watching recommendations for National Hispanic Heritage Month

Oct. 14, 2021, 6:51 p.m.

Every year, National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sep. 15 to Oct. 15 to honor the history and culture of Hispanic communities around the world. In order to uplift Hispanic and Latinx voices, The Daily asked our writers for their recommendations on films and television shows that tell Hispanic and Latinx stories. We use both “Hispanic” and “Latinx” to honor the diverse identities celebrated this month.

Jane the Virgin” (2014–2019) — Recommended by Fateemah Faiq ’23

An oldie but a goodie, “Jane the Virgin” holds a special place in many of our hearts due to its myriad moments of comfort and familial love. But the show’s sentimentalism is paired alongside a healthy dose of drama; the series keeps viewers on an emotional rollercoaster ride for six seasons straight. The show stars Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, a 23-year-old virgin who suddenly finds out she is pregnant due to a medical accident. The premise of the show may seem melodramatic, but the creators know that. “Jane the Virgin” artfully inserts over-the-top, sensationalist elements and leans into its absurdism for comedic relatability.

Although “Jane the Virgin” takes place mostly in Miami, it weaves Hispanic culture and social issues into the storylines. The show makes it apparent that Hispanic people are an important and vibrant part of the American community. 

La casa de las flores,” “The House of Flowers” in English (2018–2020) — Recommended by Rosana Maris Arias ’23

The comedy-drama created and largely directed by Manolo Caro follows the wealthy de la Mora family as they try to keep their flower shop afloat. The series opens with family matriarch Virginia de la Mora, played by the notable Verónica Castro, as she endeavors to maintain the family’s perfect image after her husband’s mistress is found dead at a family party. Her children — Paulina (portrayed by Cecilia Suárez), Elena (portrayed by Aislinn Derbez) and Julián (portrayed by Darío Yazbek Bernal) — aid their mother in her schemes and thereby unravel their family’s secrets. 

Deemed the “millennial telenovela,” “La casa de las flores” presents a new tone and challenges the traditional genre. It has been praised for capturing multiple LGBTQ+ stories, paired with important conversations about class, race and gender. Particular attention has been paid to Cecilia Suárez for her portrayal of Paulina; she won the Platino Awards for “Best Actress in Miniseries or TV-Series” in both 2019 and 2020. 

Coco” (2017) — Recommended by Malia Mendez ’22

Pixar has always been a reliable source of comfort movies — especially in the recent years of “children’s” pictures that have single-handedly healed the trauma of Internet-Age adolescents everywhere — but “Coco” is on another level. 

In the 2017 film, 12-year-old aspiring guitarist Miguel has an altogether bizarre Dia de los Muertos; in short, he plays a magic guitar stolen from a famous musician’s mausoleum, accidentally ends up trapped in the Land of the Dead and races against sunrise to obtain a blessing from his presumed grandfather so he can return to the Land of the Living. All the while, he heals his family’s deep emotional wounds through his discoveries of hard truths about their history.

I first watched “Coco” in Spanish, and was delighted upon my second watch to realize how accurate the translations were. As it turns out, everything about this movie was handled with such care. The film’s crew visited Mexico for research, the animations were developed for over six years, and every role was rightly awarded to a Latinx actor. Though the empowerment of young Latinx viewers across the country would have been reward enough for the production team’s efforts, the film also enjoyed awards and nominations from the National Board of Review, the Academy Awards, the BAFTA Awards and more.

“Coco” immerses its audiences in technicolor dreamscapes and emotive ballads, ultimately delivering a compassionate portrayal of family — in all its forms, definitions and complexities. Because it was bold enough to set the tone for a new generation of Pixar films that honor their diverse audiences, it’s become a well-loved film that loves us back. 

Los Espookys” (2019) — Recommended by Cameron Duran ’24

“Los Espookys” is an HBO teen horror-comedy about friends who start a business staging fake supernatural occurrences. The episodes’ storylines are all over the place — from a harrowing escape from a pyramid scheme, to the suspiciously non-human origins of a TV host, to the trapping of a U.S. ambassador in a haunted mirror. 

Led by horror-movie enthusiast Renaldo played by Bernardo Velasco, the odd cast of characters manages to maintain a sense of dry realism amidst fantastically ridiculous events, and the result is six episodes of non-stop entertainment. Rising-star comedian Julio Torres steals the show as Andrés, the prince of a chocolate empire in an arranged marriage. Andrés’ character is the epitome of absurdism: he’s never seen without a stunning monochromatic outfit, and also may have the power to control the seas? Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen also delivers a hilarious performance in the series when he guest stars as uncle Tico, an aloof valet driver. 

A perfect mix of confusion and delight, “Los Espookys” is a hilarious watch. There’s only one season out now, but the series was renewed pre-pandemic in 2019. Catch up before new episodes are out!

Real Women Have Curves” (2002) — Recommended by Rosana Maris Arias ’23

“Real Women Have Curves” features America Ferrera as Ana, an 18-year-old from East Los Angeles who is set on going to college. To her disappointment, her emotionally abusive mother, Carmen, tries to keep her from leaving in order to maintain the family textile factory and thereby ensure their economic stability. The film captures the dissonance between wanting to leave home and refusing to turn one’s back on family. 

The audience also follows Ana as she struggles against her mother, who constantly body shames her. As Ana works to find herself and her independence, the adolescent embraces her figure and eventually charts her own path as she leaves home for Columbia University.

The film received numerous accolades and has been praised for its emphasis on the importance of body positivity and its careful portrayal of the Mexican American family. In addition to capturing a coming-of-age narrative, the film highlights problematic beauty standards and issues with gaining independence that Latinas face. It won the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.

Fateemah Faiq ’22 is a Screen Staff Writer for the Arts & Life section of The Daily. She is majoring in Linguistics and minoring in Data Science. Geek out with her about TV or send watching recommendations at faiqf ‘at’ is an Arts & Life Contributing Writer and a News Staff Writer from La Puente, CA. She enjoys a good hike and is her dog’s biggest fan. The SoCal native misses playing the alto saxophone and looks forward to someday watching the Dodgers (in-person) win another World Series game. Contact her at rmaris 'at' Mendez ’22 is the Vol. 260 Managing Editor of Arts & Life at The Stanford Daily. She is majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, Prose track. Talk to her about Modernist poetry, ecofeminism or coming-of-age films at mmendez 'at' Duran '24 is a vol. 265 Arts & Life Managing Editor. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’

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