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Is a Latino still a Latino by any other name?

Ryan Guzman is a new Latino in Hollywood.
Ryan Guzman is a new Latino in Hollywood.

Ryan Guzman starred alongside Jennifer Lopez in “The Boy Next Door”. Guzman, relatively new to the Hollywood scene, is from Mexican descent. (Photo Courtesy of )

Steaming up the box office last weekend was the thriller, The Boy Next Door, starring Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman. The Nuyorican singer, actress, and producer plays the role of a married teacher who has a one-night fling with her much younger, attractive neighbor which quickly turns into a fatal attraction.

Ms. Lopez is sexy as ever in her role, but who is this new, fresh-faced and very attractive co-star of hers? With a name like Guzman, it’s safe to assume that this heartthrob is also Latino, right?

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I decided to check his bio on IMDB, as I’ve done in the past with other actors who have last names that sound like they could be Hispanic. It turns out Ryan Guzman’s father is Mexican.

I’m happy to see that there are many Hispanics working in Hollywood, but I’ve come to notice many of them are under the radar. Most people are not aware that some of these talents have Latino roots. Maybe, it’s a personal preference of theirs, which I can relate to.

On my mother’s side, my family is Nicaraguan and I’m a first generation American. On my father’s side, I’m third generation, but you wouldn’t know it at first because how tightly we hold on to our Puerto Rican roots.

In 2012, I finally visited Puerto Rico, “la isla del encanto“, and Nicaragua remains on my bucket list. But I can’t deny that I feel more American than Nicaraguan or Puerto Rican, because this is the country I was born in and the country I know best.

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I’ve read several articles written by people who feel there aren’t enough roles for Hispanics on the big screen. There are many American actors of Latino descent, playing Anglo roles. Being Hispanic or Latino is being part of a culture, not a race, and I think people sometimes tend to forget that. Do Latinos feel that only Latinos should be playing Latino roles?

I embrace my culture, but as an actress myself, I want to tap into roles based on my talent, not based on who I really am. Gael Garcia Bernal, a Mexican actor, portrayed an Iranian-Canadian journalist in the film Rosewater.

This casting decision caused some controversy because a Latino was chosen to play the role of an Iranian, and there are Iranian actors out there that feel they could have done the role better justice.

Would I be upset if a non-Latino played the role of a Hispanic? No. As long as that actor looks the part, does their homework and does enough research for the part to give the audience the most authentic performance possible then their cultural background shouldn’t matter. Isn’t acting supposed to be about being something that you’re not?

SEE ALSO: Maziar Bahari on Rose Water, Gael Garcia Bernal and the controversy over his portrayal of an Iranian journalist

There are many actors in Hollywood, like Guzman, that most people wouldn’t know are Hispanic just by looking at them and some of them don’t have a traditionally Hispanic last name, but they are still as Latino as any Lopez or Rodriguez.

Over the past few years, I came to find out that Lana Parilla who plays the evil queen on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, Sarah Ramos of NBC’s Parenthood, and Julie Gonzalo in the revival of the 1980’s soap opera Dallas, are also Latinas. We’re not all the stereotypical brunette with an olive skin tone and that’s okay.

When I first saw Rashida Jones in The Office, I looked her up because I thought she was Hispanic. Although Rashida Jones is not Latina, a reporter at the SAG Awards who didn’t know her natural tan is a result of being bi-racial, told her she looked “very tropical” that evening.

She’s mentioned in interviews that her features have cost her many jobs because she was considered as being “too exotic” to pass as white and too light to be black.

Did you know? A Latino by any other name 

Comedian Louis C.K is of Mexican, Hungarian, and Irish descent. Aubrey Plaza, known for the comedy Parks and Recreation, is half Puerto Rican, and Gilmore Girls Alexis Bleidel’s father was born in Argentina. You can check out this list from IMDB of more Latinos in Hollywood.

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Joanna DeJesus graduated with a B.A in Television – Writing/Producing from Columbia College of Chicago. Born in New York, but raised in Miami, Joanna is half Nicaraguan and half "Nuyorican". She's a freelancer in the TV/film industry and has worked on the series Burn Notice, Ride Along 2, and other independent features.

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