Latino Gangs in Movies

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Latino Gangs in Movies

American filmmakers of the late twentieth century portrayed Latinos as merciless pursuers of the "American Dream". The Latino immigrants were characterized as "Urban Bandidos", seeking the path to ultimate wealth and power in a society dominated by Anglo authority. West Side Story, Fort Apache, and Scarface each portrayed the Latino character differently, but commonly depicted the "Urban Bandido" as a man in search of money and power in America. Not only do these immigrants fight for the warped American dream, but they often fight without fear, willing to risk almost anything to reach the top.

In West Side Story, the Puerto Rican gang known as the Sharks always gets blamed for the conflicts that arise between the two groups. The Latino males are depicted as violent and angry, while the senoritas are portrayed as submissive and willing to assimilate into the anglo-governed society. The popular musical presents American audiences with the idea of interracial relationships in a society that looks down upon the mixing of cultures. Tony and Maria refuse to ignore their undying love for each other, and put that devotion before all other beliefs and concerns about their opposing social groups. As the two gangs fight for territory, Tony and Maria fight to make their friends understand that it doesn't have to be a "space…impregnated with cultural symbols and political significations for the relations, interactions, and social actions according to the "American Way of Life" (Sandoval, 167).

Fort Apache conveys the image of a society where Anglos are the strong, heroic force and the Latinos take a submissive, incompetent role in the urban life. Paul Newman plays the white cop, displaying his hero...

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...es to gaining the most material wealth possible. The Anglo characters of these late 20th century films play the role of the "good guy", always appearing when the need for a hero or savior arises. Overall, American audiences do not see a great change in the presentation of Latino characters in the storyline. They are portrayed negatively through time, although in the more recent films, the Latino is more of a violent, greedy druglord in place of the typical greaser or bandit that we are accustomed to seeing. The stereotypes remain present through the second half of the century, identifying Latinos as dark, violent, inferior bandits, and the Latinas as weak, unintelligible, sexual objects. It seems as though the American cinema has no intention of introducing the world to a more accurate representation of Latinos and Latinas even as we approach the end of the century.

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