We have officially entered Latinx Heritage Month, which began on September 15th and last until October 15th. This month calls for a celebration of Latinx cultures and the celebration of several countries’ independence. While the more common name for this month that is used by many is “Hispanic Heritage Month”, there are others, including myself, who choose to replace Hispanic with Latinx. It’s a gender-neutral term that calls for more inclusiveness within the Latino community.
In honor of this month, I wanted to compile a list of films that I grew up watching, and some that I watch now, which embrace aspects of my Mexican identity. These are films that made me feel like my identity as a Mexican mattered, rather than just having to settle for more traditional films with non-Mexican characters. The films on this list have either Mexican actors as lead characters or were directed by Mexican directors.
Y Tu Mamá También
Synopsis: In Mexico, best friends Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) decide to live their lives as bachelors after their respective girlfriends embark on a trip across Europe. While attending a wedding, they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdú), an attractive older woman. The two decide to invite her on a trip they’ll be talking to a beach but she refuses. However, after Luisa learns that her husband has been cheating on her, she decides two accompany Julio and Tenoch. The three embark on a road trip and learn a thing or two about life, friendship, sex, and each other.
This is a film that I had known since I was very young but wasn’t allowed to watch because of the amount of nudity and sex scenes that it showed. I figured that my freshman year of college would be an appropriate time to watch the film, which was definitely a good idea. While it does put a heavy emphasis on sex, there’s a lot more that makes this an incredible film. For one, the cinematography of the Mexican countryside is visually stunning. The heavy themes of betrayal, love, and friendship add extra layers to the film that makes this much more than just a raunchy road trip film.
Y Tu Mamá También is available to watch on Netflix
Synopsis: The film follows a struggling mariachi singer named Alejandro (Jaime Camil). Trying to move on after the death of his wife, Alejandro decides to apply for a Visa so his daughter (Renata Ybarra) can move to Arizona with her grandparents. However, his Visa is rejected by Rachel (Laura Ramsey), a diplomat working for the embassy of the United States. Later on, Rachel attends a party where Alejandro has been hired to perform. The next morning, having partied a little too hard, Rachel loses the bag she came to the party with. She asks for Alejandro’s help to find the bag, which contains a laptop with different diplomatic documents.
This is a film that I found while I was browsing through Netflix. I knew of Camil from several of the telenovelas that he was in. The premise was interesting enough, so I decided to give the film a try. Within the first twenty minutes, I was instantly hooked. While Pulling Strings is a much lighter film compared to Y Tu Mamaá También, hearing Camil sing was a pleasant surprise. It’s an enjoyable romantic comedy that includes several aspects of Mexican culture while also including dialogue in both English and Spanish.
Pulling Strings is available for purchase wherever films are sold.
Synopsis: Taking place in Mexico during the 1970s, the film follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), one of the two domestic workers that help Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) take care of their children. Things change and complications follow when Antonio leaves Sofia and runs away with his mistress. Cleo also finds out that she is pregnant. Seeking a much-needed getaway, Sofia takes her four kids on a trip and invites Cleo.
I had the privilege to watch this film with several members of my family and it was by far one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I know very little of what life was like in Mexico during the 1970s, but seeing my parents and older relatives watch this film was extremely fascinating. They were able to relive their childhoods through this film and they related to it in ways I never thought possible. The songs included in the film were all songs that I grew up listening to, which made me smile whenever they came on. The film gives an overall essence of what life in Mexico was like over forty years ago.
ROMA is available to stream exclusively on Netflix.
El Club de Los Insomnes
Synopsis: The film follows an insomniac (Leonardo Ortizgris), an aspiring photographer (Alejandra Ambrosi), and a pregnant veterinarian (Cassandra Ciangherotti) who form a unique friendship during several late-night meetings at a 24-hour mini-mart. an insomniac,
After watching the first few episodes of Los Espookys on HBO, I became a fan of Ciangherotti’s acting and decided to look up other projects that she had been in. One of the first films to pop up was El Club de Los Insomnes, a title which immediately caught my eye. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I can now say I’m grateful to have watched the film. It tackles various issues that come from insomnia while also dealing with an overall theme of what it means to be human. I was pleasantly surprised by how each individual character was portrayed, especially since I could relate to all of them to a certain extent.
El Club de Los Insomnes is available to stream exclusively on Netflix.
Synopsis: This biographical musical drama follows the life of Selena Quintanilla-Perez (Jennifer Lopez), a Texas-born Tejana singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart-topping albums on the Latin music charts. The film follows Selena from her early years all the way to her untimely death.
This was a film that my mother constantly played when I was younger. It wasn’t until I was about nine or ten-years-old when I fully grasp the significance of not only the film but of the legacy that Selena had built throughout her career. I make it a habit now of watching the film at least once a year. Selena serves as not only a constant reminder of why I am proud to be Latino and also as an example of a Latina singer who rose to incredible heights of success.
Selena is available to purchase wherever films are sold.
Synopsis: Coco follows an aspiring musician named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez). When he’s confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, he enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.
Even before the film hit theaters, I was beyond excited to see it. As a long time fan of Dinsey, seeing Latinx characters at the center of a film made me feel appreciated since it showed to me that our stories matter. It shows incredibly detailed depictions of Mexican culture and goes into full length to explain the significance of the ‘Day of the Dead’ festivities. At the center of the film lies the theme of family, which is something I can really appreciate it. As soon as the film ended and the credits began to run, I was in tears. Never has a story revolving around my culture hit me in such an emotional way. I’m very happy that the film received the love and praise that it got.
Coco is available to stream on Netflix and available for purchase wherever films are sold.
Instructions Not Included
Synopsis: The film follows Valentin (Eugenio Derbez), a womanizer who has a one-night-stand with Julie (Jessica Lindsey). Months later, Julie shows up at Valentin’s doorsteps along with a baby girl who she claims is his. Julie leaves the baby with Valentin after asking him for money but never comes back. Years pass and Valentin does his best to raise the baby girl and decides to name her Maggie (Loreto Peralta).
I’ve been a fan of Derbez’s work since I was younger and always watched his sketch comedy show XHDRbZ whenever it was on tv. When the trailer for this film was released, I instantly knew that I was going to watch it. However, I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster that the film would take me on. The overall bond between Valentin and Maggie carries the film to incredible heights. The direction the film takes near its half-way point was completely unexpected but made the film much more memorable.
Instructions Not Included is available to stream for free on Vudu and also available for purchase wherever films are sold.
There are many other films that I could have included on this list, but these have all made a major impact on my life in many different ways. They all made me feel that Latinx stories matter and that they deserve to be told. Not all of them focus on the aspect of Latinx culture, but they all have incredible actors and actresses that bring incredible stories to life.