Hello and welcome back to My Geekology! I’m Ash and today we are going to take a look at some of the incredible talents who are of Latin descent in the Star Wars universe! The Disney era of Star Wars has brought us some of the most impactful and consequential characters in one of the most iconic franchises in entertainment history. Today, we are going to explore some of those characters and the profound artists who bring them to life! We hope you enjoy it! See you on the other side!
Looking to the stars…
I am Anishinaabe and Mexican American. I grew up in Roswell, New Mexico. It is a town absorbed by the nebulous myths that hover over its name. Aliens, spaceships, and space are cornerstones of its economy. Many local kids grow up knowing they will ultimately attend Robert H. Goddard High School, which takes its name from the rocket pioneer Robert Hutchings Goddard. So much of that world-oriented me to look upward at the sky and stars. In the evenings the sky was a painting, like melismatic music, the oranges, reds, and yellows swirled into each other as it only seems to do in the desert. At night, the flatness gave way to some of the blackest nights I’ve ever experienced, the stars and their neighboring bodies shone brightly against a backdrop seemingly dedicated to presenting them to Earthlings. I think it is the combination of these things that made me so open to Star Wars and its universe. It just took a long time to see myself in it.
One of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe isn’t a super common one. It is Senator Bail Organa. The adoptive father of Princess Leia Organa and hero of the Rebellion. I grew up with films 1-6 on DVD. Jimmy Smits was the only one that looked like he could be a part of my family. I later saw him in a briefly lived show (due to a writer’s strike) called Cane (2007) which portrayed the sugarcane and rum business.
Smits’ role, in a way, illustrated a dance that is very common to many of Latin descent. Much of our lives are negotiated within the structure around us. Our existence is a topic of political weaponization, and our language was referred to as “the language of living the ghetto” by Newt Gingrich. As Senator Organa, see Smits balancing appearances while also preserving his values and maintaining a complete vision of everything that is happening to the Republic in front of his eyes. He reminded me a lot of my father working to get to the higher tiers of his work, trying to introduce parts of himself, while also always staying on guard. To live as a person of Latin descent in powerful spaces is to move with inherent skepticism.
The Disney Era
The era of Star Wars after its purchase by Disney has seen the introduction of Jin Darin, Poe Dameron, and DJ. These characters spread the landscape of ideology in Star Wars. They express varied views on the world and negotiate the great conflicts of the universe in different ways. The actors who portray these characters are Pedro Pascal, Oscar Isaac, and Benicio del Toro respectively. These three have provided icons at the forefront of science fiction storytelling for children of Latin descent to look up to. A hero, an anti-hero, and a skeptic. Someone brash who makes mistakes, someone who only has found family, and someone who believes that being away from it all is the best way to survive and negotiate their life.
Benicio del Toro
Benicio del Toro is one of the most prolific actors to come from Puerto Rico. The actor has had iconic roles in Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (2015), Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects (1995), Guy Ritchie’s Snatch (2001), and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (2021). He also portrays The Collector in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, his most meaningful role to me is as DJ in Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
One of the most profound lessons of the Disney era of Star Wars is that not everything is as black and white as we may presume. DJ (a moniker that stands for “Don’t Join”) is a physical representation of that idea. He presents himself as a challenge to both the audience and the traditional framing of the construction of the Star Wars universe. As a provider of tools of war for what we understand as the “good” and “bad”, he dismisses our understanding that there can be a clean, moral, and just engagement in war. There is only perspective and motivation. His is money and he is honest and upfront about that.
In a seemingly short time, Oscar Isaac has become one of the most beloved actors working now. He has portrayed the cold and calculated Nathan in Ex-Machina (2014), has shown his musical talents in Inside Llewyn Davis, and take on most of the most complex comic book figures in Marvel’s Moon Knight (2022). However, the most iconic role the Guatemalan actor has taken on is far and away Poe Dameron is the sequel trilogy of Star Wars films.
Poe Dameron is a gifted pilot and born leader, however, his will drives him for action, sometimes even at the expense of calculation. His mentor would be General Leia Organa who shows him his own potential as well as the difficulties and sacrifices that come with being a leader in a time as turbulent as their own. He earns the affection of the leaders around him and illustrates that despite leading with his aerial gifts, he is still learnings and developing into what will be a brilliant leader.
The Mexican actor portrays the fierce rebel Cassian Andor in the Gareth Edwards film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and the Disney+ series Andor (2022). Diego grew up around equal parts art and creativity as well as socio-political turmoil. In an interview with to GQ, Luna elaborated on how he stood up for Indigenous rights alongside the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. He explained that “I was 15 years old, and I was feeling the responsibility of being a citizen in my country. I remember those days as being important. They defined me.” These experiences are felt in the nuanced character Cassian Andor.
Cassian is a character that requires context. He is cold, brazen, and wholly committed to the cause of the Rebellion. He has dedicated his life to the destruction of the oppressive Empire and understands that the work involved is not pretty or always moral. Much like DJ, Cassian shows us that the universe we understand is more nuanced than we might think it is. The work of the Rebellion is often nasty and violent. This work overtime creates a burden and a drive, both of which are perpetually evident in Cassian’s demeanor.
Thank you for coming on this journey as we explored some of the incredible talents in the Star Wars universe! We hope you had fun, and we’ll see you here next time at My Geekology!