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Discussing Latinos in Hollywood: Do They Need to Speak Spanish?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

If you haven’t heard, during a Dior fashion show for Paris Fashion week, Jenna Ortega, Rachel Zegler, Rosalia, and Anya Taylor-Joy were seated next to each other. While this might seem a perfectly normal arrangement, what might surprise you is that all of these women are Latinas–but not all of them speak Spanish. 

Some time during the show, Taylor-Joy introduced her husband to the other three women in Spanish. Not many people know this, but Anya was born in Miami, Florida, and spent a huge part of her childhood in Argentina, which is where she learned Spanish. This surprises a lot of people because of how pale Anya is, making her seem like just any other English actress. (This is a whole other issue but we will talk about that later). 

The issue that arose for a lot of people is that Ortega, who is of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, and Zegler, who is half Colombian, both responded in English because they don’t speak fluent Spanish. Only Taylor-Joy and Rosalia do. This led to many people getting upset that both Ortega and Zegler are currently one of the most popular Latina representatives in Hollywood, Ortega with her recent portrayal of Wednesday and Zegler in the upcoming The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as well as her upcoming portrayal of Snow White. Both of these actresses have made their heritage a forefront of their career. Ortega said in an interview with Deadline.com that she wants to play roles that push back on Latino stereotypes, and that she gets excited when she gets a role that is either open ethnicity or originally written as Caucasian character. 

So when people saw that the “whitest” one of the three women was the only one who spoke fluent Spanish, backlash towards Zegler and Ortega took over X.

This began a huge discussion of what makes someone a Latina, and what should be expected of this group of people and what shouldn’t be. Many people are saying that they feel like Ortega and Zegler connecting with their hispanic heritage is a PR move, one to get them more roles or popularity within Hollywood. But the only point these people have is the fact that Ortega and Zegler aren’t fluent in Spanish. As a Latina woman myself, I had no clue that there were so many people who believe that you are not Latino if you do not speak fluent Spanish. I personally feel like it pushes Latinos into a bubble, that you can only connect with your heritage if you speak a language, and a European language at that. 

Firstly, we must point out that both Ortega and Zegler were born and raised in the United States. Ortega’s father is Mexican-American and her mother is of Puerto Rican descent.Jenna has described her childhood as being very influenced by these cultures. Jenna has also stated that her parents attempted to teach their children to be bilingual, but it was difficult because her grandparents didn’t teach her father Spanish and her mother only knew Spanish from her babysitter that she had as a child. 

For Zegler, her father is of German-Polish descent while her mother is of Colombian descent, with Zegler’s grandmother being an immigrant from Colombia. Zegler has even stated before that people tell her that since she wasn’t born in Colombia, that her Colombian identity gets stripped away. This directly contradicts the fact that many people were angered when it was announced that she was casted as Snow White due to her Latina heritage. 

Long story short, these women are Latina. By blood, both Ortega and Zegler are Latinas, and from their own anecdotes in interviews, they had many of the same experiences as other Latina-Americans. Speaking the language or not does not change their blood, it does not change their DNA, it doesn’t change their experiences and it doesn’t change who they are. 

While learning your native tongue is a great way of preserving your culture and a great way of connecting with that heritage, it isn’t the only way and most certainly isn’t what determines your culture. I fully believe that no one is able to tell another person who they are and what they are allowed to identify with. Just because someone isn’t born in a Spanish-speaking country or just because they don’t speak Spanish, doesn’t mean they cannot connect with that part of their identity. 

Other X users came to support Ortega and Zegler during the backlash, with multiple people defending the actresses and their heritage. 

 As for Taylor-Joy, the actress was born to a Scottish father and a Spanish-English mother. Taylor-Joy is Hispanic but not Latina. Her only claim to being Latina is from growing up in Argentina, even though that was only for half of her childhood and the other half was spent in England. I’m not saying that Taylor-Joy cannot connect to her Latina experiences, but the people who are labeling her as Latina just because she speaks Spanish are directly contradicting their claim that Ortega and Zegler aren’t Latina because they don’t speak Spanish, despite their ancestry. Additionally, it’s very problematic that people forget that Taylor-Joy is Hispanic just because she is pale.

I don’t know when or why people decided that it was up to others to tell people who they can and cannot be. I think correct Latino representation in the media is something that Latinos have fought for for a very long time, and nitpicking who can and cannot represent us seems a lot like backtracking. I love seeing both Ortega and Zegler continue to make their voices heard as Latinas, because they are in fact, Latinas. 

Adamari Ruelas

CU Boulder '26

Adamari Ruelas is a contributing writer for the Her Campus chapter at CU Boulder. Her job within Her Campus is to write at least two articles a month, one contributing to a theme week. Outside of Her Campus, Adamari is a first-generation college student who is currently a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder, majoring in English Creative Writing. During her spring semester of freshman year, Adamari studied abroad in London, wanting to learn about different cultures while also being able to study in a Literature-rich city. Adamari also interned at the Aurora Public Schools Communications Department during her senior year of High School, where she learned how to write articles, interview subjects, and create social media posts for the department under the guidance of multiple professionals. In her free time, Adamari enjoys reading and writing, at least when she isn’t hanging out with her friends or playing Overwatch with her little siblings. She is a very proud Mexican-American who loves sharing her culture as long as Mexican history with anyone who lends an ear. Adamari is also a massive nerd, especially with Harry Potter (she’s a Ravenclaw btw) and Marvel. In the future, Adamari hopes to become a published author, sharing her works with the world and hoping they help people the way books have helped her.