While the month from September 15th to October 15th is officially known in the United States as “Hispanic Heritage Month,”we are choosing to honor the voices of folks who are often erased from a colonized history by using Latinx Heritage Month (For more information Gabriela Herstik wrote an excellent article at Hello Giggles explaining the history of this month and the transition towards more inclusivity and the Mixed Latinx Tumblr has a great FAQ about identity terms).
“Representation matters” can feel like a tired cliche within artistic and creative circles, especially in the face of a bigoted, hateful government that slanders and seeks to damage Latinx communities as well as uncontrollable forces of nature like Hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaking havoc and continuing to have dire repercussions. So saying, this article is as much about uplifting and celebrating Latinx characters that have come to stand for so much in pop culture as it is urging you to take a stand against discrimination and donate to disaster relief. To paraphrase Marvel’s America Chavez, we should want to be better, you know? Lastly, we’d be remiss to not acknowledge BNP fave, Tristan J Tarwater’s #LatinxCreate.
Ja-Quan: Cisco Ramon
There is only one. His name is Cisco Ramon. He is the best friend of Barry Allen aka The Flash. He is an acting beast and my favorite Latinx character out in the nerdy world! Colombian actor, Carlos Valdes, plays Cisco who is the greatest constant on a show that deals with so much change. That’s honestly my favorite thing about homie. He knew who he was from the jump. A lot many characters on The Flash go through insane physical or psychological changes but my mans and dem has been the consistency (anchor if you Flash nasty) that the show has always needed.
First thing you need to know is, Cisco gon’ get these jokes off! Every. Episode. Fam! This dude is constantly throwin’ shade, hittin’ zingers, and being the absolute most when the situation calls for the most straight-faced seriousness. Cisco ain’t afraid to clown some villain who rolls up on him lookin’ like a hot mess of colors and spandex (let’s be real, some of these Golden Age costumes is straight trash). Vibe stay hypin’ up his squad and viewers when the Flash or a member of the team learns a new attack and pulverizes some sucker ass rogue
The second thing you need to know is Cisco gone get these nicknames off! I love that damn near every rogue that Team Flash encounters gets their name from Cisco’s over the top antics. What’s even better is the hit and misses that Cisco frequently encounters. Come on, 30 something metahuman, not a ninja turtle? Opposite Flash? If only Reverse Flash knew, San Francisco (H.R. Wells deep cut) would’ve been the first to catch the fade.
The last thing you need to know is that Cisco is that dude. The all-around good guy. The helpless romantic, comedic relief, and necessary rock of Team Flash. When a show deals with time travel, vengeful telepathic gorillas, talking humanoid sharks the size of a building, breach jumpers hopping from one Earth to the next, as well your run of the mill arms dealers, it’s good to have a character that looks and sounds like somebody we know. Cisco is the audience stand-in, he reps his heritage, and when something completely unexplainable happens, our boy calls that shit out and it’s the only normalcy we see. Somebody gettin’ cozy with a cute guy or girl? Cisco’s making a poorly (or appropriately) timed joke because that’s what friend’s do. All of this and so much more are the reasons why the engineering genius, lovable doof, witty nerd, and hilarious member of Team Flash is my favorite Latinx character. Cisco, you a real one.
This goes out to my Boriquas in the BX. The doctor is in on my fave Latinx character: Dr. Cecilia Reyes of the X-Men! Homegirl was everything to me for representation as a youth. She was a brilliant medical doctor, so dope, in fact, she was the lead trauma surgeon in her hospital. Dr. Reyes had the gift! Plus she was from the mighty, mighty Bronx! Dr. Reyes was the first afro-latinx character I’d seen in comic books, so I felt hella close to her story, seeing as my whole neighborhood was Afro-Puerto Rican. And she had them transmutable locs/cornrow/box braids for life!
It was a blessing to see her in the pages, not only as a scholar but as a reluctant X-Man. Another first for me at the time was seeing someone turn down ‘Xavier’s dream’ because they had work to do in these streets. Her power was an extension of her passion: protecting and saving lives. Her psioplasmic field generation ability was the truth. It was a shield that could stop a moving truck, but it was connected to her mind in a way that let her feel everything happening. Knowing the pain she could inflict with her field is the second reason why she stepped back from joining Gold Team. In issue #100 (2000), when she murked out the leader of the Neos to save Nightcrawler, I felt the sadness she felt taking a life. The trauma it caused her led to some dangerous behaviors and substance abuse, you know, real life shit. She went through that, came out the other side and has been there for all of the crucial moments for mutantkind. All of them. With that scholarly mutant Latinidad Sazon-colored power swag. Cuz that’s how we get down Uptown…
Keith: Miles Morales
When the most popular Marvel character without an “X” on his chest went down for the count, who was there to fill the void? When the people needed someone to step up and fight the likes of the Green Goblin, Venom, and Doctor Doom, who put on the suit? Who brought the Spider-Man mythos into the 21st century and represented what New York – and the world – actually looks like today?
A 13-year-old Afro-Latinx kid named Miles Morales. That’s who. Back in 2011, comic books fans were really worked up over what was happening in the Spider-Man universe. Brian Michael Bendis made the decision to kill off the Ultimate Universe’s version of Peter Parker and replace him with a new kid no one had ever heard of. Six years later, Miles has garnered a well-deserved cult following. He’s gotten so popular that the Marvel Cinematic Universe actually left an avenue to introduce him at a later date if they do so choose.
A lot of huge changes have been made in comics in recent years. Most of them — *cough* Sam Wilson *cough* — don’t stick for too long before the status quo is restored, no matter their quality. Miles appears to be one of the few that stuck. There’s a list of reasons for this. For starters, Peter Parker’s gotten so big that he’s lost some of that “neighborhood” feel that readers loved so much. He’s still got plenty to relate to, of course, but this is one of the few ways Miles actually outperforms his predecessor.
To date, Miles is still fresh out of his rookie season and trying to figure out what it means to be one of the most recognizable heroes in the entire universe. He’s also a teenager trying to navigate the twists and turns we’ve all gone through. [Don’t you just hate when your girlfriend ends up being a Hydra agent?] The cosigns from your favorite superhero’s superheroes also doesn’t hurt. Miles has gotten the nod of approval from Captain America, Iron Man and even Peter Parker himself.
As one of Marvel’s most prominent characters of color, Miles helped usher in a new generation of heroes including himself, Kamala Khan, Riri Williams and Amadeus Cho [who was introduced in 2005 but has been the Hulk since 2015]. Its safe to say Miles will be looked as a cultural touchstone for a new, better era of comic books.
I’m a sucker for sweet folks, so it wasn’t hard for me to figure out that to I wanted to celebrate Julie from the new Image Comics’ series Moonstruck. Look, I know she’s only been around for three issues, but the instant I saw the first cover featuring this shy, brown-skinned, and plus-sized barista, I was absolutely captivated by her magical world and she as a character doesn’t disappoint. It’s still so rare to see POC at the center of fantasy settings, and the mix of everyday items like phones and cafes makes Julie all the more relatable. I mean, who doesn’t get a little mushy watching a brown queer femme fret about texting back her equally cute Black love interest? Just look at this and try not to “awww”:
One of the things I admire most about Julie is the way that she relates to other people, whether they are people she loves dearly or who misunderstand or bully her. There’s a softness that invites others in with compassion, a kindness that allows her to react in the way she wants to see reflected in the world around her that speaks to some deep Hufflepuff-esque tendencies (as a Slytherin, Puffs are my close second for favorite Hogwarts House). For instance, when her best friend makes a tasteless joke at her expense, she doesn’t snap at them but instead, gives them the benefit of the doubt for being a little thoughtless sometimes. Even when she is threatened and called out of her name, Julie distances herself rather than escalates the situation, and I’m very much in awe of her self-control.
Speaking of self-control, minor spoilers, but Julie’s existence as a werewolf actually draws a parallel to oppression that becomes all the more powerful for its subtlety. Like the complexities of colorism within even a single diaspora or phobia of different body types, the reasons for her being targeted for being a werewolf when centaurs, gorgons, and shapeshifters seem to be perfectly free to mind their business are baffling and seem to be rooted in untrue stereotypes. Every obstacle makes you want to root for her happiness all the more, and in a world full of cynicism this sweetheart shines all the more brighter.
Carrie: Lupe Veracruz
Now is as good a time as any to jump on the hype train for Quince, a comic from Fanbase Press about a Latina teenager who discovers that she has superpowers on the day of her quinceanera–powers that will only last while she’s fifteen. After finding this gem of a comic on Comixology months ago, I was sucked into the life of Lupe. Lupe is just a teenager trying to get by, trying to survive high school, having a crush on someone she’s known forever, dealing with being the middle child and then the day of her party: Superpowers!
Her Abuela (after revealing the backstory that it’s a phenomenal trait passed down through the women in the family) becomes her mentor. Under her tutelage, Lupe becomes the hero her city needs. She dons a mask and costume (also courtesy of Abuela) and becomes something, no, someone, bigger than everything she’s ever known. And there is quite an adjustment period. In my screenwriting class (I’m a Media Studies major, y’all) “character” has been defined my by professor as how a person reacts in response to conflict, or how a person acts under duress or who exactly do we see riding the struggle bus. What endears me to Lupe is who she becomes after receiving these powers and how she chooses what to do with the time she has, time that she’ll get back.
I remember being fifteen. I remember all the pressures and expectations placed upon my shoulders at that age. I remember the pitfalls of being fifteen as well. Lupe serves as a super relatable character not just because she’s a teenage girl or that she’s a young woman of color, which is always a plus. Lupe is legit because while there is room for doubt, and there is plenty of self-doubt throughout the series as she is struggling to make her way–there is never any lasting doubt on whether to stand for what’s right. Deep down when folks wanna pop off, she knows what she must do even if that means she gets only three hours of sleep or the scorn of her parents when her grades slip. In today’s comics landscape it’s easy to get turned off from superhero comics genre, however, Lupe is a fresh breath of air that stays reminding me while I love superheroes and why we need heroes, period.
Got a favorite that we missed? Let us know in the comments or on social media!