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One might think that when it comes to our various forms of entertainment, we’d have long since moved past the days of clichéd characters and racial stereotypes. Well if you actually believe that, then you’re as wrong as Barack Obama for not tattooing his birth certificate to his forehead. Apparently Hollywood still has a place in its cold dead heart for token black guys, Asian martial artists and overtly effeminate villains to ham it up on the big screen. One of the slightly less offensive though still prominent clichéd characters in genre films is the “tough Latina”. This familiar character usually appears in what would otherwise be sausage-fest action flicks. She’s basically there to spice things up, draw in a more diverse crowd and to show that the ladies can blow sh** up too. She also tends to have a “hot-blooded temper” and may even have to be restrained by the fellas from time to time.
What follows are five of our top picks of rough and tough Latinas from action movies.
Maria Conchita Alonso in Predator 2
Cuban born Maria Conchita Alonso first made waves in the early 1980s, when she released two successful albums under the nickname of Ambar (the things you learn with research). Her first big hit as an actress was in the 1988 crime thriller, Colors. However, Maria’s most popular role, which just so happened to fit our “tough Latina” topic like a glove, was her part in the ultra-violent 1990 sci-fi / action flick, Predator 2. In the movie, Maria played a hard-hitting LAPD Detective named Leona Cantrell. Accompanied by Danny Glover, Bill Paxton and Rubén Blades she was a no-nonsense Cubana who fought crime in the far off future of “1997” (we can’t even think that far ahead).
Maria’s enemies in the Predator sequel included insanely violent Jamaican and Colombian drug lords, vicious machine gun wielding gang members and this guy…
Jennifer Lopez in Money Train / Anaconda
Yet another actress on our list with both singing and acting on her resume is Bronx native Jenny…from the block. Jennifer Lopez gained recognition and an ALMA Award for Outstanding Actress for her lead role in the 1997 biopic Selena. Since then she’s become mostly known for romantic comedies such as Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law and The Wedding Planner (movies you couldn’t pay most guys to watch). Fortunately for our purposes she’s also had her share of tough roles. For example, her first such gig was as transit cop Grace Santiago in the 1995 action thriller, Money Train. In this likely long forgotten flick, Jennifer co-starred alongside Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson. Also the insane Robert Blake appropriately starred as the film’s a**hole villain.
There really isn’t much to say about this typical 90’s action flick. Jennifer did her thing as a tough talking subway cop, she got to use the word “cojones” and she served as a love interest for Snipes’ character.
By 1997, Jennifer was primed and ready for some CG monster action via the popular horror / action flick, Anaconda. The movie, which also starred rapper turned actor Ice Cube, was about a National Geographic film crew and their director Terri Flores who was played by Lopez. Her crew was taken hostage by a hunter in search of the world's largest and deadliest anaconda…which they obviously found and proceeded to battle endlessly.
Anyway, for what it’s worth we got to see Jennifer kick some snake a**. But wait, do snakes even have a**es? Ah well.
Eva Mendes in 2 Fast 2 Furious
We’re sure many of our readers are familiar with Cuban born actress / model Eva Mendes fine body…of work. Eva is widely known from her roles where she simply portrayed the hot girlfriend or love interest of the lead male character (Ghost Rider, Training Day, Bad Lieutenant). However, she’s also had some notable parts and of course a few tough girl roles in action flicks as well. One such movie was the 2003 (Vin Diesel-less) sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious which starred Paul Walker, Devon Aoki, Tyrese and Chris Bridges.
Mendes played Monica Fuentes, an undercover U.S. Customs agent who was attempting to bring down a Miami drug cartel (whoa, that’s a fairly lofty goal). In the following clip you can see her in action and pretty much get a feel for the entire franchise.
Elizabeth Peña in Rush Hour
Elizabeth Peña is a Jersey born Cuban actress most famous for her roles in movies such as La Bamba, Jacob’s Ladder, Batteries Not Included, The Incredibles (voice work obviously) and of course the hugely successful 1998 Chris Tucker / Jackie Chan action flick, Rush Hour. We suppose Elizabeth can be honored that she was in the film that kick started director Brett Ratner’s mega popular series.
If you could see past the antics of Chris Tucker and the off the wall moves of Jackie Chan than you may have noticed other actors actually did appear in the first Rush Hour film. Elizabeth Peña was one of them. She portrayed Detective Tania Johnson who was an LAPD bomb expert. Yup, another Latina cop. Notice the pattern.
To her credit, Elizabeth played the role fairly straight. In fact she’s been quoted as saying, "There are a lot of jobs I've turned down because they wanted me to play what I call 'Miss Cuchifrito' types." Well thankfully her part in the first Rush Hour flick gave us just enough ammunition to include her on our list anyway!
SIDE NOTE - For Rush Hour 2 (and a cameo in part 3) the coveted part of “tough Latina” was taken over by Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sánchez who played Isabella Molina, an undercover U.S. Secret Service agent who was Jackie Chan's love interest.
...in Resident Evil, Fast & the Furious, Girl Fight, Avatar, Machete, Army of Two, Lost… okay so most everything
Dominican born actress Michelle Rodriguez is not someone you want to mess with. She’s number one on our list because she’s proudly made a career out of playing a tough Latina female on the big and small screen. Following her fitting film debut in the 2000 flick Girlfight, (where she played a boxer) Rodriguez has portrayed countless tough girls who range from police officers to soldiers to general bad-asses.
One thing is very obvious…
Michelle seems like she’d pretty much be naked without a gun. Interestingly, in one of her appearances on an episode of Lost, nearly the entire show was dedicated to the fact that her character, Ana Lucia refused let go of her gun no matter what.
Rodriguez has stated that she doesn't mind her obvious typecasting at all. Here’s one of her actual quotes on the matter...
“…at the end of the day I’m not in it for the acting. If I were in it for the acting then I would be worried about people not giving me the opportunity to express my vast array of emotions on the screen. I could give two s***s. I only wanna be someone I respect or someone that I consider interesting or fun. I’m here to entertain people and make a statement about female empowerment and strength and that’s what I’ve done for the last ten years, and people can call it typecast, but I pigeonholed myself and I put myself in that box for saying no to everything else that came on my plate.”
Honorable Mention - Private Vasquez from Aliens
For those of you action film buffs sitting there wondering how we could have possibly missed out on mentioning the bad-ass Hispanic female from the 1986, sci-fi / action classic, Aliens we’ve got a surprise for you. The notorious female marine character (and operator of the M56 smart gun) from James Cameron’s opus was played by Jenette Goldstein who is of Jewish descent. Jenette often played Latina characters, as she has Hispanic features and speaks fluent Spanish.
We wonder, how does one say “Shalom” in Spanish while blowing away aliens?
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