Imagine a superhero who looks like you, speaks in the words of your language and sports locks of hair like yours. If it’s easy for you to find a movie or a comic book that matches your description, chances are you are not a minority. For the Latinx community, only in recent years have there been characters that reflect their heritage. This is something that Alexis Sanchez knows too well. As the co-founder of Latinx Geeks, Sanchez has kept up with trends in comics as a fan and as an observer, from the panels to the big screen.
A few years ago, Sanchez saw no Latinx panels at New York Comic Con, a popular event for comic and sci-fi fans. Seeing what Jamie Broadnax of Black Girl Nerds has done to increase awareness of women of color in a genre that has mostly catered to white males, Sanchez formed Latinx Geeks to show that Latinx individuals are also an active community in the comic world.
Upon seeing what other groups have accomplished, “I was thinking, ‘You know what, I can do that,” Sanchez said in a Take 2 interview.
— E. Miranda-Rodriguez (@MrEdgardoNYC) October 10, 2017
While public events are opening up to more representation, comics have been slow to reflect it. Sanchez, who identifies with the gender-neutral term Latinx, got into the comics growing up with “X-Men: The Animated Series” from the 1990s. Receiving a copy of “The X-Men Encyclopedia” as a gift further increased her interest, and she picked up a few comics here and there over the years. However, the genre featured very few Latinx characters, and those who were included were littered with stereotypical and over-the-top features compared to their Anglo counterparts.
“In comic books, at least for Latinx, it’s been a long road,” she said. It wasn’t until about “five or six years ago were there characters who look like me,” Sanchez said.
That includes Miles Morales, the black Puerto Rican teen who debuted as Spider-Man in 2011, and America Chavez as Marvel’s Miss America. However, Sanchez said, comics must go further in having characters who are also Latinx in identity.
The same goes for film portrayals. While casting has become more diverse in Marvel and DC Comics movies, stereotypes still persist. Sanchez pointed out Michael Peña’s role as Luis in 2015’s “Ant-Man.” Peña, whose Hollywood career spans two decades, was still in a Latinx sidekick with one “immigration joke,” she said.
“That wasn’t the character I wanted to see,” Sanchez said. Latinx actors are sometimes limited to alien roles as well, she said.
Sanchez also points out the need for more representation behind the scenes to develop a fuller character.
“You can have (a Latinx) actor, but if the character reads white,” it doesn’t work, Sanchez said. “You need that culture identity.” A character who is fully developed is Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez, portrayed by Natalia Cordova-Buckley in the ABC series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
There is plenty of room in the comic book universe for Latinx characters, and Sanchez said there is one she would like to see on film – a superhero.
With influences from her Bolivian roots, Sanchez’s vision is of a hero with superpowers related to nature and the country’s silver mines. The moves and costumes are inspired by caporales – a traditional dance from Bolivia. Her hero’s mission is to deliver help where needed.
“I always that that it would be awesome on screen,” she said. “In my mind, it looks really cool.”