Lupe Ontiveros’ conspicuous absence from the Oscars’ “In Memoriam” montage this year was but one disappointment in an especially offensive year for the Academy Awards. The Latina actress’ family noticed, too. In a statement issued on behalf of his family, Ontiveros’ youngest son Elias Ontiveros said the show’s producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron made a “poor decision” when they left his mother out of their memorial montage this year.
Ontiveros called the omission a missed opportunity to reach out to Latino audiences, for whom his mother was a beloved star. But more, by failing to recognize Lupe Ontiveros’ lifetime of work in Hollywood, the Academy showed its true colors, which are, well, extremely white. It was exactly the kind of erasure that Ontiveros fought against during her career.
In life, and after her passing, Lupe Ontiveros was a highly regarded actress, a Hollywood mainstay who played by her own estimation at least 150 maids during her decades-long career. She imbued her characters with dignity, and yet chafed against the confines of an entertainment industry with so little imagination about the kinds of characters a Latina actress could portray.
“You’ve got maids and you’ve got maids,” she told NPR in 2009. In auditions she often knew exactly what to expect: “‘You want an accent?’ And they’d say, ‘Yes, we prefer for you to have an accent.’ And the thicker and more waddly it is, the more they like it. This is what I’m against, really, truly.”
“I long to play a judge. I long to play a lesbian woman. I long to play a councilman, someone with some chutzpah,” Ontiveros said. Chutzpah she certainly had. She also took pride in her career. “I’m proud to represent those hands that labor in this country,” she told The New York Times.
The Ontiveros family’s statement is included in full after the jump.
In response to the inquiries we have received from several news outlets, we would like to express our disappointment about the unfortunate omission of our wife and mother Lupe Ontiveros from the 85th Annual Academy Awards’ “In Memoriam” tribute. We believe the Academy and the show’s producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron made a poor decision in choosing not to acknowledge the passing of our mother in this tribute which traditionally has become an important part of the Academy Awards. We understand that she is only one of many noteworthy actors and industry veterans who passed away in 2012 that were not included in the segment, but we believe that her contributions and dedication of nearly forty years to the film industry were worthy of this honor.
As a U.S.-born actress and member of the Latino community here in the United States, she was loved and respected by many for her achievements on screen. We believe the Academy’s glaring omission displayed an indifference to the Latino community and made a statement about the lack of regard for Latino talent in film. It was also a missed opportunity by the Academy to reach out to the millions of Latinos movie fans, who go to the movies at a higher rate than any other group in the U.S.