This year, the Oscars may have skipped over nominating any Latino actors or filmmakers, but over the years, quite a few have come home as winners on Hollywood’s big night. Here’s a look back at the first Latinos to win an Oscar in acting, writing, directing, editing & more major categories.
Best Picture & Best Director
Mexican auteurs, Los tres amigos, Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Guillermo del Toro have all won the coveted Best Director Oscar with Alfonso and Alejandro having each won twice! Since 2006, these three talented men have dominated the Best Picture and Best Director race, earning 61 nominations and 22 wins for Babel (2006 – Iñárritu), Gravity (2013 – Cuarón), Birdman (2014 – Iñárritu), The Revenant (2015 – Iñárritu), The Shape of Water (2017 – del Toro)…and the only Best Picture nominee from a Latino director to be in Spanish, Roma (2018 – Cuarón).
Sadly, no Latina actress has ever won Best Actress, with only four having earned a nomination over the Academy’s 92-year history. Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro was the first to be nominated for Central Station (1998). Mexican beauty, Salma Hayek earned her nomination for portraying the iconic painter, Frida Kahlo, in 2002’s Frida. Catalina Sandino Moreno from Colombia was nominated two years later for Maria Full of Grace (2004), and most recently, Yalitza Aparicio became the 2nd Mexican actress and first indigenous actress to earn a nomination for Roma (2018).
Puerto Rican acting legend, José Ferrer became the first Latino actor to win Best Actor, reprising his Tony Award winning role as Cyrano de Bergerac in 1950. Ferrer scored another nomination in this category two years later for his portrayal of famed French painter, Toulouse-Lautrec in 1952’s Moulin Rouge. Ferrer was also married (twice!) to iconic singer/actress Rosemary Clooney, whose nephew is Oscar winner George Clooney. The only other Latino actors nominated in this category are Anthony Quinn, for Wild is the Wind (1957) and Zorba the Greek (1964), and most recently, Mexican actor Demián Bichir for his role as an undocumented worker in A Better Life (2011).
Best Supporting Actress
Mexican diva, Katy Jurado became the first Latina actress to score an acting nomination for Broken Lance (1954). Seven years later, Puerto Rican icon Rita Moreno made Oscar history as the first Latina to win an acting Oscar for her legendary performance as Anita in West Side Story (1961). Since then, Argentinian actresses Norma Aleandro and Bérénice Bejo earned noms in 1987 for Gaby: A True Story and in 2011 for Best Picture winner The Artist, respectively. Mexican actress Marina de Tavira is the most recent nominee in the Supporting Actress category for last year’s Roma.
The main screen: Meet Oscar nominee Marina de Tavira
Best Supporting Actor
Mexican film legend, Anthony Quinn, holds the record to this day with his historic two Oscars in this category, both for portraying historical figures. His first for 1952’s Viva Zapata!, portraying Eufemio Zapata, brother to famous revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, played by Marlon Brando in this classic film. Anthony’s second Oscar was for portraying famed painter, Paul Gauguin, opposite Kirk Douglas nominated lead portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh, in 1956’s Lust for Life. Other nominees in this category include: José Ferrer for 1948’s Joan of Arc, Cuban-American actor Andy Garcia for his breakthrough role in The Godfather Part III (1990), and Puerto-Rican actor Benicio del Toro who took home an Oscar for Traffic (2000) and earned an additional nod for 21 Grams (2002) directed by Oscar winner, Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Best Foreign Language Film
Out of all Latin American countries, Mexico has earned the most nominations in the Best International Feature Film category with nine nominations, winning last year for Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. One year earlier, Chile won the Oscar for Sebastián Lelio’s Un mujer fantastica, becoming the first film in Oscar history to earn a major award with a transgender actress, Daniela Vega in the lead. But it’s Argentina that takes the honors by winning the Oscar for Best International Feature Film twice, for 1985’s La historia oficial and for 2009’s El secreto de sus ojos. Other notable nominees include: Lo que le pasó a Santiago (1989), the only Puerto Rican film to earn a nomination; Fresa y chocolate (1994) the only Cuban film and first LGBTQ themed film to be nominated in this category; and Amores perros (2000), the breakthrough international hit for Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Best Animated Film and more
Brazilian director, Alê Abreu’s, O Menino e o Mundo (Boy and the World) became the first film helmed by a Latino to earn a nod in 2015. Since then, Carlos Saldanha landed a nom two years ago for the English language Ferdinand and Pixar took home the gold for Best Animated Film and Best Original Song for 2017’s Coco, a much beloved story centered around family and Mexican holiday Día de Muertos. The voice cast of “Coco” included such notable Latino actors as: Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, and Edward James Olmos.