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Dolores Del Rio: Racism In Hollywood

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Dolores del Rio was frequently casted for movie roles that embodied the “exotic” and “foreign” appeal popular in the 1920s. In the silent drama film The Loves of Carmen directed by Raoul Walsh in 1927, del Rio is depicted as a Spanish gypsy, Carmen, who has the power to seduce any man. She has her heart set on Don Jose, played by Don Alvarado, and plans to win him over. Their relationship begins to take a downfall, and Carmen falls for another man--a bullfighter named Escamillo. Saddened but determined, Don Jose embarks on a journey to make Carmen his true love again. In a review submitted to the Mansfield News in 1928, the author praises and describes del Rio as a “raven haired, olive skinned sinuous limbed bit of feminine loveliness” (11).…show more content…
Dolores del Rio was considered the perfect candidate for Hollywood films incorporating the preferred aesthetic appearance of Latinx actors during the period. Because popular culture in the United States did not fully accept all aspects of Latinx communities and were often anti-black, Latinx actors--such as Dolores del Rio--were made successful because of the racism in Hollywood studios. The dissociation of Latinx actors from blackness, indigeneity, and the working class allowed Latinx actors to become successful amongst Hollywood and its…show more content…
According to the Mansfield News, Rio was considered “a real Spanish beauty” that possessed “the sexual attraction, the beauty of face, the attractiveness of figure, [and] the racial characteristics” necessary to master her role in “Carmen” (11). The word “Spanish” utilized to describe del Rio was foreign enough to appeal to U.S. audiences--who favored American whiteness--but not “too ethnic” to be associated with blackness and the working class. Del Rio’s “racial characteristics” allowed directors to view her as an “acceptable” Latina (11). Because Eurocentric beauty standards were foregrounded and idealized worldwide, Hollywood allowed del Rio to become one of the most successful Latina actresses of the decade. Dolores del Rio possessed light-skin, was white-passing, educated, and associated herself with the elite, as she had “parents of Spanish nobility” (11). Therefore, she was extremely privileged amongst her own Latinx community, who often did not hold as many advantages as she did. Although she was forced to assimilate to the social and cultural norms of the 1920s and 1930s, del Rio never fully embodied whiteness or upheld its notions. Despite the Americanization of Dolores del Rio in the movie industry, she continued to be exotified in her character roles and as a Latinx woman in
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