Olmos keeps his ¡Y qué! ‘tude in Latino-bashing era
Most older Chicanos recall first seeing the actor Edward James Olmos in 1981 as El Pachuco in the film Zoot Suit. El Pachuco was the epitome of the angry, macho Hispanic man who acts as the narrator and conscience of the story. Zoot Suit was a dramatic account of the Sleepy Lagoon case in Los Angeles, in which a handful of young Mexican Americans are falsely convicted of murder during the time of the 1942 “zoot suit” riots, when L.A. police and military servicemen ganged up on the brown-skinned zoot suiters, many of them our padres and tíos.
Younger millennial Latinos know Olmos as Admiral William Adama in the cable series Battlestar Galactica, the Latino military authority figure that leads the remnants of the human race fleeing into space after billions of humans are killed by the Cylons, manmade robots that turn on their masters.
In the three decades between the two roles, the East L.A. born, 63-year-old actor has starred in film and TV roles that have earned him numerous awards and loads of accolades.
Olmos, who was in Phoenix recently to deliver a Flinn Foundation Centennial Lecture at ASU, says he would rather be known as a passionate activist and advocate for Latino culture than as an actor. The title of his speech – appropriately enough – was “We’re All in the Same Gang.”
In an interview with LP Journal, Olmos expressed his in-your-face observations on topics that are hot debates among Latinos in the U.S., but especially here in Arizona.
On S.B. 1070: “That law is bullshit. If I have to show my citizenship papers, then everybody has to show their citizenship papers.”
On Arizona’s law banning ethnic studies in Tucson schools: “About 97-98 percent of what is taught to our Latino children is European-based history. No wonder they are suffering from high dropout [rates].”
On the stereotype of all Latinos as recent immigrants: “There is only one race, and that is the human race. My ancestors have been here for 40,000 years. When they tell me, ‘Go back from where you came from,’ I tell them, ‘I’m from right here. You are the boat people, coming over [on] the Santa Maria.’”
On how Arizona Latinos should respond to anti-Latino legislation by state lawmakers: “You are at the center point. People are boycotting your state because of them. But we all need to make the stand against those S.B. 1070 attitudes right here.”