last seen online via YouTube
From an early age, I've always been exposed to Latino people and culture. My best friend from childhood was Dominican. The magazine shop where I bought my comic books was on a street in a Latino part of town, and of course my favorite childhood movie theater, the Jackson, was (and still is) in a Latino neighborhood. The sound of salsa music, the smell of Mexican restaurants, and the sight of flags from Puerto Rico and Brazil and Cuba are as much a part of my memories as anything else. As a kid, I never gave much thought to the differences between the various Latino cultures and my own. I never had any reason to.
Not long ago, I worked in an office with several Latina women ("las mujeres," as I referred to them). Most of them I liked, some I didn't, but I never had a real problem working with them. They'd speak Spanish to each other at least as much as they spoke English to everyone else, if not more. While it didn't make me uncomfortable, I have to admit, it made me a little self-conscious at times. Then again, that could have been due to the fact that one girl in particular was plain annoying - yelling across the room to her friends in Spanish and acting like an entitled queen bee all the time.
The point is that all of a sudden I'd reached a stage in my life where I was aware of the differences. As a democratic society, we like to believe that as long as we're on the same side, those cultural differences don't matter, but in everyday practice, they do. They have an impact on how we see each other, interact with each other, and treat each other. We can't help but be aware of them, and it's foolish to pretend they don't exist. The most we can hope to do is attempt to understand them and accept them for what they are...
...which is why films like My Family are so important. They open a window into another culture that we can look through from a safe distance and see it for what it is; the good, the bad, and everything in between. This is as much an American movie as it is a Mexican one (co-writer/director Gregory Nava was born in San Diego), since the story of America is one of immigrants. The generational clash that is a major theme in the movie is one of old-world versus new-world ideals, and they inform the choices the characters make in their lives, for good and ill.
Bottom line, My Family is a delightful film that is intrinsically American, and speaks volumes about who we are as a society. (It also has one of Jennifer Lopez's best performances!)