Latino Groups Speak Out After Lupe Ontiveros 'Snub' At Oscars

PHOTO: Actress Lupe Ontiveros at the Warner Bros. 25th Anniversary celebration of The Goonies on October 27, 2010 in Burbank, California.

Mexican-American actress Lupe Ontiveros, considered an icon by many in the Latino community, died in July of last year at age 69. But she was not honored on Sunday during the Oscar's In Memoriam tribute video.

The omission of Ontiveros from the list has prompted groups like the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and the National Hispanic Foundation of the Arts (NHFA) to speak out in protest.

Ontiveros' career spanned four decades. While she's most remembered for her roles in 'Real Women Have Curves,' 'El Norte,' and 'Selena,' she told NPR that she had been cast as a maid character more than 150 times in her life.

Felix Sanchez, the Chairman and Co-founder, of the NHFA posted on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon that he called the "Diversity Chief" of the Academy and pleaded that Ontiveros be added to the online list. As of this publishing, her name was included in a gallery slideshow. She shared her slide picture with two other honorees on the Oscar event website.

The NHMC went even further with their critique of the organization in an open letter to the members of the Academy. President of NHMC, Alex Nogales, claimed to have spoken with members of the Ontiveros family who say she was nominated by her acting peers for Academy consideration but was denied membership.

There are more than 6,000 members of the Academy, and they are selected only by nomination. Members are the ones tasked with voting on Oscar nominees and winners.

"We want to know the reasons why Lupe Ontiveros was denied membership to the Academy," Nogales wrote. The Academy did not respond to our request for comment to confirm this.

This certainly isn't the first time Latino groups have felt snubbed at arts awards. Last year, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts spoke out against the selection process for the Kennedy Center Honor, one of the nation's highest prize for the arts.

Of the 180 winners of the award in its 35-year history, there has been only one U.S.-born Latino, singer and actress Chita Rivera, and one Spaniard, tenor Plácido Domingo. The outcry has prompted the Kennedy Center to establish an eleven-member diversity advisory panel, which includes five Latino members.

Latinos are also statistically underrepresented in the membership of the Academy, according to a study conducted by L.A. Times, which found that 94 percent of Academy members are white, 2 percent are black and 2 percent are Latino,

Whether or not she was formally recognized by the Academy, Ontiveros was undoubtedly an inspiration to many in her field and in the Latino community. Actor Edward James Olmos told the Times after she passed that Ontiveros "was a gift."

"She was part of the evolutionary process of the art form of Latino storytelling in the last 30-plus years," he said. "She was one of the true pioneers of the Latin artistic movement in theater, film and television."

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