San Antonio Native Robert Rodriguez Says He Had to Fight Hard for Latinx Representation in Spy Kids

Just because Comic-Con was forced online this year doesn't mean that we won't be getting any big pop-culture reveals.

Case in point: famed director — and San Antonio native — Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete) dropped a bombshell in an online panel hosted by entertainment website Collider yesterday.

During the panel, in which he and fellow directors Colin Trevorrow (Jurasssic World) and Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy) talked shop, Rodriguez laid bare just how hard he had to fight for Latinx representation in his hit family flick
Spy Kids, a 2001 blockbuster that raked in the bucks and spawned three sequels.

"For me, it was a big victory, and it was an important one for things to follow, to have the kids in Spy Kids be a Latin family," Rodriguez said.

"The studio was like, 'Why are you making them Latin, though? Why don’t you just make them American?' And I was like, ‘They are American, it's based on my family.' My uncle is actually — his name is Gregorio Rodriguez, he's a special agent in the FBI that was the only one to bring down two top ten [most wanted] criminals. That's who Antonio character's based on. And I wanted to make a movie about my family, 'cause I grew up in a family of 10 kids, a big Latin family, but I thought, 'Well, I should make them spies so it's more interesting for people. So it's not just about my family.'"

He continued: "It had just never been done before. When you're doing anything that’s new — this just happens to be about diversity, but it could be anything — when you're doing anything new, you're gonna get questioned.

"And you have to have a good answer, because they're not being dicks or anything, they've just never seen it before. 'Is it gonna make the audience smaller?' People think only Latins will go see it. And it’s just 'cause it had never been done before. I said, 'No, I don’t think so, I mean they're only gonna speak Spanish as a kind of code when it’s cool. And they are American, they're just Latin, 'cause it's based on my family.' It wasn’t really convincing. I finally had to come up with a good argument. Finally, I said, 'OK, you don't have to be British to enjoy James Bond. By being so specific, it becomes more universal.' So, they went with it, then of course there's like four [Spy Kids films in the franchise] and now we’re rebooting it. But you kind of had to put your flag in and set it in and say, 'This is how it's gonna be done' to make any change, 'cause there was no roles being written for Latins at that time, back in 1999, nor were they being cast."

Rodriguez also noted that were it not so personally important to him, he may have just given in and let the story get white-washed.

"And if I wasn’t Latin, I would've given up the fight, because I would've been [like], 'OK, I just wanna get the movie made.' Because it was based on my family is the only reason I kept the fight up. And again, it wasn't a fight, they just weren't sure why I would attempt doing something that could possibly limit the audience. 'Cause it had just never been done before, to be proven wrong. And why prove it with this movie? And that can be with anything, a piece of technology or an idea that’s new, that you would come up against as a filmmaker. You kind of have to make a stand and go, 'Look, this is kinda how I have to be.'"

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Kelly Nelson

Kelly Nelson is a digital content editor for the San Antonio Current.

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