Hispanics in Science Fiction with Edward James Olmos & Esai Morales Part One

You don’t need to be a science fiction fan to be familiar with the work and accomplishments of two very prominent Hispanic actors; Edward James Olmos and Esai Morales. I had the pleasure of not only hosting a panel with both actors, but of also awarding Mr. Olmos with a Lifetime Achievement Award and Mr. Morales with an Outstanding Achievement Award, for the work both have done in Science Fiction and Media.

But the panel was really so much more than just awarding these two amazing actors with media related accolades as the panel itself was called ‘Hispanics in Science Fiction’ and was initially conceived between myself and one of the Galacticon promoters and long-time friend, Shawn O’Donnell. We both agreed that as the convention, which happens only once every 5 years, is in Texas, which has a very large Hispanic population; we should acknowledge the Texas Hispanic science fiction and Battlestar Galactica fans. In truth however, neither myself nor Shawn had any idea what the panel itself would turn into and I could not have been more greatly surprised by the outcome of what was for me one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in over a decade of convention attendance!

The panel began like any other with a high profile celebrity making an appearance, time was short, the panel was a bit delayed and I was nervous. However, once Mr. Olmos and Morales began talking not only about what it means to be Latino, but about the history or our shared Hispanic tradition, the room was spellbound. I thankfully had enough sense to sit back and let both actors talk about the history and condition of the Latino Experience, which they are both passionate and extremely knowledgeable about.

What ensued was for any attending fan, Hispanic or otherwise (as this issue is one belonging to our national community and as such shared by all) was nothing short of inspirational. It was moving because we were hearing ideas we were all aware of, but had never really heard spoken about in quite the same way as Mr. Olmos and Mr. Morales were able to frame them for us. I had never really heard ideas pertaining to the Latino experience with the comprehension and compassion which these two gentlemen have for this cause and expressed for us at the panel.

Towards the beginning of the panel, Mr. Olmos was asked how important winning an Emmy for his work in Miami Vice was and what he said was interesting and telling in that his perspective was more about what he is as a Hispanic actor, rather than about who he is individually.

Yes, I was honored as with any accolade” then pointing to the Lifetime Achievement award he had just received continued, “including this one. It really does bring attention and awareness to the individual . . . I was the first Latino, Mexican American, born in the U.S. to get that award as a lead actor. And I hated it! I hate being the first anything to be honest with you.” Already it is obvious as it was the moment Mr. Olmos said this, that his thoughts on this subject would be dynamic to say the least.

It’s way, way, way beyond time! You know what I mean?” as he looks around, “It’s 2013 and we’re still doing firsts?” as he gestures between himself and Esai Morales. “. . . and that hurt! I mean thank you very much,” as Olmos bows his head in mock gratitude “but my culture has been here for forty thousand years. We come from Asia!” Mr. Olmos says this purposefully and to stress the point, he looks around the room as if making eye contact with the entire audience before continuing, “When you think that we are indigenous to this hemisphere for forty thousand years, you have to wonder to yourself just what’s going on?” With a big smile and chuckling he continues, “Europeans . . . help us!” as the crowd then laughs along with Mr. Olmos and he finishes off his thought, “Help us to understand our own history rather than to only understand European and American based history.”

Then turning to Esai, Olmos reaches over and says, “Get a load of this, when this show (Battlestar Galactica) came on the air, I didn’t really want to do the show because I didn’t really have the desire. I was doing other work and things, but I read the script for Battlestar and I thought it was incredible and different. So I met with them and I only had one request.”

Pausing before fishing his thought and as if trying to recall his exact sentiment Mr. Olmos continues to say, “I don’t want to see any four eyed and two lipped creatures looking at me!

With this the crowd laughs together as the stately actor continues, “I don’t want to see any jelly fish!” Again more laughs as he looks around at the gathered crowd listening intently, “If you’re going to try and do something in the integrity of something like Blade Runner, where you saw machines and technology that were on the inside of the structure of a human being, then I’ll join up with you. But the first four eyed monster I see, I’m going to faint in front of the camera and you’re going to write in that I had a heart attack and died!” The crowd loves this as Mr. Olmos lets the laughs subside before continuing.

And that was in my contract and I made people laugh, ha ha . . . but it was in the contract. I wanted to keep it real and when they said they were going to do the High-bred, they were scared to bring it up to me. But I said yeah but that’s half machine and half human, excellent! This is real and people will take it as a reality.” Then as he begins his next thought it becomes obvious how he is tying it all together, “But what I found now is that we have a problem. When I did this show I got a phone call from Evelina Fernandez, a brilliant playwright who she started the Latino Theater Company with her husband and she calls me up in heaping sobs.”

 “Now this is 2004 and she calls me up sobbing and I ask her what was the matter? She tells me that she had just gotten a phone call from her eleven year old nephew and he was laughing and crying as he was telling me, ‘We’re in the Future!’” as he purposefully touches his index finger to the table with each syllable as continues, “I saw it Tia,” he says as he continues to touch his finger to the table with emphasis, “We’re in the future!” He stresses these words and his face becomes quite serious as Mr. Olmos stops momentarily before very carefully beginning again but now addressing the audience directly, “GET IT?”

Emphasizing his words, “Do you guys get it?” Willing the crowd with his demeanor, tone and deliberate speech to listen to him now and comprehend what he is trying to tell them, “Do you finally maybe see how important it is to just have a representation inside of the system?” as he opens his arms in a wide sweeping gesture and continues, “So that everybody just looks equal!”

He looks around at the audience as the following loud silence acts almost as an acknowledgment, validating the power behind his words.

It hurts me man. I start to cry about it.” Eyes closed and fists clenched he then says emphatically, “It’s Ridiculous!” His face is a mask of pain as he lightly hits the table with an open hand saying, “I’m sixty six years old and we’re still doing things culturally that have never been done before?” The question is more profound statement than anything else as he sits back in his chair almost exacerbated and exhales, “That’s Crazy!”

You could feel the power of this man’s feelings coming out like a freight train through his words as the entire audience shakes their heads in positive affirmation. Spanish, black, white, Asian, purple, blue, four eyed and two lipped; it didn’t matter what you were as it the emotions applied to everyone equally in that room and we all felt it!

 “This whole country was built on culture, different cultures! The beauty of this country is the fact that all of the cultures and all of the religions get together here. And yet we find ourselves,” as he looks towards Esai Morales and gestures to him, “still being firsts! Doesn’t that hurt?” With that and as if on cue, Esai picks up on Mr. Olmos’ thoughts. “Yeah, we’re the first to be eaten . . . !” says Esai holding up one finger in front of him before continuing as Mr. Olmos agrees, “Yup!

While the crowd laughs, it seems more like a nervous release of pent up tension. “We’re disposable is how I see ourselves in general mainstream, and I agree with Eddy that it is well overdue!

This discussion is clearly part of an incredible and ongoing exploration of what it means to be Hispanic in our culture today, along with the wider implications pertaining to American society and the way it views not only itself, but those who call themselves Americans. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this panel and really do hope you will join me for the next portion of this iconic dialogue with several greatly dynamic and influential personalities, one of whom has yet to reveal himself in this discussion.

There is still a good deal more left to this panel and very important discussion and while this is the end of Part 1, I invite you back for Part 2 this Friday on Sci Fi Pulse.

Written By: Tye Bourdony                  Photos Supplied By: Lee Fall & Martin R. Castro

Tye Bourdony is a Sci Fi cartoonist and creator of ‘The Lighter Side of Sci-Fi’, a mediator, science fiction reporter and the U.S. based content editor for Sci Fi Pulse. He is also a graduate of the Barry University School of Law, SUNY Purchase and H.S. of Music & Art. Tye currently works in Florida’s 9th Circuit as the Staff Family Mediator, is currently the Public Information Officer for the Osceola County Bar Association and has a regular self-published column in Sci Fi Magazine.  You can visit Tye on facebook and at www.thelightersideofscifi.com. You can send Tye your thoughts, story/article ideas and content thoughts to TBourdony@scifipulse.net.

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