The Afro-Latino Connection - Page 4 of 6

The Afro-Latino Connection

roles on the FOX drama 24 and ABC’s Alias, as well as appearances on Law & Order, The Agency, and Angel. In nearly all her roles, however, she plays an African American. She hopes to take on more Latina roles in the future.

“I’ve gone out for several [Latina] roles,” says Torres, who recently had cameo appearances in the highly successful Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions films. “It has not been my experience thus far that the people that have the power to make those [casting] decisions are ready to embrace a Latina who is dark. They like to keep it simple. You don’t want complicated when you’re trying to sell gum. You want to say ‘that is a black person, that is a Latin person, that is a white person. Everybody looks like they came from where they’re supposed to come from. Let’s not complicate that.’ ”

The Bronx-raised Torres admits that she gets annoyed when people assume she’s not a full Latino. “That it’s so out of the realm of possibility that somebody like me can be all Latina. Both my parents were born in Cuba; they came over in the mid-50s before the revolution.”

Torres, who married Laurence Fishburne in 2002 after meeting on the set of Matrix Reloaded, views her work as contributing to the struggle and making a difference. “I often say I didn’t become black until I became a professional actress. It’s when I realized I wasn’t the Latina that America was comfortable with. I’m still not. Inside of the industry, it’s changing slowly,” she says. “The darkest Latina that first had name recognition was Rosie Perez, but because she sounded familiar no one made a big deal out of it. But the image the business perpetuates and is still most comfortable with is Jennifer Lopez, as was Rita Moreno in her day.”

Torres says that she is comfortable with serving as a bridge between the black and Latino cultures. “As a people, we are both certainly much stronger if we align…we all want our children to grow up in a better place and to have better opportunities than we did,” she says. “We all want the same things, we all hit a similar wall in terms of being viewed [against] standards that were set up so long ago, that we continue to bust out of and redefine. I am proof that it works.”

At an early age, Maria Perez-Brown learned to live in two worlds. Born in Puerto Rico and moving to Brooklyn at the age of 6, she lived in what she describes as a segregated neighborhood. “One block was all Puerto Rican and the other block was all black,” she recalls. “I felt early on that my identifying quality was not only that I was Latina, but that I was a black Latina from an urban experience, with much more in common with my black friends from my neighborhood than with my Puerto Rican cousins from Puerto Rico.”

In the early 1990s, Perez-Brown left the