Once upon a time in Hollywood, "Latin" characters were played by actors sporting caramel-colored makeup and over-the-top accents. Today, though, Latino faces -- genuine ones -- appear throughout the multiplexes and across the TV screen.
Best of all, Latino actors aren't always noticeably "ethnic," demonstrating the increasing number of roles for Hispanic actors besides cholos and hoochie mamas.
In "Monte Carlo," Disney triple threat Selena Gomez, who is half Mexican-American, leads the cadre of up-and-coming young Latinos who are making it in Hollywood without having to hide their roots or change their surnames.
Like many of the young stars nurtured in the Disney studio system, Gomez is a media-savvy actress, singer and dancer extraordinaire. Whether she's stepping out with her boyfriend Justin Bieber (sorry, girls, she's snatched him up), starring in her own hit series "Wizards of Waverly Place" or headlining her first feature film ("Monte Carlo") with another two movies in the queue, she always manages to seem irresistibly sweet -- well, except when she's kissing The Bieb.
Jake T. Austin
If you've turned on Nickelodeon or Disney, you've probably seen (or heard) 16-year-old Austin. Although he's best known best for playing Gomez's little brother on "Wizards of Waverly Place," he's also the titular voice of "Go, Diego, Go" and is completely bilingual. On the big screen, he just signed on to play Huck Finn opposite "Super 8" star Joel Courtney's Tom Sawyer. Also look for him in the multiple-storyline ensemble "New Year's Eve."
This half Puerto Rican singer-actress, groomed from a young age by Nickelodeon ("Zoey 101" was her debut), stars in Nick's high-school sitcom phenomenon "Victorious." With her built-in fan base and centerfold-ready looks, Justice is shifting to movies, including the teen comedy "Fun Size" opposite Johnny Knoxville and Chelsea Handler, and the rom-com "The First Time," both due out in 2012.
As every "Gleek" knows, Rivera's sassy, recently out cheerleader Santana Lopez can steal scenes with just a sneer or a cock of the eyebrow. This smokin' 24-year-old, who's half Puerto Rican, is working on her debut album and will star in the concert film "Glee Live! 3D" with the rest of the hit show's cast, but we're sure she'll transition to scripted features quite beautifully.
Alexys Nycole Sanchez
She's only been in one movie (playing Salma Hayek and Adam Sandler's daughter in "Grown Ups"), but it was enough to earn her an MTV Movie Award for Best Line From a Movie ("I want to get chocolate wasted.") Anyone who saw her sugary-sweet acceptance speech will agree that she was hands-down the most adorable winner of the night (perhaps ever). We hope she lands a movie franchise of "Home Alone" proportions.
Although critics panned "Red Riding Hood," the fairy-tale retelling at least let Fernandez prove that he can play the sexy and broody type, particularly with his eyes that "fairly crackle with mischief and menace," as one critic noted. We agree, and we can't wait to see the Mexican-American skater boy flash his baby browns in the upcoming "Magic Mike" with Alex Pettyfer and Channing Tatum and "Adult World," a coming-of-age comedy with Emma Roberts.
We first noticed Wilds as the tough-but-tender young street dealer Michael on HBO's acclaimed drama "The Wire." Wilds, who's part Dominican, then gave up the East Coast and snob appeal for the teen soap "90210." He also wooed Dakota Fanning in the '60s drama "The Secret Life of Bees." Next up, he'll play one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen in the George Lucas-produced drama "Red Tails."
Paz de la Huerta
When she's not on set, she tends to invite an ungodly amount of tabloid attention for her partying, but on screen she's rivetingly gorgeous. If you've missed the Spanish model-turned-actress's standout turn as Steve Buscemi's mistress in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," look for her in four upcoming movies, including the Linda Lovelace biopic "Inferno" with Malin Akerman and "The Girl Is in Trouble," a whodunit set in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Oh, those dark and handsome alpha males. Trevino plays badass young werewolf Tyler Lockwood (not to be confused with "Twilight" star Taylor Lautner) on the CW's hit supernatural series "The Vampire Diaries." The 26-year-old Mexican hottie hits the big screen with the "Breakfast Club"-ish "The Lowenfish Party" (also starring Sara Paxton and Bow Wow) and the crime thriller "The Factory" opposite John Cusack and Mae Whitman.
We know some Twi-hards find it difficult to tear their eyes away from Bella and her two love interests, but those who've noticed her small circle of human friends from Forks High School will recognize Serratos as Angela Weber. In addition to her supporting part in "Breaking Dawn," the 20-year-old former Ford model has several upcoming projects, including three lead roles and the indie thriller "96 Minutes," opposite Brittany Snow and Evan Ross.
After she played the adolescent daughter to Peter Krause and Monica Potter on the quintessentially white drama "Parenthood" for two seasons, few viewers probably knew Ramos is a Latina. Well, now you know (she's of Hispanic and Jewish descent), and we predict big things for the 20-year-old actress, who has landed parts in the much-anticipated "Perks of Being a Wallflower" adaptation starring Emma Watson, and the Melissa Leo–Jesse Eisenberg drama "Predisposed."
He's been acting professionally since 2003, but in the past couple of years, Alejandro seems to be everywhere -- appearing in multiple episodes of "Weeds" and "Parenthood," "Southland," and most recently, "True Blood," playing Lafayette's brujo boyfriend Jesus. Alejandro and his piercing blue eyes are soon coming to a theater near you in Kevin Smith's sinister horror-flick "Red State" and the supernatural thriller "Cassadaga."
Some child actors can be creepy or coy, but Rodriguez is downright delightful as Sofia Vergara's old-souled sweetie of a son, Manny Delgado, on ABC's highest-rated sitcom, "Modern Family." He's already appeared in three features and three shorts, but we can't wait until a clever producer casts the precocious 12-year-old in his very own star vehicle -- perhaps a family comedy that's as funny as the ensemble show he's on now.