Cuban Love – A Short Film


We are delighted to present Cuban Love a short film by Cultura Ambassador, Nancy Rosales. Nancy recently visited Cuba with her friend Bobby and while there she decided to shoot a short film using her iPhone 6s.  She interviews locals, captures various shots that provide us with a very intimate look at daily Cuban life. One of the best elements is how she captured Cuban music and incorporated it as part of the soundtrack. Nancy thank you for capturing this authentic perspective of Cuban life and it’s beautiful people.

Nancy Rosales is a driven and action oriented Entrepreneur, Strategic Media/TV Consultant and Business Innovator for Neveria Abel 1950 inc. Dba  We look forward to featuring more of her work though our various Silicon Valley Latino platforms in 2017.

Nancy keep up the great work!



Edward James Olmos interview (Part 2)

Silicon Vally Latino had the pleasure of spending some time with the one and only Edward James Olmos prior to his interview with Cultura Ambassador Rick Najera as part of the Latino Thought Makers series. Mr. Olmos was gracious enough to allow our intern Roberto Alvarez, sophomore at the Luis Valdez Leadership Academy, to interview him. Roberto asked some great questions and Mr. Olmos shared outstanding wisdom with him. Take a moment to view the interview and share it with those in your networks.

Great job Roberto!

8th Annual Cine+Mas Latino Film Festival


Cine+Más SF presents the San Francisco Latino Film Festival (September 16-October 1, 2016) in theaters and cultural centers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, screening award winning and critically acclaimed documentary and feature films throughout Latin America, South America and the USA. The audience will have the opportunity to participate in discussions with local and visiting filmmakers after many of the screenings.

The Festival is excited to announce this year it will open at the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in the Mission District and takes the program to cultural venues in the Bay Area including the Roxie Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, La Peña Cultural Center, the de Young Museum and the Eastside Cultural Center. Films are screened in their original language with English subtitles.

A short list of this year’s program includes:

H.O.M.E by Daniel Maldonado from New York City. Jeremy Ray Valdez (La Mission) plays a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome who finds respite in the subways of New York City. Filmmaker slated to attend.

SACRED SACRAMENT by Lionel Desai, a San Francisco filmmaker. Familiar sights and faces from the Mission. Boy coming to terms with separation from his mother who was deported as he prepares for his first communion while staying at adoptive family. Cast and crew attending.

SIEMBRA by Samuel Henriquez from Colombia. It’s a drama set in Colombia’s Pacific Coast about a fisherman displaced by the armed conflict yearning to return to his land.

LIBERTAD by Brenda Avila-Haan, a filmmaker from Santa Cruz. A short film profiling a transgender indigenous woman from Oaxaca whose life transcends borders. Part of the Made in Califas shorts program.

CRAVING CUBA by Zuzy Martin Lynch and Rick Lynch, San Francisco filmmakers. A documentary about Cuban-American’s nostalgia and yearning to travel and connect with Cuba. Subjects include Jessica Aguirre (NBC news anchor), George Gascon (San Francisco District Attorney), and singer/actor Carlos Ponce. Filmmaker in attendance.

Silicon Valley Latino is delighted to promote this special film festival once again, we hope to see you at the movies!


Interview with Mr. Edward James Olmos

Silicon Vally Latino had the pleasure of spending some time with the one and only Edward James Olmos prior to his interview with Cultura Ambassador Rick Najera as part of the Latino Thought Makers series. Mr. Olmos shares with us why he’s involved with the Latino Thought Makers series, his latest project, In A Little Spanish Town, he recalls his role as Jaime Escalante in Stand In Deliver and talks about being involved in so many Latino themed projects.  In the 2nd part of our interview our intern Roberto Alvarez of the Luis Valdez Leadership Academy gets to sit with him and ask him some great questions. Stay tuned for that interview. shining light on Independent Producers

We invite you to learn about this wonderful Independent Television Service (ITVS) that brings to light stories and points of view that are not covered by mass media.  As we, Silicon Valley Latino, are accustomed to highlighting and promoting the positives that Latin@s do within the community we wanted to share this organizations contributions and their similar Mission as ours.


Mission Statement

The Independent Television Service (ITVS) brings independently-produced, high-quality public broadcast and new media programs to local, national and international audiences. The independent producers who create ITVS programs take creative risks, tackle complex issues and express points of view seldom explored in the mass media. ITVS programs enrich the cultural landscape with the voices and visions of underrepresented communities, and reflect the interests and concerns of a diverse society.

2016 Academy Awards – A turning point for cultural diversity?


Guest blog by Omar Mendoza:

The 2016 Academy Awards were a turning point for the culture surrounding Hollywood diversity – or lack thereof. The overarching theme of the night was addressed through comedy, music, and the occasional serious speech. Individuals see this high-profile event as an opportunity to really speak to the masses. With millions of people tuning in, it’s difficult but necessary to turn the spotlight away from the individual and onto the bigger issues.


Diversity is not only about ethnicity and race. People from all walks of life can come together to create a masterpiece – within the film industry and beyond. If everyone in a team was the same age, sex, and socioeconomic status – the product would be a one-dimensional disaster. To create a masterpiece, you need the perspectives of multiple people from different backgrounds. Below are moments where diversity was highlighted at the Oscars through visibility and awareness.


Sexual Abuse Diversity

Lady Gaga may not have won an Oscar, but she won the Oscars with her performance of “Till It Happens to You”, an anthem from the film The Hunting Ground. Lady Gaga, herself a victim of sexual abuse, was introduced by current vice president Joe Biden. Biden used this moment to bring awareness to his #ItsOnUs campaign, a movement that encourages people to come together to support victims of sexual assault regardless of their background or situation.

2016 Oscars Diversity

As usual, Lady Gaga delivered a powerhouse performance that ended with 50 sexual assault victims joining her on stage, hand in hand. Looking at the stage, it is evident that sexual abuse is not confined to a specific gender or race. Bringing awareness to this issue was in itself an accomplishment almost as powerful as winning an Oscar.


Racial Diversity

We went into Oscars expecting a discussion on the lack of diversity in Hollywood, and we sure didn’t leave disappointed. The elephant in the room was addressed right away by host Chris rock through his opening dialogue:

2016 Oscars Diversity

Throughout the show, countless presenters and awardees mentioned the lack of Diversity in Hollywood. Although the focus was on the lack of African-American nominees, Hispanics and Asians are also among minorities who do not have the opportunity to share their voice and perspective on film. As we saw at the Oscars, a film doesn’t start when filming – it begins early on during screenwriting. To be successful, diversity has to start in the writing room not the marketing room.


LGBT Diversity

The LGBT community got a shout out from Sam Smith, who dedicated his Oscar for “Best Original Song” to the community. Although he wasn’t the first openly gay person to win an Oscar, the problem is you can count the actual number of gay winners in two hands.

LGBT Diversity 2016 Oscars

Gay artists are insecure that coming out would ruin their personal brand and hold them back from the accomplishments a straight person can achieve. As more of these openly gay artists win awards, more people will be inspired to authentically express themselves through art.


The point of bringing awareness to diversity and the lack of minority representation is not a plea to hire more “colored” actors. Minorities are not begging to get hired – they are simply asking for the same opportunities that their white counterparts get.


In the end, it’s not about diversity – it’s about comfort. Imagine walking into a job interview and realizing you are the only person of your race at the company? Would you feel uncomfortable? Compelled to turn back? Now imagine this happened to you everywhere you went. That’s how minorities feel, and many of them are here. If we want to continue growing as a nation, it’s crucial for us to include the voices that have been quiet for so long. Diversity may not have been nominated for an Oscar, but it sure did win the night.


Share your thoughts and opinions here or on our social media pages.

To read more articles from Omar on Technology, Diversity & Creativity visit his blog page

“McFarland USA” screening in San Jose


On Sunday March 1st Silicon Valley Latino (event media sponsor) had the pleasure of covering the Red Carpet Screening of Disney’s latest inspirational film “McFarland USA” at the Camera 12 Theater in San Jose.


The Red Carpet VIP screening was presented primarily by production company, LIFT360 (Latinos in Film & Television 360). This special screening celebrated achievement and diversity in Hollywood and beyond. Event organizers reached out to key community leaders, non-profit organizations and schools in creating an opportunity for guests to meet the actors of the film with hopes that their own respective stories of perseverance would inspire those in attendance. The demand was such that an another screening was added and as a result hundreds of inner city students from the San Jose community watched one of this years most inspiring movies. Attendees included students from many organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, Upward Bound, the Luis Valdez Leadership Academy, Franklin McKinley Children’s Initiative, Dual Immersion K-8th Middle School Cross Country Team, San Antonio Elementary School, James Lick High School Basketball, Mount Pleasant Cross Country Team, Somos Mayfair, Yerba Buena High School Running Club, LATISM (Latinos in Technology, Innovation and Social Media), Daughters of Farm Workers, Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, and more. A highlight of the day was when most guests had the opportunity to meet the actors and take pictures with them on the red carpet.

McFarland USA Screening San Jose


The primary objective of the event was to present at risk students with an opportunity to become motivated by the real life story of the inaugural McFarland cross country team. The film’s stars including Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Rafael Martinez, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar and Ramiro Rodriguez were in attendance for the red carpet segment as well as for the question and answer portion with students at the conclusion of the film.



San Jose Vice Mayor Rose Hererra and City Council Member Raul Peralez presented event organizers, LIFT360, with a Certificate of Commendation from the City of San Jose. The festivities concluded with a private VIP Reception and Mixer at Chachos Mexican restaurant where special guests met with the actors in attendance and were treated to a special musical performance by “The People.”


Key collaborators in producing this inspiring event included Ron Gonzales – Former Mayor of San Jose and CEO of The Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, Tony Arreola – Board Member of the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley and Founder of Organica Fresh, Jorge Sanchez – Chacho’s Restaurant, Mario Burnias – LIFT 360, Ulysses Alvarado – Tu Visión Canal, Rudy Deanda – Blue Chip Restaurant and Henry Priest – Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles.


Review of Golden Globes Award to Gina Rodriguez



“This award is so much more than myself, it represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes” said Gina Rodriguez in her Golden Globes Award acceptance speech for Best TV Series Actress – Comedy or Musical. For me it was the most powerful acceptance speech of the evening and quite possible one of the best that I’ve ever heard because what it represents to our community.

I’ve been a fan of Gina Rodriguez for a few years now, she first came into my radar through a couple of features on INSPIRA (more about INSPIRA below) about her staring role in the feature film Filly Brown. After watching Filly Brown in the CINE+ Mas SF Film Festival I was hooked. She truly demonstrated then that she was going to be one of our rising stars. Once again her acceptance speech was very inspirational, to me, and so many other Latinos because we are tired of seeing Latinos in stereotypical roles in movies and television series. This statement truly resonates with us at Silicon Valley Latino as it perfectly described the WHY we started our social venture. So if we want to continue to see Latinos in non-stereotypical roles then we need to support the movies and series that feature them in these positive roles.

We at Silicon Valley Latino challenge you to go out and support these types of films as they are released and we ask you to start by going out this weekend to watch Spare Parts staring George Lopez and Esai Morales, – the movie is about four Latino high school students who form a robotics club. With no experience, 800 bucks, used car parts and a dream, this rag tag team goes up against the country’s reigning robotics champion, MIT. and Birdman – directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu –

Another movie to be released in February is McFarland, USA – this movie is about how a group of Latino would be athletes from a small town turn into championship contenders –

We specifically ask that you take photos of you and your family/friends at the theater and/or a photo of your movie ticket stub.

We also ask that you support our Cultura Ambassadors (Rick Najera, Tony Quintero, Mia Perez and Nancy Rosales as well as so many of friends like Gina Rodriguez, Esai Morales, Edward James Olmos, Rafael Agustin, Vannessa Vasquez, Francisco Ordonez, Rich Garcia, Rene Rosado and so many more) who work in the entertainment industry (Hollywood and beyond) and are working on having better representation of Latinos in media.

Lastly, we ask you to buy similar type DVDs like the Book of Life, Filly Brown, and the list goes as well tune into television series like Jane the Virgin, Cristela, Modern Family, etc.

We hope to see you in the movies!

Book Review: Rick Najera’s Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood


Latinos in Hollywood. A topic that is not new but that has received renewed attention in the media with the recent publication of Chris Rock’s essay for The Hollywood Reporter. In his essay, the comedian critiques the entertainment industry for not being “black enough,” but also for not being “Mexican enough.” Considering that L.A. has the second largest population of Mexicans after Mexico City, Rock finds it hard to believe that there aren’t more Mexicans or Mexican Americans working in Hollywood. “You’re in L.A, you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans,” Rock jokes.

But what has it been like for the few Mexicans or Mexican Americans that did get hired? What is it like to be brown and to work for what many consider to be a “white industry”? Award-winning actor-writer-director-producer Rick Najera is someone who has built a successful career in Hollywood as a Mexican American and in his memoir, Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood (2013), he provides us with an insider’s view of what it means to be Latino in the entertainment industry.

With Almost White, Najera delivers a compelling account of how a kid from the bordertown of La Mesa, California transformed himself into one of the most recognizable Latino comedic voices in the entertainment industry. What started off as Najera’s desire to impress his Mexican American father by memorizing Shakespeare lines turned into a passion that led him to act in films and plays, as well as write for In Living Color and Mad TV, and eventually create and star in his own Broadway play, the award-winning Latinologues.

For readers curious about the glitz and glamour of working in the entertainment industry, Almost White provides plenty of page-turning stories. Najera travels with a Shakespeare theatre company, hangs out in George Clooney’s house and meets his pet potbellied pig, has lunch on set with Sidney Poitier, lives in Mexico City while working for Televisa, joins the executive ranks at LATV, and mentors new talent as the director of the CBS Diversity Showcase. Najera has been in the belly of the beast of the culture industry and he has the experiences to prove it. This is the kind of material that belongs in a memoir.

But Almost White is more than just a fun read. Najera arrives at insights about death, the culture industry, and the ever-perplexing question of what or who is a Latino. Indeed, it is Najera’s near-death experience in 2012 (he has a seizure at home which puts him in a coma) that inspires him to write Almost White. Describing the moment when he finds himself in a hospital bed, he writes: “In every story, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. More than anywhere else, in Hollywood, the story commences when you are defined and cast as a “type.” I was cast as the “Latino.” I always had to fight for my identity because, when you are Latino, to white America you’re not black and you’re not white. What you are is almost white. Now, lying in the hospital, I was almost dead.”

What kept me coming back to Najera’s memoir were these moments of introspection, delivered with self-awareness and light-hearted humor. The issue that inspires the most commentary for him is Hollywood’s complicity in creating stereotypical representations of Latinos. When beginning his career, for instance, Najera quickly realizes that Hollywood wanted him to play drug lords and gangsters. At one point, he has to darken his hair color and make his light-skinned complexion browner. The contradictions he encounters while trying to get his foot in the door are real and at times surreal, but Najera somehow manages to find humor in the absurdity of the situation. He writes, “I looked like a dark-skinned Mitt Romney on his famous Univision interview.”

Najera’s experience of being typecast as either a foreigner or as a criminal illuminates what he means by the term “Almost White,” which he playfully uses throughout the memoir to describe how Latinos are perceived in Hollywood. Even though Najera is a light-skinned Mexican American (which he recognizes brings its own privileges), he was never quite “white enough” to get the kinds of roles attained by other actors. “Being almost white,” he writes, “has sentenced me to a kind of dual identity as someone who walks between both worlds.” To be almost white, it seems, is to be in limbo—somewhere between being a foreigner and being a full-fledged American.

This episode marks one of the most relatable moments in Almost White since the phenomenon of being typecast happens both inside and outside the entertainment world. We all know that sometimes we have to play a role or a position we don’t like just so we can stay in the game. That’s just part of life. However, Najera’s story shows us that it is possible to eventually break out of those roles. He decides to become a writer and write his own roles after he has a fateful conversation with then up-and-coming comedian Whoopi Goldberg. “I was tired of acting in roles that reinforced stereotypes,” he confesses, “I decided to write myself free.” And he did.

With Almost White, Najera continues to write himself free by showing us his true, multi-faceted self; he can be both an “almost white” Mexican American who lives in the ‘burbs but also a self-described Latino entertainer committed to bringing more diversity to Hollywood as a mentor for new talent. By being true to who he is in his memoir, Najera in effect gives voice to other second- and third- generation Latinos who love their roots but find themselves leading very different lives from their parents’ generation. It is clear that Najera knows that we exist and that he is someone committed to getting Hollywood to notice us well.


Share your thoughts about the book if you have had a chance to read it.

La Llorona at Mexican Heritage Plaza


La Llorona at Mexican Heritage Center

An epic tale of love, betrayal and vengeance is told in La Llorona, a new operatic musical drama based on a well known folk legend in Mexico and the U.S. southwest. La Llorona / the Weeping Woman is premiering at San Jose’s Mexican Heritage Center later this month. The San Jose show marks the third production of the award winning operatic musical drama by composer Hector Armienta, a nationally recognized Mexican American composer, who focuses on creating work that explores the Mexican and Mexican-American cultural experience.

La Llorona

“Anyone who has ancestral roots in Mexico knows this epic legend that has been told and retold in diverse ways by many cultures and through generations of storytellers,” says composer Armienta. “Some would say that La Llorona is the Mexican Medea.” At its core La Llorona is a story of revenge as it tells the story of of a woman who forsakes her people and betrays the river by falling in love and marrying a man of Spanish lineage. She later takes the life of her child by drowning her in a river. Did the river torment her into the act?

La Llorona is the second in a trilogy of work, Aquas Ancestrales/Ancient Waters, by Hector Armienta. The trilogy’s central themes and story relate to the spiritual and magical element of water, the role of destiny and free will in our existence, and the lives of the women in Armienta’s family, including his Mexican grandmother, mother and sister. When completed, the trilogy will consist of a bilingual chamber opera (Rio de Mujeres/River of Women), an operatic musical drama (La Llorona/The Weeping Woman), and a full-blown opera (La Muerte/The Murder).

La Llorona Mexican Heritage Plaza


About Opera Cultura


Our mission is to explore the Latino – Hispanic cultural experience through music theater and opera and provide opportunities for the community to participate as creators, learners, and performers. We accomplish this mission by supporting and producing the work of composer Hector Armienta, showcasing music by opera composers of Latino/Hispanic descent, and training young people through various educational programs. Further, it is Mr. Armienta’s vision and that of the organization to develop a core of work that serves as a cultural bridge between communities. In doing so, Opera Cultura extends the boundaries and definition of the art form.