• Gregory Nava crafts a multi-generational epic
in My Family, Mi Familia, a film that follows
nearly 60 years in the life of a Latino family
whose roots in the United States date back to
• Released in 1995, Nava's film addresses
themes central to the immigrant experience.
• Positive cinematic representation of Latinos.
• Nava's insistence that an entirely Latino cast
play his characters (as opposed to bankable
Anglo stars) was a victory not only for
independent filmmakers working within the
Hollywood system but, more importantly, for
greater verisimilitude and diversity in
• My Family/Mi Familia should be meaningful
to any American who has known the
immigrant experience, or indeed who has
been part of a close-knit family. Still, his career
to date exemplifies the difficulty of getting
films—other than crime dramas and broad
comedies—about particular ethnic or social
groups made and distributed to a wide
• The film chronicles the Mexican-American
experience through three generations (1920's,
1950's, and 1980's).
• Mi Familia/My Family uses characters to offer
representations that combat the racist
representations many films construct.
• Mixes social commentary with humor.
• This movie has a visual freedom you rarely see
on the screen. Working with cinematographer
Ed Lachman, he uses color filters, smoke,
shafts of sunlight and other effects to make
some scenes painterly with beauty and color and he has used a painter, Patssi Valdez, to
design the interior of the Sanchez home. The
movie is not just in color, but in colors.
• Over the years embodied the stereotypical
depiction of Latinos in cinema enforcing these
racial inequalities and biases - projecting
stereotypes as essential truths to a primarily
an non-Hispanic audience in which
mainstream America tend to believe.
• The battles depicted in film tend to be same
battles which the members of the Latino
community fight in their day-to-day lives..
• In this regard, the majority -meaning the host
culture - has constructed and exploited
stereotypes on people non-white enforcing
white power and white privilege which is
critical to the maintenance of their own white
• Stereotypes common to early film
representing Latinos was as a greaser - an oily,
dark-skinned, mustachioed bandit – the ‘dirty’
Mexican for example. Others were depicted as
lazy, content to do nothing but lie under a
sombrero all day.
• Still yet we may have seen a Latino who was
violent, cruel and hot tempered who eventually
was given his due by someone from host culture.
• While stereotyping in film and other media may
at first appear to be innocuous, Latinos are
consistently perceived as the hot-blooded lover,
gang member, child-like or illegal immigrant and
this helps shape how society perceives Latinos
which they consider as outsiders.
• This reinforces the difference and distance
between ‘them’ and ‘us’ (typically immigrant
culture vs. host culture).
• This film shows the various relationships that
the family members have toward their cultural
identities and their desire to become
• As we follow the first generation of the
Sanchez family, direct immigrants from
Mexico, we see the desire to hold on to both
their cultural traditions and values, as well as
succeed in the American Dream’
• We see the fierce pride of the Latino culture
shown through the character of El Californio,
Jose’s distant relative who was ‘American’ well
before the Manifest Destiny as Jose reaches
current Los Angeles. We follow Maria’s
struggle to return to her family following her
illegal deportation. We are shown close-ups of
Jose’s rugged lined face depicting his struggle
to keep his family together through adversity.
• The second generation, the children of the
Sanchez family, find that this ideal of their
father is impossible.
• To them they are faced with the choice of
either being Mexican or being American
(Anglo) in their identities, while the outside
institutions continue to define them.
• Chucho becomes the leader of a gang called
the Apostles, in the 50’s to attain the power
and status Americans ‘respect.
• Although adhering to stereotypical
characteristics- Chucho is a drug dealer who
commits murder and is eventually killed by a
police officer. Nava explains the social
pressures that lead Chucho to gang life.
• The third generation, which takes place in the
1970s, faces situations such as acculturation,
assimilation, and past problems of the family.
• Mi Familia does not shy away from the fact
that within the Mexican-American community
there is gang violence and crime and other
problems (much the same as any community)
but rather than focus entirely on this fact,
Nava directs to the audience a portrait of one
family through their perspective of racism and
life in the U.S.
• Produced 1995.
• Written and directed by Gregory Nava.
• Movie traces, over three generations, an
immigrant family's trials, tribulations,
tragedies, and triumphs.
• Characters and story largely based on Nava’s
life and people he knew growing up.
• Barrio in East L.A.
• Mexico (Michoacan, Mexico City, outskirts)
Characters, Part I
José, Mexican immigrant.
María, his Mexican-American wife.
Paco, the narrator and eldest child.
Irene, eldest daughter.
Chucho, son born in Mexico.
Toni, daughter who becomes nun.
Guillermo (Memo), becomes attorney.
Jimmy, youngest child.
Butch Mejía, gang leader.
Characters, Part II
Family members listed in Part I.
Gloria (wealthy American woman)
• José and María try to instill the traditional
Mexican family values that they both have
inherited from their parents:
• deep-seated Catholicism and all of the
sacraments and beliefs associated with the
• hard work ethic;
• importance of a united traditional family with
two parents who have been married through the
Church and have several children.
Cultural norms, cont’d
• Parents find themselves losing battle against
• Children adopt behaviors and values counter
to both traditional Mexican ones that Jose and
Maria promote, and the normative codes of
Anglo dominant culture.
• Through all the beauty, laughter and tears, the
strong heart of the family beats, and
everything leads up to a closing scene,
between old Jose and Marie, that is quiet,
simple, joyous and heartbreaking. Rarely have
Ihas there been in film such a sense of time
and history, of stories and lessons passing
down the generations, of a family living in its
• Their story is the story of one MexicanAmerican family, but it is also in some ways
the story of all families. Watching it, it
reminds the viewer of our own families’
legends and heroes and stray sheep, and the
strong sense of home. "Another country?"
young Jose says, when he is told where Los
Angeles is. "What does that mean - `another
• How does the host country react to the
• What economic factors affect their lives?
• Do the individual members of the family
participate in the American Dream? Do the
individual characters? Which?
• What is your cultural heritage? What does
that mean to you? Have members of your own
family faced cultural assimilation here in the
United States? How did your family deal with
that assimilation? What was their means of
survival? What did you gain and what did you
lose through that means of survival?
• What are some examples of institutional
racism in this movie? What are some
examples of cultural racism in this movie?
How do these examples impact the Sanchez
• What do you think are the defining
characteristics of Anglo American culture?
What part of the Sanchez's family's culture
does not fit with American Anglo culture?
What part does?
• What makes it difficult for the Sanchez family
to assimilate into American Anglo culture?
Why do some of the children resist
assimilating? What is the experience like for
those who do assimilate?
• The film best of all presents the thematic
theme of strong family ties, rich with culture,
and the struggle to live the American Dream in
the face of adversity.
• By portraying Mexican-Americans as the new
American family, how does Mi familia
challenge and accept the traditional notions of
My Family/Mi familia Please answer the questions below in succinct yet complete. Try too
avoid use of first person (I think, I feel, I believe, It appears to me, etc) Also, please try to
use active voice (The film shows…) as opposed to passive voice voice (It was shown in the
film that …)
1. In what way does the film represent and empower the non-lettered citizen?
2. By portraying Mexican-Americans as the new American family, how does Mi familia at once
challenge and accept traditional notions of so-called American values?
3. Some immigrant groups have also equated education with “leaving the family behind, being
ashamed of the family,” etc. How does this view affect the attainment of the American Dream.
4. What are some examples of institutional racism in this movie? What are some examples of
cultural racism in this movie? How do these examples impact the Sanchez family?
5. Compare and contrast the sense of “community” that Mario Suárez presents in his short
story “El Hoyo” with that of Mi familia.
6. What do you think are the defining characteristics of Anglo American culture? What part of
the Sanchez’s family’s culture does not fit with American Anglo culture?
7. What makes it difficult for the Sanchez family to assimilate into American Anglo culture?
Why do some of the children resist assimilating? What is the experience like for those who do
8. What is your cultural heritage? What does that mean to you? Have you, or any of your family
members, faced institutional oppression to your culture here in the United States? How did your
family deal with that oppression? What was their means of survival? What did you gain and what
did you lose through that means of survival?
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