When Ben Affleck cast himself as Tony Mendez in the Oscar-nominated Argo, many criticized the move, speaking of whitewashing the movie, and “how dare he cast himself as Latino!?” comments.
Had it not been for him, the six U.S. embassy employees who now famously hid in the Canadian ambassador’s residence in Tehran, Iran, would have most likely died, and few can deny that. The truth is, Tony Mendez is a hero, but he is not a Latino hero.
Yes, the guy’s name is Antonio Mendez, but he himself has said that he doesn’t consider himself Hispanic.
What’s in a name? ‘Argo’s’ real-life Mendez on growing up without Hispanic heritage
“I was born in the U.S. in Nevada and my family came there, to this location, Eureka, Nevada, during the time of the gold rush,” Mendez told NBC Latino. “My great-grandfather came from Italy and he married an Irish woman and there was a French connection there. So, that’s my mother’s side. On the other side, on my father’s side, his family was originally from Mexico.”
But his father died and any Hispanic heritage died with him.
“I was in a household without my father because he was killed in the copper mines in Nevada and my mother’s side didn’t speak Spanish and there was nobody around speaking Spanish when I was growing up,” Mendez said. “I’ve studied languages as part of our training, but I don’t have a native language other than sometimes English.”
So if the man himself doesn’t consider himself a Latino, perhaps it is time for the controversy to die. Mendez said he was very pleased with Ben Affleck’s performance in Argo, and that in not a single moment did he feel he would have rather have someone else play him.
“I don’t think of myself as a Hispanic,” Mendez said. “I think of myself as a person who grew up in the desert.”