“Tortilla Soup” has been a Latinx staple for more than 20 years. It is well-known for its charming and humorous depiction of a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles, in which neither a drug dealer nor a maid can be found.
The Naranjos, who are firmly in the middle class, own their own businesses, and invest in real estate, struggle with issues that are universal to all people: how to achieve true love, happiness, and purpose. Martin, the film’s stern and devoted dad played by Héctor Elizondo, is a widowed chef with three adult children.
He uses food as a way to express his affection by holding regular and exciting family dinners. The fact that there are so many daughters contributes to this great portrayal of our town. We witness a variety of Latina’s in the Naranjo women, including the pious, the aspirational, and the free-spirited.
And throughout the movie, they all defy those stereotypes, demonstrating that Latinas are more complex and dynamic than any one of them.
Of course, if “Tortilla Soup” were prepared today, certain things would undoubtedly be changed. There are four roles in the main Mexican-American family, hence the fact that none of them are played by Mexican or Chicanx actors feels unfair.
Constance Marie, the neighbor/secret love interest, is thankfully speaking for Chicanas worldwide, but she shouldn’t have to. It would have been more authentic and intriguing to see a variety of our community’s colors (and concerns with colorism) play out in this almost completely Latinx cast, since there isn’t exactly a lot of ethnic diversity.
But there’s no denying that “Tortilla Soup” honors the tradition by making our food the star, just as it is in many of our families. And for that reason, even after all these years, we continue to watch this movie, with all its joy and flaws. So join me as I hook up with the “Tortilla Soup” cast and learn about their origins and current whereabouts.
Jacqueline Obradors received a nomination for an ALMA Award for outstanding actress in a motion picture for her role as Carmen, the middle daughter who is interested in business, in “Tortilla Soup.” The Argentinian-American actress had previously appeared in movies like “Six Days, Seven Nights,” and the same year she began a four-year tenure on “NYPD Blue.”
Héctor Elizondo, a Puerto Rican actor, has a face you’ve probably seen everywhere. Before the 2001 Latinx blockbuster, he had roles in classics like “Pretty Woman,” “Beverly Hills Cop III,” and “Runaway Bride.” He played the tough-but-loving father in “Tortilla Soup.”
The Cuban-American actress Elizabeth Pea, who is well-known for her roles in movies including “La Bamba,” “Lone Star,” and “Rush Hour,” brings a rich history of Latina characters to her depiction of the religious and traditional Leticia, who forms an improbable romantic relationship.
Tamara Mello, who is of Portuguese Azorean origin, had a long list of acting roles under her belt before taking on the role of Maribel, the young Naranjo who isn’t afraid to be herself. She continued performing after that, landing roles in productions including “Psych” and “School of Rock.”
Constance Marie is likely best remembered for her role as Yolanda, the wife, and mother of the title character on “The George Lopez Show.” She was born and raised in East Los Angeles and is of Mexican-American descent. Although she was just 32 at the time, she played the Quintanilla grandmother in 1997’s “Selena,” and in “Tortilla Soup,” she played a single mother and Naranjos’ neighbor.
Before playing Constance Marie’s intrusive mother in “Tortilla Soup,” Bolivian-American actress Raquel Welch had been a sex symbol for decades. She became instantly recognizable for her fur bikini in the 1966 film “One Million Years B.C.,” and she went on to star in several 1960s and 1970s classics, such as “The Three Musketeers.”
Italian-American In “Tortilla Soup,” Ken Marino portrayed Jacqueline Obradors’s ex-with-benefits. He begins by talking about their past relationship, which Carmen declines to join, and finishes with another lady in his bed.
Oscar Julio Mechoso
In “Tortilla Soup,” Julio Oscar Mechoso portrayed the buddy and business associate of Martin’s family. The actor, who was born in Cuba, appeared in the first season of “Miami Vice” as well as, it seems, every other popular sitcom from the 1980s and 1990s, including “Quantum Leap,” “Murphy Brown,” “Matlock,” “Murder She Wrote,” and “Seinfield.”
Although he claims German ancestry, French actor Nikolai Kinski portrays Tamara Mello’s Brazilian boyfriend in the film. Martin makes fun of him by remarking that all the German-Brazilians he’s heard of were Nazis.
Paul Rodriguez, a Mexican-American comedian, plays Leticia’s PE teacher and prospective husband. He appeared in a variety of films before leaving with Letty on his motorcycle in “Tortilla Soup,” including “The Golden Girls,” “Born in East LA,” and “Made in America” from 1984.
Joel Joan, a Spanish actor, has primarily acted in Spanish-language films, but he did make an English-language film appearance to play the venture capitalist boss and potential love interest of Jacqueline Obradors. He is well-known in Spain for his work as an actor in the films “Plats bruts,” “Excuses,” and “Porca misèria,” as well as for directing “Phoenix 1123.”