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How Actress Kate del Castillo Honors Her Mexican Heritage

Photo: Courtesy of Esteban Calderón

Mexican-American actress Kate del Castillo has lived an interesting life, immigrating to the United States; starring in telenovelas, movies, and TV shows; and even arranging a meeting between actor Sean Penn and Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera. We talked to her about all this and more.

To what degree has your success allowed you to be a proponent for more Latin inclusion in the arts? 

I’ve always rooted for Hispanics. The biggest difference now is that I have my own production company. I finally feel like I’m in the position to change narratives, and to fight for more names like mine to be on screen and also behind the camera. I am going to fight to make Cholawood Productions well known for diverse content created by diverse cast and crew. And, of course, we want more women behind the cameras and in leading roles that bring justice to every woman everywhere. 

How, if at all, has your family helped to teach you about your heritage? 

Oh boy, everything! It cannot get more Mexican than my parents. My dad loves his culture, he is a charro, loves Mexico, and I grew up listening and watching this. My dad has an amazing show with Corridos Mexicanos that is beyond beautiful. The lyrics take you on a Mexican history-revealing journey. There is so much history and beauty in my country. I miss it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the same opportunities that I was able to find in the United States.

How does the telenovela industry do in terms of portraying authentic Latino experiences? 

I haven’t done a telenovela in 15 years maybe or more, so I don’t know how they are now. However, historically, they would not portray Mexican culture in the best light. There was a certain truth to it. I can’t speak to Latin America, but Mexicans are very classist. 

What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your life?

I had to leave my country, my family, and name to continue to pursue my dream as an actress. Starting from scratch in a new country was extremely challenging. Most of the time you leave when you have nothing to lose — I left when I had everything to lose. 

You gained your American citizenship in 2015 how has that changed or impacted your life? 

Well, one essential benefit was that because of my citizenship, the Mexican government couldn’t extradite me during the El Chapo investigation. My citizenship protected me when they wanted to charge me in Mexico, but I didn’t have any charges in the United States. Also, I feel really proud and powerful to be able to vote and raise my voice here in the United States.

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