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Is ‘Colombiana’ truly Colombian?

Zoe Saldana‘s upcoming film, ‘Colombiana’, is the story of Cataleya, a 9 year old Colombian girl who watches her parents being killed and grows up to get revenge for them. But how appropriate is this title for this film?

What do most people envision nowadays when talking about Colombian women?  Shakira or Sofía Vergara are the first to pop into most minds. In general it’s a vision of exotic beauties, voluptuous bodies, generally light skinned.  Zoe is beautiful, but she’s not a typical Colombian beauty.

The tagline of the film, mentioned 5 times in the trailer, is “Cataleya, never forget where you came from.” First, Cataleya is not a Colombian name, Catalina maybe, but not Cataleya. Second, if a loving Colombian father tells his traumatized little girl: “…never forget where you came from…” Most likely she would grow up to be a very patriotic Colombiana, loving and loyal to her country, her culture and her language, right? You would think so.

But the trailer for this film shows nothing of the sort. No cumbia dancing or coffee picking in the Colombian Coffee triangle cities (Armenia, Pereira or Manizales) nor lavish and eloquent Spanish speaking. On the contrary, from what we see in the trailer, most of the film takes place in the States, in Chicago of all places! Let’s hope we just didn’t get to see the Colombian aspect in the trailer, but that it is in the film. I know I will be looking for it.

The producer of this film -written in part by famous French director Luc Besson– obviously wanted to use Colombia’s 80’s violent drug war reputation to tell the story of a kick ass Latina.  This story line only perpetuates the fake myth that Colombia still has a bunch of assassins running amok, killing people under orders from major drug kingpins. I’m not saying that drugs aren’t a problem anymore in Colombia, but for sure it is not Pablo Escobar’s violent and bloody 80’s!  And so the film seems to be,  on a reality level, out of context as well.

Zoe Saldana was born in Passaic New Jersey, her father is Dominican and her mother is Puerto Rican. Zoe has lived in the United States all her life. So why was Zoe chosen to play Colombiana? Has she ever even been to Colombia? If they wanted to do a film with specifically Zoe in mind,  they could have come up with a similar storyline in the Caribbean and should have called it ‘Dominicana’ or even ‘La Boricua’! This would have kept it true to the essence of the Caribbean culture and to Zoe’s background. No doubt these  would have been more believable titles.

There is a handful of great, beautiful Colombian actresses that would have been a much better choice to play the role of a believable Colombiana. Here are some just to name a few: Flora MartinezZulay HenaoDana GarciaCarolina RamirezMaria Fernanda YepesMaria Adelaida PuertaNatasha KlaussSharik LeonAngie Cepeda or even Maria Full of Grace‘s Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress,Catalina Sandino Moreno!

This is quite a slap in the face to Latin population that Hollywood is still generalizing Latino stereotypes, and in a sense insulting our intelligence by portraying to the world who we really are in a wrongful manner.

I guess we’ll have to wait for the release of the film on September 2nd to really see how Colombian ‘Colombiana’ really is.



By Larry Yepez Jr.



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