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Latino Incognito: 5 Latino Actors That Changed Their Names

The entertainment world has changed a lot for Latinos over the last 50 years. While we still have a ways to go, (hello, “Work It“), we’re better off than we used to be. Back in the 50’s, Desi Arnaz wasn’t allowed to go to certain clubs and restaurants, even though he was on the #1 TV show in the country. In the 60’s, Mexican banditos were often played by Italian guys like in “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”. It was not uncommon in those days for Latino actors to change their names in order to get their foot in the door. While we celebrate people like Rita Moreno and Jose Ferrer for not doing that, we sort of get why others chose to go the other route. Anglo-name or not, they helped pave the way for the Gael Garcia Bernals and Jennifer Lopezes of today. So, here are the top 5 Latino actors that were compelled to change their names. Bet you didn’t know a lot of these guys were Latino.

Anthony Quinn

Also known as Antonio Reyes. A lot of people thought that Anthony was Greek because of his seminal role as “Zorba the Greek” or Italian because of Fellini’s “La Strada”. But no, he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. His father, Frank Reyes, rode with Zapata during the Mexican revolution. Can’t get more Mexican than that. He changed his name when he started acting in the 50’s because he couldn’t get a job as a Reyes. He never denied his Mexicaness, and was quite proud of it. He later starred in “¡Viva Zapata!”, which was ironic given his father’s involvement with big Z. Of course, the role of Zapata was played by Marlon Brando before Brando went on his all strawberry ice cream diet.

Martin Sheen

AKA Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez. This one is pretty well known, as Marty has never shied away from his heritage. Even into the late 60’s, when Martin started acting, it was still common practice for studios and agents to tell their clients to change their names. When his two sons, Carlos and Emilio began their careers in the 80’s, Emilio kept both his first and last name. Carlos Estevez transformed into the coke-sniffing, hooker-banging phenomenon we know as Charlie Sheen. Martin spent several years playing the president on “The West Wing”, so it’s kind of like a Latino has been president.

Rita Hayworth

But her mama called her Margarita Carmen Cansino. Rita was not only a famous actress and dancer, she was the most popular pin-up girl in the 1940’s. If your abuelo served in WWII, there was probably a poster of her in his barracks. They would paint Rita on the nose cones of B2 bombers. Think of that. A Spanish-American girl leading American troops into battle against the Nazis. The last thing a lot of Waffen-SS pilots saw were those beautiful Latin thighs.

Raquel Welch

But her driver’s licence says Jo Raquel Tejada. If your abuelo had a picture of Rita during the war, your dad had one of Raquel in his dorm room. He’d look up at her between bong hits and think, “Wow, man”. Raquel changed her name when she married James Welch. Though, she probably would have been asked to change it anyway. As with the other people on this list, she never denied her Latino ancestry. That’s what is so weird about the whole name change thing. They’d take on Anglo names, but would tell whoever asked that they were Latinos. What’s the point?

Carlos Mencia

God almighty do we hate Carlos Mencia. Besides being a huge joke thief and reinforcing stereotypes, he also lies about his background. While the other people on this list changed their names to appear Whiter, Carlos changed it to seem more Latino. His real name is Ned Arnel Mencia. Ned. Like Ned Flanders on “The Simpsons”. That’s because he is not a Mexican “beaner” from East L.A. like he claims in his act. He was born in Honduras to a Mexican mother and a German-Honduran father. It’s not that he isn’t Latino, it’s that he makes up what kind of Latino he is. That’s reason #2 why we hate him. The #1 reason is that he sucks.

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