Will ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Canonize Trek’s First Major Latino Character?

WARNING: The article below contains a couple of major spoilers, but nothing that has not aired on Star Trek: Discovery or After Trek.

The death of Dr. Culber at the hands of Ash Tyler/Voq shocked Discovery fans. For those fans who saw themselves in the character, who is played by a gay Latino man and who represents one half of Star Trek’s first canonically gay couple, the loss was felt even deeper. Immediately after the show aired, however, the showrunners were quick to explain on After Trek that Culber isn’t “100% dead” and that we will be seeing him again soon.

With Culber’s return, another Star Trek first?

With Culber’s impending return, Discovery writers have a chance to deliver yet another first for diversity in Star Trek through this character: they could make him Latino. Although Culber is played by Wilson Cruz, who is Puerto Rican, his heritage has never been established on screen. With a couple lines of dialogue, Hugh Culber could become the first major Star Trek character to be explicitly Latino, according to the rules of canon. I mean, really, after 700-plus hours of Star Trek, can we get a hermano (or hermana) to boldly go, please? There’s never been a better time.

Wilson Cruz plays Dr. Culber on Star Trek: Discovery

Cruz is no stranger to the role he plays as an LGBT Latino on television. As he told TrekMovie in an interview this August:

“I think it’s a powerful message to send that in the future we will have same sex couples and little brown people in space who are doctors and scientists discovering the universe.”

Cruz can be a role model for same sex couples and Latinos alike.

Latino characters have boldly gone in Trek before… just barely

Star Trek has flirted with Latino actors and characters, before, but their on-screen heritage is muddy at best.

Star Trek Voyager’s Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres, for instance, played by Latina actress Roxann Dawson, has a name that calls out Latina ancestry, but to the best that I could find, it was never addressed on Voyager. In the episode “Lineage,” for instance, we see flashbacks to a camping trip with B’Elanna’s father, but the discussion of her cultural background is limited to her father’s conflict with her Klingon mother.

Canonically then, Torres’ human heritage is a gray area — and she’s the closest Star Trek has come in seven TV series (counting the cartoon) to having a major Latino character, who is also played by a Latino actor. Notably, Trek has had a number of minor characters with presumably Latino roots, including Captain Erika Hernandez on Enterprise or Enrique Muniz on Deep Space Nine.

B’ellana Torres is presumably Latina, but her background was never thoroughly explored

No better time to show a brighter future for Puerto Rico

Following Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico itself is facing the aftermath of its worst natural disaster in modern history. Latinos of all backgrounds are hungry for for their culture to be accepted into mainstream America’s, particularly during a time when our nation is so divided. The nation’s climate now is rife with parallels to the civil rights movement era, when the presence of characters like Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu on the bridge made a statement.

Cruz himself said he wants his character’s Puerto Rican heritage to become canon. In a recent Twitter exchange, I asked CBS, “is Wilson Cruz’s Dr. Hugh Culber canonically Puerto Rican in #StarTrekDiscovery?”

“He is as far as I’m concerned!” Cruz tweeted back.

(Admittedly, if you read the Twitter exchange, I gushed a bit after that. Hey, I was having a fan moment, and my extended family’s Puerto Rico homes had just been leveled. Cut me some slack, here?)

Will Discovery Make Culber Latino?

Star Trek has come close to canonizing Latinos in the final frontier, but Discovery has the chance to really cross that line.

To move a step forward past what Star Trek has already done, Discovery would need to acknowledge in the show that Culber is Latino. It needn’t be much — a signature dish he cooks for Lt. Stamets, passed on from Culber’s abuela, or a family story told in an endearing moment, would do the trick. (Just please, no mystical craziness like Chakotay’s spirit journeys, please?)

Fans of TOS may remember Ensign Pavel Chehov’s repeated Russian tall tales, an easy way to canonize heritage through dialogue. Captain Sisko’s ties to Louisiana took a step past that, and he even called out the legacy of American discrimination when invited to Vic’s Las Vegas nightclub in Quark’s holosuite.

And hey, now that Discovery has been renewed for a second season and with Culber’s imminent return to the show, there is plenty of breathing room to #MakeCulberLatino.

At the end of our Twitter exchange over whether his character would in fact be canonically Puerto Rican, Cruz tweeted to me, ¡Hecha le pa’lante! It’s slang that means, roughly, to “go forward.” Bringing Latinos into the 23rd Century would do exactly that.

 


Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez is an Irish, Italian, and Puerto Rican political journalist living in San Francisco, CA, in a neighborhood directly 2.3 miles south of the future site of Starfleet Headquarters.

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TUP

Hmmmm is this an issue? Like does the character have to wink at the camera and announce their ethnicity for it to be so?

Danpaine

Pretty much everything seems to be an issue these days, sadly.

Holden

Not that it should be the focal point of the narrative, depending on the context, but otherwise I don’t see the problem with “officially” acknowledging it either.

Ashley

Agreed. Other characters in Trek history have had their heritage or ethnicity explicitly discussed on screen. I don’t think it’d be a problem mentioning it in a line somewhere if it’s relevant and not shoe-horned in.

Phil

There’s nothing lost by doing it, either. It does round out the character…

Scott

Kike the engineer on Star Trek DS9 was latino. Short lived but explored in a couple small excerpts.

MysticalDigtial

That was mentioned in the article, Enrique Muniz

Sybock\'s Other Brother

I liked him and his fireworks stories. RIP Enrique.

Matt

I was so mad when he died on DS9, I really liked the idea of him as a more recurring character then he was killed by those damn Jem Hadar! I am still not over it!

Alex

They are human. Isn’t that the point of Star Trek? Also, Captain Robau on ST09. Commodore Mendez on TOS. Lt. Muniz on DS9.

TUP

yes, I dont think I understand the purpose of this article. its sort of criticizing Trek for not “canonizing” Latino’s in Star Trek and yet there have been many.

Are we to assume that unless otherwise stated, the characters who appear Latino and have Latino-sounding names are actually just white characters?

By all means, if this is a legitimate concern for Latino fans, then Im all for it. But it seems like looking for an issue where none exists.

Perplex

Not to forget there are hundreds of other ethnicities, Trek never addressed, that aren’t Americas’s next door neighbours. We probably never will see a real Chinese or a Pole or a Turk. Too exotic sounding names for the US audience.

Cap\'n Calhoun

Robau’s an odd case. He was mentioned as Cuban in non-canonical sources (and he’s named after a real-life Cuban), but actor Faran Tahir is Pakistani-American, not Latino.

Similarly, José Tyler from “The Cage” was intended to be Brazilian-American, but the casting didn’t really reflect that.

Ashley

To be fair, that’s actually pointing out another issue with Latino invisibility. Many Latinos appear Caucasian and are simply regarded as being white. I’ve faced this myself, being half Cuban but looking white to most white people. Situations such as that are where visibility would be nice to have once in a while. One can also make assumptions about skin tone or surnames, but these aren’t always conclusive. A person with a Latino surname could be adopted or have taken the surname of a spouse or step-parent and not have any Latino heritage. I think if mentioning Latino heritage is seamless and feels natural for the character to bring up, then there’s nothing wrong with it, and it could be beneficial to the character and audience.

Tay Dervis

Why does it even matter, especially on a show that’s supposed to show a future where everyone is included? We are all just people.

TOS was ground breaking because it showed people with differences working together and it wasn’t a big deal.

Now their trying to make a big deal out of every “milestone” which misses the point entirely.

Holden

TOS was groundbreaking too though because it used the futuristic allegories of sci-fi to deal with the real problem of racial discrimination as well, and the value of its utopic vision was that it recognized that both (the dream and the reality) go hand in hand. As the article points out, subsequent Trek shows have also explored the histories of discrimination and inequality as a way to remind us of the importance of that original utopic vision. It matters to those who might feel like they’ve not been included historically in that vision as much as others.

Alex

At the same time, it is always done through abstraction; i.e., racial discimination is not directly addressed but through the lense of SciFi. They go to a planet and there’s some discrimination going on because part of the inhabitants are blue and the rest is not. The crew is the objective frame of reference doing the social commentary, but they are not the FOCUS of the commentary. That’s how you deal with it on Trek. Not by pointing out that he’s Puerto Rican or whatever else and it’s a big deal for him to be a medical officer aboard the ship.

Jack

And why is it a big deal to actually show that future with a lead character? Especially now, when latinos aren’t being treated quite so great.

Marja

It’s not a big deal at all. And if it uplifts the spirits of Puerto Ricans who suffered in hurricane Maria, I’m all for it.

2omega

As an European, I wonder: what IS a “Latino heritage”, anyway? I’ve seen tons of people being described as “Latino” who look just like an average European (not “Caucasian”… seriously, that term has to go). I’ve seen tons of people who look like mestizos or mulattos, but they are somehow ALSO supposed to be “Latino”. And I’ve even seen people who look outright African, but still, they are said to be “Latino”. What does a “Latino” make? Is it a cultural thing, or genetic thing, or country-of-origin thing? What’s the necessary prerequisite to be a “Latino”? Dark hair and eyes? Accent? Can a Spanish or Portugese person from Europe be a “Latino” when they move overseas?

Laura

Well, i suppose it´s also a cultural thing. I have been described as Latina many times since i was born in Latin America and my first language is Spanish. Still, i am white with grey eyes and red hair because my grandparents were European immigrants. My husband is also white but has some Aboriginal (and i suspect Black slave) ancestors. Would he be more Latino than me, for example, since he has some Native South American heritage? Not really sure where to draw the line.

Ashley

Well this kind of proves my point about the problems with making assumptions based on skin tone. Anyway, Latino people originate from Latin-America. So that’s Mexico through South America and the islands in between. There’s quite a lot of history, it’s worth studying even if only the basics.

I don’t see the harm in making a reference to his heritage if it means something to his character. We can’t just expect a couple centuries to completely erase cultural diversity and make everyone ‘generically human’ with no real background other than they’re ‘from Earth’. We learned plenty about other characters in other shows and their backgrounds, I don’t see the problem with a line about being from Puerto Rico or having family there if it comes up organically. This is assuming that future episodes would allow for that, considering what happened to him…

Marja

I read a fanfic in which it was explained that Robau’s dad was Latino and his mom was Arabic. So people get it, and mixed heritage will probably be the rule rather than the exception in 200 years.

Jack

Not lead characters. Is Robau Latino? The actor isn’t.

I don’t understand how people can have a problem with this desire to be represented.

Ian

And Hoshi Sato was definitely Japanese only because she made soba noodles once and Harry Kim knew a Chinese saying so he can’t be Korean.
This is an incredibly dubious basis for an entire article. I have always considered Torres to be the first Latina main character, and I didn’t need to see her making mole sauce for Tom or belaboring the pronunciation of a tilda or a double “r” to have it sanctified for me.

Curious Cadet

@Ian — the problem has to do with the bigger issue fans are currently having with the look of the show. Visual canon is not canon per se, as the visual style of something can change as technology improves or design language changes, as we have seen with DISC. But the spoken word has to be honored — the characters said, or did a specific thing, which is iron clad, unless it can be re-interpreted. So technically speaking, unless the race of a character is clearly defined, down to physical characteristics, and ethnic heritage, then some future producer can come along and make Khan a white British guy, for instance, and still claim they are honoring canon.

Ian

That’s an insane requirement. That is literally demanding that a character named Torres, played by a Latina actress, vocalizes her ethnicity for the OCD amongst us who… what? Don’t look up from the scripts they are reading along to while an episode plays?

Go back to my facetious Harry Kim and Hoshi Sato comments though. What about Kim or Sato on the page tells you they are Asian? Harry Kim and B’Elanna Torres talked about their ethnicity and human cultural backgrounds exactly the same amount of time – not at all. By your logic, should I be railing against the producers of Star Trek for never explicitly giving us an Asian main character? I might have faulty memory on Sulu, but it’s all visual cues, names and soba noodles for Kim-Georgiou. Must not be canonical Asians then!

The Khan example is out of bounds. The excuse for the whitewashing was a discomfort with portraying a brown-skinned terrorist character. Simon Pegg awkwardly retconned the Kelvin timeline with some hokum about ripples in time going into the past, but we are still fully within our rights to be enraged that a character Marla McGivers identified as an Indian Sikh got recast as a pasty white dude. I don’t need a line from Benedict Cumberbatch about how he’s an evil white guy now to seal my displeasure with a canonical bow.

Curious Cadet

@Ian — it’s not my requirement. It’s just the way it is. Anything not expressly stated can be changed. If Kirk didn’t say he was from Iowa, they could have him grow up in Siberia. Indeed, I don’t think there’s anything that expressly states Kirk is White. So in the future we could see a Black Kirk, or an Asian Kirk, or anything else. And I’d be fine with that. But until they cement it in canon, then it doesn’t really matter. That said, I agree, Torres represents an effort to depict a major Hispanic character. However, I’d say the Klingon part dominated the role, and therefore, there’s still a bit of an opening to fill with a 100% Hispanic character, with the full ethnic identity and celebration of the heritage the way Uhura did for Africa, and Scotty did for Scotland, and Chekov Russia, McCoy for the South, etc.

Ian

No, I’m sorry. That’s a very warped way to look at things, and it most certainly is not “just the way it is.”

The river temarc

Khan was clearly stated to be Sikh in SPace Seed, if the surname Singh isn’t enough.

Curious Cadet

@The river — right. So why was Benedict Cumberbatch cast to play him then? Further, Sikh does not imply a race, or even necessarily an ethnic background. This was debated to death a the time. Sikh is a religion, but clearly McGivers saw something that allowed her to make the physical assessment — so physical traits which Cumberbatch’s appearance would not have provided. Add to that applying darker makeup to Montalban’s already dark tan — obviously to imply a particular race or ethnic appearance. Names of course can be obtained via marriage, adoption, or even legal petition, so they are not definitive of anything.

Marja

What I found ridiculous at the time of all the debates over CumbyKhan was the assertion that Khan should’ve been played by a Latino like Benicio del Toro. There are plenty of great South Asian (Indian) actors, absolutely gorgeous men [e.g., Hrithik Roshan or Sendhil Ramamurthy], who could have played Khan.

But Cumberbatch is very popular in Asia, and I think that sealed the decision.

The river temarc

I had had always thought that that Sato was Brazilian-Japanese.

She was definitely shown to be teaching on the faculty of a Brazilian university, although that doesn’t inherently mean she was born in Brazil, doesn’t she talk about moving back there in the finale?

Ian

She could well be. And technically, we never knew if Harry Kim was meant to be Chinese (like Garrett Wang) or Korean (as his surname would suggest). But I don’t need a canonical spoon feed to tell me he’s Asian like the article’s author says we were cruelly denied with Torres.

Perplex

He was US american. So, yeah.

Curious Cadet

@Perplex — exactly. While Ian may think it’s an insane requirement, it is nevertheless, the only way to ensure something endures for posterity as originally intended, however otherwise obvious.

Ian

For the anal retentive amongst us who don’t use our eyes, sure.

Disinvited

Ian,

My take has always been with Torres being first Latina main character.

To play devil’s advocate, I am not the least bit Latino but my last name would be categorized by many as such because it stems from my Iberian Peninsula European ancestors from which most Latino names stem. So Cadet does have a point about the way Desilu/Paramount/CBS allows canon to be rewritten when things aren’t nailed down in the dialogue of the language of the original filmed released.

But I have tried to point out that the current motion pictures with their penchant for general release first in non-English speaking countries has muddied this view of canon somewhat as it seems to tie canon to the version first spoke which may not be English at all and can vary wildly from the English version.

FWIW, I suppose DISCOVERY could also fill out the backgrounds of these original series potential(?) Latino crewmen:

Lieutenant D’Amato (Arthur Batanides)

Lieutenant Esteban Rodriguez (Perry Lopez}

Doctor Sanchez (unknown)

Ian

It’s still absurd to say that the obvious intentions of a show’s producers when they write and cast a character are irrelevant if they don’t spell out the character’s heritage in dialogue somehow. Star Trek is rarely subtle. They named a character Torres and cast a Latina actress to play her. There you have it.
If someone were to recast Hikaru Sulu as a non-Asian, none of these canon arguments about how technically he never talked about his Asian-mess would hold water, so I don’t see the point of them.

Michael Hall

By 2256, Earth has some type of world government. That’s Trek canon, period. So if you emphasize Culber’s Puerto Rican background in dialogue to make a point about his ethnicity, you’re compromising the optimistic take on the future the show is looking to promote. I can understand Wilson Cruz not being aware of this, but the producers certainly should be.

Ashley

We can still celebrate individual ethnic groups and ancestral countries or regions of origin and simultaneously promote a global government and singular ‘human’ racial identifier. Being regarded as simply human on a galactic scale doesn’t erase cultural heritage. I mean, look at characters like Chakotay. His cultural heritage was brought up many times in explicit terms, and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I don’t think you should equate optimism with the erasure of cultural identity. An optimistic future would be one where we can all celebrate our origins and differences while still being able to peacefully coexist, and come together for the benefit of all.

Wolfy

Chakotay is not a great example though. As someone of Native American descent, I always found it annoying how broadly Native he was. So… what tribe are you, Chakotay? Uh… hey, check out this killer tattoo I have. Cool, huh?

That’s to say nothing about the big cultural erasure in Star Trek. You know, all those other tribal customs and religions that magically disappeared because Roddenberry didn’t like them. Oh really, a future where the bulk of humanity has the same philosophy as you? More like Ego Trek. ;-)

I kid, but Trek has long presented a united version of humanity. United in their ideals, their identity… and their Roddenberrian, Hollywood blandness.

The aliens are the real humans.

Holden

Right on, Ashley. A utopic vision of racial tolerance and acceptance is not incompatible with a celebration of diversity and one’s own unique heritage. It’s not an either/or scenario. Star Trek has long embraced both.

Marja

Agreed, Ashley.

The River Temarc

Huh? The EU is a kind of supranational government; does that prevent Germans from wearing lederhosen during Oktoberfest? I think not.

Meeeee

Are you saying only government identifies people? So where are you from? Democrat.

Uhh no, doesn’t Chicago exist? Yeah but our government is all democrat I am not from anywhere.

Ok.

Sakar C

Are you borracho? Hiring a Latina actress to play a character named “Torres” is a “gray area” and you’re not quite sure if she is really Latina? Seriously? Por Dios, huy.

Capt Matt

LOL

The River Temarc

Yep, exactly. If they want Culber to be Puerto Rican or Domincan or whatever, fine. But this article is pretty damn insulting to Roxann Dawson and the character of B’Elanna Torres.

In terms of actors, Robert Beltran is Latino, as is Michelle Forbes.

It’s also worth remembering that the character of Tasha Yar was originally “Macha Hernandez.”

Marja

Is there such a real first name as “Macha”? Somehow I doubt it. Seems more like a stereotype kind of name …

Jacek

Considering how US-centric Discovery is, I guess a Puerto Rican character is as diverse as it gets.

The River Temarc

I mean, it’s less US-centric than the other incarnations of Trek, possibly excepting TNG. We have a German second officer, a Greek-Chinese captain, and a Nigerian navigator. Landry may have been Indian. Yes, the US is still over-represented what with Lorca and Burnham, but it still is ultimately a US show.

The worst offender was Voyager, where all the human bridge crew members in the first three seasons were American (I’m assuming Chakotay wasn’t from Latin America somewhere). The name “Annika Hansen” is pretty clearly Norwegian or Danish, so they didn’t quite strike out, but almost.

Perplex

The robot lady is german? I thought we don’t even know if she’s human.

The River Temarc

I’m referring to the character of Kayla Dettmer. Isn’t she ops officer?

Capt Matt

What could possibly be more important?

Dana Farricker

Oh, come on. Torres and Culber were Latino. Why is this even an issue?

Sybock\'s Other Brother

A more pressing issue is that the Horta has been misunderstood and left on the sidelines for far too long. We need one as a major character.

Alex

Only if the Horta is an female Asian lesbian Horta. That’s the most important aspect of the character.

John Chilton

Trek is suppose to represent the best of humanity in the future in space … We’ve had nearly every race included so far …. so how about the inclusion of an explicitly AUSTRALIAN character? Or did we not make off the planet … or our continent in Trek’s ‘inclusive’ 50+ year history?

The River Temarc

Wasn’t Transporter Chief Kyle Australian?

Tay Dervis

When did these articles become about quantity instead of quality.

Calastir

First of all focus on writing good stories with inspiring, memorable characters to care about and please make me believe it’s set in our distant future, not a contemporary setting.

DeQueue

This is really a non-issue, and borderline race-baiting.

Especially since we had Robert Beltran and Roxann Dawson as main cast members, not to mention the slew of other non-main characters (i.e. Enrique Muniz from DS9) in strong roles.

Heck, if you watch STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE, you might even assume the only Earth captains are either white (Captain Archer) or Latino (Captain Ramirez, Captain Hernandez). Where are the Jewish, Arab, and Chinese captains in the 22nd century?

STAR TREK representation is far from perfect, but there are certainly other nationalities/ethnicities that make more sense to write about being underrepresented. Ash Tyler’s possible Pakistani background is much more of a breakout role, for example.

But race shouldn’t ever be a main focus, but something that flows naturally from developing characters. Let’s move beyond this.

phil

or Irish Captains

Assuming Culber fully returns, and doesn’t just become some kind of “Mycelial Network” entity, it would be easy to have him showcase his Puerto Rican heritage the next time the crew holds a party to let loose. Have Culber change the music from Disco to Salsa. He could say something like “This is how we party in Puerto Rico!”

Aprovecha!

Alex

Yeah. Or have a German crewmember wear Lederhosen and drink beer. Sorry, but that’s some stereotypical crap and the absolute antithesis of what Star Trek should be about. In 2018, there’d probably be a shitstorm on the net because Picard has a British accent or that they put brown makeup on white actors for TOS Klingons.

DaveCGN

HAHAHAHA…. In Germany this is considered to be Bavarian, who themselves don’t consider as Germans…

Marja

That would be fun, especially if he dances with Stamets!

Sybock\'s Other Brother

I prefer interesting stories and compelling characters over obsessive identity politics that check of a list pre-set requirements. I’m fine with a Mexican actor playing a genetically-engineered Indian dictator; a Brit playing a Frenchman; a Mexican actor playing an American Indian; and a pasty Brit playing a genetically-engineered Indian dictator. Ok, maybe not the last one.

Set a course for excitement, and engage.

Canonizing Latinos… What? Being from a ‘Latino country’ (Argentina), I never felt this was necessary or needed… The idea is for humanity to evolve beyond borders and nationalities, remember?

Uhura was a groundbreaking character because she was a woman of color treated as an equal by the white members of the crew, no one needed to know where she was born to understand the significance…

Besides, and I can’t believe an article dealing with this missed it, but the captain is called Gabriel Lorca, that’s an Spanish first and last name, and he’s being played with a southern US accent. Do you need the show to connect all the dots for you?

kvorshk

You have nailed the essence of Star Trek and I applaud you!

The River Temarc

Not only is “Lorca” a Spanish name, but it’s impossible to hear it and not think of Federico Garcia Lorca, the Civil War-era poet. (And his famous “Cancion del Jinete,” with its line “aunque sepa el camino, nunca llegare a Cordoba” just might suggest that the theory about Lorca being from the mirror universe is true…)

The River Temarc

But Uhura was clearly African. She spoke Swahili on a couple of occasions, and had African art in her quarters. She didn’t wear her nationality on her sleeve the way Chekov did, which was pretty stupid, but various Trek characters clearly take some pride in their nationality (Scotty with his Tartan dress uniform, Picard’s love of the tricolor, Worf’s baldric and his fondness for Minsk, etc.)

Anthony the other one

Here we go again. “Latino Doctor” instead of just “Doctor”. “Gay latino Doctor” instead of “Doctor”

Did McCoy go by “straight Caucasian Doctor”? NO.

It’s terribly regressive to start going down a path of needing this kind of thing in a Show that’s supposed to be about the Future. Uhura was Black but nobody every called her out as being African. Sulu was Asian but Nobody ever had to specifically say he was Asian. I always just assumed Torres was latino somewhere in the mix.

I’m pretty sure that in the future nobody is going to be “latino” or “white” or have to fill in a stupid bubble on a Census form. If you’re human you’re human and hopefully we will have moved past region-based Genetics and if you’re from Earth you are ALL the same… Human. Black white asian gay straight whatever. Who cares!

rblaine

“PRESIDeNT Lincoln called Uhura a ‘lovely nigress’ in Savage Curtain. And she gave a perfectly Treky response.

The River Temarc

“Nobody every called [Uhura] out as being African.”

Wrong. Next?

Curious Cadet

@Anthony the other one — that’s because McCoy was a well understood trope — a middle-aged white doctor, portrayed by a straight white man, for predominately white audiences who owned televisions in the mid-1960s. There was no need to explain who he was. He was an entitled white man. He was however often distinguished as a Southern doctor — just as much an ethnic/cultural distinction as Latino, or gay. In fact McCoy was a way to redeem a lot of Southern stereotypes by demonstrating his willingness to accept other races, despite what was happening in Southern America in the 1960s. If you made a film about the life of George Washington, there would be no need to describe the appearance for an actor who might audition, other than young or old (itself a kind of classification, no different than gay or straight). However, if one were casting a movie about George Washington Carver, they might need to include race in the character description since he’s not as well known to just about anybody — whereas Martin Luther King Jr. probably not. And that’s why we have to provide more detailed descriptions for underrepresented characters than white men in the 1960s. And I’m pretty sure if you look back at the original character descriptions, you’ll see Sulu described as an Asian, and Uhura described as a black woman too. Where as Doctor McCoy probably wans’t even described as being male since a character named Leonard who was a doctor could ONLY… Read more »

Dom

Lordy! Just ditch the identity politics and tell good stories! I’m really enjoying DISCO, but that’s because I like the characters for who they are as individuals, not ‘what’ they are, ethnically, gender wise and with whom they get groiny. In the 21st Century, I don’t need characters loudly announcing they’re representing some kind of ‘identity’ created by a freak with too much time on their hands in a university humanities department.

All identity politics paranoia has done this time is spoil the ‘surprise’ that Culber isn’t permanently dead.

Seriously guys, if you want to kill someone off, keep them dead or keep their return a surprise. Killing off a character then panicking half an hour after broadcast and squealing ‘We didn’t mean it!’ is something that insults the audience.

Tez

This article is stupid.

kvorshk

Who thought he wasn’t Latino? And besides, you have forgotten Commodore Jose I. Mendez who was in 3 episodes of TOS. So Culbert wouldn’t be the first canon Latino. This is why people should do a little bit of research. Last I checked, IMDB was still free to use. Yes I know the actor was European, but the character was not.

Curious Cadet

@kvorshik — not exactly a major character. We’re talking about series regulars — not guest stars.

Eric

The blurb of this article on my Google assistant had major spoilers without warnings, thanks jerks!

C.L.Cheshire

The first Latino in Star Trek was Lt. Jose Tyler, whose mother was Brazilian. He was the navigator in “The Cage”.

G66

Who cares. Just wright good stories. Why so concerned with forcing diversity and announcing to the world and jusgt write good characters. If he is Latino then he is. SO WHAT! Unless there is a joke in there like when Chekov would say somehthing about russia, stop making it a big deal. Forced diversity (percieved or not) is stupid. I think we need a Trans-Species character (A human who identifies as a alien species) that is bisexual and like to crossdress when they feel like it. Come on it’s all about diversity.

Gary 8.5

Unless that was part of their original plan, for the character I would rather that they didn’t.
Dont do it just to do it, it has to be organic.

IknoweD

Commodore Jose Mendez from “The Menagerie.”

Cygnus-X1

Wow, un Boriqua en el espacio exterior… ya me han hecho la mente explotar.

De que pensaran mañana? Un Colombiano, quizas?

Sailor83

I’m not sure this is an issue. I also thought of Khan as Latino because of his accent despite the fact he was supposedly “Asian”. Dr Bashir was also possibly Hispanic or maybe middle eastern. What does it matter? That’s the point!

Political scientist

Dr. Bashir was in no way Hispanic. Alexander Siddig is British-Sudanese, and played his character as such.

Cygnus-X1

Sailor83

Your comment reminds me of the Family Guy bit where the famous “In a world…” movie trailer voice-over guy is wondering aloud if Jessica Alba is “…some kinda Spanish…or maybe Italian?”

Just FYI, Bashir is a fairly common Middle-Eastern name. And Bashir’s character in DS9 makes a number of references to his British background. Though, I do take your point. Making such a big deal about a character’s ethnicity kind of defeats the whole benefit of the Enterprise as a melting pot. The –>point<– (at least originally) was supposed to be that it doesn’t matter what your background is in the future, in Star Fleet and serving aboard the Enterprise, because nobody’s background——not even that of a commie (Chekov), nor of a Black woman (Uhura), nor of a Jap (Sulu), matters in terms of their ability to be good at their jobs and loyal to the Federation, Star Fleet and their captain. So, hyping the fact that a character is Puerto Rican——and, worse still, using it as a marketing tactic——really undermines the whole point. But, of course, this is all just symptomatic of the annoying era that we’re presently living through, where everything is a race to the top of Mt. Sanctimony on the social left.

John

Robert Beltran (chakotay), from Voyager has been totally forgotten. We have had Hispanics in Star trek.

Dr Beckett

Not quite, Chakotay is Native American.

Wasn’t Captain Erika Hernandez of the NX02 Columbia Latino?

FLB

She wasn’t a major character in the end, but there was Ensign Sonya Gomez in TNG. She was supposed to be in several episodes. Her character was dropped.

This is an interesting question. Of course, there have been references to Latino characters in Trek before – all the way back to “The Man Trap” where Kirk says “Tell Jose he’ll get his chili peppers – prime Mexican reds, I picked them myself.” But as often as not, characters who were implied to be Latino (Commodore Mendez, for example) were portrayed by non-Latino actors. And there was that certain Mexican actor playing an apparent Indian. Cross pollination is common within the Trek universe.

Whether or not Dr. Culber is canonically Latino will rest on whether the character is brought back – unless there’s a flashback scene showing Stamets meeting Culber’s family in Arecibo or a similar location!

Curious Cadet

@Hank Drake — “Tell Jose he’ll get his chili peppers” Ugh … that’s truly cringe worthy … a 1960s middle-aged white man’s idea of being inclusive of other races by invoking cultural stereotypes all the other white people will understand … dear god …

Previso

Thanks for the flag. Being a Puerto Rican Star Trek fan, it made me feel good on both accounts.

Ed Sams

I don’t care if says he’s Latino or gay. It’s secondary to the fact that he’s human. We are one race folks. What ever happened to us not seeing color, especially in a supposed utopian future. In the year 2018, the Neanderthal writing this post can tell that Dr. Culber is more than likely Latino. But so what? How does that make him any more or less interesting to me? It doesn’t.

Nachum

This is a bit silly. First, “Hispanic” and “Latino” are artificial terms, invented (in the way Americans use them) only in the last few decades. And they’re inaccurate- “Hispanic” would include the King of Spain or most Filipinos but not a Brazilian; “Latino” would possibly include Haitians but not Belize. And they’re far too simplistic and even patronizing: Mexico and Argentina, say, are worlds apart from each other, racially, economically, socially, and even linguistically. One wonders if the author of this piece would be happy if Culber turned out to be, say, Dominican instead of Puerto Rican. (And if I’m a bit sensitive here, it’s because I belong to a “minority” which has barely been explicitly acknowledged, if at all, on Star Trek. Of course, it’s a *religious* minority, and of course we can’t have that on Star Trek. Never mind that other, ahem, “controversial” groups are clearly OK. But I digress.) Furthermore, they are *cultural* descriptors, not racial ones, and culture can be very changeable. Is a person with a Spanish last name whose family descends from Spanish noblemen and has lived in New Mexico since before it was part of the US and speaks not a word of Spanish “Hispanic”? Is Brett Stephens “Latino,” even if he’s sorta Mexican? Many Americans assume that Hispanic is a race. It isn’t. The reason many Hispanics don’t “look white” (whatever that means) is because Latin America is a real racial melting pot, with huge numbers of Native Americans and lots of… Read more »

Curious Cadet

@Nachum — thanks for the history lesson. It’s good to be reminded of the facts. Aside from that, you’re mixing several issues — but all good points. However, the main issue is that it’s good to positively represent someone in a featured way, who is otherwise underrepresented in society. Thus the importance of having a gay character, a black character, a commanding female character, et al. So having someone representative of a Latin-American background, and particularly that culture as opposed to say Spanish, or Portuguese would be important. Second, the issue of an actor portraying a race other than who they are. Again, it’s correcting some of the wrongs committed by Hollywood over the years, where Native Americans were portrayed by white actors in brown face. Heck even Ricardo Montalban portrayed an Asian on Hawaii 5-0. While Asians have been well represented in Star Trek, there’s also the dark underbelly of American sentiment in particular that all Asians look alike, which some of this exacting casting extends to correct as well. And it also helps create opportunities for minority actors who otherwise wouldn’t have opportunities, which further helps minority audiences identify with their heroes. These are all positives as far as I’m concerned, even though the downside is sometimes it goes too far. Last, but not least, there’s the issue of canon. If the character is not clearly delineated in dialogue, then the intent behind identifying them may be lost to future generations. Going back to Sulu for a moment… Read more »

Nachum

Oh, don’t misunderstand me- it’s nice to have a nice diverse cast. But does it have to be stressed out loud, particularly is someone is bound to feel left out and/or something is said the wrong way? You’ve got 45 minutes or so a week for about fifteen episodes. You can only fit in so much, and saying, “That’s how it was in Puerto Rico” is a bit gratuitous. And I’m not sure how much I think your fears about canon are justified. Sulu, as far as I can remember, not *once* mentions his Asian ethnicity. (Unlike Chekov, and maybe Uhura.) He actually says he was born in San Francisco! And yet it’s not like JJ Abrams cast some white (or black) person in the role. (In fact, Abrams cast an actual Russian-born actor in the role of Chekov.)

By the way, Montalban also played an Asian on Star Trek, at least going by his name and where he came from. And then somehow Benedict Cumberbatch…

Ian

It does not have to be stressed out loud. One should be able to put 2 and 2 together through casting and a surname. I don’t need an inorganic shoehorning of Torres reminiscing about how her ancestors used to be bullfighters.

Khan is Asian. He’s always been Asian. He was played by a Mexican in the 1960s, when some leeway has to be accounted for. The recasting of Khan with Cumberbatch violates continuity and J.J. Abrams and co. did not care – they did not want to feature a brown-skinned terrorist. He wasn’t cast because of a loophole, he was cast because they wanted to work with a hotshot actor and not provoke political controversy. Pissing off a few fans and Indians was clearly preferable to them.

Tay Dervis

I just realized this is the writer’s first article here.

Very misguided and pointless attempt at being sensational over nothing. Please, no more.

Holden

I don’t see why that matters. He seems to have a genuine passion for Trek, and for how Puerto Ricans are represented on screen (these days, who can blame him?). This provides him with an opportunity to express that.

It’s only “sensationalistic” if you are offended by the basic premise of the article. But I can guarantee he wasn’t trying to get a rise out of people. Some people genuinely care about the things that are important to them.

And I don’t support the idea he should be silenced, in any event.

PDCougar

Well, outside of some characters who showed up one time on another planet in “Bread and Circuses”, name one church-going Christian who’s ever been included in “Star Trek”.

Just Saying

Let us please not forget the captain of the NX-02 Columbia, captain Erika Hernandez.

Excellent! Just only one correction… “Echa pa’ lante” is without “H”…

Dom

I often wondered about José Tyler. He was supposed to be Latino in the character outline although blond-haired Peter Duryea didn’t look especially Latino!!!

Maybe they’ll bring him back as Ash’s cousin ;)

Bonesclcw

As far as I’m concerned he’s Puerto Rican, although it’s the 23rd Century so he’s probably a whole mixed veggie casserole like a majority of humans will be! It’s highly unlikely that they’ll be many non mixed humans by that point, certainly blonde and blue eyed won’t be too common. Taste the rainbow!

Jake

“I mean, really, after 700-plus hours of Star Trek, can we get a mano (or hermana) to boldly go, please? There’s never been a better time.”

Mano? did you mean hombre? Mano is Spanish for hand. I think it is sometimes confused because it sounds like man, and the bar cliche phrase ‘lets settle this mano a mano’ which refers to hand to hand combat, and not Man to Man.

I really hate to be ‘that person’ but a bit ironic to write an article about lack of latinx representation and get the Spanish wrong.

Marja

I thought he wrote “hermano” … which means “brother,” doesn’t it.

Jake

No, I directly copied and pasted the pull quote, which means the text was changed after my comment.

Which is a good thing, although makes me look like a total ass;-)

Maybe it was a typo in the first place. Obviously hermano reads fine.

Jack D

Oh good lord, all this identity lunacy is getting ridiculous. This ethnicity hasn’t been shown and that sexual orientation hasn’t been represented and this character will be the first in this group and that character will be the first in that group and on and on and on. See, this is what happens when liberals and progressives take over. Normal people would simply look at people as people and hire them based on the abilities. Star Trek has now turned itself into a pretzel with their heavy handed diversity nonsense.

Marja

Oh jeezis lord help us those progressives just want people to get jobs no matter their ethnicity. Jack D you are obviously white and without a clue.

Jack D

When did “Hispanic” become “Latino”?

Cap\'n Calhoun

Some food for thought:

“I’m of Latino descent, bu that’s something that wasn’t brought up in any way because it really doesn’t make a difference. I love that the attention was brought to the fact that she’s half human and half Klingon. I love that the conversation regarding Tuvok centered around the fact that he is Vulcan and that we don’t discuss that he’s a black Vulcan. And I love the fact that nobody on the crew, except for one little moment, discusses that it’s a big deal that we have a female captain. What matters is character, how we’re coming across and who we are as people.”—Roxann Dawson, The Fifty-Year Mission: Volume Two

Not saying this invalidates other perspectives, but I do think Dawson makes an excellent point.

One need not be Latino to be a role model for Latinos.

Chuck Abernathy

Logical. Flawlessly logical☺

Chuck Abernathy

Ummmm…have you all forgotten B’Elanna Torres?

Chuck Abernathy

Sorry, Calhoun. I missed comment.

Marja

I like the idea of Culber mentioning his abuela or his mama. And serving up a dish he and Stamets both enjoy. A fun moment that needn’t be overt.

Ijosht

I can definitely see how it can matter. I’m Asian and have always loved the amount of Asian characters in Star Trek. Its probably the show with the most consistent representation. And I can def see how we need a Latino character.