When Eva Longoria invited “Sunday Morning” to her Beverly Hills home for lunch, we assumed it was lunch. But he also served up a delicious piece of culinary history. “People think Mexico is all about tacos and tequila,” he said. “Mexican cuisine is the only cuisine fully protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Treasure – corn, beans, chili, chocolate, vanilla, avocado…”
And, of course, tequila.
He prepared a ranch water cocktail, a drink born in Texas (“We’re not going to get too drunk, so your producers don’t freak out!”), while the noodle dish, fideo, is thoroughly Mexican. A bi-cultural menu, just like Longoria. “When I’m in the United States, (I hear), ‘Oh, you’re Mexican,'” he said. “And when I go to Mexico, they go, ‘Oh, American.’ I’m like, wait? Well, yeah, I’m both. I’m 100 percent Mexican and 100 percent American at the same time.”
He grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas. But his Mexican roots go back 13 generations, when the king of Spain, he said, gave his ancestors land in what is now South Texas. “We still have that land,” he said. “If you look at an old map, it says Longoria Road.”
She now spends about half her time in Mexico with her husband and four-year-old son.
So, when Stanley Tucci, of CNN’s “Searching for Italy” fame, approached Longoria about doing his own international food series, he knew he had to go. “The Quest for Mexico,” which aired on CNN later this month, is as comprehensive and informative as its Italian counterpart. But he hopes the series will convey a deeper message about valuing the often-overlooked contributions of Latinos and Hispanics in general.
Click on the video player below to watch the trailer for “Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico”:
CNN Original Series: Eva Longoria Searching for Mexico | Official Trailer by CNN Creative Marketing on YouTube
Visiting the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Longoria was quick to point out that in the acting category, there are only a handful of Latino Oscar-winners: “23 percent of the tickets sold at the box office are Latino. Do I think we should have more? More than 5 percent in film roles.” ?Yes,” he said. “Is it depressing? Absolutely.”
It’s easy to forget the role that made her famous on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” was a big step toward diversity. There weren’t many Latinas on network television back then, but her character, Gabby Solis, became a glamorous, comedic superstar. “I quickly realized I had a platform or a voice,” she said. “My mentor, Dolores Huerta, was the one who actually told me that. She said, ‘One day, you’re going to have a voice, so you have to have something to say.'”
Dolores Huerta spent most of her life fighting for the rights of Latinos. Longoria has similar passions, but she didn’t want people to listen because she was a celebrity. He wanted to hear them because he actually knew what he was talking about. She attended night school at Cal State Northridge and earned her master’s degree while filming “Desperate Housewives.”
Cowan asked, “What did the other students think? They must have known who you were.”
“They were very generous with me,” she said. “A big reason I wanted to get my master’s was to better understand where we came from, so I could help my community get to where they need to be.”
In 2013 she graduated with her Masters in Chicano Studies. “It’s born out of a derogatory term for a community that’s seen as less,” Longoria said. “And during the civil rights movement, we reclaimed it and we said, you know what? We are. I am. I’m a Chicano. I’m a Chicana.”
When he starts directing, he can cast Latino actors and hire Latino crews and tell stories about Latinos, like his first feature film in June. It’s called “Flamin’ Hot,” a film based on the story of Richard Montanez, a Mexican American factory worker at Frito-Lay. who claims his homemade spice mix was the basis for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
“I felt in my bones that no one else could direct this movie,” Longoria said.
By all accounts, Montanez was a gifted marketer of Hispanic goods; In fact, PepsiCo, which owns Frito-Lay, says it helped launch Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. But the company added, “We don’t credit him and him alone for making the product.”
“Did that give you pause?” Cowan asked Longoria.
“No. You know, we’re never here to do Cheetah’s history. There’s a lot of people in his life who said, ‘No, no, no, ideas don’t come from people like you. You know, no, no, that opportunity doesn’t belong to someone like you. Not for.’ I felt it.”
And she’s using her name to make sure no one else feels the same way.
Speaking at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, he said, “Eva Longoria who works at Wendy’s Flipping Burger needs a tax break. But Eva Longoria who works on movie sets doesn’t!”
He has campaigned for both Presidents Obama and Biden, and in 2014 he co-founded a political action committee, the Latino Victory Project.
“Have you gotten any pushback for being so politically active?” Cowan asked.
“Oh, yes. Oh, yes.”
“I know you said you never wanted to run for office?”
“But why not with your platform and your education?”
“Here’s the thing: The reality is you don’t have to be a politician to be political,” Longoria said. “And I think that’s the biggest myth. People say, ‘You should run for office so you can make a difference.’ I’m making a difference.”
Eva Longoria may have been a desperate housewife on Wisteria Lane, but now she’s desperate for a change, and it’s a road, she says, that never ends. “People always go, ‘Oh my God, that show you did that time, it was amazing. It’s got to be the highlight of your career.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, but wait, wait ’til you see what’s coming.’ And they say, ‘What’s coming?’ ‘I don’t know! I don’t know, but it would be nice!’
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Story by Dustin Stephens. Editor: Lauren Barnello.