THE HOMOSEXUAL love affair at the center of "Brokeback Mountain" has sparked no shortage of controversy. But in the midst of the homophobic frenzy, the movie's true offense has been missed.
The film is adapted from a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx. In her story, one of the young "cowboy lovers" is Latino, and in their adaptation, screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana kept the character, Ennis Del Mar, Latino.
The Del Mar movie role went to Heath Ledger, an Anglo from Australia. The role of his wife, Alma, also a Latino in Proulx's story and in the screenplay, went to Michelle Williams. And the role of Latino rancher Joe Aguirre was given to Randy Quaid.
The first American cowboys were caballeros from Spain. In "Guns, Germs and Steel," Jared Diamond contends that the Spaniards were able to conquer what became Latin America primarily because they had horses. Horses, in fact, came to the Americas from Spain.
The states and cities of the American West still bear Spanish names given to them by Latino conquistadores. It was in this Latino American West that caballeros who rounded up cattle were first called vaqueros. Vaquero literally translates to cowman -- or cowboy.
Proulx is aware of the Latino history of the American cowboy. In her story, she seems to have gone out of her way to be historically accurate. Too bad Hollywood didn't follow her lead.
There are about 40 million Latinos in the United States, and their numbers are growing faster than any other group. Every sector of the entertainment industry says it wants to "reach" us. Given that, the lack of Latinos in a movie about Latinos is inexcusable, and it speaks to how far Hollywood has to go.