In celebration of Hispanic Latinx Heritage Month, Carlos Miranda looks back at the impact of Star Wars on his life and the saga’s relationship with his culture.
I remember the exact moment. My mom looked at 12-year old me with a face that was equal parts disbelief and indifference. “No se llama Arturito?” she asked.
“No, his name isn’t Arturito,” I responded. “It’s R2-D2.” Turns out my mom, like many Latin American parents of kids born in the ‘70s and ‘80s, thought everyone’s favorite astromech droid was named Arturo (Spanish for Arthur) and affectionately nicknamed Arturito (Little Arthur).
In the original Latin American Spanish dub for Star Wars — or La Guerra de las Galaxias as the film was known in the Spanish-speaking world (literally “The War of the Galaxies”) — some of the names of our heroes, villains, planets, and ships were translated (many quite literally) while others simply weren’t. In Spanish, the Millennium Falcon is el Halcón Milenario. Someone along the way decided that R2-D2 was not to be translated. So when you say his name in Spanish, it does in fact sound like you’re saying Arturito.
This Hispanic Latinx Heritage Month has had me thinking about what a static constant Star Wars has been in my life and yet how, like all great myths, Star Wars has grown and evolved dynamically with time (no matter what language you’re experiencing it in).
I’ve spent my life happily code switching between English and Spanish and between North and Latin American cultures. I was born in Boston but spent a significant portion of my childhood with either my Venezuelan grandparents in Caracas or my Cuban grandparents in Miami. Spanish was spoken almost exclusively at home and English was how I navigated the outside world. Due to my dad’s job, my family relocated every few years; I went to three high schools in four years on three different continents. Life was always in motion.
While the reality of my upbringing forced me to adapt to most new situations, and to always be the kid who proactively introduces themselves first, it was always hard having to make new friends every other year. Among the very few constants in my upbringing, however, was Star Wars.
No matter where life took me, Star Wars was always there. Star Wars was a connection to my family back “home” and a way to meet new friends. When I was around them, my extended family always used Star Wars as a basis for some outing or activity and no matter what new situation I found myself in, I could always find someone who loved Star Wars as much as me; that shared fandom would serve — time and time again — as the foundation for new friendships.
When I was 15, my family was living in the Middle East, and at the time there was no English-language high school where we lived, so off to boarding school I went. That first weekend at my brand-new school, someone had organized a marathon of the newly released Star Wars Special Editions on VHS. Of course, I went. There I was front and center, enjoying my millionth rewatch of the original trilogy when I made a strategically-placed comment, out loud, regarding a newly tweaked scene in Return of the Jedi. A girl named Jordan overheard my comment and immediately contradicted me. We of course started a friendly if somewhat raised discussion. That discussion resulted into a great friendship, now more than 20 years old.
Star Wars truly transcends time and space, not just in my personal story but for most of us, connecting people across generations, cultures, and experiences. No matter if you watched La Guerra de las Galaxias in Mexico City when it premiered there in November 1977 or if you’re a new Scotland-based fan getting hooked through Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney+, most people have a personal connection and, of course, an opinion or two. Star Wars is a contemporary myth that binds us all.
Like all great myths, Star Wars ebbs, flows, and updates with the times. What started as a fantasy film with a modest budget aimed primarily at young American audiences, has evolved to be more inclusive and universal. There’s arguably no more noticeable an example of Star Wars‘ dynamic and constant growth than the individuals who are currently responsible for making it. Representation, both in front and behind the camera (as well as across literature, toys, and video games), has come a long way since the 1970s and Star Wars is better for it.
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