Latinidad comes in all shades and yet Afro-Latinxs and Asian Latinxs remain marginalized despite large populations throughout Latin America. While the mainstream idea of what someone who is Latinx looks like remains tied to people like Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin, there’s so much more diversity than people are aware of. Countries including Peru, Venezuela, Paraguay and Brazil have a large Chinese population while Argentina, Panama and Costa Rica have a smaller but still significant population. Meanwhile, many Japanese immigrants settled in Peru and Brazil with Latin America having the largest Japanese community outside Japan. Trinidad and Tobago also have large Indian populations with many entering as indentured servants for the British colonists to work on sugar plantations as a way to escape the economic effects of colonization in India.
Since this rich and complicated history isn’t talked about as much, it’s important to highlight some of the most prominent Asian Latinxs/Hispanics you may not know about who are the result of these diasporas. From Bruno Mars to Enrique Iglesias, here are 10 celebs who you may or may not have known are of Asian descent.
Bruno Mars, born Peter Gene Hernandez, is a man of many talents but did you know that he comes from a diverse cultural background? He was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and his father is half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish and his mother was from the Philippines with some Spanish. “My father’s name is Pedrito Hernandez, and he’s a Puerto Rican pimp. There’s no denying that. My dad nicknamed me Bruno since I was 2 years old,” he told Latina magazine.
Mexican singer Ana Gabriel was born María Guadalupe Araujo Yong in Guamuchil, Sinaloa and according to IMDB her grandfather was Chinese. However, Ticketmaster reports that her dad was Mexican and her mother was of Japanese-Mexican heritage. Either way, the 65-year-old singer is celebrated for her music including hits “”Simplemente amigos” and is recognized as a prominent Asian Latinx.
Singer and “King of Latin Pop” Enrique Iglesias is the son of famed Spanish singer Julio Iglesias and Isabel Preysler, a Filipino journalist and television host. Preysler was married to Julio for seven years and they have three children together: Enrique, Chabeli Iglesias and Julio Iglesias, Jr.
Actress Tatyana Ali is best known for her role as Ashley Banks on the show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Her father was born in Trinidad and Tobago, giving her Indo-Trinidadian roots and she gets her Panamanian roots from her mother. She’s opened up in the past about the bullying she endured as a Black Latino telling NBC Latino, “I remember black friends and white friends saying, ‘why is your hair different’? It was so hurtful and confusing, when you’re little.”
Meisa Kuroki was born in Nago, Okinawa, Japan but she is one quarter Brazilian from her father’s side. According to IMDB, her dad is half Panamanian and her mother is Japanese. Kuroki has been featured in several fashion magazines and in 2009 was chosen to be the face of Emporio Armani.
Farina is a Colombian rapper who is of Peruvian and Chinese descent. She was the first artist to record reggaeton in Colombia and, after Shakira, she was the second Colombian artist to sign to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Label. She started her career in 2005 with an appearance on the X-Factor and has recently been hitting the Urbano music scene by being featured in songs with artists such as Arcangel and Natti Natasha.
Singer Cassie Ventura made her debut with her hit single “Me & U” back in 2006 and she was then signed to Diddy’s label, Bad Boy Records. Her mom is of African-American, Mexican and West Indian descent and she has a Filipino father. She paid tribute to her Filipino roots by incorporating OPM sounds into some of the ballads on her album, Cassie released in 2006.
Harry Shum Jr.
Harry Shum Jr became widely popular from his role as Mike Chang in the show Glee and was also in the mega hit Crazy Rich Asians. He was born in Costa Rica and his parents are of Chinese descent and speaks English, Spanish, and Cantonese. “I was dealing with different identities outside the Asian and American side. I also had a Latin side. Growing up there, I never felt I fit in anywhere. When I finally felt comfortable with the Latin culture, then I was exposed to Chinese culture and then American culture,” he told HuffPost. “It became this snowball effect where I started understanding and seeing everything through the lens of different cultures and realizing, ‘Well, I’m all these things.’”
Leonardo Nam was born in Argentina and raised by two South Korean immigrants in Sydney, Australia. He’s best known for his role as Felix Lutz in Westworld since 2016 and she also starred in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift and He’s Just Not The Into You. “But I did feel like I have that Latino spice in me, and my parents are Korean, but I have a very Australian way of going about things,” he told the Golden Globes publication.
Fred Armisen is famous for his work on Saturday Night Live and Portlandia and has discovered viral meme fame from his guest starring role in Parks and Recreation as a Venezuelan parks director. It seems fitting as Armisen is of Venezuelan descent and even spent some time living in Brazil when he was younger. His mom, Hildegardt Mirabal Level, was born in San Fernando de Apure, Venezuela, while his father, Fereydun Herbert “Fred” Armisen, was born in Soltau, Lower Saxony, Germany, to a German mother and Korean-born father, Park Yeong-in.