Actress Maria Conchita Alonso’s endorsement of a Tea Party Republican who holds hard-line views on immigration has produced a nasty backlash against her, now having a direct impact on her career.
The Cuban-Venezuelan actress, best known for her starring role in 1984's “Moscow on the Hudson” with Robin Williams, said that a barrage of verbal attacks forced her out of a play in which she was starring in San Francisco.
Alonso came under fire last week after she appeared alongside California state lawmaker Tim Donnelly in a video for his campaign for governor.
Several Latino organizations and leaders criticized the actress for endorsing Donnelly, who founded a state chapter of the Minutemen, an armed vigilante border patrol group, and who has pushed for a hard line on immigration.
The critics also took issue with what they said is the stereotyping of Latinos in the campaign video, in which Alonso appears with Donnelly. In the video, which was released last week, Alonso holds a small dog that she introduces as “Tequila” and at times uses vulgar expressions as she translates into Spanish remarks by Donnelly about his views on various issues.
Alonso was scheduled to be in the cast next month of a Spanish-language version of “The Vagina Monologues” at the Brava Theater Center in San Francisco’s Mission District, an area known for its liberal views and hub of the city’s Hispanic community.
The producer of the show, Eliana Lopez, was quoted as telling San Francisco TV station KPIX 5: “We really cannot have her in the show, unfortunately.”
Everything came to a head, apparently, after critics of the video ad bombarded a radio station – KIQI in San Francisco on Friday – where she was giving an interview about the controversial ad.
She said during the interview that she supported many of Donnelly’s positions on illegal immigration.
Callers condemned her for supporting him, and for using the term “illegal” when she referred to immigrants who are not here lawfully.
Donnelly, who is seeking his party’s nomination for the gubernatorial election, has vigorously fought against policies that give undocumented immigrants any kind of break, and also has voiced opposition to birthright citizenship for U.S.-born children of immigrants who are here illegally.
Alonso has said she supports giving a path to legal status to immigrants who do not have a criminal background and who have contributed during their time in the United States. She maintains that before agreeing to do the video ad, she discussed immigration with Donnelly and found his answers satisfactory.
During an interview on Fox News on Sunday, Alonso said it was her decision to drop out of the play because the angry calls to the radio station had made her concerned that the backlash would be disruptive to the play and to the rest of the cast.
She said she was willing and ready to shoulder the attacks, but felt it was not fair to expect the other actors to deal with it.
Alonso defended her endorsement of Donnelly, saying she likes his promise to bring more jobs to California, to raise the minimum wage and to shrink the role of government.
She said that as someone who had roots in countries – Cuba and Venezuela – that have violated civil and human rights, and cracked down on opponents of the government, she found it bewildering to be attacked for supporting a certain point of view.
“It really upsets me,” she said of the backlash. “The First Amendment, isn’t it freedom of speech?”
“You are attacked for speaking out,” she told Fox. “People should speak out, but without insulting. They were calling the radio station in San Francisco attacking, attacking, attacking. They were going to boycott [the play].”
San Francisco Latino leaders said that they, too, have First Amendment rights.
“We don’t act like that. First of all, that is not a typical Latina,” said Jim Salinas, a longtime Mission resident and former president of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, to KPIX 5.
He said critics of Alonso were prepared to boycott the play if she performed.
“First Amendment rights, we all have the right to say something. But it’s also our right to say we object to that,” Salinas said.
A Latino Republican group, Café Con Leche, took to social media and email to assail Alonso and Donnelly.
They say they are determined to ensure he does not succeed in his bid for governor.
“We perceive that Tim Donnelly has issues with Hispanics,” said Café Con Leche in a statement, “not for the mere fact he opposes immigration reform, but because of his shrillness and especially his record of assuming that Latinos are unlawfully present without actually knowing their actual legal status. Tim Donnelly has zero chance of winning a statewide race in California because most Hispanics will find him toxic.”
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente