El Camino: Where did all the brown people go?

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Jesse Pinkman wonders where Albuquerque’s brown people went…

The eagerly awaited Breaking Bad film “El Camino” debuted recently on Netflix. And while public reception has been mixed, I thought it was a satisfying and well executed farewell to the character Jesse Pinkman. But while sitting on the couch watching the end credits roll, I couldn’t help but ask myself “where did all the brown people go?”

The city of Albuquerque is as much a character in the Breaking Bad universe as Walter White, Saul Goodman, and Hector Salamanca. And throughout the entirety of Breaking Bad (and now in Better Call Saul) the presentation of Albuquerque has always felt authentic. The locations, the dialogue, and most importantly the people of Albuquerque looked and behaved as they do in real life. Our city felt lived in, populated by people we all know (often literally).

Yet all of this seemed to be missing in El Camino.

Albuquerque felt empty, its role as character conspicuously absent. It just didn’t feel…right. I think this had a lot to do with the noticeable absence of brown people on the screen. I mean seriously, how can you set a film in Albuquerque and not have any brown faces appear as main characters? Instead, what we got was a collection of characters that felt completely out of place in Burque. The junk yard owner, the cops, the douchebags who ran the welding company… none of these characters seemed like they had ever lived a day in our city.

The authenticity that caused so many Burqueños to embrace the original series was nowhere to be found. Even the scene that took place in our beloved Owl Cafe (one of the few times we see a brown face in the film) rang hollow. It felt like we were watching a generic scene shot in a lonely soundstage somewhere in the desert.

I have worked in the film industry as a stuntman and actor since 2004. Hell, I even appear in the second season of Breaking Bad. So believe me, I know that it is entirely possible to cast characters that not only service the story being told, but feel authentic to that story.

Sorry, Jesse Pinkman. You deserved better.

And so did Albuquerque.

Written by

(Chicano/Nawa/Mazewalli) Archaeologist, filmmaker, and founder of the Chimalli institute of Mesoamerican Arts. Professor of C/S at Colegio Chicano del Pueblo.

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