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Hollywood stars you didn't know were (partly, at least) Spanish
Wednesday, June 29, 2022 @ 8:30 PM

INTERNATIONAL celebrities from Spain or with Spanish relatives are not exactly rare, but are few enough in number that their names are well known – if a quiz show on a non-Spanish TV channel asked contestants to list them, chances are almost everyone would come up with the same stars instantly, but be completely stuck beyond a certain number.

She won an Oscar and a Concha de Plata for her lead part in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, but we bet you had no idea about this actress' blood relatives from the Basque Country and Navarra (photo: IMDb)

Everybody's heard of Málaga's greatest silver-screen export, Antonio Banderas, and although she was a complete unknown quantity until 21 years ago beyond her native country, Penélope Cruz is a Hollywood household name; her husband, Javier Bardem, less so, and still mainly because of his 'baddie' rôle in the Bond film Skyfall and because of his world-famous wife.

From the music world, Shakira is a global legend now, although she already had been in Latin America for nearly a decade before her first English-language hit took her to the top of the charts in numerous countries 20 years ago.

Yes, she's Colombian – from Barranquilla, on the Caribbean coast – but her dad was born in New York to Lebanese parents, and one set of grandparents on her mother's side is from Catalunya, hence her surname of Mebarak Ripoll; this means she is actually only one-quarter Colombian, or the same quantity of DNA from her nation of birth as from Spain.

Penélope Cruz (left) and Antonio Banderas (right) might be huge names in Hollywood - and director Pedro Almodóvar (centre) is pretty famous internationally, too, but Spanish and part-Spanish celebrities are actually all over Tinseltown (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Spice Girl Geri Halliwell – who now goes by her married name of Geri Horner – started out her career in the spotlight as 20% of one of the most iconic British pop bands of the 1990s and early Noughties, and her most recognisable outfit of all time has to be her Union Jack mini-dress, but she is in fact half-Spanish on her mum's side. 

This actress, shown here in a photo by Robert Coburn in a 1946 edition of Screenland , had a father from the province of Sevilla

Ana María Hidalgo was born and grew up in Aragón, in the Pyrénéen province of Huesca, and Geri's great-granddad – Ana María's grandfather – was mayor of the beautiful land-locked Andalucía city of Córdoba. As a result, Spanish, along with English, is Geri's second native language, and she has always been fluent in it.

Fans of classic film might remember Sara Montiel, who made her career in Hollywood, and of course, crooner Julio Iglesias and, later, his son Enrique Iglesias, both of whom live in Miami, are huge names worldwide; the late opera diva Montserrat Caballé became globally famous among pop and rock fans through her duet with Queen frontman Freddy Mercury, which she performed – as did the latter, posthumously, on screen – at the Barcelona Olympic opening ceremony in 1992.

But it turns out Hollywood alone, never mind any other field in the planet's art industry, is full of Spanish stars.

At least, stars who have recent Spanish DNA, through their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.

And quite a few of them will surprise you.



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