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KUT is partnering with Austin Vida to highlight arts and culture events happening in Austin’s Latino community. Support comes from the Blanton Museum of Art and its new galleries dedicated to Latino art.

Celebrando 25 years of Cine

A sketch of a dog in a folding chair with popcorn staring at the sun
Cine Las Americas
This year's Cine Las Americas International Film Festival runs June 7-11.

This month, Cine las Americas International Film Festival returns for the 25th year. It brings screenings of Latino and indigenous films to theaters across Austin. The festivities begin next Wednesday at AFS Cinema with a screening of Eva Longoria’s first feature film as a director: Flamin’ Hot.

The festival began as a Cuban film showcase in the '80s. Since then, it has expanded to multiple theaters with paid and free screenings. It also now features the Emergencia youth filmmaking showcase and the Hecho en Tejas showcase of filmmakers in the state.

“Some of these films may never pick up distribution in the U.S.,” said Denise Garza-Steusloff, who began as a volunteer in 1998 and is now the festival's co-director. “This is like your one shot to see these fantastic films.”

The festival brings movies made by Latinos and indigenous people of South America, as well as Spanish and Portuguese films, to theaters around Austin. Attendees must pay to get into some of the films, but a lot of the screenings are free.

All the films shown at the festival will have subtitles. Garza-Steusloff said that allows anyone to enjoy the movies.

“That's really important," she said. "I, ironically, don't speak very good Spanish, so I need those subtitles to be there."

The Flamin' Hot controversy

The festival opens with a screening of Flamin’ Hot. The biopic is based on the memoir of Robert Montañez, who claims to have invented the Hot Cheeto. Shortly after production began on the film, the Los Angeles Times published a story disproving his claims.

The reporter interviewed former Frito-Lay employees who were involved in the market studies and rollout of the original Flamin’ Hot line. Company records also show Montañez’s account of the timeline is inaccurate. The company has since released a statement saying it does not credit Montañez with the product's invention, instead giving credit to the team involved in the original product testing and rollout of the Flamin’ Hot line.

The film’s producers went ahead with the project anyway. Austin Vida Editor Nancy Flores said she believes the story being told in the film is far more important than the claims it’s based on.

“I think that it's best to focus on the bigger picture,” she said. “It is a moving story and one that's going to keep us inspired.”

The film itself is more about Montañez’s journey at Frito-Lay than the invention of the Hot Cheeto. Montañez started as a janitor but was quickly promoted. He rose the company ladder to become a marketing executive. His rise through the Frito-Lay ranks may not have been thanks to the Hot Cheeto, but it is a story worth telling.

More Cultura around town

The Puerto Rican Cultural center is hosting Celebrando 2023, a salsa dancing and heritage festival, from 3 to 8 p.m. June 11 at the JCC Ballroom at Shalom Austin. The festival will showcase traditions found in Colombia and the mountain regions of Puerto Rico.

There are more events in tis month's Cultura guide. Sign up at

Juan Garcia is a producer at KUT. Got a tip? You can email him at