When the trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 came out, I gathered one very special thing about it — you could pet and befriend the horses. For that reason, and that reason alone, I decided to buy the game when it came out. I knew little of the story or mechanics, but I knew you could pet the horses and that was enough for me.
It’s a silly reason, I know.
But I began playing it and long story short, I fell in love with every aspect of the game.
However, this story isn’t about my love of the game’s narrative, game style, or yes, how you can pet, brush, feed, and befriend your horse. No, this story is about me and my journey with representation and how I thought I didn’t need it, that is, until I had it.
I’ve always been a big advocate of representation for others, but never thought about it for myself. Maybe this is because I grew up in Venezuela, a place where I wasn’t a minority, that I never thought about my own representation. I learned to relate to characters based on their morals, their decisions, and what makes them who they are.
I was quickly swept up by the game’s narrative. Arthur Morgan is a unique protagonist, sincere and heartfelt, but it wasn’t him that made me feel represented. Instead, it was one of the other gang members—Javier Escuella—who caught my attention.
From the name alone I knew that he was latino, and I expected him to be as most latino characters are in media: a side character who didn’t truly matter.
I was very wrong.
I remember the first time I walked into camp as Arthur Morgan and there was soft guitar music playing, it was soothing and sweet and accompanied by singing—not just any singing, but singing in Spanish. It felt so out of place for a moment—this video game about cowboys and the end of the Wild West—but it was so beautiful and in it’s own way it simply fit.
Javier fit in.
And because of that, I felt like I did too.
It was such a strange feeling to have such an emotional reaction to something I never thought I needed, to have a character that is like me. This moment made me want to learn more about him and I quickly learned through playing the game that Javier is a character who is hardworking and loyal. A quiet jack-of-all-trades and take-no-bullshit type.
There is a saying in Spanish: “El que persevera alcanza”. Quickly translated, it means ‘he who perseveres will achieve’, and this saying is weaved into every aspect of Javier’s character. He’s someone who had to flee his home country, but this is more than just a passing comment in his character background. Instead, we get to see him talk about how he wishes but can’t return to Mexico. We see him love his new family and be fiercely loyal to them without losing where he’s from, adapting without forgetting his roots.
Javier spoke to me on a personal level that no character had before. I understand the longing for a country you can’t return to, the need to hold onto the things you have in this new world, and wanting to share a culture that feels like the only thing you have left from that life.
To see someone I could identify with emotionally and connect to their story, ethnicity, morals, and simply who they are—all of this was new to me. It made me realize how the latinx community has so many stories yet to be told in depth, and how important representation is when I had previously never even considered myself someone who needed it.
Javier Escuella was the first time I felt seen, and nothing can beat that feeling.
So thank you, Read Dead Redemption 2 and the team at Rockstar, for teaching me that.
We all deserve to be represented and seen.