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There's a running joke in Knives Out where the family members say Marta is from various South American countries: Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, and maybe several more.

The actor is Cuban, but that's obviously irrelevant to the fictional universe the story is set in. Are there any actual hints beyond the running ignorance of the family members that might suggest where she's from?

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  • IMDB goofs : Early in the film it is said that Marta is from Paraguay. Later it is said that she's from Uruguay. Even later someone referred to her as from Brazil
    – Ori Marko
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 7:42
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    user - the OP is obviously aware of this. The surname originates in Catalan or Galicia (Spain), meaning place of goats or goatherder; it is a common name found in Mexico (most commonly, modern day), Argentina, Spain, Cuba, and less so in Peru, Paraguay, Colombia.. So, in reality, in the movie it is never really stated (unless there is a shot of her or her mothers passport?) and so is never established. Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 8:05
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    Does this answer your question? Why don't the family have a consistent view of where Marta is from? Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 10:44
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    No. The answer to that question was pretty clear to me: the family doesn't have a consistent view because they are aloof and ignorant and don't care where she is from. But we shouldn't confuse the script writers with the family they wrote about. The movie itself is less aloof and ignorant, actually pretty good. I was more curious if the writers hid some clues as to her true origin.
    – Shep
    Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 15:49

2 Answers 2

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It was deliberately made vague which country Marta is from to keep people guessing all the time. Keeping it a mystery highlights the Thrombeys' ignorance of where Marta is from. According to Ana de Armas, who played Marta, Marta was just described as "Latina" with no indication of which country she was from. Marta's country of origin was also not specified in the script.

Ana de Armas: Well, at first, I just got a - you know, a single page with a very small description and just one scene so I couldn't really see what it was about. And the description - I didn't like it because it was something like caretaker, Latina, pretty. And to me, those three words didn't mean anything because it usually - we are represented as that, the help or the criminal or someone like that. And so I insisted a lot - there was a little back-and-forth with the producers and asking for the script.

- Why Ana De Armas Was Hesitant To Take A Role In 'Knives Out'. NPR (emphasis mine)

Ana de Armas suggested the idea of the "running joke in which various Thrombeys incorrectly state the country she’s from."

Onscreen, da Armas inhabits Marta as she is first infantilized, then villainized, then becomes the hero; she rises to the challenge in both forming an equal partnership with the man who plays James Bond (Craig) and fiercely battling the man who plays Captain America (Evans). Offscreen, she even was given some creative license: She says that the running joke in which various Thrombeys incorrectly state the country she’s from—is it Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay or Brazil?—was punched up on her suggestion. “It’s so brilliant and true: people try to guess all the time where I’m from,” she said.

- "Inside the Creation of Knives Out, One of the Most Unexpectedly Subversive Films of the Year" — Time (emphasis mine)

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Marta is from the United States of America

The key irony to the entire running gag about Marta's nationality is that she is as American as any of the Thrombeys. Note that when Walt Thrombey goes to Marta's apartment to subtly threaten Marta, it is her mother's illegal status that he mentions, not Marta's or Marta's sister's. From this we can infer that Marta and her sister were most likely born in the United States and therefore are from the United States.

It is possible that Marta and her sister immigrated illegally with their mother and obtained legal status, but this would have been exceedingly difficult from an illegal status. Her sister is depicted as younger than her and may be under 18, which is before you can become naturalized.

Statistically speaking, her mother is most likely from Mexico

Marta's mother is an illegal immigrant. Assuming that Marta is in her mid-20s and the film is set in the year it was released, the mother would have immigrated to the US by the early 1990s to have Marta. During the 1970-2004 time frame, Mexican immigration to the US grew very rapidly and it was only very recently (2017) that immigrants from other (besides Mexico) latin American countries combined exceeded the number of Mexican immigrants annually. While we do not know from the content of the film where Marta's mother came from, the time frame would suggest Mexico as the most likely answer.

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    I would disagree with the first paragraph but mostly agree with the rest - its not really a question of nationality as such, but rather country of origin, as it were. And based (see my comment) I also agree Mexico, statistically, seems likely. Marta (can't even remember her having sisters, haven't seen the film for a while) is most likely to have entered and then obtained legal status, and her mother most likely either came over completely illegally or over stayed a visitors visa (again, cannot recall if this was mentioned in the film) and then became illegal. Harlan prob. sponsored Marta Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 10:38
  • Well, Marta was a registered nurse. Not easy to do that with illegal status. She had one younger sister who acted kind of immaturely. I had been planning on watching the movie again and when I saw your question, I decided to watch it last night and keep my eyes open for details on nationality. Personally, I think the commentary on the family lands even harder if in fact Marta actually was born in the United States.
    – ruffdove
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 23:39
  • Something I forgot to say earlier was that for Marta to be registered nurse, perhaps it suggests a longer history of being in the US (not sure of the requirements, Green Card, sponsors, etc) - I don't know Marta's characters age, but I never suggested she was the illegal - thats all to do with her mother (whats her sisters status?). Yes, agree with it hitting harder if it was, but IIRC we are never to find out because it is not addressed. Did your re-viewing bring anymore light to this? Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 0:01
  • It isn't clear whether Marta was born in the USA but it is very clear she is a legal resident or citizen. Her mother is not and the fact she isn't is known to some of the family and used against Marta (if Marta's status were unclear, they would have known and used that against her). But we are clear that the family don't care where she came from as they all think she is from a different place. Her actual origin is irrelevant but the family's lack of knowledge is a key plot point.
    – matt_black
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 21:33
  • "Did your re-viewing bring anymore light to this?" - No. If it had, I would have mentioned it.
    – ruffdove
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 23:23

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