When I was growing up, the only Latinxs that I knew who transcended the cultural barrier between Latin and American media were Enrique Iglesias, America Ferrera, and Jennifer Lopez. When I was growing up, I didn’t know Christina Aguilera was half Ecuadorian, and people called me Ugly Betty because I had braces and was Latina. Today, you have J Balvin making the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and Romeo Santos making songs with Nicki Minaj and Drake. You have primetime TV shows centering around the lives of a matriarchal Latina family and Kimmy Gibbler’s daughter is Argentinean. You have Guillermo Del Toro grossing hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office when Pan’s Labyrinth only grossed $83 million worldwide in 2006. While stereotypes are still rampant throughout modern American media, it’s definitely a great time to consume media as a Latinx. That said, here’s a list of shows with great representation of Hispanics/Latinxs that everyone should binge watch right now.
Jane the Virgin is the American adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen. It follows Jane Villanueva, a young college student living in Miami and aspiring to be an acclaimed romance author. Jane lives with her mom Xiomara and her abuela Alba, and the plot revolves around her getting pregnant, despite never having had sex. Jane the Virgin is unique and refreshing for a lot of reasons. Foremost, the main character is a Latina whose sexuality isn’t a major plot point. Jane is a virgin, she dresses modestly, and is very goal oriented with a strong emphasis on family, school, and work. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being promiscuous, in a society where we are bombarded by the image of a sex-pot Latina, Gina Rodriguez’s portrayal of Jane is refreshing. Next, the show highlights on a very important facet of Hispanic/Latinx culture: a multigenerational matriarchy. It’s very common in our culture to grow up with your abuela as almost a second mom, and for mom to be the head of the household, more so when up to 43% of Hispanic women are single mothers, according to 2013 census data. This quirky and offbeat romantic dramedy also highlights telenovela culture, a huge aspect of Latinx culture. Growing up in a Hispanic/Latinx household, I’m sure you can’t even count the amount of times your mom or grandma rushed to plop in front of the TV to watch their novelas, and then immediately after called their friends to gossip about what just went down. In addition to being a retelling of a Venezuelan telenovela, Jane the Virgin also incorporates aspects and tropes of novela story telling into its own story crafting, and does a great job at educating viewers who had maybe never heard of novelas.
Orange is the New Black
Jenji Kohan is the acclaimed creator of the Showtime favorite Weeds, so when I heard she also created Orange is the New Black (OITNB), I was there. Though it was Kohan’s hilarious and masterful writing that drew me in, it was the amazing cast that kept me. With actresses like Dascha Polanco, Selenis Leyva, and Diana Guerrero filling its IMDB page, OITNB has given us so many iconic Latinas to look up to. Though all of the women on the show are in prison, one of the hallmarks of the show is its ability to humanize its characters and portray them as well rounded individuals with vivid backgrounds—even series villains like Pensatucky or Gloria Mendoza. One of the most compelling aspects of the story told on OITNB is that there are always two, sometimes three or more sides to the tale. Yes, all of these women committed crimes—sometimes heinous ones—to land themselves in jail, they’re all women nonetheless. Moreover, the Netflix show is based on a true story from Piper Kerman’s eponymous book about her year in a women’s correctional facility. OITNB peels back the curtain on what it’s like to be an incarcerated woman, and it does it in such a colorful—both in race and tone—and candid way.
One Day at a Time
Before Valerie Bertinelli was the Nutrisystem spokeswoman that I was introduced to, she was one of the top billed cast members for the iconic 70s and 80s sitcom, One Day at a Time. Debuting in 2017, Netflix reimagined the sitcom—this time with a Cuban family. The reboot of One Day at a Time follows Penelope Alvarez, a recently divorced war veteran who lives with her mom (played by the living legend Rita Moreno) and her two children. Like Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time explores the multigenerational matriarchy that is so common in Hispanic/Latinx families, but it also does so much more. It explores femininity as a young Latina woman in the form of Penelope’s daughter’s quinceñera, and pressure from abuela to be more “girly.” It very tastefully grapples with the topic of undocumented status and deportation. What’s more is that the show transcends issues that just affect Hispanics/Latinxs—it’s the true definition of intersectional entertainment. In its lighthearted and joking tone, it talks about the gender gap and racism, it tackles the stigma of mental illness in communities of color, it even touches on topics like war and the treatment of veterans. One Day at a Time is truly one of the freshest and most compelling sitcoms I’ve come across in a long time, and it does it all while making you laugh, too.
3% is an independent science fiction, dystopian thriller series from Brazil, making it Netflix’s first original Brazilian production and the second to be produced in Latin America. In 3%, people live in overall squalor, but are given a chance to traverse to the “better side;” that side being a life of progress and affluence in a mysterious location referred to only as the Offshore. The one caveat is that only 3% of the population will ever get the chance to make it to the Offshore, and thus the apt title. This series is sort of like a Brazilian Hunger Games, but way grittier, way cooler, and with a way more diverse cast. As Brazil is one of the most racially diverse countries in the world, it would be an utter shame if 3% didn’t have a hugely multiethnic cast. Alas, the casting didn’t let us down as it boasts a plethora of Afro-Latinos, light skinned Latinos, and everything in between. If you ever hear the words “all Latinos look the same,” refer whoever said it to this show. Diversity aside, the show is really good. After watching one episode, my friends and I found ourselves addicted and thoroughly attached to the characters on screen. It was so interesting to see how race and ethnicity are treated in a multicultural country that isn’t the United States. In addition to racial representation, there was amazing gender representation—I’m talking girl power to the max with strong, well rounded female characters interested in way more than romance. If you’re interested in action, mystery, and some great representation, look no further than 3%.