Entertainment

Netflix Documentary ‘After Maria’ Is A Scathing, Heartbreaking Review On FEMA’s Failures For A Devastated Community

Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria reduced the bustling island of Puerto Rico to literal shambles and took 3,000 lives, not much has changed. No major news outlets have followed up with families. It feels as if they think the crisis has been resolved.

Director Nadia Hallgren is giving Americans a look into the ongoing disaster on the island. In the just 37 minutes of “After Maria,” we follow several Puerto Rican women who fled PR for FEMA-assisted housing in the Bronx. We glimpse into their highs–watching 43-year-old Glenda Martes blowing out her birthday candles with a cheerful child shouting, “I wish to have an apartment!” The film covers the eight weeks leading up to when FEMA housing expires, forcing the women and their families to become homeless in the Bronx.

Nadia Hallgren opens up with a glimpse into the lives of the women as they knew it, before Maria.

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Hallgren was living in Los Angeles when she first learned that the Bronx would become the hub of the newest influx of migration from Puerto Rico. She knew she had to go back to her home in the Bronx.

Hallgren features three matriarchs who have made a home away from home on the fourth floor in a Norwood hotel.

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We meet their children. We see the single room an entire family is crammed into after fleeing the island. It is a stark and powerful look at how much has changed for the people on the island after a devastating natural disaster.

Before Hurricane Maria, they lived in their homes, with family around them.

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Hallgren told The Guardian that the families opened up their lives to the documentary because it was so rare that anyone “would care so much about their whole story and their whole lives – who they were before the storm happened and what’s happened after, the investment in the long-term, and the hope that things do get better for them.”

True to its namesake, “After Maria” isn’t about the hurricane itself.

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It’s not about its brute strength or the experience of Puerto Ricans as they lived through it. It’s everything that came after that devastated the island.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló told them to prepare for two weeks of no access to food, water, or electricity.

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Those two weeks came and went. They were shocked to realize that this would become the new normal in Puerto Rico. One woman lived in a house without a roof for two months before FEMA came by. She said it felt like the rats and snakes started to take over her home.

We see Glenda and Kenia rewatch Trump throwing paper towels in disbelief.

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“Trump came to throw paper towels to soak up our tears,” Glenda says through tears. It was just a moment in the long story of how the U.S. has failed Puerto Rico, an island of U.S. citizens.

Then, they move to the Bronx out of desperation.

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Living in their ravaged homes in Puerto Rico was akin to living without a roof over their heads. These women all found themselves in The Bronx because FEMA offered hotel vouchers to house victims–allegedly until their homes were rebuilt in Puerto Rico. This never happened.

Kenia’s 11-year-old daughter, Nilda, arguably suffered the worst.

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She tells Hallgren that the kids at school make fun of her for speaking Spanish. Hallgren grew up with all her friends in Puerto Rico. She never felt like she didn’t belong.

Her PTSD from the storm becomes so bad, she starts pulling her own hair out.

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Throughout the documentary, we see a completely shut-down pre-teen, ignoring the world around her. She eventually goes to see a psychologist, who tells Kenia the obvious: things will only get better for Nilda when she can feel safe and her life is more stable.

As FEMA vouchers come to an end, we see Glenda calling Section 8 housing to no avail.

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We see women doing the footwork to regain some stability. “After Maria” shows us in real time how the government failed to treat Maria victims like they’ve treated Harvey and Katrina survivors in the past.

The mistreatment has led them to believe that it’s to an end–to force Puerto Ricans out of the United States.

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That just makes Sheila all the more adamant that they can make it here. She reminds her friends that they’ve lived through worse. Not to mention, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens are entitled to the same protections and privileges as all other citizens.

Amidst the relentless anxiety that being displaced with a timeline on your housing causes, there are moments of joy.

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Like when Nilda celebrated her 12th birthday just three days before they knew they would have to move out of the hotel. Still, they didn’t know where they were going.

We see the banters of a mami-hija relationship, strained by PTSD.

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Nilda and her mother have been living in a hotel room together for the last six months. We see Kenia cooking on boilerplates, asking Nilda to go fetch more ice from the lobby.

As soon as her mom starts to get a little “Dios mio,” Nilda pipes up.

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Kenia showers her daughter with the love and affection we’re all too familiar with. We’ve all been at this moment. Most of us haven’t been on the brink of homelessness because our government doesn’t care about us.

We learn that Kenia’s father died in Puerto Rico a month after they arrived in the U.S.

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She couldn’t go back to Puerto Rico to say goodbye. Officials told her that he died of natural causes but she thinks it’s because of the lack of food, clean water, and communication available to him.

Kenia and Nilda return to Puerto Rico, months later, to bury Kenia’s father.

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We see how Puerto Ricans are experiencing a lack of resources from the U.S. government. The Trump administration has provided fake numbers about the amount of relief that has been sent to Puerto Rico. President Trump even told a rally in Florida that Puerto Rico is getting more aid pitting two communities against each other for necessary aid.

The government offered no permanent housing solutions, as they’ve done with Harvey and Katrina survivors.

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There is no happy ending, or neat bow-tie to end this story. That’s the point. It’s ongoing.

Kenia and Nilda just moved into an apartment placing the day before the documentary was released.

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Their home was never rebuilt. The filmmaker tells Amny that, “NYC took on these families. They’re here in city shelters. The government really just dropped the ball. The crisis isn’t over for anyone.”

The documentary wrapped a year ago. The sentiment and reality below are still true.

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In an interview with Amny, Hallgren shares the complexity of the situation, “The families are still in shelters now. What’s especially difficult for them is the language barrier. They come to New York City and don’t understand the language so part of them trying to find their footing here is even just learning how to speak English as an adult.”

She goes on to say what we all already know, “We all know how hard it is to get housing in NYC even if you earn a living wage. Resources that the city has for people in need is just busting at the seams already. The city is trying to support thousands of residents who are coming from the trauma of living through a natural disaster. They come with emotional baggage that the city is not prepared for.”

READ: Rita Moreno Revealed She Refused To Sing The Original Lyrics To “America” Because They Were Highly Offensive To Puerto Rico

These Are Our Favorite Latinx Comedians Who Have Comedy Specials On Netflix Right Now

Entertainment

These Are Our Favorite Latinx Comedians Who Have Comedy Specials On Netflix Right Now

Riase El Show / Netflix

Spanish is a rich and exuberant language that lends itself to creative use of words. In Latin America, using words in double entendre or doble sentido is a way of expanding the communicative capacities of español. And the comedians listed here let our darkest fears and deepest desires come out bursting as laughter. 

Netflix is investing heavily on Latin American original content, particularly in Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, where the stand up industry is more developed. Through humor, Latino comedians have a knack for talking about touchy subjects in Latin America, such as the traumatic historical past (including processes of colonialism and military dictatorships), gender and sexual diversity, and machismo. However, they do this with pointy comments and provocative acts that are designed to trigger strong reactions (some of them incite strong responses by being overtly open and even a bit inappropriate). If you wanna practice your Spanish, here’s a few titles that you def need to check out. 

Mexico: Franco Escamilla, Bienvenido al Mundo

Credit: Bienvenido Al Mundo / Netflix

Contemporary Mexico is a place of many contradictions, and some would argue even highly divided. Franco Escamilla uses crass humor to talk about his parenting experiences in a moment in which issues such as gender roles, woke culture and globalization have made Mexico a confusing but fascinating place to grow up. 

Mexico: Franco Escamilla, Por la Anecdota

Credit: Por La Anecdota / Netflix

Yes, Escamilla makes the list twice due to the variety of his repertoire. In this earlier show he laughs at himself and his many social shortcomings. This act is a provocation that invites us to rethink what masculinity means today, and how ridiculous it can be when it tries to hang on to senseless tradition. 

Argentina: Fernando Sanjiao, Hombre

Credit: Hombre / Netflix

If you speak Spanish you know how different Argentinian Spanish can be. It takes words from Italian and German… and Argentinians, particularly from Buenos Aires, tend to speak in a dramatic and very expressive way. Sanjiao speaks about masculinity and fatherhood in a hilarious way, talking about anything from the mysterious disappearance of Tupperware lids to how painful tango can be. And like any Argentinian he talks about therapy. 

Colombia: Arango y Sanint, Riase el Show

Credit: Riase El Show / Netflix

These two old timers are a true institution in their native Colombia. They can be judged as using a bit too much political incorrectness as they mock Argentines, dirty old men and everyday Colombians. If you wanna share a laugh with your old man, get a couple of drinks, put this on and build some memories.

Colombia: Alejandro Riaño, Especial de Stand Up

Especial de Stand Up / Netflix

Anyone who grew up in or has visited Bogota will ROFL with Alejandro’s witty social commentary. He is a bit of an ass at times, but he does it for the sake of his provocative style. He discusses issues that define  cosmopolitan life in the Colombian city, such as the dating scene, soccer fanaticism and styles of dancing. 

Mexico: Simplemente Manu Nna

Credit: Simplemente Manu Nna / Netflix

Manu Nna is a non-binary comedian who is open about the challenges and humor associated with being an LGBTQ person in Mexico City. Many Nna draws from Mexican popular culture and references old musicians like our eternal Juanga, as well as telenovelas and the way in which they have shaped the melodramatic psyche of Mexicans for generations.

Argentina: Lucas Lauriente, Todo lo Que Sería

Credit: Todo Lo Que Seria / Netflix

One of the oldest tricks in comedy is making fun of age, particularly if it concerns your own journey into adulthood and grumpiness. Lucas makes fun of different generations, placing himself as a middle-aged man who is starting to realize that hope is perhaps dead. His rants about millennials are particularly funny in their senselessness. 

Argentina: Malena Pichot, Estupidez Compleja

Credit: Estupidez Compleja / Netflix

Pichot takes the feminist flag to raise questions about sex, abortion, inclusive language and those men who just didn’t get the memo that the 19th century was over. A lot of cringe worthy moments that will make you rethink gender dynamics.

Colombia: Liss Pereira, Reteniendo Líquidos 

Credit: Reteniendo Líquidos / Netflix

Some Colombian women are truly hilarious when it comes to explaining the crazy expectations that society places on them (Sofia Vergara, anyone?). Apparently they have to look good and do everything as traditional gender roles are shifting and they also make up an important chunk of the productive force. Liss Pereira navigates the tribulations and involuntary comedic moments that pregnancy brings, Move over Kylie Kwong, we have a new reina embarazada in da house!

Mexico: Carlos Ballarta, Furia Ñera

Credit: Furia Ñera / Netflix

The ultimate dude comedian. He created a persona based on the iconic grunge legend Kurt Cobain. Ballarta does plenty of deprecating humor both about himself and the city of Guadalajara, where he lives with his family. He is real good on stage, and uses his imposing physical presence to give a clumsy but witty vibe. 

It’s Just Around The Corner! ‘One Day At A Time’ Has An Official Return Date

Entertainment

It’s Just Around The Corner! ‘One Day At A Time’ Has An Official Return Date

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It’s almost here, mi gente! 

Your favorite Cuban-American family is set to make its second television debut, this time on Pop TV, this coming Spring. After being canceled by Netflix earlier this year, the Alvarez family will prove that Cubanos can withstand just about anything when they return in March 2020 with 13 new episodes. 

Speaking recently about the series, writers for the show have given fans a few hints about what to expect. 

The “One Day At A Time” writer’s room is only a few weeks into creating the series, but they’re proving the show will be back with fervor. 

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Speaking during a Vulture Festival panel the series’ writers boasted that its new home on Pop TV means some pretty exciting things for the Alvarez family. Now, instead of streaming all at once, the new season will run weekly. 

“We’re so excited!” creator Gloria Calederon Kellett told Vulture during the panel. “We get to have a breath between each episode.” Creators behind the show have said that the decision to do a weekly release schedule comes with the hope that it will mean more consistent audience engagement with the show. Because of the show’s shorter airing window, Pop TV hopes to introduce more topical and poignant storylines. Which is pretty incredible considering the series was already doing that pretty well to begin with. All of this also means that the series will have a more traditional network sitcom runtime and format. I.E.L commercials.

The news was a pretty big surprise to EGOT  Rita Moreno who exclaimed incredulously during the panel: “We’re gonna have commercials?!” 

 “I’m sorry,” Maria Elena Fernandez, a moderator for the Vulture panel replied to Moreno during the reveal. “I didn’t mean to break it to you this way.”

Creators of the show also teased some series storylines which might include seeing  Moreno’s Lydia character falling in love with Dr. Berkowitz who is played by Stephen Tobolowsky.

Earlier this year, when news that Netflix had canceled the critically acclaimed show “One Day at a Time” hit Twitter, many were feared the entire site would be burned down. News that the beloved comedy-drama, which followed the life of a Cuban American family, had officially been canceled spurned various criticisms of Netflix and backlash from the show’s fanbase. Netflix users decried the decision accusing the site of giving POC viewers low priority and nearly no visibility through its shows. Some canceled their Netflix accounts altogether and even started hashtags to do the same. To say the least, fans were devastated.  

So when the TV channel PopTV announced that fans had convinced them enough to save the series and buy it for their own, Latino viewers were beyond elated.

Earlier this fall it became officially official that the Alvarez family is truly returning.

According to an image shared straight from the “One Day At A Time’s” writer’s room, creators of the series are already tapping out the new season’s scripts. On Monday, ODAAT’s series producer Mike Royce posted an image of the series’ sign at their new offices on Twitter. In his post, he revealed that the writers would start working on the show this past Wednesday.

If it’s three other earlier seasons can be any indication, ODAAT’s 4th season will undoubtedly be a major hit. Since its 2017 debut, the series starring EGOT winner Rita Moreno and actress Justina Machado has garnered copious amounts of praise from fans and critics for its portrayal of Latix culture in today’s Post-Trump world. For its work in portraying the trials and tribulations of its diverse LGBTQ+  and Latin American characters. The series has also tackled political issues related to Trump-inspired racist attacks and slurs as well as the portrayal of mental health in the military community. 

When news that PopTV had saved the beloved series, nearly everyone was elated.

No doubt, decisions to buy the show had been motivated by petitions and hashtags to #SaveODAAT. Various Latino names in the entertainment industry began to tweet about the series in support. This included Broadway star and Hamilton hitmaker Lin-Manuel Miranda who posted a series of tweets to his Twitter account to #SaveODAAT as well.

When it was finally announced that the series had been saved by Pop TV the outlet’s president, Brad Schwartz, released a statement saying “How amazing it is to be involved with this brilliant and culturally significant series that deals with important themes one minute while making you laugh the next. We couldn’t be more proud to continue telling heartwarming stories of love, inclusion, acceptance, and diversity that pull on your emotions while putting a smile on your face.”

Needless to say, as pleased as fans are for the new series and its renewal, they really can’t wait.

I mean basically, at this point it is kind of a tragedy that we have to wait. But everyone is still pumped. And for real ready for production and streaming to begin. Because this show is a gift beyond gifts.

With so much representation, there’s literally a character for everyone to feel seen. 

One user in the comments section of Mike Royce’s thread pointed out that the show isn’t just for those who are Latino.”I showed my Cuban spouse the episode not yet yesterday and we were all bawling on the couch frequently pausing for them to talk about how their Mami would also say try again tomorrow and how every time they were in hospital the entire family showed up,” user @danielzklein said. “I’m just saying this show is a god damned gift to the world. How is it so good and so heartfelt and so brave to go to dark places without the copout of a joke at the most intense moment and how is it still so laugh out loud funny the rest of the time.” 

And more importantly, this series is a savior in so many ways.

And not only are we beyond excited that the series means more representation on screen. It also means the Rita Moreno remains employed and on our screens.

Yes to ODAAT and the power of its fans!