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

Bad Bunny’s ‘En Casita’ Is The Self-Isolation Anthem You Didn’t Realize You Needed

Entertainment

Bad Bunny’s ‘En Casita’ Is The Self-Isolation Anthem You Didn’t Realize You Needed

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Bad Bunny is one musician we all know and love. He uses his platform to speak on issues around the world. Now, Bad Bunny is using his music, and relationship, to give people a song to remind them to stay home and stay safe. We are all in this together no matter how far apart we are.

Bad Bunny and his girlfriend Gabriela are here to help you through your self-isolation.

“En Casita” is literally here to remind you to keep yourself at home. We all might be feeling a little stir crazy and ready to get back out into the world but it is so important to work together to defeat this virus’s spread. Every country is trying to flatten the curve to keep the number of hospitalizations to a minimum and that might be uncomfortable.

People are loving the collab between Bad Bunny and Gabriela.

Not just musically. People on Twitter are loving the real-life collab between the two. Sure, the music is great but seeing the kind of love out little Bad Bunny can have is something we have all been waiting for.

Bad Bunny wants everyone to know that this song was improvised and not planned.

Some people are apparently trying to call bad Bunny out on the song because of its simplicity. However, not everything had to be so complicated if you are trying to make a banger. “En Casita” is the perfect song to let play while you go about your day within your space.

Listen to the full song below and get yourself in the right state of mind.

Stay safe. Stay home. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. Let’s work together to move forward together.

READ: From Latin Trap ‘Rude Boy’ To Harvard Speaker: Bad Bunny Was Invited To Give A Talk To Harvard Students

Jessica Marie Garcia Talks Big Hoop Energy And Why She Screenshots Fans’ Messages

Entertainment

Jessica Marie Garcia Talks Big Hoop Energy And Why She Screenshots Fans’ Messages

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There’s no denying Jessica Marie Garcia’s vibrant, go-getter personality. She makes it known to audiences and fans both on and off-screen in her role as Jasmine in Netflix’s coming-of-age comedy, “On My Block.”

You know when Garcia walks into a room. She’s just as bold, daring and warm-hearted as she appears around Freeridge, the fictional Los Angeles neighborhood OMB is set in. 

Before season 3 started streaming, mitú caught up with Garcia in between breaks while filming on location in Burbank, California. She discussed big hoop energy, how she connected on a personal level with some of Jasmine’s most emotional scenes, and how she unearthed more of her Mexican roots after moving to Los Angeles. 

What audiences can be excited to see in season 3 is more dialogue between Jasmine and the ‘core four,’ especially with Jason Genao’s character Ruby Martinez in a will-they-or-won’t-they? crush dance throughout the current season. 

A character with as much wise advice and heart as Jasmine needed to be given more lines and fans appreciate it.

Dare we say Jasmine’s energy is big hoop energy?

Garcia talked about how Jasmine’s personalized earrings helped her step into some added fierceness before the camera started rolling.

“I was the one that had their ears pierced at three months old, ok. That’s just like a given. Especially for Jasmine, hoops hold a lot of power. And even as an actor, her ‘Jasmine’ earrings that say Jasmine in them, I put a lot of that in Jasmine,” Garcia says. “I put a lot of love and power on those hoop earrings. I always had hoops growing up. You had to be able to put your fists in them or they’re not realistic. That’s a thing. I want different sizes, different shapes. They’re important for anyone really.”

One of Jasmine’s most relatable qualities was her ability to always see the positive in the direst of situations.

Garcia was an advocate for her character to showcase this multidimensionality. She didn’t want to have a character like Jasmine relegated to being a tag-along character on the outer orbit.

Representation on TV is better for it, especially when it comes to showing love and curves.

“Being a love interest, being a thicker girl and not having to be like the ‘thing’ they always talk about means everything to me because I don’t think that we see that a lot on TV,” Garcia says. “You know I just don’t talk about being a thicker girl 24 hours a day, it’s such a strange idea that that’s all we can talk about, so I appreciated it, and I also felt a responsibility for all those girls watching, like ‘OK, you gotta do it for me.’ I’m just honored that it’s me.”

Ruby starts catching feelings for her in the show for who Jasmine is as a person and who she makes him feel when she’s around him. And isn’t that just the kind of amor bonito you want to wish upon some of TV’s best breakout characters?

Audiences can also tell throughout the course of the show’s three seasons that Jasmine is there for Ruby in a deeper sense than some of his fellow friends. As much as Ruby’s friends try to support him after his PTSD, Jasmine truly gets what he is going through because of her dad’s disability coming back from war.

Garcia knows as Jasmine that Ruby’s PTSD will always affect him.

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“I don’t think that that is something Ruby as a character is ever not going to think about. You see even in these beautiful moments when we won that dance competition, and he was put in that place,” Garcia says. “[It’s good] for kids to know that these situations don’t get cleaned up in 30 minutes. This is a lifetime of pain that he has to deal with and that’s going to affect him as an adult. That’s going to affect the choices he makes. And again, that loss of innocence, it’s a huge part of him. He’s never going to be season 1 Ruby. It was a near-death experience that will affect him—and the core four.”

Garcia was able to tap into that emotion for such a pivotal scene like bringing Ruby around her family because she experienced that moment. 

“I’ve lived with my grandparents my whole life and my grandmother had dementia when I was, I want to say 13 years old, she got a stroke and got dementia,” Garcia says. “She moved out here and I was taking care of her out here with my mom. And it was something strange to have friends over, because I had to tell them she might scream or she might try to leave. It’s never something that as a teenager, you want to feel more different, so having to explain that is always something that was scary to me. Because I was always like, are my friends going to be able to understand that?”

“So when I played that with Jasmine and I was introducing Ruby to her father, that was nerve-wracking because I wanted it to be something that I could be able to accept but a lot of people don’t understand what that’s like,” Garcia recalls. “It was definitely a scene that I cared about a lot and I freaked out so much filming it. Just because as an actor we’re neurotic and I always want another take, and I never think something is good enough,” she continued. 

It turned out to be one of the most-loved scenes by audiences of the show. 

Fans connected to it as they saw Ruby and Jasmine’s friendship blossomed. 

Garcia enjoys going through her fans’ messages and is known to reply back personally and even screenshot them. 

“I’m lucky enough to say I get them a lot [fan messages], and it’s really just the message of being able to see that they see themselves in me. That is something that I will never get over because growing up, I didn’t,” Garcia admits. “I had to look onto other people in order to see any kind of representation. I say this all the time—Khadijah in Living Single is the reason why I’m here today. Seeing a thick, beautiful woman not be apologetic for any of that is what I wanted to see—but thinking like oh, I’ll be that token person, you know? And I think if it’s a White show, you have a Black friend or a Brown friend, but you never have both. And that’s just not life. So the fact that we have a cast of people of color and not having to completely talk about that the whole time, just being real, is amazing. Those kinds of messages mean everything to me. I save all of them, I screenshot them. I love responding to fans. I love responding to beautiful people, yes!”

She loves to encourage her fans to learn more about filmmaking and writing in order to be the next generation of content creators.

“You can’t decide that we’re going to write for a certain demographic and then not have that demographic writing, it just doesn’t make sense. That’s why we have the same stories. It’s exhausting,” Garcia says. “I think we also have to encourage our youth to go into screenwriting and take film school and just write. That’s the biggest thing is write down everything, because you’ll learn that acting may be something you saw and saw yourself in and you’ll find this love of this other craft because there are so many departments that make this a real thing.”

Garcia has been able to explore more of her roots now that she is living in Los Angeles thanks to the show.

“When I was in Florida, it’s a pretty mixed bag. But as far as Latinos, you’re in Orlando, you’re Puerto Rican. If you’re in Miami, you’re Cuban. And like that’s it,” Garcia recalls of Florida. “They used to call me ‘Mexico’ all the time in Orlando because it was so weird that I was Mexican (I don’t know how it is now). Coming here, I was surrounded by people that looked like me, but I didn’t know their traditions or anything, and then I just felt like I was missing out this whole time. So it’s been a beautiful discovery actually. I don’t speak Spanish, which is probably the bane of my existence, but I also think I speak for a lot of first-generation Latinos who understand it all, but when I speak it it’s a little sad. I say a little prayer and a wish, but you know I’m learning, and that’s part of it too.”

Perhaps in season 4 Jasmine will get to practice her Spanish on the show in some phrases.

READ: Jason Genao Of ‘On My Block’ Talks Growing Up On His Block And His Secret To Making Bomb Empanadas