Entertainment

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

After Maria / Netflix

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.

Netflix

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

Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’

Entertainment

Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’

Selena Gomez continues her reign as a Netflix producer with Living Undocumented. It is always great when celebrities use their platforms to enrich and educate. Gomez has a huge platform and can generate huge numbers. 13 Reasons Why blew Netflix’s expectations out of the water, and I can’t help but think it’s because of Gomez’s enormous Instagram following. The girl has reach. 

As you might have guessed, Living Undocumented is a documentary series that follows the lives of undocumented immigrants as they navigate life under the looming threat of increasingly cruel immigration policies and ICE raids.

Selena Gomez announces Living Undocumented on Instagram

“I am so humbled to be a part of Netflix’s documentary series Living Undocumented. The immigration issue is more complex than one administration, one law or the story you hear about on the news. These are real people in your community, your neighbors, your friends—they are all part of the country we call home. I can’t wait for you guys to see this and hope it impacts you like it impacted me. Available globally October 2,” Gomez wrote.

Living Undocumented 

Living Undocumented will focus on eight undocumented families. Premiering on October 2nd on Netflix, the show will chronicle the families as they face possible deportation. The narratives will range from hopeful to infuriating, but the series will put a human face on a dehumanized group of people. 

It cannot be said again that the United States has always struggled with two contradictory narratives: the one where it is a beacon of hope for the tired, hungry, and poor, versus the one where it has upheld numerous racist and xenophobic immigration policies. This is an issue that predates Trumpito, even if he has kicked it into it’s most degrading form. 

“I chose to produce this series, Living Undocumented because, over the past few years, the word ‘immigrant’ has seemingly become a negative word,” said Gomez. “My hope is that the series can shed light on what it’s like to live in this country as an undocumented immigrant firsthand, from the courageous people who have chosen to share their stories.”

Gomez is joined by executive producers Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Mandy Teefey, Anna Chai, and Sean O’Grady. Chai will also co-direct the series.

“Living Undocumented is designed to illuminate one of the most important issues of our time. But rather than discussing this issue with only statistics and policy debates, we wanted viewers to hear directly from the immigrants themselves, in their own words, with all the power and emotion that these stories reflect.”

Humanizing immigrants is key

People don’t just bring guns into Walmarts to kill 22 innocent humans beings for no reason. It is no secret that President Trump’s dehumanizing language was a catalyst for the El Paso shooting. The suspect whose name shall not be invoked told officers he was looking to kill “Mexicans.” Mexicans — the Latinxs Trump referred to as rapists and criminals. The mass murderer also said he wanted to stop a “Hispanic Invasion,” in his manifesto. Trump called Central Americans “invaders.” 

According to Pew Research Center, this year they found that 58 percent of Latinx adults say they experienced discrimination because of their race or ethnicity. Across all races and ethnic groups, two-thirds of individuals surveyed say that expressing racist views has become more common since Trump was elected. 

This year, at a Trump rally, supporters were cheering about shooting immigrants. 

“How do you stop these people?” Trump asks. Then someone yelled back, “Shoot them.” Trump smiled. The crowd cheered. Three months later, the El Paso shooting took 22 lives.

“The language that criminalizes and makes Latinos out to be evil is affecting our own citizens and it’s going to have both short- and long-term consequences that we are starting to see in the Latino population,” Elizabeth Vaquera, an associate professor at George Washington University who studies vulnerable groups, told the Washington Post.

A Bipartisan Non-Issue Becomes A Partisan Issue

This immigration “issue” started off as a hoax but through Trump’s horrible policies he created this new immigration crisis. In 2017, when Trump took office, migrants arrested at the border were at the lowest level in three decades. 

Three former employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wrote in Politico, the border crisis is all Trump’s fault.

 “It is Donald Trump himself who is responsible. Through misguided policies, political stunts and a failure of leadership, the president has created the conditions that allowed the asylum problem at the border to explode into a crisis.” 

Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 80 percent of Democrats view the fact that the majority of the United States will be nonwhite by 2045 as a good thing, while 61 percent of Republicans say it is bad. 

The barrage of harmful rhetoric has turned what was not even a problem into a national crisis with opinions straddling partisan lines, and a heightened hatred of Latinx people. Living Undocumented might be exactly what this country needs. 

In A Major Political Statement, Los Tigres Del Norte Play Concert For Inmates At Folsom Prison And It’s Captured In A Netflix Doc

Entertainment

In A Major Political Statement, Los Tigres Del Norte Play Concert For Inmates At Folsom Prison And It’s Captured In A Netflix Doc

Netflix just dropped an amazing documentary that follows the legendary Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte as they visit Folsom Prison in California, and perform for the inmates. Of course, this is a political act in itself: performing to those who are serving a sentence is going against conservative views that inmates should be isolated from society. This is particularly relevant in the Trump era, as convicted felons are stripped of their humanity in political discourse, oftentimes with racial and racist connotations. 

The famous Johnny Cash played a concert there 50 years ago, a great political statement at the time.

Credit: Johnny-Cash-Folsom. Digital image. Talk Business and Politics

Cash swore at and denounced the authorities in his groundbreaking performance at the Folsom Prison cafeteria. He was just spectacular, calling out mistreatment of prisoners and making inmates feel heard. Even though he didn’t go to prison himself, he often wrote songs about incarceration and received dozens of letters from prisoners. What a legend. The original Man in Black! 

Things have changed: over 40% of the inmates today are Latino. Enter Los Tigres del Norte.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

The prison population encountered by Cash was mostly Black and white, and only a few Latinos spent their days behind Folsom’s bars. But the population is vastly different today, and Latino faces are seen everywhere. For the concert, Los Tigres dressed in black, honoring the memory of Cash. “Doing this job inside the prison is a very significant thing for us. We sing true stories and everything we’ve recorded we try to make it from the pure heart, taken from the feelings of the human being,” said Jorge Hernandez, vocalist and accordionist, to CD Noticias Financieras. 

And they opened the show with their own version of the iconic Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

The documentary starts with full engines on. Los Tigres, with the Cash family blessing, reimagined “Folsom Prison Blues” and gave it a Mexican saborcito that is just a delight. The banjo is replaced by the iconic accordion and the inmates shed a tear when listening to the story in Spanish: a man is imprisoned in Folsom and listens to a train full of rich people go by. He knows he will never be on that train and that he will die behind bars.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras: “The first single from the album, ‘La Prisión de Folsom (Folsom Prision Blues)’ is the first Spanish-language version of Johnny Cash’s classic song, created with the support of his son, John Carter Cash,and written in collaboration with Ana Cristina Cash,daughter-in-law of the artist”. 

Los Tigres del Norte sing about marginalized individuals.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Their corridos, some of which are controversial for humanizing cartel members, talk of rags to riches stories, but also of the many perils faced by undocumented migrants. Many prisoners at Folsom could relate. Ay, dolor. 

And the documentary shows plenty of heartbreaking stories.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Songs such as “La jaula de oro” (about an undocumented worker feeling trapped un the United States) are intercut with the inmates’ own stories of regret, redemption and loss. The first half focuses on the male population while the second explores the lives of female inmates. Many of them have found redemption in religion, while others have had to dig deep into their family past to unearth the reasons behind their crimes. 

But there are also stories of redemption.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

The most teary and joyful moment of the documentary comes when a prisoner who used to be a musician shares the stage with Los Tigres. He gets the self respect he has been fighting his demons for since he was imprisoned for murder. It is a tender moment in which he probably gained the respect of all the other reclusos as well. 

Many inmates were put there because of the three-strike rule.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Some of the stories point to a fundamental fault in the system whereby no matter how small your crime is, if you got other two convictions under your belt you end up in jail. Harsh and also a rule that seems to target marginalized communities that don’t get enough help to straighten the path.

Los Tigres spent some quality time with the inmates, showing us that we all deserve a second chance.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Los Tigres del Norte have been blamed for glorifying crime and his songs have been banned in places like the Mexican state of Chihuahua. However, by seeing them laugh with and hug a group of inmates we realize that they are just able and willing to find human kindness in everyone. Sometimes, they say, all someone needs is to be heard. 

Of course, social media is going crazy about the documentary, particularly during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Credit: Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison / Netflix

Even though the documentary has only been available for a few days, Twitter has exploded with positive reviews. 

The music is almost irrelevant compared to the strong political message “Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison” sends.

Credit: Twitter. @urban_ag

And people are noticing. The documentary will surely spark discussions around the penitentiary system in the United States and the lives of Latinos in the face of inequality. 

And it is bringing families together.

Credit: Twitter. @selfproclvimed

Can we join you and sing hasta el amanecer

And of course it is giving la raza all the feels.

Credit: Twitter. @gabyseeta

We are right there with you, Gabinha. 

Puro Orgullo Mexicano!

Credit: Twitter. @YayyitsDre

Gracias, Netflix.