identities

‘One Day At A Time’ Is Giving People A Taste Of Life In A Multi-Generational And Cuban Household

Netflix’s reboot of the 1970’s sitcom “One Day at a Time” (ODAAT) could not be more affirming of the Cuban-American family of the 21st century. It doesn’t hurt that Puerto Rican icons Rita Moreno (Lydia) and Justina Machado (Penelope) star in the show as mother and abuelita to second-generation Americans Alex and Isabella.

ODAAT tackles important issues like the depression and PTSD of war veteran Penelope. The family also deals with situations of immigration, sexism, homophobia, and racism that Latino families battle against every day. Oh, but you’ll laugh like a hyena watching this show and relate so hard to the Alvarez’s family traditions of sneaking popcorn and candy into the movie theater, storing ropa vieja in a mantequilla bin and licking the Cheeto bag clean.

Unfortunately, depiste the represetation and clear love fo the show, Netflix made the decision to shut down production. The announcement comes after Netflix dropped $80 million to stream “Friends” in 2019 because we can’t get enough of old sitcoms.

Here’s how ODAAT nails what it means to be a modern Cuban family, even though Netflix decided to cancel it.

Family is everything.

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Penelope, AKA Lupita, and her mother, Lydia, are the backbone of this family, with three generations living under the same roof. Lupita had just had her first child, Elena, when her and her then-husband felt called to go back to duty after the World Trade Towers were attacked on 9/11. Lydia and her husband, Berto, decide to move in to help support the family.

We see their story begin after Berto tragically dies and Lupita leaves her kids’ father when he becomes addicted to pain killers and refuses to get help. The two are guiding the family the best way they know how. In this family, love actually does conquer all.

The Cuban rage is real.

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As my Puerto Rican mother says, Boricuas y Cubanos are wings of the same plane. (?) All my Cuban cousins punch their palm real fast when they’re real mad. That’s how you know to run. Run for your life. Another tactic is to watch the red rise in their face. Once they’re red from chin to temple, it’s already too late. They gonna blow. Try to get far, far away.

If you grew up Latino, you are low key traumatized from fine-tuning your sensors for anger. I know if someone’s angry before they even know they are. It’s not a gift; it’s a curse.

Abuelita is the queen, no questions asked.

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Yes, she lives behind the curtain but she is the one who brought Cuba to your family and she’ll never let you forget it. Lydia lives to be the most religious, devout Catholic in the room, but also the most seductive(?). It’s a weird combo but she works it like a charm. Como todos viejos, she’s a little racist, but the character development is real (unlike the reality your IRL Cubana abuelita will ever change).

Plus, this well will never run dry:

“When I was 15, and came to this country with no family without knowing the language…”

Café Bustelo is the glue that keeps your family values together.

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Without it, we’re all savages. There has only been one day that your family ran out of Café Bustelo and that day made history… a history your family vows never to repeat again. Whenever a non-Cubano enters your home and tells you that they don’t like coffee, it gives you a good chuckle because you know it’s just because they haven’t had Cuban coffee yet. Azúcar!

Oh, and it’s a cardinal sin (Lydia’s words, not mine) if you’re not dancing salsa while you make it. “Look happy! You’re Cuban!”

Real Tupperware is for suckers.

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“The rice and beans are in the pickle jar and the cookies are in the cookie tin, but they’re not the same cookies that came with the tin.”

I’m not asking any questions, are you? As kids, it was always a fun adventure to sneak into your Nana’s cabinet and open up cookie tins, never knowing what you’re going to find. The possibilities are endless: a lifetime’s collection of buttons, saltine crackers, vieja hard candy, safety pins… but 100% definitely not cookies.

If you’re a girl, someone is always trying to put makeup on you.

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Elena is president of her debate team, civically engaged, and gets straight A’s, but Lydia is only ever proud of her when she put on makeup that one time. Who else knows this kind of injustice?

Her little brother, Alex, could lick a frog and Lydia would make the sign of the cross praising God for giving her such a curious, courageous grandson, but Elena urges her to vote and is immediately interrupted with “ANNOYING.” True story. Like, all of our true stories.

Nothing says family and love like being forced to have a quinces.

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The feud continues. Elena is a feminist and activist. After looking up the history of the tradition, she protested the idea of a quinces celebration because it’s a “ritual that forces her to go on parade before the village to be traded for two cows and a goat.” Abuelita’s response? “Well someone thinks they’re worth a lot.”

Good thing Lupita is around to remind them both what century we’re living in. These days, quinces are just an excuse to throw a big ass party that your 147 immediate relatives can come to celebrate your favorite teenager.

Even the older generation has had to learn to make adjustments to a new Cuban-American culture.

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When Elena was caught watching gay porn, she was greeted with compassion from her mom, and Elena felt safe enough to come out as lesbian. The best part of this show is that it doesn’t give characters spiritual bypasses or perfect experiences. We see Lupita understandably go through a (short) period of acceptance as a parent.

Lupita was actually shocked to see Lydia process her Catholic religious dogma in under 1 minute and immediately embraces Elena because “family comes first.”

Lydia even ditched the tutu and made Elena a suit for her quinces!

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Lydia kept having bouts of Cuban rage and upset when Elena wasn’t crying at the sight of her handmade dress. No joke, Elena was all full of gratitude and compliments of the dress, but that wasn’t enough for Lydia. Without even asking Elena, she stayed up all night hemming out the tutu and making her a blazer and dress pants to match.

While Elena’s father abandoned her after she came out to him, Elena was surrounded by love at her quinces, and come father-daughter dance, her mother was there to support her. This is the modern-day Latino family.

But also, Lydia has worked harder than anyone else ever and everyone better show respect.

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Sit down. This is about to be a novela. But don’t worry, it’s going to be good, even though you’ve heard it your whole life…

Lydia: “Listen, when I was your age, I had three jobs. Courier, seamstress and I sold Avon door-to-door.”

Lupita: “Thank you. When I was your age, I was scooping ice cream. By the end of the summer, my right arm looked like Popeye, the left one looked like Olive Oyl. Then I joined the army. Almost died. Get a job.”

The show tackles taboo topics, like single parenting.

Netflix

That’s not to say your mother isn’t going to have an unwanted opinion about it. In the great words of Lydia Rivera, “We are Cuban. We don’t get divorced. We die.” Claro, the mother-daughter duo worked it out and Lydia grew to understand why Lupita would voluntarily ditch her man.

There is no reason to feel ashamed for being a single parent. There is also nothing wrong with letting your mother teach you how to shave. When you’re a 12 year old boy, you have as much facial hair as a grown ass Latina woman. Learn from us.

Cubans don’t have allergies, or ever get sick.

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Doctor: You had a stroke? Then you have to take your medications or you could develop another clot.

Lydia: “My Cuban blood would overpower the illness and demolish it until it is nothing.”

Tbh, no Latinos get sick because we just don’t have time for that. Just rub some VapoRub on it, gargle with hydrogen peroxide, or put an onion under your pillow and stfu about it, tu sabes? The last season finale was stressful. Lydia actually ended up having a stroke and nobody knew if she was going to make it or not. I mean, she’s Cuban, so she did. ; )

Expect a Cuban flag at every sporting event.

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How else would you expect your teammates and opponents to know that you have rich, Cuban blood in your system? It’s called an intimidation tactic. They see those Cuban flags waving and they know they’re f*cked. And it’s not even about your Cuban blood.

It’s because they know that the crazy high expectations placed on you by your family is more pressure than anyone else could be under to perform. You’ve got to live up to all that azúcar hype, right?

The show even touches on how Latinos stand together no matter their nationality.

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After Alex is called a beaner, some solid family conversations about colorism, newly reignited racism under this administration, and discussions about beans happened. Namely, Lydia was offended that “beaners” was meant for Mexicans because Cubans have the best beans.

Elena was shocked because she had never been called a slur, to which Lydia told her that she is the Wonder Bread to Papito’s rich caramel skin. So maybe the preference isn’t just because Alex is a boy, but because of internal colorism. Elena had to come to terms with that she experiences life different as a white-passing Cubana than from her “caramel” hermano. She also earned the nickname “Blanquita.”

There will be a picture of the Pope in every room.

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He’s always watching over you, along with Jesus hanging from a cross at every wall space you can find. If your abuelita lives with you, her Pinterest board looks like the inside of basilica catolica, and it’s written all over the walls. According to Lydia, “Oh, yes, because he is so inspiring. You walk in to get a yogurt, you see him Hola, Papa. Puts a smile on your face.”

After an episode that you should really watch, during which Lupita tells Lydia that the pope doesn’t doe it for her as much as Serena Williams. Lydia ends up putting the pope and Serena up on the fridge. LOL

You go to church every Sunday because it’s not worth upsetting Abuelita.

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It honestly takes more time to talk her down and get her back home than it does to actually go to church. You have to wait until you move far, far away and can lie about going to church to get out of it. But you better make sure that you looked up the name of the church, the church times and can vouch for what time you go. Seriously, find out the nearest landmarks, names of the priests, etc. Abuelita’s soul is pure from weekly confession and can smell lies.

Superstitions are a whole other religion.

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“It’s like Santería: I don’t believe in it, but I respect it.” There are so many little rituals even the most devout Catholic follows, like sleeping with a glass of water under the bed to absorb bad energy or palo santo’ing the entryways of a house before you move into it.

If you didn’t have at least one tía go through a Santería phase, please talk to me and tell me what it was like to open a closet and not find an altar. In 2000s Miami, all my tías suddenly only wore white and were a little intimidating because they seemed both zen and very powerful.

Wasting crumbs is a sin.

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Cuban families lost everything when they left Cuba. As such, they hate it when you waste even the smallest amount of anything. An empty bag of Cheetos isn’t empty… it’s literally coated in more food. My soul is pure of Cheeto dust.

This is why this show is gold. I was literally pouring popcorn crumbs into my mouth (and all over my face) when this scene came on and it was validating af. Ever felt like a peasant for doing that in a room full of white people judging you? It was in this scene that I realized it’s because I’m Latino. Get after it.

Even though you might be American, you’ll never stop being 100 percent Cuban.

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Lydia reveals that she never took her citizenship test when she realized she would have to renounce her Cuban citizenship and was still holding out hope she could return home. Twenty years later, with not much changing in Cuba, and immigration policy getting scarier in America by the day, Lydia decided that her security in this country wouldn’t make her any less Cuban.

She made that hella obvious when she was spotted on the balcony with a fat Cuban cigar in her mouth, salsa playing from her ancient little boombox y cafecito studying for the exam. She aced it.

If you haven’t watched it yet, check it out.

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It’s that good and that on point. Whether or not your family is as progressive as the Alvarez family, it will be life-affirming to see how your future family might respond to some of the same issues we all grew up with.

No joke, my therapist told me to watch this show as an identity-affirming assignment and I’m telling you that you can let the Alvarez’ raise you otra vez and thrive. Dale.

PLAYQuiz: Which Character From ‘One Day At A Time’ Are You?

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