“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a show that’ll turn you into the ? emoji IRL with its mile-a-minute witty banter and characters like diva-in-waiting Titus Andromedon and the effervescent Kimmy Schmidt. Naturally, we wondered what the Netflix show would be like if it were just a lil’ more Latino. Find out as we cast away!
The former RBD singer and current telenovela queen would play the part of Karina, whose backstory includes being a “mole woman” kidnapped by a Trump supporter and put in an underground tunnel! Her ’90s style influences would come from Xuxa and “In Living Color”-era JLo.
And finally, Kimmy’s purple Jansport backpack is basically a character in itself. It even has a plotline dedicated to it when she leaves it at a club! The mochila would get a makeover though as a purple Mexican grocery bag. Karina wouldn’t get any side eyes, though, because all the hipsters in Echo Park would dig it.
Alerta! This article contains SPOILERS on the final season of the Netflix show Orange is the New Black!
Throughout seven seasons, Orange is the New Black has shown a microcosm of the United States in all its diversity (sexual, political and ethnic). The show led by Jenji Kohan (the mastermind behind Weeds) began airing in 2013 and through seven seasons it told the stories of women from all segments of society.
The inmates of Litchfield Prison represent some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Among them, there are Latinas who have no papers or who come from impoverished backgrounds. Throughout the years we got to understand the Kafkaesque mechanisms through which the industrial incarceration system works and how it profits from disgrace. The show also cast a shadow of doubt over the fairness of the court system and how it is potentially discriminatory towards minorities.
This season is all about ICE detention centers. Remember the beautiful bond between Flaca and Maritza? Well, be ready to [cry in Spanish].
The Vancouver Province, for example, rated the season highly, even though for some viewers season six lost a lot of steam, and it claims that the strength of the season lies in the ICE storyline: “The trickiest storyline, however, belongs to a frightening and undeniably timely one that takes place in an immigrant detention center where women from Central America to the Middle East and beyond are stuck with cocky ICE agents, and without any answers or real hope of getting the better life they were initially seeking.”
Veteran actress Kate Mulgrew, who plays Soviet queen Red, told The Hollywood Reporter: “Using the kitchen as the aperture into ICE and the detention center was such a powerful device. When I walked onto that set I had to stand still and say, ‘Oh, my God. This is what we are doing.’ It’s being reflected for the first time on this show. The creative accountability is great and the creative risk is even greater. She’s got some balls, Jenji Kohan”. Alysia Reiner, who plays former warden Natalie “Fig” Figueroa, expanded in the same roundtable: “I lost it when we were shooting inside the immigration courtroom. We did three takes and I couldn’t stop crying. Our writers told us, “We went to these courtrooms. We didn’t candy-coat this, but this is not as bad as it actually is right now.”
So what happened to our favorite Latinas? Last warning, some SERIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD!
Maritza Ramos played by Diane Guerrero
Right from season 1 we fell in love with Maritza, the sassy Colombian queen who ended up in prison for her elaborate scams. She is a cornerstone of the last season: her storyline meets reality, as she faces the immigration authorities. In real life, Diane Guerrero’s parents were deported when she was just a girl. Guerrero told The Hollywood Reporter: “The treatment of Maritza’s ending was a portrayal of how people treat deportations — that sentiment that you vanish is true. It’s as if you’ve never existed. Martiza is on that plane to an uncertain life”. Life is stranger than fiction, however, and Maritza’s case is not uncommon in the era of Trump (at whom the scriptwriters take a good amount of jabs).
Gloria Mendoza played by Selenis Leyva
This boricua lady is fierce as it comes (she is played by a Cuban, though, but totally gets that Caribbean sass). She always puts family first, both in and outside prison. She is one of the few characters with a somewhat redemptive ending. Her story strikes true to many Puerto Ricans who are treated as foreigners in their own country. In the last season, we see how Gloria left the island initially to work in New York and provide for her children.
The mother-daughter duo: Aleida and Dyanara Diaz, played by Elizabeth Rodriguez and Dasha Polanco
We learnt so much more about Aleida in the last season. She is a strong Latina who has had to protect herself from handsy men her whole life. She is combative and that leads her back into trouble after her release. The relationship she has with her daughter Dayanara is the stuff that nightmares are made of.
Dayanara ended up all Scarface: running the prison with an iron fist. Or did she? (yes, we are giving you some spoilers, but no details here, no se espanten). Daya is the perfect example of how a twisted family can lead to an endless spiral of violence.
Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales played by Jackie Cruz
A cute and sometimes naive chola who is put in prison for drug fraud. She has a sisterly bond with Maritza. She is the typical inmate who ends up behind bars for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We leave her truly seeking redemption. The actress that plays her, Jackie Cruz, is a proud Dominican who is unafraid to speak about the biases in Hollywood. She told Elle about the roles that are available for actresses like her: “Lately, it’s been better. Well, the roles are still a little white-washed, but they’re better. It’s what a white person would think of a Latina. A white person writing for a Latina. For example, they don’t know that Dominicans don’t eat Chimichangas”.
Blanca played by Laura Gomez
Her scenes in the immigration court are heartbreaking. In this microcosm, we get to see what hundreds of migrant women are going through, being separated from their children in some cases and facing deportation to a country they barely remember in others. Gomez told Digital Spy: “That was such a twist for everybody, myself included, and I could never have imagined that it was going to feel so emotional for people. The response on social media to this was devastating. Because we’re living this in real-time, it’s not like we’re telling a story in the past… It should be a story that isn’t happening”. Her story is very accurate, according to reports, particularly in how advocacy groups such as Freedom for Immigrants have been targeted by ICE and seen their advocacy efforts sabotaged. As a representative of the organization told In Style: “In 2013, ICE shut down three visitation programs that we were affiliated with, in response to a Huffington Post blog we wrote. Our personal cell phone numbers also have been blocked at various points in time from immigrant jails and prisons. And while we have continued to offer free phone calls to people in detention thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are still fighting to get our hotline restored”
Maria Ruiz played by Jessica Pimentel
The Dominican freedom fighter! Her dad was an activist and she finds herself being angry at life for most of the show. She was pregnant when she was incarcerated and has a thorny relationship with her baby’s dad, who is taking care of little Pepa while Maria is in prison. Her crime: selling fake jeans. Yes, really.
The end of one of our favorite shows, Jane the Virgin, is near. For almost five years (it was first aired in 2014) we have followed the adventures of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, our heroine who was wrongly inseminated. Jane’s journey was also related to her career as a writer, a vocation that she tries to follow even though life sometimes gets in the way. The narrative accomplishes something almost impossible to pull off: it makes outrageous telenovela situations feel close to us. The 100th and last ever episode will be aired on July 31st, and fans are getting their tissue box ready for what promises to be a tearful finale. Because we don’t like goodbyes we will start our farewell now. These are some of the reasons why we consider Jane the Virgin to be a watershed moment in the history of Latino representation in mainstream television, and why we will miss Jane, her lovers, her family, and her amazingly quirky son. A llorar se ha dicho.
1. Jane the Virgin was finally a show that represented the many complexities of Latino communities in the U.S.: it made us laugh and cry in equal measures.
There have been some shows about Latinos in the United States, and titles such as Netflix’s Mr. Iglesias seem to be gaining more traction. However, Jane the Virgin could break into the mainstream, escaping the niche denominator of “Latino”. It was wonderful to see the very specific Florida Latinidad represented on the screen.
2. The show discussed the uncomfortable issue of migration and the perilous path to citizenship. Te queremos, Alba!
The show touched in one of the main issues that define the Latino experience in the United States: migration. Alba’s citizenship journey was equally stressful and hard to watch, and we are sure it resonated with millions of Latino families in how vulnerable migrants can be before attaining citizenship. A call to action that was also told in a tender, extremely human way.
3. Jane proudly wore her Latina identity, in her life and literary work.
Instead of trying to “fit in” with Anglo culture to blend, Jane Gloriana Villanueva embraces and celebrates her Latina identity. From her clothes to her cultural references (Chilean novelist Isabel Allende makes a cameo!) and her literary work, she tries to uncover what Latina identity means today in matters of love, family, sex and professional life.
4. It showed us that true friendship with your exes and your exes’ exes is possible (you know this is a telenovela, right?)
Well, maybe this is not that in tune with reality, pero se vale soñar. We love how Petra, Jane, and Rafael find a way to co-parent three cheeky monkeys.
5. It gave us a strong, independent, queer woman.
Petra is perhaps the character that developed the most. She went from being a terrible telenovela villana to being a member of the Villanueva clan. Her backstory is fascinating and through the seasons she found a way to discover herself: she is a survivor, and the ultimate way to survive is accepting who she is a powerful queer businesswoman, and a loving mother who allows herself to be vulnerable and ask for help.
6. It serves us some old-world Latino charm.
When Jane imagines her romantic epics, and also when Alba tells her life story, we get to see some of the old world Latino charms that have made the romantic narrative a staple of the region. This is also a way to deal with
7. It provided us with one of the most truthful representations of the joys, frustrations, and awesomeness of parenthood.
Right from her pregnancy, Jane embodied the shock and delights of motherhood. The show does not give us a vanilla version of how pregnancy sorta wrecks the female body and how hard it is to raise a child. Mateo is Jane’s world, and it is amazing to witness Jane embrace her power, but also her cluelessness as to how to be a mother. Nadie nace sabiendo.
8. Four words: Rogelio De La Vega.
Mexican actor Jaime Camil, a former telenovela heartthrob, found his ideal character in Rogelio De La Vega. He is funny and charming, vulnerable and the best father ever. We would totally watch a spin-off featuring only him!
9. The genuine chemistry and friendship shared by the cast.
Gina Rodriguez and Jaime Camil really do look like father and daughter in this photo. Judging by interviews and their social media accounts (including photos of Gina’s recent wedding), cast members have formed a true family offscreen, which translates into the amazing chemistry we see in the show.
10. The show is a true picture of the multicultural United States.
Yes, the cast is primarily Latino or plays Latino characters (even the blonde Michael has a Latino last name: Cordero), but the show has Eastern European, Anglo, Black and even Indian characters. Rather than being insular and only focus on Latinos, it is a mosaic of the cultural diversity of Florida, where the narrative takes place.
11. Primero la familia: a message that resonated with Latino audiences worldwide.
Through the show, we are witness to the perpetuation of family rituals. The Villanuevas have dinner together, come rain or come shine, and they spend time together even if they are upset at each other. Later in the show, Petra and Jane find a way to create new traditions for Mateo and the twins, unlikely half-siblings who are growing up together.
12. Simply put, Jane the Virgin is funny as hell.
Jane the Virgin is a cleverly written comedy that blends huge amounts of drama, very tender and human moments, and gags that are anything but cheap. Every joke or unusual situation in the show reveals something about the characters rather than looking for cheap laughs. For example, when Jane’s life spins out of control she usually becomes very clumsy: the physical comedy reveals characters’ inner state. We can also think of Rogelio’s hilarious gift baskets! (we wouldn’t mind getting one by the way). Or how Petra’s twins often make reference to the creepy duo from the horror film The Shining.
13. But above all, the show gives full agency to female characters, something rare in any TV show.
In today’s media industry, it is extremely rare for a female-led television show or film to be approved, even more so if the character is a Latina played by a relatively unknown actress. Jane the Virgin was a rarity and a novelty: a sitcom that got pretty dark at times, which offered dialogue in Spanish and was unashamedly influenced by telenovelas. The Villanueva queens and Petra drove the narrative, un matriarcado televisivo like no other. Jane did not make her decisions solely based on what her romantic counterparts demanded: she was in control of her feelings, her sexuality and her experience as a mother. We will miss you, Jane hermosa.