These Are The Latinas Who Made OITNB Great And Why We Love Them So Much
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.
READ: Maritza’s Heartbreaking Storyline In ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Is A Reality So Many Undocumented People Face Every Day
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