My Favorite Shows Featuring Latinos

American TV shows like Modern FamilyThe Fosters, and even Lost featured Latino actors and characters, but they weren’t about Latinos. In fact, there are very few shows out there that have a majority Latino cast as the stars of the show. So for Hispanic Heritage month here are five of my favorite shows featuring Latino / Hispanic families.

¿Qué Pasa, USA?

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YEARS: 1977-1980
NO. OF SEASONS: 4
NO. OF EPISODES: 39
NETWORK: PBS
SUMMARY: The Peñas are a Cuban family living in (then) mostly white Miami

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: This was the first bilingual show on American TV and the first show I ever felt my culture was being represented in a genuine way. I find it hilarious because of the different generations within the household, the Cuban American conflicts of culture, and all the mispronounced words in both languages.

Jane the Virgin

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YEAR: 2014 – Ongoing
NO. OF SEASONS: 4 / Ongoing
NO. OF EPISODES: 64 / Ongoing
NETWORK: The CW
SUMMARY: A young woman finds out she is pregnant being a virgin.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Ok, I’ve talked about this show on the blog numerous times! If you haven’t watched it yet, then I don’t know what else to say. It has great characters, it’s funny, it has strong women, and sheds light on issues we normally don’t think about… like choosing to wait until marriage.

The Villanueva women are a Venezuelan family living in Miami as a tribute to the original Venezuelan telenovela the show is based on. This the second show on this list (and that I know of) that is bilingual and takes place in Miami.

George Lopez

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YEAR: 2002 – 2007
NO. OF SEASONS: 6
NO. OF EPISODES: 120
NETWORK: ABC
SUMMARY: George Lopez is trying to raise his family in spite of his own dysfunctional upbringing with his alcoholic mother.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: This was one of my favorite shows to watch on Nick @ Nite. It’s about a Mexican family (the Cuban side shows up later) struggling just the same, they’re no different and it was awesome to have someone representing that on TV. While this show delves into more serious topics than the other two, like runaways, drugs, and other family struggles, it never stops being funny.

One Day At a Time

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YEAR: 2017 – Ongoing
NO. OF SEASONS: 1 / Ongoing
NO. OF EPISODES: 13 / Ongoing
NETWORK: Netflix
SUMMARY: Penelope is a single mother raising her two kids with the help of her mother.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: To be honest, this is not one my all time favorite on this list, but it is does a couple of things right. For one, I love Moreno’s role as the colorful Cuban grandmother that loves her Cuban coffee and the Pope. Secondly, I loved their slow steady approach to a coming out storyline, which I wasn’t expecting but was very well done. Although it’s supposed to be a sitcom, I would call it a dramedy because it’s equal parts funny and serious.

Orange is the New Black

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YEAR: 2013 – Ongoing
NO. OF SEASONS: 5
NO. OF EPISODES: 65 / Ongoing
NETWORK: Netflix
SUMMARY: While not exclusively about Latinas, the show is about the struggles of incarcerated women in Litchfield Penitentiary.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Ok, so this one is sort of a stretch considering that the Latinas account for about 1/3, maybe 1/4 (how to math?) for the prison population at Litchfield, BUT they are part of the show. What I love about this show, is that it shows Latinas from several countries like Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, among others. While the girls are in prison, we don’t see much of their culture, but it does come through in some of the flashback scenes.

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My Guilty Pleasure: Telenovelas

It is true. I watch telenovelas, and I love them.

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I’ve been wanting to talk about my love of telenovelas and Turkish dramas on this blog for a long time, since I started this blog over a year ago, but every time I sat down to write about them my mind goes in a thousand different directions. I want to talk about everything from my personal history, my experience with them, and my favorites. In other words, I have too many thoughts and I never know how to organize them into coherent sentences. So, this Telenovela discussion will come in parts.

Part I: Personal History

Growing up in a Hispanic household there has always been a Telenovela playing on TV and I would watch them with my mother. Sometimes, if the novela was really good my dad would join in. It was a family affair and everyone was invested and would wait for the next episode the following day.

However, somewhere along the way I stopped watching until a couple of  years ago when I started rewatching one of my favorites. That’s when I got heavily (and maybe obsessively) invested in them again.

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It came at a time where every show I  was watching was dealing with intense topics, all the characters were dying, other were miserable, and no one was happy, not even me. What’s worse is that I didn’t know how long I’d have to wait for a happy ending… or any ending… hopefully, a satisfying ending. With Telenovelas, I know I’ll get that ending whatever it might be despite the intense topics, dead characters, unhappiness, angst, etc. With most serialized shows, you’re never guaranteed a proper ending. Yes, I’m looking at shows like The United States of Tara and Star Crossed.

From then on I’ve consistently managed to watch at least one telenovela. I’ve watched novelas from Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela among others. I’ve even somehow added Turkey to that list although technically they’re called dramas (but they put them on Telemundo).

Part II: Stereotypes & Me

Within my community there’s that stereotype that only moms and grandmothers watch telenovelas, so when I, a 21 year old, say I watch them and like them, people tend to be surprised.

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Meanwhile, others think that all novelas are bad, and I’m here to say that not all of them are bad. Like EVERYTHING in life, some things are bad and some things are really good, and telenovelas and foreign dramas are not the exception to that. I think that’s why I really wanted to write about this, to debunk that stereotype.

Another stereotypes that I’ve heard is that the stories are ridiculously outrageous.  Ok, so that’s not exactly a lie, but not every novela is like that either. I think that instead of focusing on the ridiculousness, we should focus on how much of it makes sense for the story and its characters. Because if we were to focus on how outlandish these stories we might as well never watch television or any kind. Or are you telling me it’s completely believable that a one person can survive through bombs, shooters, plane crashes, pregnancies, and drownings like Meredith Grey? Or why is it that everything bad happens to the doctors in that hospital? That show is practically a soap opera!

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Part III: My Favorite Shows

TITLE: Yo Soy Betty, la FeaImage result for yo soy betty la fea
TRANSLATION: I Am Betty, the Ugly
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE: Spanish
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Colombia
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 169
PREMISE: Betty is a brilliant economist who can’t seem to get a job anywhere because of her unattractive appearance until she lands a job in Eco Moda, a fashion empire. There befriends the other secretaries and falls in love with her boss, but scorned by everyone else.

WHY I LOVE IT AND YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: One of my favorite novelas is undoubtedly Yo Soy Betty, La Fea translated to “I Am Betty, The Ugly”, but most people know her as Ugly Betty. There is so much love for this story and the main character. She is adorable and awkward and incredibly smart and in love. At the time, having an “ugly” protagonist was groundbreaking because most protagonists were tall and incredibly beautiful. Betty broke with that stereotype by having a protagonist wear unfashionable clothes (for the time), braces, glasses, a hideous hairstyle.

Image result for avenida brasil posterTITLE: Avenida Brasil
TRANSLATION: Brazil Avenue
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE: Portuguese
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Brazil
NUMBER OF EPISODES: ???
PREMISE: After losing her father, sent to a dump, and eventually adopted by an Argentinian family, Nina comes back as an adult to get revenge from her former step-mother. However, her revenge becomes increasingly complicated when love enters the equation.

WHY I LOVE IT AND YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: This was the first Brazilian telenovela I ever watched, and I’m so glad I did. The story alone is captivated me from episode one, but then I met the main characters and the villainous Carmina, and that’s how I found my new obsession. This show has a huge cast and several storylines, some of which are absolutely ridiculous and I didn’t care for, but some are funny and others are heartbreaking. Either way, there is something for everyone. But personally, I was in it for Nina’s complicated love life and for her revenge, but I was DEFINITELY in it for Carmina, the biggest baddest villain I’ve seen in a while. That’s not something you usually hear, but that speaks volumes of how great the actress is. Not only that, but this show caused a standstill in Brazil when it first aired.

I’ve heard the premise is similar to Revenge, but I’ve never seen that show *gasp?* We also named our dog after Nina.

TITLE: Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne?Image result for what is fatmagul's fault
TRANSLATION: What is Fatmagul’s Fault?
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE: Turkish
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Turkey
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 169
PREMISE: Fatmagul is a young bride to be until her world is turned upside down when she’s raped by men of the powerful Yasaran family, suddenly she’s forced to hide what happened and find a way to cope with what they’ve done to her.

WHY I LOVE IT AND YOU SHOULD LOVE IT: I have no words to describe how much love I have for this show. It’s not the usual semi happy premise and the romance is practically nonexistent in the beginning, but the reason why I LOVE this show is for the way they dealt with the issue of rape. They find a way to discuss every single part of  what happens to Fatmagul from her recovery to her new husband’s guilt over not stopping the assault although he didn’t rape her. They take their time telling her story. It was incredibly refreshing to see a story like this handled in this manner because I’ve seen too many telenovelas that gloss over this issue.

Part IV: Telenovelas on Netflix and Hulu

Unfortunately, none of my favorites are on Netflix or Hulu, but there are other shows I’ve loved on these platforms.

TITLE: Juana la Virgen Image result for juana la virgen
TRANSLATION: Jane the Virgin
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE: Spanish
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Venezuela
STREAMING SERVICE: Hulu
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 152
PREMISE: Juana has dreams of studying photography in the U.S. when suddenly she discovers she’s pregnant despite being a virgin. The CW show is based on this telenovela.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: The premise is absurd, but the rest of the show is more about the relationships between Juana, her family, her friends, and of course her love interest, Mauricio de la Vega. The original show definitely focuses much more on the pregnancy than what happens after the pregnancy, but if you want a whole list of differences then I recommend reading my blog post about it.

Other Blog Posts About Jane the Virgin:

 

TITLE: Pasion de GavilanesPasión de gavilanes poster.jpg
TRANSLATION: Passion of Hawks
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE: Spanish
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United States / Telemundo
STREAMING SERVICE: Netflix
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 188
PREMISE: The Reyes brothers attempt to avenge their sister’s death by seducing the Elizondo sisters, but things get complicated when love enters the equation.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Okay, so this isn’t the best on this list, but there is so much sex appeal and beauty it’s hard not to watch it because everyone is so hot on this show. As for the story? It is full of secrets and intrigues that it keeps you on your toes to see what happens next. So many good secrets and I love watching the reveal for every single one.

TITLE: GonulImage result for gonul
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE: Turkish
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Turkey
STREAMING SERVICE: Netflix
NUMBER OF EPISODES: 38
PREMISE: Gonul is about to marry the man of her life until old secrets and new doubts make her think twice of the commitment she’s about to take.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: This show sheds a light on spousal abuse and how people can get caught in it without realizing it. I loved watching the protagonist grow strong despite all the obstacles she’s forced encounter. And as always, I’m amazed by how beautiful Turkey’s scenery is. It’s so different from what I’m used to seeing.

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Popular Characters I Don’t Like

There are a lot of things in pop culture I don’t care for or I just don’t understand the hype surrounding it. That includes some characters from popular shows and books. Before I continue, I want to say these are just my opinions. If you think differently, please let me know, I’d love to know why you do love these characters, maybe you’ll help me change my mind about them.

Lola from Lola and the Boy Next Door

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I’ve never heard any one say something bad about this book or its characters, and I for the most part loved this book… except for Lola. In the book she spends the majority of her time making outrageous outfits to wear every day. I have no problem with that, but it always felt like she was hiding something and she was. I never felt like I knew who was the real Lola, and that really bugged me. In some ways it felt like she never once let her guard down, and from a reader’s standpoint, I would have liked to see some vulnerability from her. No make-up no big outfit, just her.

 

Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls

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I’m sure I’m going to get crucified for this but, it’s true I don’t like Rory Gilmore. Why? She’s too perfect in an annoying sort of way. Even when she makes mistakes it’s not the type of mistake that is fun to watch on screen. She is beautiful, very smart, mostly rich, and everyone she ever meets loves her. Doesn’t that sound annoying? Maybe I am wrong, after all it feels like the entire world is in love with Rory and the show, but me. If you like Rory (or don’t) please let me know. I honestly don’t know why I’ve kept watching the show if I keep cringing all the way through.

 

Mako from Legend of Korra

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I’ll be honest, I once liked Mako in the beginning of the show. I especially loved him in the later seasons, but I did not like him in the first two seasons. Why? Because he was a horrible boyfriend to Asami and later again with Korra. He never officially broke up with Asami before he started seeing Korra. He then lied to Korra about ever breaking up after he had kissed Asami during their break! That love triangle was just one big clusterf&*@, and clearly Mako didn’t handle it well. I much prefer his awkward self in books 3 and 4 than his complicated relationship self from books 1 and 2.

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5 Reasons to Watch Black Mirror

When I first heard of this Netflix show, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I am so glad I started watching it. It’s one of my favorite shows ever and definitely my favorite show Netflix has produced.

REASON #1: It’s an Anthology

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One of the things I like about Black Mirror is that it’s not serialized, meaning you can watch any episode in any order and your viewing experience won’t change because of it. I still recommend watching it in order (maybe it’s me being picky about order, there is a reason why they distributed the episodes in the order they chose) but it’s also refreshing and relaxing to know that there’s no pressure in watching the show in any particular order. They’re like standalone books instead of series… and you know how much I love my standalones.

It’s not enough for this show to have completely different stories each episode, it also has a completely different cast every episode too.

REASON #2: It’s Really Weird / Very Science Fiction

This show is weird, there is no other way to describe it. It’s so interesting to see how they incorporate different types of technology in each episode from nano-bot bees to realistic game simulators. The premise of each episode sucks you into a new mind boggling world that leaves you wondering what happens next. All the episodes have some elements of dystopian worlds, but some are more futuristic than others, but they are all F*&#ed up. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

REASON #3: It Has a Message

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At face value, the show appears to be weird with no real plot or story besides showcasing a weird world, but it has a message. Weird fiction as a genre almost always has a message that delivered through it’s weirdness, Black Mirror is no different. The episode, Nosedive demonstrates how social media can either better or ruin our lives. I also has a few episodes showing what happens when people take justice into their own hands and how it’s not always a good thing.

REASON #4: Twists and Turns

For a show that switches the characters and casts it sure can pack an emotional punch to the gut within an hour of meeting a new character. There are several episodes where I’m left incredibly conflicted about the protagonists and that’s always a good sign of a good show.

Whenever you start a new episode, you’re shoved into a new world and its along with the characters that you start uncovering what is happening in the show. It’s a slow process to the realization that the world is really F&*%ed up.

REASON #5: Easter Eggs

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Every episode is completely independent from the other but is it really? The show has a bunch of Easter Eggs in each episode. There are several mentions or callbacks to the Prime Minister from The National Anthem”, or the logo from White Bear”, or how about that song that keeps popping up from “Fifteen Million Merits”. They’re simply Easter Eggs hidden for your viewing pleasure, it also makes me want to watch the show again.

 WARNING: This is a show that is DEFINITELY not suitable for children.

Review: Before I Fall (Movie)

TITLE: Before I Fall 
DIRECTOR: Ry Russo-Young
RUN TIME: 99 minutes
SUMMARY: After a car accident, Samantha Kingston is forced to relive the same day over and over again until she starts reevaluating her life and those around her.
STARRING: Zoey Deutch | Halston Sage | Logan Miller | Kian Lawley | Jennifer Beals | Elena Kampouris
LANGUAGE: English
GENRE: Teen Drama
NOTE: This is the movie adaptation of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
RATING: 4/5   Continue reading

11 Reasons to Watch Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin is one of my favorite shows and I’m going to tell you why. 

Reason #1 Latino Representation

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This is one of the few television shows that I’m aware of on American television where the protagonist is latina and it’s not ever a thing. There are no stereotypes and that’s refreshing to see. Not to mention that many of their celebrity guest stars are latin stars like Juanes, Emilio & Gloria Estefan (Miami royalty), and Paulina Rubio. 

Reason #2 The Virginity Issue

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Yes, the protagonist is a virgin and waiting for marriage to lose it, and that’s not something we usually see on television or in media, period. It’s representing a portion of the population we don’t normally recognize. However, what I LOVE about the way they’re handling it is that Jane’s virginity does not make her a prude or saint. She’s human and makes mistakes and has her own imperfections, it just so happens that she is a virgin.

Reason #3 It’s a Telenovela

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The show is based on a Venezuelan telenovela from the early 2000s. But, as someone who has watched the original show, Jane the Virgin is a lot more dramatic than the original. It uses all the tropes telenovelas are known for from miraculous births, wedding or birth finales, crazy identities, evil stepmothers, and so much more. The show knows it’s ridiculous which lends itself for humor.

Reason #4 Bilingual Show

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Notice the “in spanish”

One of my favorite sitcoms was Que Pasa en USA from the 70s and it was bilingual. The characters easily spoke spanish and english with ease and they are understood each other. Jane the Virgin has this too where characters speak spanish and english in the same scene and understand each other with ease. I love this about JTV because it’s so true to life (at least my life) where households easily go back and forth between the languages.

Reason #5 Love Triangle Works

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For the most part, I despise love triangles. They’re not believable and most of the time you know who the protagonist will choose in the end. In JTV, the decision between Rafael and Michael is hard. They’re both great and have faults of their own making the choice difficult for the audience and Jane as well.

Reason #6 Modern Family

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The lives of the characters and their roles within this expanding family get increasingly more difficult and stranger. Despiute the chaos, the characters mange with their odd little family and when you see them getting along, it is so worth it. So much so, that I almost want to cry happy tears.

Reason #7 Great Writing

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The writing on this show is phenomenal. I’m not even sure if I can explain this properly but the writers know what they’re doing from writing dialogues, to the narrator’s voiceover, to the way they cut from scene to scene.

Reason #8 It’s Relevant

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The show is also relevant and point things out like immigration reform and the clusterf&*# that is Venezuela today. (Seriously, google Venezuela and you might be horrendously surprised with what’s going on over there) They’re aware of the issue and inject it in the story in a somewhat subtle way, but they don’t drive the rest of the story.

Reason #9 The Narrator

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I think this is the only show to have a narrating voice through the whole show, and I love it. He might not be an actual character, but he is one of my favorite persons in the show. And makes the show unique and special from the others.

Reason #10 Rogelio

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For those who don’t know seeing Jaime Camil in this role of a self absorbed, celebrity obsessed, narcissist telenovela star with a good heart is priceless and funny in itself. Jaime Camil in real life was known for his mexican telenovelas. I know of them although I never watched them, but he is by far one of my favorite characters.

Reason #11 Petra

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As much as I’d like to properly explain this one, I can’t because of spoilers.

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Review: Persepolis (Movie Adaptation)

TITLE: Persepolis Image result for persepolis movie
DIRECTOR: Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud
RUNTIME: 96 minutes
SUMMARY: Marjane Satrapi tells the story of her life living in Iran in the midst of the cultural revolution.
LANGUAGE: French
GENRE: Coming of Age | Animated
NOTES: Based on the graphic memoir, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Quickly after I read Persepolis, I found out there was a movie adaptation from a couple of years back. The movie was co directed by Marjane Satrapi, the author of the graphic novel, and Vincent Paronnaud. It was also nominated for best animated feature film in various award shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globe. So, of course I had to find this film and watch it.

I wish I could say I went on a quest. That I had to face metaphorical dragons and find metaphorical unicorns to get my hands on this holy movie in DVD, but the truth is much more boring than that. I went to my local library and checked it out.

So onto the review!

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The first thing that surprised me about the film was the animation style. It is exactly like the comics, but the drawings just happen to move and talk. It was weird to see such a unique style in animation film when I’m so used to watching today’s modern 3D cartoon (example, Zootopia) or even the original 2D cartoons (example, Lion King)  but I loved it either way. That’s already the first sign of how this film stays true to the source material. If anything it made it stand out even more.

The animation is in black and white except for a couple of scenes. Ironically though, the scenes in color felt the weirdest because they felt like they didn’t belong. Personally, I prefferred the black and white scenes more. However, that doesn’t matter because 95% of the film is in black and white.

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The movie is exactly like the memoir. By this, I mean that essence and main points of Marjane’s memoir are in the movie. They don’t focus on every little detail but stick to what’s important. Call it the highlights of the book. I preferred it that way because, if I’m honest, there are parts of the book that I wasn’t fully invested in. It still shows what it was like for Marjane to grow up in Iran, all the hurdles and changes the government made her go through. It shows her teen years in France and her return. It’s not an exact replica, but we shouldn’t expect it to be. As far as graphic novel to film adaptations go, this movie is a must see.

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