There’s this thing that happens to us latinos, a thing that I was especially cognizant of as I sat down to watch Gentefied, a half-hour dramatic comedy adapted from the 2017 Sundance digital darling of the same name, and a show described as “a love letter to the Latinx and Boyle Heights communities,” which is fitting, considering its creators, Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez both first-gen chicanos.
What’s that thing, you ask, and why are you starting your review with this seemingly incongruent thought? Well, the thing is this: Latinos are often thought of as one community, and the differences between us homogenized because most of us (not even all of us) speak Spanish.
And I’m starting there because I have to, if I’m going to be fair to this story.
I’m not Mexican, or have any Mexican ancestry in me. Gentefied isn’t trying to tell my story, the characters they portray aren’t the ones I grew up seeing every day, are not my grandparents or my cousins. And yet, for as much as I’m really, really aware of the difference, and what that means for what I can say or not about the show, I am also very aware that the show is more for me than it is for the typical US audience.
When they speak in this beautiful and real Spanglish, I understand them. I’ve done the same. The food isn’t mine, but it’s still food I’ve grown up around. The idiosyncrasies might not be exactly what I’m used to, but this family is a hell of a lot more like my family than any other show I’ve grown up watching.
Hell, we all have an abuelito or a tio or even a primo that loves to walk around in those horribles calzoncillos.
And yet, Gentefied isn’t trying to tell a story for a specific group of people, it’s just trying to tell a story, and I just have to say, from one latinx millennial to a group of others: the story absolutely works. Gentrification isn’t a thing that affects just the latinx community, and it isn’t a thing that happens just in this neighborhood. It’s a common thing, happening around the world, and the struggles that come with that, the problems, and even the solutions, are, in many ways, something we can all understand.
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Just as we can understand the way these characters relate to each other, the ways they get on each other’s nerves, the ways they fall, and even they ways they get up – sometimes alone, sometimes with the help of the people that love them.
Not all stories are universal, but the stories of family, of finding your place in the world, of day to day life, have enough similitude in them that we should all be able to relate.
We’re all humans, after all.
So join “The Morales cousins (as they) scramble to save their grandfather’s taco shop — and pursue their own dreams — as gentrification shakes up their LA neighborhood.” Join us Joaquín Cosío, Karrie Martin, JJ Soria and Carlos Santos as they present us with a story that feels very personal, even when it goes places we would never think of going.
Let’s show Netflix, and the world that this is the kind of story we want more of.
Gentefied will be available to stream on Netflix this Friday, February 21st.