“Gentefied,” a Netflix series that highlights the Catholicism of Mexican Americans, was canceled after two seasons last month.
The series was written, produced and directed by Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez and is set in Boyle Heights, California. It tells the story of a Mexican-American immigrant family trying to keep their family taco shop afloat amid the rapid gentrification of their neighborhood. The first season tackles the nuances of citizenship status, race, class, and the issue: Are you Latino enough?
After the first season aired in 2020, reviews were mixed: Many were happy to finally witness a new drama centered around a Mexican-American Catholic family trying to navigate a changing neighborhood in Boyle Heights, but there was also critics. Many viewers wanted the show to better address anti-darkness and colorism within the Latinx community. The only recurring Afro-Latino character was Yessika Castillo, played by Julissa Calderon, who is the girlfriend of Ana Morales, played by Karrie Martin Lachney. In the first season, the creators barely offer Yessika a backstory. Many have wondered if Mexican American representation should come at the expense of anti-blackness advocacy.
The second season was an opportunity to work on these criticisms.
In the second season, the show’s writers make a concerted effort to center Yessika and other Black Latinx characters like Diana. This season, Yessika has a solo episode that begins with her addressing the anti-darkness she felt with her ex-girlfriend’s mother. This episode also explores stereotypes the Latinx community may have of Afro-Latinas such as assuming that because these women are black they don’t know Spanish.
In addition to better addressing anti-Blackness within the Latinx community, the second season sheds light on the family’s religious life.
The second season begins with the release of the main character, Pop, from a migrant detention center. As Pop travels to a new parish for the baptism of his new granddaughter – who was born while in custody – he can’t bring himself to enter the church confessional as the tight space has been triggering his PTSD ever since. the detention center. Throughout “Gentefied,” the Catholic Church lays the groundwork for a family healing from the trauma of immigration and this season has been no different.
In recent years, there has been an increase in Catholic films and television, but more often they center on white characters. This includes “Lady Bird”, “Derry Girls” and “Midnight Mass”. Yet for Latino Catholics, representation is still sorely lacking. While shows like “Jane the Virgin” and “One Day at a Time” — also canceled by Netflix after three seasons before being picked up by Pop TV — wonderfully explore the nuances of the Latinx American Catholic experience, as as community, we still need better representation.
Netflix — and Hollywood as a whole — have long failed when it comes to Latinx representation. In 2021, UCLA released a report which showed that only 7.1% of prospects in narrative TV shows are Latinx (compared to nearly 20% of the US population), while 76% are white. Several studies have found that Latinos are significantly underrepresented in all aspects of the film and television industry, both behind and in front of the camera. This lack of representation in turn has real challenges for Latin American communities.
The new season never broke The Netflix Top 10, a metric the company uses to gauge viewership. Yet, as Netflix must meet the demands of a profit-driven algorithm, the pull between Stories for Consumption and Stories for Narration continues. Investment in Latinx storytelling is necessary, but so is renewal and retention of shows that already exist.
In November 2021, America Ferrera, one of the show’s directors and executive producers, says Stephen Colbert in an interview that Gentefied is “a dream come true”. She explained that as a Latina who has worked in the industry for over 20 years, there was no role for someone like her when she started.
Ferrera sees shows like “Gentefied” as an opportunity to showcase talented Latinx creators. After its cancellation, Ferrera wrote: “It’s a small miracle and a monumental feat each time one of our stories comes to life.” With Netflix’s latest insult to Latino communities, the existence of shows like “Gentefied” seems more miraculous than ever.
The series showed us Latinx love, lessons on generational healing, and the range of immigration experiences in this country, while also focusing on issues such as colorism and trans consciousness.
For me, witnessing love and dating at different stages of life in season two speaks to the cross-generational wisdom of the Latinx community. Pop, the eldest in the series, remarries Lupe, representing what it means to find love again later in life. Erik Morales and Lidia are a couple who have been dating since high school and are learning about parenting, while committing to heal together from their family traumas. Season two also brings new love through main character Chris Morales as he falls in love with Saraí and Ana, who tries to be single again. The acting is believable, the plots are fresh, and we want to know where these characters go next.
Finding a television series that tells the stories of Latin American families is difficult. Finding a Latino story that also tackles what it means for Latinos to be culturally Catholic — while depicting the full range and diversity of Latinx communities and casting authentic Latinx actors — is even harder. When shows like “Gentefied” get canceled, Netflix fails Latinos.