The Gordita Chronicles premiered on June 23, 2022, and I excitedly binged all 10 episodes on HBO. Following the Dominican pre-teen Carlota “Cucu” Castelli (Olivia Goncalves) and her family as they adjust to living in Miami, Florida in 1985, the comedy offers a nuanced and heartfelt story about migration and coming of age in a new environment and culture. Claudia Forestieri created the show from her own experiences as a Dominican immigrant, and she has worked alongside showrunner and writer Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz and executive producers Eva Longoria and Zoe Saldaña. As Mary Beltrán proposed in her new book, Latino TV: A History, Latina creators are changing the television landscape when pulling from their consciousness, feelings, and stories. And Gordita Chronicles is a wonderful example of the hope that can be found in creativity.
Unfortunately, great reviews and relevant, funny storytelling is not enough to keep a show on the air anymore. #GorditaNeedsANewCasa since HBO decided to cancel the Gordita Chronicles, a casualty of its move away from live-action children’s programming. So I wanted to share why you should consider watching and supporting the show NOW as it’s going to need a lot of love to make it to season two (warning – slight spoilers ahead)!
The Cast Shines and Cucu is A Diamond Among Gems
The Castelli’s are composed of the father Victor (Juan Javier Cardenas), the mother Adela (Diana-Maria Riva), the oldest daughter Emilia (Savannah Nicole Ruiz), and the youngest daughter and protagonist Cucu. The dynamic between the family is hilarious with each character shown as multifaceted in their quirks and strengths. Victor is organized and the type-A of the family, yet he is not the stereotypical patriarch who controls the family because Adela’s intelligence and versatility are also essential. Emilia is trying to find her identity while managing what it means to be popular at the expense of what she loves (she’s a closeted “theater kid”), giving cool nerds the representation we’ve been needing!
Cucu, though, has a firm grip on who she is, often displaying admirable confidence. But just because someone is confident doesn’t mean they can’t falter and grow. In the very first episode, Cucu lies to her new peers because she wants to replicate her social group from the Dominican Republic. Her lies catch up to her, but she decides to use her charm and energy to save herself. And it works as her grit and likability come from her self-assuredness. We see her confidence as she faces off with mean girls, claims her beauty at a pageant, and even when rejecting a date from a boy. Olivia Goncalves is a young actress to watch out for, radiating her sarcasm, charisma, and joy in every scene.
A Story that Challenges Stereotypes
Diversity in stories challenges the stereotypes that reduce the humanity of marginalized people. For their part, the Castelli’s undermine the flattening of Latinx culture since they are grounded as a Dominican migrant family living in Miami, a location most associated with Cubanidad, and the historical implications of the dominant Cuban migration narrative of political asylum. The family is proud of their heritage with Adela even expressing her nostalgia for the Dominican Republic and Cucu standing up for her Spanish as an essential skill. Additionally, the Castelli’s offer a complex migration story playing with the tension between expectations and the reality of the United States since they come from a privileged background but are met with setbacks during their move and settlement.
Disruption of the American Dream
The “American Dream” is significant in the Gordita Chronicles, even down to the episode titles, which all begin with “In America…” followed by the theme and lesson to come. The American Dream is connected to U.S. colonialism and capitalism, perpetuating the idea that anyone can succeed in the United States with enough hard work. “The Dream” erases the systemic acts of violence, continued theft of land from Indigenous people, and chattel slavery used to accomplish this success for a chosen few (white folks), hiding, and disregarding these injustices as an individual’s problem. My migrant family passed on the idea of the American Dream to me, encouraging me to work hard. But as I have grown up, I often question what dream am I achieving through what means.
The Gordita Chronicles addresses the promises and contradictions of the American Dream, disrupting what it is to be American along the way. For even as they try to assimilate into the country, the Castelli’s never let go of their roots. For example, one of the most impactful moments is when Cucu takes back gordita/chubby as a term of endearment as it is used in the Dominican Republic rather than subsuming to the U.S.’s demeaning definition. The Castelli’s could never be “American” – in part because for Cucu (if not her whole family), it would mean hating herself. To keep it light the show highlights the family’s exclusion from their new nation through comedy. The narrative also provides the Castelli’s a hilarious journey towards building their own configuration of Americanness, reminding us that there is more to “America” than the United States.
I hope to watch more of the Gordita Chronicles, but for now, let’s enjoy what we have and support the Latinx creators who made it – and who continue to write, act, delegate, and bring us amazing new stories.