Gentefied is a Spanglish mashup of gente (people) and gentrified that perfectly expresses what this bilingual comedy series on Netflix is about.
Set in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of L.A., Gentefied uses the extended Morales family to tell a story of change as developers move into a largely Latinx community and lives are disrupted.
The first scene in the series is Ana Morales (Karrie Martin) waking up with her girlfriend Yessika (Julissa Calderon). Their morning lovefest is interrupted by a Morales family emergency – an event that happens to them regularly.
Casimiro, or Pop, Morales (Joaquín Cosío) runs a taco joint. He’s the patriarch of the family and resistant to change. They are behind on the rent for the cafe and slowly going under.
Ana is Pop’s granddaughter. She’s an artist/bartender who lives rent free with her overworked mother Beatriz (Laura Patalano) and her younger sister Nayeli (Bianca Melgar).
Pop’s grandson Erik (J.J. Soria) works in the taco shop. He’s a bit of an underachiever who is facing the idea of fatherhood and settling down. His pregnant girlfriend Lidia (Annie Gonzalez) is definitely not an underachiever.
The other major character in the Morales family is Chris (Carlos Santos), another of Pop’s grandsons. Chris grew up in Idaho, went to college, and is in L.A. training to be a chef. His idea for a taco is a watermelon radish taco.
Often in Spanish, this series is a mix of the individual struggles of the Morales family as part of the larger struggles the whole neighborhood is facing because of gentrification.
Ana’s girlfriend Yessika works to help the growing homeless population and people displaced by rising rents. As buildings are snatched up by developers, businesses are in jeopardy and rents are jacked up. Several characters are forced to move away before the 10 episodes have finished. There were also story arcs about problems with the police and ICE.
A community of Latinx folks do all the usual things like fall in love, have babies, cook with love, read great books, make music and art. But they also have to deal with overwhelming problems that middle class white Americans don’t. In the world of Boyle Heights, you see that clearly.
Ana meets Tim (T.J. Thyne) and is excited because he hires her to paint a mural. He gives her an art show of her own. Yessika tries to make Ana see that Tim is part of what is destroying their neighborhood, but she’s blinded by the dream of success as an artist.
I thought the series got off to a slow start. I was particularly turned off by Erik’s aimless character because I have always liked J.J. Soria as an actor. But he made some growth. Yea! As the series progressed and the themes of family, brown love, and community were developed it became more interesting.
Ana and Yessika were not the only LBGTQ characters. Norma (Brenda Banda) who worked in the taco shop was, as well as Tim and numerous minor characters.
The acting was uniformly good, but Karrie Martin as Ana got the chance to show more range.
Although Netflix has not yet announced a second season, the cliffhangers at the end of this season are a perfect lead-in to an extended story.
Gentefied was created by Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez. Six of the ten episodes were directed by women – America Ferrera, Marta Cunningham, and Aurora Guerrero. In addition to directing, America Ferrera produced and made a cameo appearance.
Check out the trailer.
Are you planning to watch Gentefied? If you’ve already seen it, what did you think?