Gina Rodriguez has used her platform time and time again to advocate for more diversity and representation of Latinos (and people of color in general) in film and TV. Now, with her production company, I Can & I Will, she’s stepping up in a big way producing two shows about Latinx immigrants. The first, Have Mercy, is about a Latina doctor who is unable to practice after immigrating to Miami – and subsequently sets up a makeshift clinic. The second is Illegal, based on the life of writer/producer, Rafael Augustin – the Ecuadoran-born, American raised man who didn’t learn he was undocumented until he was in high school. Illegal is particularly gripping and relevant given the current state of uncertainty many undocumented immigrants are living in – particularly DACA recipients.
The show is described as a modern-day The Wonder Years. It’s a “light one-hour about sixteen-year-old Rafael. He is a charming but bumbling high school student just trying to survive puberty. But when this all-American teenager discovers that he is not American at all, his perfect Honor Roll world is turned upside down.”
Speaking to The Los Angeles Times, Rodriguez discussed the positive response she’s received and the importance a show like these means to a population who is often relegated to the sidelines. “I saw a lot of kids in my feed happy that their stories — or at least an aspect — are finally getting told. I’m not just talking about DACA or undocumented. I’m talking about all Latinos in this country wanting to feel present in this country and loved and supported.”
The fact is, immigration has been a dividing issue in this country, but also among the Latino community. There are many who feel as though they don’t have to support those who are currently in the struggle because they did it the “right” way – whatever that means. But Rodriguez, in her efforts reminds us that a) supporting those who are undocumented and who’s journeys are different is a point of human decency, and b) providing visibility for stories in the Latino community – no matter how different they may be from your own – is a win for all of us who want media to finally reflect the complex diversity and unwavering determination of Latinos.