WARNING: SOME SPOILERS AHEAD
Gordita Chronicles says so much in the title alone and while body positivity is foundational to the series, it’s also a spotlight on Dominican culture and the immigrant stories we don’t often see on television. Show creator Claudia Forestieri developed the series inspired by her own life growing up as a gordita Dominican immigrant in Miami in the 1980s. The sprinkling of nostalgia is the backdrop for the sitcom that beautifully marries the reality of life for many immigrants in the U.S. with comedic storylines and it all comes together cohesively through the writing and acting, mostly from Latinx talent. The Castelli family is played by Diana Maria Riva (Adela), Juan Javier Cardenas (Victor), Savannah Nicole Ruiz (Emilia), and newcomer Olivia Goncalves as the lead character, Carlota “Cucu” Castelli. From Adela navigating driving in the U.S. to the world of couponing to Victor’s boss confusing him for the Latino janitor at work to Cucu and Emilia figuring out how to make friends, the Castellis go through the assimilation pains that many immigrants can relate to.
Showrunner and writer Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz, whose mother was a Colombian immigrant, and Forestieri are the first Latina showrunner and creator duo and it’s their authenticity and passion for the project that shines through on the screen. The show has been in the works since 2016 with Forestieri telling HipLatina that she was inspired to work on this after Donald Trump’s statements about Mexican immigrants when he called them “rapists” and “criminals”. She shares that it angered her and also fueled her to write a script inspired by her own immigrant story and together with Muñoz-Liebowitz and their team, it’s come to life and premiered on HBO Max June 23. “All these stories are from our — the writers — own lives. They are an amalgamation of our families and our experiences and they are precious and personal yet, I also think, evocative of the experiences so many others have had,” Muñoz-Liebowitz tells HipLatina. She shares that the scene in episode 109 when Adela and Victor are on the dance floor as Juan Luis Guerra’s “Si Tu Te Vas” plays makes her “teary-eyed” as its reminiscent of a time before their immigration. The moment is then interrupted by a request for “Working for the Weekend” which she describes as “the comedic reminder of America’s values, agenda, and taste in music.”
Forestieri shared during an IG Live with HipLatina that one of the scenes that was pulled from her own life was when Cucu is asked not to speak Spanish in class. When she came in 1981 at the age of 7, she didn’t speak any English and got in trouble in class: “I got put in the corner, I got put outside in the Florida sun and one time I was left out there for a few hours, my teacher forgot about me and everyone went to lunch without me.” On the show, they explain how in in 1980 the law designated English as the official language of Dade County where Miami is located.
That scene is ultimately an empowering one for Cucu and through it all we see how emboldened she to eventually stand up for herself to her teacher. Throughout the series we see her find her strength in difficult situations including when she competes in a pageant surrounded by girls that don’t look like her. For executive producer Eva Longoria, telling a body positivity story through Cucu was part of the draw for working on this project.
“Cucu is the moral compass of our show. She stands her ground and feels powerful in her space. I really love that this is from her perspective and know it will give so many young girls and women strength,” Longoria tells HipLatina.
That’s feeling of being seen is one that Riva can also relate to and as the daughter of Dominican immigrants she shares that Adela reminds her of the women in her family who are devoted to their families. “I love being a part of telling this family’s story because every immigrant journey is unique and those stories should be heard,” Riva tells HipLatina. “In a day and age where women, especially our daughters, are living in a world of constant ‘compare & contrast’, and being dictated what they should and shouldn’t look like, this show does the opposite. The show uplifts and empowers young people with body and self acceptance, and It’s a message I strongly believe in.”
She adds that having been in the business for 20 years, it’s “thrilling” to be a part of project that has so many Latinas in front and behind the camera. According to Forestieri, the writers collective provided a “sancocho of perspectives” and fellow Dominicanas Zoe Saldaña and her sister, Cisley Saldaña, who were devoted to the series as soon as they read the script, joined the series early on as producers and then with Muñoz-Liebowitz and Longoria as the director of the pilot episode, the show has its “Latina Dream Team” as Forestieri says. This BTS Latina representation translates to the authentic story telling much like we’ve seen on shows including One Day at a Time, Gentefied, and Vida from Gloria Calderón Kellett, Linda Yvette Chavez, and Tanya Saracho, respectively.
“All shows should be made by a Latina team,” Longoria shares. “This show comes from a Latina showrunner, a Latina writer, Latina producers, and Latina directors. I think the final product really reflects the hard work we put into it.”
“I totally get why white guys love working with other white guys! But in all seriousness, it was truly amazing how on the same wavelength we all were. I never had to explain why something was funny or relevant — it was like we had a shared vision right from the start,”Muñoz-Liebowitz added.
Gordita Chronicles is available to stream now on HBO Max