I cried real tears during Lucia’s speech. Let me set the stage for you. Lucia is a 16-year-old American girl and her parents have been deported. She’s mad. And she’s already tried all the typical teenage stuff – she’s rebelled against her teachers and her priest. She’s switched friend groups and spent a lot of energy trying to save someone else. Now, she’s finally found something useful to channel her energy into, an immigrants’ rights group.
The great thing about this Party of Five is how seriously it takes the triumphs and defeats of its four principle young people and Lucia’s activism is the perfect example. We see her met the activist Teresa Sullivan (“Sulli” for short) by chance and seek out her help for her friend Matthew. When Sulli doesn’t do what Lucia’s asking for (talk Matthew into renewing his DACA) but instead gives her some real talk, Lucia’s hooked. Next, she’s training to make fundraising calls. When that doesn’t work (she’s not exactly going to change the world if she keeps raising just $87.75 every three hours), she gets a better idea. Soon she’s organizing a talent showcase at her family’s restaurant. Emilio’s band is set to perform, the new nanny (and Emilio’s latest love interest) Natalia reads one of her poems. They exceed their fundraising goal.
But not before we see Lucia push herself even more. When she meets Allison Morales, another woman working at the nonprofit (trying to organize the restaurant workers to demand more wages no less), she encounters a different model of motivation. Allison withholds praise and shades Lucia into “telling her story.” Her approach works. On stage, Lucia tells of the pride her dad took in always shaving and how the detention center took that away from him. She characterizes the pain of it by saying, “It’s on purpose of course. There aren’t supply shortages or inadequate funds. Cruelty is the point. Withholding anything that allows people to feel cared for or understood is the point. That’s the fight. It’s not the biggest fight or the ultimate fight. But it’s tonight’s fight.” Cue the waterworks.
After Lucia’s turn on stage, Emilio is up next. Whether he’s overcome by emotion from his sister’s words or just spooked, he ends up bombing, forgetting his own lyrics and leaving the stage in a huff. After Lucia’s speech, Emilio’s rockstar aspirations may seem silly to some but I didn’t think so. He gave up his dream, maybe his calling, because of what happened to his parents. He can’t go on international tours because of his own DACA status. The circumstances of his birth and his parents’ are limiting his potential and that sucks.
LIkewise, Valentina spends the episode trying to keep together her ruse of really being “Amanda Davis,” the exact name of the white girl her mother’s watching. She too is caught up in a wave of circumstance. The youngest of the non-baby Acostas, she’s the one who most misses her parents, who most needs their guiding hands. Without them, she seems lost, trying to wish herself into a more privileged existence. But, of course, life doesn’t work that way. Whether it’s her name, her parents’ immigration status, or her brown skin, Val (Valentina) Acosta is going to experience more than her fair share of injustice in life.
We all know life isn’t fair but don’t we all want it to be? I think the problem is that what looks “fair” to some smacks of discrimination to others. Party of Five is helping to bridge that divide by inviting the whole nation into a Latinx living room, allowing everyone to see what the world looks like from our point of view. I hope the show causes a real-life chain reaction. I mean, think about it: Lucia’s advocating for her fictional father but also the real immigrants in those centers. It is inspirational to see how one person, a young woman of color no less, can make a difference, even if it’s just a dramatization. If you want to join Lucia and prove that people like her matter, consider donating to groups like RAICES or finding another way to get involved. Perhaps together, we can make heartbreak like the Acosta’s less prevalent.