Latines love entertainment. For years, we have been the top moviegoers — even though the films we watch rarely reflect our communities. While we represent 19% of the U.S. population, we make up only 4.6% of movie roles and 5.3% of TV roles. When we do see ourselves on the big or small screen, we are often playing one-dimensional characters or are cast in films riddled with stereotypes, tropes, and stories that fail to represent the totality of who we are. So we decided to hold Hollywood accountable. Welcome to La Nota, a column where we measure the (mis)representation of Latines in film and TV and grade projects against a Somos test that looks at gender, race, language, and more. This month, we’re grading the Amazon series “Primo.”
As a kid, whenever we visited Colombia, my family and I did an extended family tour across Bogotá, stopping by our relatives’ households, catching up with tíos, tías, and primos. I played with my primos, who I only saw every few years, in condominium parks and big backyards while trying to understand their Spanish and practice mine. My mother used to tell me that growing up, her best friends were her cousins, and that her tías and tíos were important parts of her formative years. I always wondered what my childhood would’ve been like if my Colombian family had been physically closer to me. Those days in Bogotá always felt turbulent as I struggled to recognize all the relatives who were so happy to see me, but also full of love, curiosity, and tenderness.
Watching Amazon’s Primo — centered on a San Antonio Latine teenager who starts his sophomore year of high school while living with his single mom and five uncles — felt like stepping into one of my family’s houses in Colombia. I always knew I was entering a place full of love for me and my immediate family, but I also understood that — because of the sheer amount of people we would meet — I would also inevitably encounter chaos, friendly yelling, and the sound of loud, danceable music. While the family in Primo is Mexican American, I couldn’t help but remember the houses full of people I visited throughout my childhood, where the only purpose was to welcome my family and show us that we were loved and missed, despite the distance.
The house in Primo is similarly always full of people eager to love each other however they are able to. For 16-year-old Rafa (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio), the chaos in his family home is both good and bad. On the one hand, his uncles are always willing to help him with dubious advice and somewhat flaky support. On the other hand, the input of five uncles can be overwhelming for a teenager who’s just figuring out who he is and what he wants, especially since all the uncles chose very different paths in their lives.
After learning his grades in high school might secure him a place in college, Rafa’s uncles’ different lifestyles become apparent, somewhat tormenting Rafa.
Ryan, played by Gentefied’s charming Carlos Santos, is a bank manager who wants Rafa to go to college. Rollie (Johnny Rey Diaz) is the uncle that doesn’t have a clear job and is considered a regular in the local jail and impresses Rafa with his rabble-rousing stories of meaningless scuffles in bars. Jay (Jonathan Medina) is the responsible wife guy uncle who says college is a scam when Rafa could work for Jay’s construction company to learn a trade. Mike (Henri Esteve) is a military man who believes Rafa should enlist so he can go to college for free after serving. And then there’s Mondo (Efrain Villa), the peaceful, sensitive brother who actually listens to their sister — and Rafa’s mother — Drea (Christina Vidal) and doesn’t meddle in Rafa’s future.
The five uncles provide much of the comedy in the show. They are always getting into trouble or fighting with one another, providing Primo, as they endearingly call Rafa, with the lawless love of Latine families.
At first, it’s hard to keep up with the amount of uncles on screen — it almost feels like there are too many, but that’s maybe the point. In my experience, Latine households are always filled to the brim, welcoming as many people as is physically possible, and Primo portrays this well. Soon enough, each uncle’s personality shines through the narrative, as Rafa tries to make a decision about his future. He would be the first person in his family to go to college, so stakes feel high. He tries to flirt with the girl of his dreams, Mya (Stakiah Lynn Washington), without allowing his family’s expectations and advice to overwhelm him. Despite the messes they make — which truly deliver laugh-out-loud comedy, as well as heartfelt moments — the uncles show up for Rafa and Drea in sweet and caring ways. I was glad to see Latine men portray those moments.
My favorite part of Primo is Christina Vidal’s portrayal of Drea, whose performance shines despite embodying a Latina caregiver stereotype. Drea raised the five brothers by herself because their mother was neglectful, and she continues to play this role in adulthood, both as a mother to Rafa and as a sister to her brothers. It is always a bit disappointing to see the only woman in the family be given the role of sole caregiver. Though her Mexican cooking isn’t very good, she seems to be the person who manages the mental load of their household and rescues her brothers when they’re in trouble. Still, I was happy to see that Drea isn’t exclusively a caregiver. She has her own interests, desires, and — understandably — a love for an empty household so she can relax and do whatever she wants. And when she does care for her brothers and Rafa, the tenderness of their conversations about their feelings reminds me of the family conversations in Jane the Virgin, which helped break ground on representing vulnerability within Latine families.
It’s becoming customary for me to point out in these columns how female characters in Latine shows often need further exploring and fleshing out. With Drea, she would benefit from storylines that demonstrate who she is outside the role of caregiver and outside her relationships with the show’s male characters. I was happy to see an episode where she got to rest when the house was empty. This is a rare scene in television: a Latina matriarch putting her feet up and reading a romance novel, being able to not care about anybody but herself for a few hours. Still, I want more. Does Drea have professional aspirations? What dreams did she give up to be the matriarch to her five brothers? What could she do with her life if Rafa goes off to college?
As it stands, Drea saves Primo from being a show solely about Latino men getting into trouble. Despite this, Primo is a funny, tender portrayal of a Latine family. It’s a joy to watch. Each uncle brings their own charm and goofiness to the family, making it a wholesome show the whole family can enjoy. Primo reminded me of how big, boisterous, and essential my family is. It made me miss my tíos, tías, and primos. In this sense, Primo has the potential to grow into a Latine family sitcom that viewers will remember fondly.
Gender & Sexuality: D
There are no LGBTQAI+ characters and few well-developed women characters.
Regional Diversity: D
The show, like most Latine series and films that have premiered in 2023, centers on a Mexican-American family, and there isn’t much cultural diversity outside of that. It must be noted that this time, at least, the setting is in San Antonio, Texas, rather than Los Angelos. I suppose that’s a win.
There isn’t any language-switching or Spanglish, which I thought was odd. But the truth is that many Mexicans Americans in the Southwest have been in the United States for several generations and may not speak Spanish or Spanglish. Also, there aren’t any forced accents I could detect.
Rafa’s love interest is a Black girl, which I was happy to see. While there are a variety of shades across characters, I still would have liked to see more regional diversity and racial diversity in the cast as the show is located in San Antonio, which has a 65% Latine population.
Stereotypes & Tropes: B
The uncles are a diverse bunch of Latino men, which I was really glad to see. There isn’t a single uncle who is a stereotype, and the fact there are so many uncles allows the writers of the show to diversify how we view Latino men on screen. Also, as I mentioned above, I was happy to see Drea being given time to rest even if she is the sole family caretaker. This show has the potential to continue challenging Latine stereotypes.
Was it Actually Good? A
I laughed out loud and got emotionally involved. I definitely recommend it.
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