‘Made in Mexico’ Cast Talks Racism, Colorism & Backlash to Their Reality Show

'Made in Mexico' Screengrab of Columba Diaz and Roby Checa. Courtesy of Netflix

When Netflix’s first Spanish-language reality series, Made in Mexico, was announced in late August, audiences took to the internet to voice their displeasure with what they felt was a gross showcasing of Mexico’s richest families when the country is overcome with poverty. With the trailer’s release a few weeks later, came another internet flare-up with many calling out the program for only featuring light-skinned Mexicans in the cast.

With the premiere date looming near, we wanted to give the cast a chance to respond to the backlash. At a press day for the series, they were asked how the average Mexican citizen, of which over 70 percent live in poverty, might relate to a series about Mexico’s wealthy elite. Roby Checa said, “Because it has nothing to do about whether we’re rich or not.” He continued, “Really, the show is about our own lives, that’s how we hope they will relate, the problems we have every day.”

The sentiment was echoed by Kitzia Mitre Jimenez-O’Farrill who did admit to having a family that is well off, but stressed that, “When I started my career in fashion, everyone was assuming my father bought me everything, which wasn’t the case. I went out and knocked on doors, got my own financers and I did it all. Did they pay for me to go to college so that I could do this? Yes, and from the bottom of my soul, I am very grateful, but everything else I have achieved of my own merit and qualifications, my dad isn’t paying for it.” In contrast, Columba “Colu” Diaz didn’t grow up wealthy but loves her parents deeply for supporting her and stated that everything she has now, “I have I worked for.”

When asked to comment on the perceived colorism of Made in Mexico, their responses did little to assuage the optics of a series already seen as problematic. Immediately, Jimenez-O’Farrill wanted to clarify her heritage. “I am 21 percent Aztec” she told Remezcla, “Race is in the mind of people; it’s non-existent. It’s been proven by science, over and over again, that we’re all immigrants. We’re all from everywhere. We all came from Africa. The color of your skin is just your phenotype. I might look Irish, but my Irish percent of my blood, is like 3 percent. I’m 21 percent Mexica; I’m a Native American. I might not look the part, but when they say I look ‘too white’ that’s just racism.” Diaz agreed with Jimenez-O’Farrill and added that audiences’ reactions about the cast’s skin color “is as racist as they think the program is. It’s super racist to say ‘they’re white.’”

Checa weighed in a little more, being that his family immigrated to Mexico from Lebanon, and said that perhaps the online anger was more because, “We’re not the prototype people would expect, you know? Perhaps they are used to seeing shorter or a little bit more tan, or whatever. That’s the issue – a lot of countries think that there’s a certain prototype, and that’s not true. [Mexico] it’s full of immigrants.”

It felt like perhaps they didn’t fully understand the concept of colorism. So, I took a second to explain there are studies that prove the darker your skin the less opportunities you are provided due to an inherent bias against black or darker skin, and that it’s a big problem across Latin America. I asked once more, if this was an issue in Mexico. Only Jimenez-O’Farrill responded, “It definitely is.” But then insisted that “we’re all equal.” She went on to explain that, “Equal opportunity things, I think they create even more racism. We’re all the same. Who cares what the color of your skin is?”

Made in Mexico debuts September 28, 2018 on Netflix.