To tune into a show titled Mexican Dynasties on Bravo is to know already what awaits you. Falling right in line with every other reality TV offering from the banner Housewives network, this Mexico City-set offering has all the hallmarks of the genre: surprise parties, low-key and high-stakes drama, opulent lifestyles, bitchy back and forths, and, thankfully, plenty of GIF-worthy reaction shots (including some hilarious ones from the show’s MVP, a tiny chihuahua named Nacho). The intro to the first episode, though, would have you believe this is a series designed to upend the vision of Mexicans that are so rampant in the US. “Americans don’t know shit about Mexicans,” we’re told, before some of the talking heads we’ll soon meet inform us that the country south of the border legalized same-sex marriage before the US and, perhaps, more tellingly, that there are plenty of Tesla drivers in Mexico City! As a cousin of the Housewives franchise, it feels apt, though it absolutely makes a fascinating companion piece to Netflix’s younger-skewing Made in Mexico.
Mexican Dynasties introduces us to the Allendes, led by former telenovela hunk, Fernando Allende; the Bessudos, of Jarritos fame and fronted by elegant fashion icon and socialite Raquel Bessudo; and the Madrazos, a pair of extravagant siblings who inherited the wealth their father amassed after building an empire by bringing high-end luxury cars into Mexico. Together, they purport to show us what life is “really like” in Mexico City. But ultimately, they come off as a heightened reality TV version of Casa de las flores (and not just because it also features a telenovela star from long ago). After all, deciding to go to bed wearing plenty of jewels ahead of an earthquake drill to practice a scenario where a natural disaster will leave you unable to access your bank account or opting to throw a mini-party in your backyard after burying your beloved parrot who died two weeks ago, and you’ve kept in your freezer since as you waited for your brother to come back from his three-week vacation is not exactly the kind of everyday occurrence for regular folks living in Mexico City.
Its first episode (aptly titled “Dynasties, Dinero, and Dysfunction”) offers exactly what you’d expect. There is a party. There is an “impromptu” musical performance. And there’s plenty of family drama that will surely be carried on throughout the first season. What you didn’t expect, and what makes Mexican Dynasties a fascinating bilingual cultural object is the way English turns the interactions between all involved into a put-on performance. It makes the presence of the cameras all the more obvious than in a regular reality TV show, especially as they have to use Spanish when addressing their help and street vendors.
It’s clear these are people who are comfortable shuttling between both languages, but it’s also quite obvious that they’re most at home in Spanish: when Raquel wants to let her daughter know how much she appreciates her being there helping her grieve her recent loss, she tells her she feels “apapachada.” It’s a tender moment between mother and daughter and it comes through precisely because she’s at a loss as to how to translate that word, which straddles the line between pampered and consoled. Similarly, the frank confessionals of the various maids and security guards (“Está loca,” “Esta familia no es normal”) make for the most incisive and hilarious commentary you see in the show.
Add in the camera-mugging antics of the Madrazo siblings (who swear their near-incestuous relationship is not that incestuous: “We don’t sleep together,” they feel the need to clarify) and the momma’s boy narrative being woven around the younger Allende brother (“I’m not gonna sleep in my parents’ bed. I only go there in the morning for cuddles,” he confesses at one point) and you have enough quirk to fuel a season’s worth of rich Mexican drama (pun intended).
Will it open the eyes of those who harbor stereotypes about Mexicans south of the border? Unlikely. Which is okay as that’s clearly not the selling point here. These beautiful, cosmetically-enhanced, wealthy Mexican families remind us that fame-hungry opulence and extravagance are not exclusively American values.
Mexican Dynasties airs Tuesdays on Bravo.