At this point, the US-aimed Latinx reality TV show is starting to look like the new go-to genre. There’s the Miami-based Cartel Crew, which is all about the children of infamous narcos. There’s Mexican Dynasties, which hilariously asks all its subjects to speak English as they move through their home in Mexico City. And now there’s Texicanas, which is set in San Antonio, Texas. Borrowing the format and the shooting style of Bravo’s Housewives show (this is basically Real Texicana Housewives of San Antonio give or take a spouse) the show is the latest attempt at raising US Latinx visibility in the reality television world.
What initially sets Texicanas apart is the fact that we’re given a narrator of sorts in Penny Ayarzagoitia. She’s the first person we see, with a makeup assistant doing final touches before she prepares to shoot; she’s wearing her hair in a side braid and sports heavy red earrings that match her lipstick. Born in Weslaco, Texas, Penny works in real estate, has a loving husband, enjoys working out on the stripper pole she has in her living room, doesn’t care that friends and acquaintances think that she’s too flirty or dresses too sexy, and is the central social figure of this Bravo show. Moreover, she doesn’t just give us the regular talking head confessional moments you see on every other reality show. She’s closer to Jane the Virgin’s narrator, with her quips about famous Mexican expressions (“Las palabras de tu boca, son como una piedra en un cabestrillo”) and “Remember that moment when …” reminders throughout.
— Texicanas (@BravoTexicanas) May 8, 2019
Penny’s friends include high-strung Mayra Farret, no-nonsense Luz Ortiz, drink-and-lunch buddies Lorena Martinez and Karla Ramirez, and newcomer to the group, Anayancy Nolasco. These introductions take place as they all gather for a Cinco de Mayo party hosted by Mayra. Surrounded by decor that, as one guest puts it, looks like Mexico threw up on it, these women describe themselves in ways that illuminate what the modern Mexican and Mexican American woman is like. Some take pride in working, others in being stay-at-home moms. Some praise their husbands for not being machistas, others admit they had to get used to being shunned for being a divorcée. All speak to the specific ways that living in San Antonio, and being born or raised in border towns affected their own conceptions of what it means to be Mexican and to be American.
Those intros are the most revealing and fascinating aspects of this first episode of Texicanas. It serves as a Mexican American 101 course. Yes, they’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but they all pretty much roll their eyes at the frenzied US holiday, and make it clear they know it honors the Battle of Puebla. Similarly, their on-point colorful and chic Mexican ensembles are donned almost ironically: “Do I look Mexican enough?” asks Anayancy when showing off her midriff-baring white and blue dress. These moments offer a look at the specific ways those closest to the border have always had to straddle two sides of their identity, grappling with how to bring the two together.
— Texicanas (@BravoTexicanas) May 8, 2019
Alas, all that build up is a smoke-and-mirrors setup for the kind of thing that’s really going to drive Texicanas: petty drama. In this case, it’s drama over Luz calling Mayra “anal.” First we are treated to a slow-motion, image-goes-dark moment when Luz utters the word, then to a shot of Penny saying “anal anal anal anal anal” over and over again as she mimics how criticism gets stuck in Mayra’s head. Later still, we get some comedy when Lorena admits she first took it literally, wondering if Luz had called Mayra a “butt hole.” The many conversations about this that take place over drinks at lavish parties, drinks at four-hour lunches, drinks at their gorgeous homes (“At night when I hold my glass of wine, it’s my happy moment. Is that sad?” asks Penny, “Does that make me an alcoholic?”) and in every single confessional are mind-numbingly boring and repetitive.
Then again, shows like these are produced precisely to make mountains out of molehills. Your enjoyment of this will vary depending on how invested you become in this group of Texicanas and how much of that kind of drama you’re willing to slog through (a sneak peek of the season promises plenty of screaming matches, which will culminate in a big yacht/beachside trip). And while on the surface there’s the tacit suggestion that these women showcase a truly modern vision of Mexican and Mexican American women, their differences are so minuscule that these six alone end up merely offering yet another kind of cliché: Penny and most of her San Antonio friends all continue to subscribe to unattainable ideas about beauty, family, and femininity that feel just as stale as the stereotypes they claim to be debunking.
Watch the first full episode of the show below.
Texicanas airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Bravo.