Sunday, September 13, 2015

Immigration as Drama: The Politics of Bajo el mismo cielo

As I had mentioned in my first blog for this class, the Telemundo telenovela Bajo el mismo cielo (airing Monday through Friday at 9:00 P.M.) focuses mainly on legal and illegal Mexican immigrants living in the United States. This particular thematic material allows for a greater exploration and discussion of illegal immigration: an often touchy subject matter for North American television. While I have already described the many strengths of Bajo el mismo cielo at length, I realize that I had forgotten to mention one more: its sociopolitical awareness.

What do I mean by this? I mean that Bajo el mismo cielo takes an intelligent approach to discussing illegal immigration on Primetime t.v. Thanks to a wonderfully-written script, this telenovela reveals the theme gradually and attempts to avoid stereotyping in the process. At the same time, Bajo el mismo cielo shows both sides of illegal immigration through character development. This careful balance adds more depth to the show.

Because this telenovela features a huge cast of character (and I do mean “huge”), I am going to limit my discussion to an examination of three characters: specifically, those who make up the Sanders family: Jacob, Deborah and Susana (“Suzy”). “Why these characters?” some might ask. I have chosen this family because, to me, they represent a wealthy Hispanic-American family (a symbol of the “American Dream,” perhaps?). More importantly, their personalities and beliefs reflect the current attitudes about illegal immigration in North America.

Jacob Sanders (Father/Husband)—played by Keller Wortham:

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 Although he is the CEO of a magazine company in Los Angeles and has undocumented immigrants for maids, Jacob does not let his wealth define his character. He is very benevolent towards other people, especially the elderly, and cares about preserving his Hispanic heritage and family traditions. Jacob teaches his daughter, Susana, to follow his example and respect others. He also hopes that whatever man that she meets in the near-future will marry her for who she is, not for her wealth.

Deborah Sanders (Mother/Wife)—played by Mercedes Molto: 

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In an interesting role-reversal, Deborah serves as the polar opposite of Jacob based on her beliefs and treatment of undocumented immigrants. Even though she means well to protect and care for Suzy, Deborah initially comes off as an evil bigot. As a legal Hispanic-American with plenty of money, she sees all undocumented immigrants as the same, regardless of age: lazy, malicious and not fit for society—more like a female version of Donald Trump. Unlike Jacob, she chooses to ignore her Hispanic upbringing and live her life as an American citizen.

Susana (“Suzy”) Sanders (Daughter)—played by Oka Giner:

(Photo courtesy of

In the first few episodes, it would seem like Susana exhibits the same traits as other rich and air-headed celebrities like the Kardashians. Thankfully, this is not the case at all. Susana demonstrates the same traits of kindness as her father, Jacob. As Bajo el mismo cielo progresses, Suzana grows to understand and accept people for their character rather than for their socioeconomic status. As proof (and a “spoiler alert” for those who haven't seen this telenovela), she eventually falls in love with Luis Martinez:the son of the undocumented gardener Carlos Martinez.

Like her father, Susana does not understand the prejudice that Deborah has against undocumented immigrants. To Susana, they should be treated as human beings: not criminals. These arguments build up to a heated fight between Susana and her mother, which leads to a dangerous consequence.

The plot thickens….

1 comment:

  1. I'm trying to catch up on episodes of this telenovels. By Episode 32, I have lost all hope for Deborah Sanders to at least have a shred of good character. She has no respect for the elderly and is nuts. Did she really have to burn the hands of her servant, Ramona??!!