Latinitas - A Strong Voice for Latina Youth

                I just finished watching the first episode of MTVs new reality series, “Washington Heights.” The show follows the lives of young adult Dominicans living in the New York neighborhood of Washington Heights, and embarking on their dream career paths. They are JP, Reyna, Frankie, Ludwin, Jimmy, Eliza, Taylor, and Rico. They are musicians, poets, and athletes in addition to being close-knit friends, and per the Dominican standard, they are bursting with “love for everyone.”
                The show is spun as a story of a neighborhood with a legacy, one that’s not dream-like or idealistic like Hollywood, but real and raw. In addition to the show’s characters, you learn the culture of Washington Heights, and you see the authentic struggles that go on here, making this neighborhood relatable. In regards to the character’s dreams and paths to success, the message seems to be a warning; hard work can pay off, but doesn’t always. Sometimes we still fail despite our best efforts. There are many negative influences in the world that can derail us, and many of the show’s characters have fallen prey to the likes of crime and drug involvement. However, when surrounded by a quality group of friends, a path to redemption is paved. Such community seems to be at the core of this show, whether it be a community of friendship, a community of family, the community of Washington Heights, a community of artistry, a community of support, etc.  
                As I watched this show I had to remind myself that I was watching reality TV. While some of it is scripted or contrived, other parts of it can be very truthful. I was left with the uneasy question of trust. What part of this show can I put my faith in as a viewer, and what should I be skeptical about? I think it’s impossible to decipher beyond the lens of common sense. “What seems believable, and what seems like the producers are grabbing at straws?” became my viewing mantra.
                My reasons for watching the show included the hope that I would be introduced to what it means to be Dominican, and more specifically that I would be able to understand how Dominicans fit into the aggressive culture of New York, as a specific Latino subset. In this regard, I was disappointed. The show did not seem to focus on recognizable Dominican traits. Despite the brief moment in which Jimmy’s grandmother appears on camera speaking Spanish and reminding Jimmy to remember his roots, the lives followed seemed to be the watered down remnants of a bygone Latino culture. It seems more or less like a group of second or third generation Americans, but perhaps this is just as important, and I shouldn't be let down.
                By the show’s end, I was a fairly neutral viewer. I didn't feel particularly invested in the characters' lives, but I did understand them. I wondered if the show had valuable things to say to me, or poignant observations to make about society, but after one episode I don't think it's fair to draw conclusive answers. I won’t give up on the Heights just yet, I'm ready for episode two! 

If you are interested in watching Washington Heights, full episodes are available online. Check them out at

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