Let’s give credit where credit is due: Bravo has perfected the formula for must-watch, binge-worthy reality TV. And the women of Texicanas, the latest in Bravo’s seemingly endless roster of tawdry docuseries, are outwardly no different than the housewives of New York, Orange County, et. al, who’ve come before them: they’re loud, they like to drink and party, and they have a penchant for dramatic arguments executed at top volume in public spaces.
But unlike most of the women on Real Housewives, all of the women featured on Texicanas (which is set in San Antonio, Texas) have Mexican heritage in one way or another. There’s Penny, who was born in the U.S. but grew up in Mexico, and has a stripper pole in her living room (much to the chagrin of her uber-conservative Mexican-American community); Mayra, a perfectionist who recently moved to the U.S. from Monterrey with her family; and Lorena, whose fiery attitude nearly renders her a stereotypically “spicy” Mexican woman. Rounding out the group are housewife Karla, who grew up in a Texas border town; recent emigrée and single mother Anayancy; and divorced mother and gym-owner Luz.
Texicanas is “narrated” by Penny (arguably the nucleus of the friend group); she begins the show by teasing us with a tale of a girls trip gone horribly wrong. “It was supposed to be fun,” she explains to producers. While the rest of the show will ostensibly lead up to the bitterly divisive girls trip Penny describes, the premiere of Texicanas is focused mostly on scene-setting. San Antonio, Texas, the women explain early on, is a haven for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, with a large community of Mexican expatriates and immigrants. Interestingly, the women describe themselves alternatively as “hispanic,” “Mexicana,” and “Latino”—as Texicanas attempts to explain, there’s no singular label that can define the experience of a Mexican woman now living in the United States.
The show opens with the women gathering to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Mayra’s lavish home—although, as Mayra is quick to point out, “Just because we’re Mexican doesn’t mean we actually celebrate Cinco de Mayo.” The women revel in the inherent American-ness of the holiday—it’s not actually Mexico’s independence day, despite erroneously being described as such, and is in fact one of the more minor holidays in Mexico—declaring Cinco de Mayo their “contribution” to American culture. Given that the holiday has persisted in the U.S. as a mere excuse to get drunk, much like St. Patrick’s Day, the women aren’t out of line to congratulate themselves.
As with most Bravo shows, it’s the drama and gossip (in this case, referred to in Spanish as chisme) that makes the Texicanas’ world go round. While some of them, like Penny and Luz, have defied traditional Mexican gender roles and gone on to have fulfilling careers outside of their marriages, others, like Lorena and Karla, have very much embraced their status as traditional Mexican housewives—lengthy tequila-soaked lunches and all. But regardless of their career choices, there’s still plenty of chisme to keep the women occupied and at each other’s throats.
The central drama of the show revolves around Mayra and Luz, who are “like oil and water,” as Penny so diplomatically explains in voiceover. After a small tiff at Mayra’s Cinco de Mayo function, things only escalate from there. Lorena, Karla, and Penny, who are all friends with Luz and Mayra, find themselves caught in the middle of the women’s beef; while Luz is a relatively new addition to the friend group, they’re appreciative of her independent nature and fearless personality. Luckily, Luz has a non-Mexican friend named Janet (but hilariously referred to as “Blanca” by the Texicanas), who acts as both a shoulder to cry on and an unwitting emblem of gringo ignorance. “So, what’s the purpose of this whole deal?” Janeta asks the women at the Cinco de Mayo party—her Southern drawl, American ignorance, and big Texas hair all on full display.
Tensions between Luz and Mayra come to a head at the end of the episode, while the group is getting tipsy at a local food and wine festival. After Luz calls Mayra “anal” for probably the 40th time in the episode, Mayra loses it. She studied Freudian psychology in college, she condescendingly tells Luz, and suggests that Luz brush up on the “real meaning” of the term before she starts using it. As she walks away, she gives Luz a patronizing pat on the head, causing Luz to call her a “pendeja (asshole),” and setting the stage for some sure-to-be explosive arguments later on. It’s classic Bravo fodder at its finest.
Texicanas does a decent job at attempting to address some of the issues that modern Mexican women still face today. Anayancy, who’s the youngest and arguably the least catty woman in the group, decides she wants to get more involved in charity work. She earnestly tells producers that she wants her focus to be domestic violence, since it’s an issue that still plagues the Mexican community. Anayancy is an unabashed daddy’s girl (she frequently flies home to Mexico to get expensive gifts from her father), but is aware of the gender roles still thrust upon Mexican women. “We’re taught to be more submissive to men,” she explains.
Indeed, another one of the issues tackled by the show is machismo, and the idea that a woman’s place is solely in the home with her family. Penny is a fan of wearing clothes that show off her voluptuous figure, and frequently pole-dances as a form of exercise. However, she’s also passionate about the real-estate business she runs with her husband, Raul. “Raul is not your regular machista Mexican,” she tells producers. “[He] would never let me stay at home and watch novelas all day.” Even though they’ve faced a bit of scrutiny from their more conservative peers, Penny and Raul are happy with themselves and their “unconventional” marriage, at least by Mexican standards.
What’s most striking about the show is how it’s an unapologetically messy portrayal of Mexican women—flaws and all. At a time when Hispanic and Latino immigrants in the U.S. risk harassment, deportation, and worse on a daily basis, the decision to create a show that portrays Mexican women as not necessarily perfect people is important, for the shadow of the Trump administration—with its infamously draconian immigration policies—hangs over the show, although it’s never specifically addressed. Except by Mayra, who emphasizes how grateful she is to have gained U.S. citizenship before Trump took office.
The women on Texicanas are, of course, privileged when it comes to their immigration status. Most of them are U.S. citizens, and come from wealthy families who were likely able to afford and maneuver the complicated process of becoming a citizen. And compared to the reality of most Mexican immigrants in the U.S., these women have it pretty easy: unless they chose to, they don’t really need to work to support their family, and have the luxury of spending their afternoons in restaurants and their homes, drinks in hand. But despite their privilege, they don’t forsake their Mexicanidad: the complex set of values and traditions that define them.
Despite their various tiffs, the women are all united in their appreciation for their culture. While they differ on how they relate to certain beliefs (Luz is divorced, a taboo move for a Mexican woman, and Penny’s marriage is more progressive than most), their love of their heritage and emphasis on family is front and center.
Like their fellow American housewives featured on reality TV, these women are spoiled and, at times, a bit frivolous. They’re not perfect, nor do they claim to be—but they don’t shy away from embracing their Mexicanidad at a time when doing so carries a lot more weight than it used to.