Sisters of 'Vida' back amid gentrification

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Starz drama "Vida" returned for its second season on Sunday with an even deeper exploration of an issue facing many U.S. Latino communities: gentrification.

The show follows Emma and Lyn, played Mishel Prada and Melissa Barrera respectively, who have inherited from their late mother an East Los Angeles apartment building and a lesbian bar. Each must come to terms with their lives in the old neighborhood and unresolved issues around love.

The first season ended with the sisters at odds on whether to continue their lives away from East Los Angeles or come back and save a bar that helped shape them.

It remains one of the only television shows featuring a majority U.S. Latina cast.

With its themes around queer love and sex, the show has gained a small but loyal following and drew critical praise for centering its focus on Latina characters and pressures related to gentrification and gente-fication — the phenomenon that middle-class Latinos are working to change a working-class community. (Gente means people in Spanish).

Executive Producer Tanya Saracho said the second season will continue to explore those themes as a backdrop of the overall family drama. "This show is based on what is happening right now" in Latino neighborhoods around the U.S., she said. "All the tactics of protests involving gentrification try to remain authentic."

Currently, tensions are high in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, where anti-gentrification activists have participated in aggressive protests targeting art galleries by spray painting storefronts and reported death threats. Hispanic activists in Albuquerque's South Valley and Houston's Northside also are speaking out against gentrification efforts they say displaces poor Latinos.

Saracho said she wanted the show to reflect those realities. But Saracho said the second season also wanted to explore gente-fication. The sisters, if they decide to keep the bar, will be in the center of the gente-fication movement and must deal with any backlash, Saracho said.

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