￼Emma is conducting business in Chicago with a bunch of idiotic white dude bros via Skype. They want her back in the Midwest immediately, but she needs more time. Says Dude Bro #1 to Dude Bro #2 when they think Emma isn’t paying attention: “Hasn’t it been a week already since her mom died?”
Emma: “Just six days, actually.” She’s never taken her vacation days from this whack ass financial company in the years before, but she’s damn sure going to take them now. She has no other choice. They’re going to have to deal.
Her main project for the day involves working with Eddy to update the bar. The first thing that has to be dealt with is the name itself:
“It’s historic. It… like… honors the Japanese culture.”
“So why does it say La Chinita?”
“What’d you mean?”
“Why does it say ‘Little Chinese Girl’?”
“Well… ummm… it’s a Japanese Chinita”
Yeaaaaah Eddy, I think we can all agree that you are on the wrong side of history here. You’ve definitely lost this battle. Lyn suggests they rename the establishment “Vida’s”, in honor of their mom, because that’s what everyone in neighborhood calls it anyway. Personally I think that’s a solid suggestion, but for whatever reason (I assume because she doesn’t trust her little sister not to fuck things up), Emma brushes her off.
Mari has other concerns about the bar’s name change and face lift. She doesn’t want it to become another haven for gentrifiers and Chipsters (read: Chicanx Hipsters). Eddy’s not about that life either; she promises Mari that over her dead body would the bar turn its back on the community. We’re at the halfway point of the season, and Mari’s crusade to save Boyle Heights is coming into sharp focus with Vida’s main plot of the Hernandez sisters, Eddy, and their family drama surrounding Vidalia’s bar.
Emma refuses to sell her family legacy to racist developers like Nelson, who nickel and dime his own community into further poverty and sees proximity to whiteness as wealth. She’s gone as far as sinking her own money into the building just to keep it from his clutches. Now she needs to turn a profit quickly before her entire family, Eddy included, goes asunder.
Perhaps ironically, in order to do that she may have to cater to a “Chipster” clientele (though I’d argue that the changing the name of “La Chinita’s” is the obviously right thing to do because it’s out of touch and racist, regardless of which clientele you’re trying to reach). Mari and Eddy want to keep the bar from gentrifying, but doing so might come with financial cost for the Hernandezes and put them back in Nelson’s crosshairs. The intersections of race and class woven by Vida are nuanced and not easily pulled apart. That’s true in life, but not often reflected back as carefully in our media. Kudos to Vida’s writing room for pulling it off.
Meanwhile, Lyn takes her stolen credit card (which I will remind you comes from her dead mother because Lyn’s level of self-centered vapid “look at me” syndrome has no limits) on a Beverly Hills shopping spree. With arms full of bags and a new yellow dress paid for with the stolen money draping her body, she runs into her next mark — a new rich white boy who’s totally her type. She bats her eyes and sucks her the straw of her ice coffee slow and suggestive, so of course that means he invites her to this house party in the Hills. ICK ICK ICK.
Speaking of, ICK. We haven’t had the chance to get into this earlier, but it’s time to talk about Tialoc — the cute organizer that Mari’s had a crush on for a while now. This guy is sleeze. There are men who you know are trouble when you first lay eyes on them, and then there are those when you think to yourself, oh maybe this one’s ok. He’s cares for his community, he has an activist’s heart, his ponytail flops in the wind, whatever. Then the paint starts to peel at the edges. You notice that he cuts off all the women in his life mid-sentence. He runs meetings as if his is the only voice that matters. And your antennas slowly but surely start ringing their alarm bells.
Last episode, when Tialoc started flirting heavily with Mari, who is obviously much too young for him, my alarm starting dinging like its life depended on it. When he coaxed her into giving him oral sex, the ding turned into a blaring horn. While she went down on him, he snuck his camera phone and started recording her in the act — without her fucking permission! Sexual assault. My heart broke for Mari. She had no idea of the hurricane brewing her way.
That hurricane broke shore this week, when Mari was at her weekly activist meeting — Tilaoc presiding like the entitled ass that he is. Her bestie motions for her to come outside. She shows her the video. At first Mari won’t believe it. She can’t. Not her Tialoc.
Her face breaks as her friend implores her, “Don’t be that girl Mari.” Embarrassed and betrayed, she runs from the meeting. Not even going back inside to grab her phone, still charging in the corner. Tialoc waits at her home later, crying his apologies. She doesn’t take him back — yet. And I can only pray that she never does.
Emma, under the guise of “checking out the competition”, is spending her night scoping out a Boyle Heights neighborhood bar. It’s the kind of bar that Mari would definitely label as “Chipster trash”, but is also a safe space for queer Latinxs and other QTPOC’s in the neighborhood. Once again we’re complicating Vida’s narrative.
Gente-fication (the gentrification of Chicanx and Latinx neighborhoods by younger, and often upwardly mobile Latinxs) is stickier than gentrification in a lot of ways, mostly because it’s more intimate. The pain is deeper. It’s the pricing out of long time residents from a neighborhood by people who look like them, people who in many respects are the metaphorical children of those they are replacing (look at Emma and Lyn, and the role they play in within this show).
At the same time, fighting for more QTPOC inclusive spaces in POC communities is life saving in many regards. It’s pretty clear by now that that Emma didn’t grow up feeling safe in her sexuality. Would spaces like this bar have helped change that for her? She’s also part of a socio-economic class that’s actively displacing her mother’s neighbors and peers. By using Emma as it’s central protagonist, Vida seems to question, where’s the balance between the two?
One of the queer folks frequenting the bar that night? None other than Cruz, looking sexier than ever in a bandana and a white tank showing off her tattoos. Usually so well composed, Emma gets one one look at her and she’s adorably stumbling over her words. Cruz takes her by the hand and introduces her to the rest of the queer crew.
The episode interlaces with Emma’s night on the town in Boyle Heights with Lyn’s night crashing that party in the Hills. When she walks up to the mansion, she’s greeted by Aurora, a Latina maid who takes her bags. The white asshole she’s with overhears Lyn greeting Aurora in Spanish and says, “there’s nothing sexier that when you guys roll your R’s”. Later, one of the white girls in attendance hangs over Lyn in a drug haze and drawls, “I’m obsessed with your eyebrows.” She basically fucking calls her Frida Kahlo. GAG ME.
During the party, Lyn’s date scoops her up into his arms so that he can throw her into the pool, causing her feet to knock over a few champagne glasses and make a terrible mess. Everyone at the party laughs in revelry, but the camera lingers on Aurora, who has to clean it up. Lyn averts her eyes. It’s as if she’s afraid of having her own brownness associated with “the help”. That this woman cleaning the floors will ruin the façade of Lyn’s privilege. She’ll do whatever it takes to overcompensate.
Meanwhile, Emma is trying her hardest to fit in with Cruz’s friends. She’s laughing at all their jokes, throwing around words like “power bottom” as if they aren’t choking coming out of her. Emma’s pain — man, she really works so hard to cover it up, but it’s palpable. She relaxes more after a few drinks, grinding with Cruz on the dance floor beneath florescent blue lights.
Cruz teases her; see, it’s not so bad in Boyle Heights after all. Emma stops cold in her tracks, the momentary drunken joy of the night wiped from her face. Here it is. She can’t outrun it anymore.
“Do you think I don’t like it here? That I hate where I grew up??
I never wanted to leave. Vidalia sent me away. Did you know that? One day she found me with Lucy, this little girl who lived in the building. And we were, I don’t know, touching, I guess. Kissing. And we were like 11. And Vida freaked the fuck out. And then I went to go live with Abuelita in South Texas.
That’s the kind of shit I had to put together later, after she sent me back there the second time. That time she found fucking poems and journal entries. And fuck, why did I ever keep a journal! Stupid!… They were all about you.
And there went Vida, freaking the fuck out again. By then it was undeniable what she was freaking out about.”
She’s shattering, right there on the dance floor. Cumbia still playing loudly around her and Cruz. All the hurt that’s been bottled up inside of Emma, Mishel Prada’s letting it pour and there’s no way to stop it. Vida was in the closet. She took out her internalized homophobia on her daughter. And now as an adult, Emma’s being forced rip open the scar tissue. Hate spans generations. Boyle Heights is an open wound.
“Don’t feel bad for me. I lived happily ever after,” she quips because she can’t allow herself to cry.
She fucks Cruz that night, hard and fast. She’s fucking the pain away, just like we saw with Sam last week. Cruz takes it for a while before slowing the pace. She doesn’t want to just fuck Emma. They mean more to each other than that.
The minute Cruz slows things down, Emma collapses into a panic attack on the floor. She runs away from her apartment, clothing haphazard and face full of tears.
Marisol, still broken up over Tialoc, rides her bike to Vida’s bar. She spray paints “Chipster” across the front. A scarlet letter, marking the Hernandezes as sellouts.
And Lyn? She leaves the party in the Hills on the same bus as Aurora, a woman she spent her entire night trying to avoid. The two of them, alone. Going back to the same home.
You can’t escape who you are. It will always find you.