Growing Up with Devious Maids
The new Lifetime series, "Devious Maids", has the Latino community talking. Some of us who have watched the pilot were caught up in the story right away: The secrets! The scandals! The drama! It’s a break-out-the-popcorn-and call-your girlfriends-over type of show that gets going from the first episode.
Other members of the community don’t like that the full cast of Latina leads are, for the most part, maids. They feel insulted. Generalized. Typecast.
So, let’s put aside the fact that this is TV, not real life. Let’s put aside the fact that this show has all the juicy drama that we have enjoyed in the past except (did I mention this?) it is led by some of the most talented Latina actors we know. Let’s put all that aside and talk about Latina maids.
I grew up with them as a teen in the Dominican Republic. While some people may be embarrassed by the image of a Latina as a maid, I am reminded of how these women came to my house, and for not all that much pay, cooked for us, cleaned our home, did our laundry, and cared for my siblings and me.
I am reminded of the many times I would sneak to the maids’ quarters, against my father’s will, in search of someone to talk to, friendship, and advice. I was a kid, and I lived separated from my mother. My father was never around, and I actually did have an evil stepmother (no, really, I did). I have a lot to be grateful for from my friendship with these ladies – I believe that the time I spent with them, listening to their stories, learning about their family, their hardships, how much they valued their jobs, but also the pride they took in themselves and in their work, helped to keep me grounded in a world full of people very much like those families for whom the Devious Maids work for in the show.
And as kind as the ladies who worked for my dad were, and as disadvantaged as many of them seemed to be to those who employed them, they were not victims, nor women to be messed with.
I will never forget the panic that overcame my stepmother when, after tired of her ranting and complaining, the maids would up and leave, leaving her to fend for herself and care for her children. Granted, a lot of the responsibilities fell on me instead afterwards, but it was still entertaining to witness.
I remember how one time, one of the maids was let go, without pay or reason (my stepmother was afraid of her because she was Haitian). She left, and then when she knew they would be out, she came with a crew and took all of their bedroom furniture as her payment. I remember sitting there (I was 15) watching them carry out the stuff and though I should probably call the cops – or my parents – I simply sat there. It was devious, but it was karma too and I didn’t get in its way.
I can’t say I knew what the women who worked for us thought of us, or that I understand or can even relate to their realities. Even in my worst circumstances as an adult, even when struggling through financial hardship as a single mother, I never experienced what it is to be a maid. But I know that I could never be one. I could never be as compassionate in the way that they were to me. I could never be as tolerant and as strong willed as they were when dealing with my mean-spirited stepmother or my arrogant father.
I do know that being a maid was not something they neither were ashamed of nor embarrassed about. The maids I grew up with all had the traits of strong women, but with an even thicker layer of pride then most people give them credit for, and a savvy-ness to them that only a life like theirs could provide. They had dreams, if not for themselves then for their own children and families.
So this uproar over being a show of Latina maids (um, hello, they are real), this humiliation over the portrayal of a community that itself isn’t humiliated by what they do, is not something the women I knew need from us. As a matter of fact, I would say that were the women I knew watching the show, they would find it quite entertaining.
I, for one, would take the Devious Maids over some nut job housewife any day of the week!
Devious Maids airs Sundays at 10.9c. on Lifetime.