In the pilot of the popular web series “The Pineapple Diaries,” we are introduced to Maite, a young Afro-Dominican woman, who picks up the phone to hear her mom reminding her to wish her abuela a happy birthday, and not to forget to send her money. This expands her busy schedule and leads her running around Jackson Square trying to fulfill her seemingly endless list of errands. In the midst of this, we are introduced to her group of friends: a mix of 20-year-olds trying to find their footing in today’s society.
In a world where women of color are often not showcased on television, or reduced to sidekicks for their white protagonists, it was comforting to see women of color take control in telling their own stories. I spoke with the series creator, Paloma Valenzuela, to inquire what inspired her to create this underrated, yet groundbreaking, series.
What was the inspiration behind the creation of “The Pineapple Diaries?”
I was definitely inspired by a lot of other artists and writers that were using YouTube as a platform. I was totally inspired by Issa Rae and “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” I knew I wanted to create something of my own, and I wanted to try writing a television series. What inspired to me to create the show based on these subjects, this feeling of like, lack of seeing an honest portrayal of something I could relate to on television. I wanted to write stories that felt relatable to me and hopefully could relate with other women of color, with other Dominican-Americans, with the Latino community, and that’s what really drove me to want to tell these stories.
Why do you think it was important to set the show in Jamaica Plain?
I was really excited to have the show set here because I feel like I am just realizing how much of this neighborhood is a part of me, how much being a Bostonian is part of who I am.
The other reason I wanted to do it is because Boston has a certain profile in terms of how it’s portrayed on TV and the movies, and that doesn’t fit the profile of what I experienced. I thought to myself, Boston isn’t just Southie, it isn’t just white Bostonians or Irish Bostonians. And it certainly isn’t just this Mafia storyline—which is a great storyline, and those stories can keep coming—but it shouldn’t be the only thing coming out of Boston. We have Latino communities as well, we have Latino neighborhoods and there are diverse communities here in Boston that I wanted to highlight in the show, so that was important to me.
Your show features of a lot of Afro-Latinas. What aspects of the Afro-Latina identity do you hope to showcase to your viewers?
That there is one. For a long time, black Latinos were playing African-American roles in movies because nobody understood the concept that within the Latino community, we are all different shapes, sizes, colors and hair textures. It’s important that any actor is able to play the roles that they can play, but also be able to represent where they really come from. If we continue to perpetuate that, the people won’t understand there are afro-communities within the Latino community. We need to be knowledgeable about that, and be inclusive, because if you’re Afro-Latina and you don’t see yourself on TV as the Latina that you are, how can you feel a part of it? It is important for everyone to see themselves in magazines, on television, in the news, in politics, in the government. It’s important because we all need to feel like we’re a part of these communities.
Do you think the absence of Afro-Latinas in media leads to uninformed opinions as to who they are and the diversity of their experiences?
I think that black Latinos have all the right in the world to feel just as black as all other black people. A light skin Latina has a different experience from a black Latina. It’s important to understand that. I think people are not informed enough about the racial diversity within the Latino countries. We’re all so different. We can’t all fit in one box, and we shouldn’t have to, and we should see those characters in all those layers reflected in our entertainment, for sure.