Letter from West Kendall: Growing up with ¿Que Pasa, U.S.A.?

Thu, Feb 25, 2010

Episode 4, Letter From...




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The Pena Family(Photo courtesy of WPBT2)

By Trina Sargalski

Update: Join us Thursday, March 3! Our own Trina Sargalski will participate in “¿Que Pasa, U.S.A.?-LIVE,” an event celebrating 40 years of Spanglish and the Miami-Dade Public Library System. Trina will retell her own ¿Que Pasa, U.S.A.? story of growing up in West Kendall. Bill Teck of Generation ñ will MC. The event is from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Miami-Dade Main Library, 101 W. Flagler Street.

To outsiders, Miami is a place where anything goes, explains Under the Sun’s Trina Sargalski, “but not in my house.”

Sargalski grew up far from the neon and nightlife.  She grew up in the “ultra-suburban outpost” of West Kendall. In this piece,  she revisits the Miami of her youth– freestyle music, chaperones, and the clever, low-budget sitcom, ¿Que Pasa, U.S.A.?, which aired on WPBT Channel 2 from 1977 to 1980.

The show brings viewers into the living room of a typical Cuban-American family, the Peña family, as three generations switch off lamenting the loss of their Hispanic culture, or chafing against old fashioned Cuban ways.  As Sargalski notes, the show often ends with everyone yelling in different languages.

But there’s tenderness too, and over time Sargalski began to see the show as a metaphor for her relationship with Miami itself.

“In my experience, Miami is just like family.” Sargalski says. “Like the Peña family on ¿Que Pasa, U.S.A.?, Miami can be too loud, too tacky, too exagerado. But it’s like a family member who embarrasses you when you’re young … and later you realize that you loved them the whole time.”

Sargalski is an associate producer of Under the Sun, and also the show’s web editor. Be sure to check out her interview with cast member Barbara Ann Martin,  and her montage of other ¿Que Pasa, U.S.A.? fans speaking about why the show means so much to them 33 years after it first aired.

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