In ‘Almaz Way’, a Young Latina Thinks for Herself, Like Her Creator
That little Sonia is voiced by another Bronx Latina: Summer Rose Castillo, a 9-year-old girl from Throgs Neck, who she says identifies with Alma. Castillo said, however, that the series is “not just about Puerto Ricans, it’s not just about Latinas; it’s about many different types of families.”
For Manzano, this meant not only giving Alma African American, South Asian, and white companions, but also making friends and family members who are Hispanic in different ways. For example, Alma’s puppy is Afro-Caribbean, while her uncle Nestor is Cuban, and a neighbor, Beto, is Mexican American. These distinctions are reflected in the characters’ tastes, vocabulary, and appearance, which are portrayed by animators with varying skin tones from Pipeline Studios, a company near Toronto.
“Latinos are not a monolith,” said series lead writer Jorge Aguirre. “It’s one of those things that we get to explore for language, food, music. It’s a great sandbox to play in.”
That sandbox is also American. While Alma refers to her grandfather as Abuelo, she calls Manzano’s character Granny Isa. Manzano deliberately mixed terminology because, as she said, “the culture of this family is both Spanish and English.” In one episode, Isa’s flight from Europe is cancelled, and she cannot travel to Riverus. Alma learns she can still dance with her nanny via a video connection – a solution that should resonate with children weary of the pandemic.
Manzano also invented a character with a disability: Alma’s musically talented cousin, Eddie Mambo, who has cerebral palsy. Producers relied on medical experts to guide the pipeline by showing it how it runs and adapts. Manzano based her on her real cousin Eddie, a disabled musician and a boy she had known in her youth who had lost all use of his legs to polio.
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