Latino Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 505–521 | Cite as

The cost of citizenship: Assimilation and survival in Cristela

  • Doug P. BushEmail author
Original Article


The American dream narrative advances the idea that any citizen can achieve success through hard work, but research shows that meritocracy is continually denied to minorities both systemically and through acts of gatekeeping. ABC’s Cristela (2014–2015) presents a quintessential American dream narrative, and we are invited to cheer for the legal intern protagonist because she is hardworking, well-educated and makes sacrifices to get ahead. Nevertheless, Cristela faces strong gatekeeping from Anglo law firm owner Trent Culpepper. How will she respond? To understand how the protagonist surmounts this gatekeeping, this article considers circumstances of series production that necessitated speaking to two audiences simultaneously. For Anglo viewers, Cristela encodes submission to power structures as a positive act of assimilation, while for Latinos, it develops a narrative of submission as an ambivalent survival strategy. The cost of citizenship thus becomes what Cristela must sacrifice to gain access to the American dream, portraying the complexity of “making it” in America.


Cristela Alonzo Sitcom Assimilation Survivorship American dream Racism Citizenship 

El costo de la ciudadanía: Asimilación y supervivencia en Cristela


La narrativa del sueño americano promueve la idea de que cualquier ciudadano puede triunfar si trabaja duro, pero las investigaciones demuestran que a las minorías se les niega la meritocracia tanto sistémicamente como con actos de guardián de frontera (“gatekeeper”). La serie de ABC Cristela (2014–2015) representa la narrativa del sueño americano por excelencia: nos invitan a aplaudir a la protagonista porque trabaja duro como pasante legal, tiene una buena educación y se sacrifica para salir adelante. No obstante, Cristela enfrenta una fuerte actitud de guardián por parte del dueño anglosajón del bufete, Trent Culpepper. ¿Cómo responderá? Para entender cómo la protagonista supera la actitud del jefe, el artículo considera las circunstancias de la producción, las cuales exigieron que la serie se dirigiera a dos públicos simultáneamente. Para el público anglosajón, Cristela codifica la sumisión a las estructuras de poder como un acto positivo de asimilación, mientras que para los latinos la serie elabora una narrativa de sumisión como estrategia ambivalente de supervivencia. De este modo, el costo de la ciudadanía se convierte en lo que Cristela se ve obligada a sacrificar para acceder al sueño americano, representado así la complejidad del hecho de “triunfar” en los Estados Unidos.

Palabras Clave

Cristela Alonzo Comedia Sitcom Asimilación Supervivencia Sueño americano Racismo Ciudadanía 



A special thanks to members of my Latinx Studies class of fall 2017, who provided invaluable insight into Cristela.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Converse CollegeSpartanburgUSA

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