This article is adapted from AQ’s print issue on reducing homicide in Latin America.
When Andrés Manuel López Obrador conjures up a “mafia of power” as the source for Mexico’s woes, Aquí en la Tierra is probably about what he has in mind.
The TV drama, which debuted at the Cannes International Series Festival in April, pulls back the curtain on Mexico’s corrupt puppet masters: the industry titans, slick politicians and shadowy operators who set events in motion — and, as López Obrador tells it, poison everything they touch.
Created by Gael García Bernal, Kyzza Terrazas and Jorge Dorantes, Aquí en la Tierracenters on two young men from opposite sides of Mexico’s socioeconomic divide whose lives are nonetheless intertwined. Adán (Tenoch Huerta) is the son of Governor Mario Rocha’s (Daniel Giménez Cacho) most loyal bodyguard, and as a result has grown up alongside Rocha’s stepson, Carlos (Alfonso Dosal).
Adán and Carlos each struggle with their slated positions in Mexican society. Adán strives to break the glass ceilings of class and color (symbolized by a romance with Carlos’ stepsister, Elisa, played by Paulina Dávila), while Carlos spends much of his time in drug-induced reverie. As their lives are disrupted by a corruption scandal that threatens Rocha’s presidential ambitions, both Adán and Carlos find that while ethical lines in Mexico may be crossed, social barriers are far more rigid.
Aquí en la Tierra’s critique is well-timed. Corruption ranks second only to violence as a top concern for most Mexicans, and was an acrimonious topic of debate in this year’s campaign for president. Viewers familiar with Mexico’s recent history will see much that they recognize — including a direct reference to outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto in the depiction of Rocha’s efforts to repress protests against the construction of a new airport (see: Atenco).
But in other ways the series falls short. Aquí en la Tierra is relentlessly dark, and its fatalism and stylized moodiness grow tiresome after an episode or two. As in López Obrador’s populist discourse, the causes of corrupt behavior here are flattened to a vague hunger for power that motivates even the vilest behavior. Its assessment of the nature of privilege may be correct, but is left undeveloped. Simply recognizing injustice doesn’t make for great TV — any more than it makes for a great president.
AQ Rating: 7/10
Gael García Bernal, Kyzza Terrazas, Jorge Dorantes
Alfonso Dosal, Tenoch Huerta, Paulina Dávila, Daniel Giménez Cach
Russell is AQ‘s correspondent in Mexico City