A lovely lady bringing up three very lovely girls….
The lovely lady in question is Silvana “Chivis” Rivapalacios. Only her eldest daughter, Maria José, has hair of gold like her mother. The youngest, Maria Guadaulpe, has bright red curls. As for Maria de los Ángeles, the middle child, she lives up to her name. Chivis is married to Antonio José and her mother Trini (please don’t call her “grandma”) lives with them.
We meet Silvana on a pretty rotten day. Her horoscope reads, “Aquarius: You’ll have a terrible day. Stay in bed.” Instead she gets her younger daughters off to school. Angie is stressing about a “final notice” letter that dad needs to please take care of already. Lupita reminds her there’s a meeting today about her First Communion. Maria José whines about not wanting to go to Accounting class–she’s only studying Hotel Administration so she can travel. Besides, she’s going to marry her boyfriend Andres soon and he probably won’t let her work…like dad doesn’t let mom work.
Silvana has a rushed phone conversation with Antonio José about the letter and the meeting. He’s in a bit of a hurry, taking the stairs from his office up to the helipad on the roof so he can board a helicopter and avoid the FBI.
Chivis heads off to play golf, having no idea anything’s wrong until the FBI shows up. Back at the house, she explains to her mother that the cops are looking for Antonio José and she doesn’t know why. it’s not long before a suit shows up with a notice of embargo. They start emptying out the house.
The lawyer arrives in the evening and informs them that Antonio José sold the house in Acapulco three months ago. Trini’s not worried. Everybody has a house in Acapulco. They’ll be fine with the one in Los Cabos. “You lost that one too.” Rafael, the lawyer, thought she knew! Antonio José has been having financial problems for a while now. As for the shares of stock in Silvana’s name…sold. And they have a week to move out of this house.
Maria José gets home after a date with her Baby Boo, Andres. (That’s going to bug me.) He has a TA job that starts soon and Maria José assumes all the students will be hot for teacher. She could be one of his students, but classes in medicine? Yuck! Besides, she doesn’t have to study to spend daddy’s money!
It’s a bit of a shock for her when she gets inside and finds everyone sitting on the floor. Well, at least they left them their clothes, Silvana and Maria José’s cars, and the beds. Silvana’s been calling Antonio José all day and getting no answer. She’s not waiting for him–she’s going out tomorrow and looking for a house to rent.
Rental search montage. Everything is too expensive. The real estate agent suggests a change of ‘hood.
Four men (and one woman) living all together
Manuel Gallardo’s wife died eight years ago. Since then, he’s vowed not to bring another woman into his house until his youngest son is 18. All his kids are named after singers. Vicente, the oldest, for Vicente Fernandez; Lucia for Lucha Villa; Jorge, the middle one, for Jorge Negrete; and Pedro, the youngest, for Pedro Infante.
Manuel’s life is on an upswing. He’s the manager of a fish market and they have increased profits since last year, which means they won’t have developers coming in and tearing down the market to put up a high-rise.
Manuel has a girlfriend, Stella, who would love to publicly be his girlfriend but…see above re: not until the kids are grown. Vicente knows about Stella and really doesn’t have a problem with her or with his dad dating, but he can’t talk Manuel into changing his rule.
So, how did the lady meet this fellow….
Chivis is driving around looking for a rental property that just happens to be half of Manuel’s duplex. He was parked in front of the “for rent” sign, so when she figured out she’d passed the address, she did what any reasonable person would do–backed up for half a block into his truck and sent fish flying. (I wasn’t overly grossed out by the fish, but the tentacled things….ewwwww!)
It’s a sign of how bad things have gotten in the galan department lately that I was impressed with the way Manuel handled the situation. He was unhappy, but the worst thing he said to her was “Is your husband drunk?” in response to “My husband says if someone gets hit from behind, it’s always the other driver’s fault.”
He takes pictures, calls the police so they can make a report and there’s a lot of bickering, but the cop agrees it was Chivis’ fault. She backed up unexpectedly. Manuel does a little end-zone dance.
The kids, or at least some of them, have prepared a big dinner to celebrate Manuel’s award. Before he sits down to eat, he excuses himself to take a call from Stella. The three oldest kids know all about Stella, though Jorge likes the “not in this house” rule. Pedro listens, but says nothing.
If I’m understanding this correctly, Stella and Domingo rent a room or rooms from Poncho, Manuel’s friend. Domingo encourages Stella to win the kids over if she wants to date Manuel openly…which gets him drafted into buying a present for Pedro.
Pedro and dad have a thing where Pedro pretends his brothers aren’t letting him sleep for some reason (snoring, talking, watching TV too loud) and he has no choice but to sleep in his dad’s bed. He hates to do it, but hey, we’ve all gotta make sacrifices. Tonight, Pedro asks about Stella, but Manuel says she’s just a friend. Pedro kisses the picture of his mom before going to bed and, without looking at his dad, says he doesn’t want him to have a girlfriend.
This next day, Chivis drives responsibly and meets the real estate agent. She misses Manuel and Pedro rushing out of the house to school.
That evening at home, er soon-to-be-former-home, she tells the girls the good news–she found a house! It’s…um…centrally located. Near a bus stop. With a nice balcony. And two floors. And the best part is that there’s a grutita (a little grotto) with a statue of the Virgen…like the virgen at the house where they used to live before her dad died. Trini remembers, but she looks worried. Angie, sweet child, says it must be a sign from grandpa. They move in tomorrow.
It’s a long drive, and as they get farther and farther away from Coral Gables, Trini and Maria José especially start looking increasingly concerned. By the time they pull up in front of the house, Maria José is calling her crazy. Angie says it’s pintoresca. “Are we poor now!” Trini sets Lupita straight–they’re not poor, they’re middle class, which is worse. Chivis is undeterred and welcomes them all to the new house.
The Gallardos notice the new neighbors. Vicente and Jorge are thrilled. Lucía doesn’t think they can make friends with fresas (rich people). Jorge heads over to help Angie unload the back of the SUV. Behold the sparkage!
In the middle of Trini’s whining and Maria José’s shock, Lupita comes downstairs with an important announcement–there are only three bedrooms upstairs. Horrors! Yep, all the girls are bunking together. Maria José strenuously objects (though I think her sisters are getting the short end of that stick). She almost stomps her foot, she’s so angry! And after they sold her car, too! She’s convinced Andres is going to break up with her when he finds out (that they moved? That he has to drive her everywhere? That she’s not rich anymore?).
Into all this chaos comes Jorge with Angie. He introduces himself and explains the family naming scheme. Trini is downright rude about it, but Jorge ignores her and offers help with whatever. He’ll even share their WiFi password if they don’t have Internet set up yet. Ooh, he’s good peeps, that Jorge!
Maria José makes a reappearance, shouting into her phone. Jorge explains that the signal is crap–best to go outside. She continues her conversation with Andres from the driveway and starts in with the lies–she’s waiting for the maid to serve her breakfast; he can’t come over after school, she’d rather come find him; the chauffeur retired at 30 because he had a bad back; Angie borrowed her car…look, she’ll take a taxi, ok?
On his way to class, Andres literally bumps into Lucha, who happens to be in his class.
Meanwhile, Vicente meets Maria José. He manages to get a smile out of her by teasing her about her nonexistent allergies and offers his help with moving or whatever. Maria José feels the need to claim they’re just living there while their house in Coral Gables is getting remodeled.
Jorge finally leaves and Trini starts in on the classist “be careful with that boy, he might be a thief.” Then she complains about the horrible dishware Chivis bought that looks like it’s from a fonda. I’m going to be tuning her out a lot if she doesn’t cut that out. Chivis tells the girls they have to stick together, support each other. Lupita: “Like a team of cheerleaders, mom?” Yeah, like that. Now all Chivis has to do is get a job. Trini unhelpfully reminds her she doesn’t know how to do anything. (That’s it, she’s getting a time out!)
Chivis’ phone rings and Rafael breaks it to her that she doesn’t have car insurance. That means a trip to his office for a meeting with Manuel. There’s more bickering and Chivis tries to deny that there was any damage to his truck or any spillage of seafood whatsoever. Seriously? I saw the tentacles, Chivis. We all saw the tentacles. She tries to give Manuel a check post-dated by a month and he calls her a fresa. Pride wounded, she tells Rafael to change the check date to today and storms out of his office while Manuel tells her to get over her ‘tude before she wrinkles.
Back at home, Chivis has run out of cheer and is worried about the lack of communication from Antonio José. Now it’s Trini’s turn to be the cheerleader–he’s a family man, he’s not going to abandon them, he’s probably protecting them from something, and all this is going to turn out ok. Trini holds her while Chivis has the crying session she’s been holding back all this time–a month ago, she never would have imagined she’d be in this position, having all her belongings taken, her children without a roof over their heads, and her husband nowhere to be found. Lupita overhears her mom saying that he’s never coming back. Antonio José has abandoned them.
Manuel hears about the new neighbors and complains about the haze of testosterone in his living room. Vicente points out there’s one his age. “Why is everyone trying to marry me off?!” In retaliation he leaps up and squashes the lot of them.
Chivis takes it back. They’re just having money problems and Lupita’s dad is out of the country, working. She’s just upset that he wasn’t here to help with the move. He called last night, but it was late. Lupita decides to write him a letter. She runs upstairs to get started. Angie heard the story and asks if lying to Lupita is a good idea. Chivis says she just wants to protect her.
After class, Andres and Lucía meet up again. He agrees with what she said about the country’s health system not benefiting everyone. And here she thought fresas were superficial. They’re laughing about her calling him a fresa when Maria José intercepts them. Lucía recognizes her from next door, but Maria José tries to deny it.
Chivis gets a call from Manuel. He’s on the other side of their shared bedroom wall and he’s annoyed that her check bounced. Chivis goes out to the balcony and Manuel notices her voice is coming from somewhere other than the phone. She insults his truck; he accuses her of never having worked a day in her life. He finally locates the source of the echo and heads out onto his balcony where each of them is unpleasantly surprised to see the other.