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Series: Que Pasa USA
¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.? was a bilingual sitcom produced by Miami, Florida PBS station WPBT from 1977 to 1980. The show centered on the humorous travails of a Cuban-American family, the Peñas, as they struggle to adapt to American culture and customs while holding on to their Cuban roots. 39 episodes were produced.

The use of language mirrored the typical real-world attitudes of Cuban-American families of the era: the oldest generation stubbornly avoiding learning any English, the middle-agers splitting about 50/50 between Spanish and English, and the youngest generation (mostly raised in the U.S.) speaking mostly in colloquial English, but still capable of communicating in Spanish.

This 3-camera, videotaped production (with a live studio audience) was a unique and ambitious project for a local PBS station. Despite its humble origins and relatively low budget (by Hollywood standards), it was well-written and capably produced, and is still rerun by many PBS member stations.

This show provides examples of:

  • Bilingual Dialogue: The scripts were split almost 50/50 between Spanish and English, insuring that no matter which was your primary tongue, you would still get at least half of the jokes.
  • Faux Fluency: Averted – the principal actors were all actual Cuban refugees/transplants, many of whom had acted in their native country prior to fleeing Castro’s regime.

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