La Leyenda Negra

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
La Leyenda Negra TV Poster Image
Mature immigrant-themed indie has strong female lead.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

It highlights the struggles associated with coming of age, as well as the dire situation many Latinx people living in the U.S. are facing under the auspices of TPS programs. Institutional racism, homophobia, and underground activism are also themes. 

Positive Role Models

The majority of the cast is Latinx. Aletiea is intelligent, strong, resilient, and independent. She also appears to be negotiating her identity as a member of a the LGBTQ+ community. Monica is a bully. School faculty and staff appear ignorant of, or disinterested in, the discrimination Aleteia and other immigrants are experiencing. 


There’s some teen bullying, pushing, and fighting. There are conversations about someone getting severely hurt after an anarchist group set a school room on fire. Aleteia’s plight is seen as a result of the intolerant and bullying tactics of the U.S. government. 


Male teens are seen harassing young women. There are crude references to having sex. 


Curses in Spanish and English include "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen drinking and pot smoking is visible. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that La Leyenda Negra is a bilingual coming-of-age film about a young woman whose future is threatened by the U.S. government’s anti-immigration policies. It features LBGTQ+ themes, as well as some strong innuendo, including crude references and sexual activity. There's plenty of cursing in both Spanish and English, including "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole." There's also teen drinking and pot smoking. There's bullying behavior, fighting, and some illicit protest activities, but no blood or injuries are shown. Institutional racism, homophobia, and underground activism are also themes. 

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What's the story?

LA LEYENDA NEGRA follows an El Salvadorian teenager and activist attending high school in California. Aleteia (Monica Betancourt) has just transferred to a new school in Compton, where she’s surrounded by students and faculty who are unwilling or unable to acknowledge the discrimination Latinx immigrants are being subjected to. As a way of making herself heard, she associates with an underground group of anarchists committed to putting an end to the government’s various discriminatory policies. Aleteia, who has lived all her life in the U.S., is looking forward to finishing high school and going to UCLA on an academic scholarship. But when the Trump Administration announces the end of the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) program for El Salvador, it puts her legal status in jeopardy. Things get even more complicated as the group’s protest activities become more violent, and bullies like Monica (Irlanda Moreno) zero in on her, especially when she starts spending time with the popular Rosarito (Kailei Lopez). 

Is it any good?

This bilingual coming-of-age indie film tells a difficult and complex story about what it’s like for a young immigrant woman still discovering who she is while facing the fear of an uncertain future. As Aleteia’s story unfolds, it is propped up against "la leyenda negra" (the black legend), which some argue is a myth created by British Protestants to inaccurately portray Spanish Catholics as cruel and intolerant colonizers. For Aleteia, it is the U.S. government that is now the source of persecution against her people, as it reinforces the institutionalized racism and homophobia that she is forced to navigate, and fight against, to survive. 

The film is shot in black and white, highlighting the stark choices that Aleteia, and young people like her, are being forced to make. The actors, who were cast from local Compton high schools, authentically recreate the lived experiences of many Latinx youth in the area. But what makes La Leyenda Negra so compelling is the simple but powerful way it portrays a strong, young, Latinx woman who -- after growing up in the United States legally -- suddenly finds her hopes for a better future slipping away while being threatened with criminalization and deportation to a country she has never known. It is a poignant and honest reminder of the fears and uncertainties many young immigrants are living with in today’s America. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why people from specific countries receive Temporary Protection Status (TPS) from the United States. Why were these protections terminated after 2016? What happens to people who have been the U.S. for many years after the program is canceled?

  • La Leyenda Negra is an example of how fictional TV shows and movies can call attention to important political and social issues impacting Latinx communities in the United States. Can you think of any others? Check out some of Common Sense’s Latinx-themed viewing suggestions for all ages.

  • What are some ways you can relate to Aleteia? Does she remind you of anyone you know? Do you have things in common with her? How does she cope with some of the obstacles facing her?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Latinx stories

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