The Genius of YouTuber Jenny Lorenzo and Her Cuban-American Character, Abuela

The character is almost as rich as her platanos y croquetas.
June 20, 2018
8 mins read

“Ponte un sueter!”

Translation: “Put on a sweater,” just one of the many quotable catchphrases peppered throughout Jenny Lorenzo’s videos, especially skits where she dons a costume and becomes the beloved character, Abuela.

For those of you not as swift in your Spanish skills, “abuela” means grandmother, and Lorenzo’s “Abuela” is the funniest, albeit fiercest grandma you’ll see grace your YouTube screen.

In addition to representing Cuban culture in a charming and authentic medium, Jenny (or “Yenny” if you’re feeling that Spanish pronunciation) has created a character that is universally captivating whether you’re Cuban or not.

Pero, like, why?

Why is Abuela a superhero of all YouTube characters? Trust me, it’s more than just the platanos y croquetas (even though those Cuban specialties are muy delicioso).

Here are some reasons that you’ll love Abuela and even want to model your own character and self-esteem after hers.

1. She Reminds Us of Our Own Family

Even though she speaks Spanglish and drinks her cafecito (Cuban espresso) every afternoon, Abuela embodies the characteristics of grandmothers and other family members that are familiar and comical to all.

Abuela finds herself in a variety of scenes and environments, such as shopping, cleaning the house and talking to her family on the phone, but despite these everyday, mundane tasks, she never fails to slip in a reminder that its below 75 degrees and you better be taking a sweater with you, or that today is your aunt’s birthday and your second-cousin’s baptism, or even that you should really eat a little more rice next time you come over for dinner.

In her spare time, Abuela also likes to catch up on her latest soaps (endearingly called “novelas”) and dish out gossip to her friends, even though she’ll have to take that up with Jesus next time she’s at church. These character traits are familiar to anyone who has shared an experience with family members that may come off a little overbearing but are really just thinking about you constantly out of love.

Beyond these charming qualities that Abuela possesses, she reminds audiences of their own relatives and ancestors who immigrated to America for a better life. Abuela often blends her authentic Cuban culture with contemporary American culture, such as parodying the popular song “Despacito” into “Cafecito” or dressing up as a Hogwarts professor to explain her favorite supersitions; however, in accepting these cultural trademarks as her own, she never loses sight of the culture that she knows and loves.

With so many people coming from families built on the audacity of their ancestors to start their lives in America from almost nothing, it’s easy to see why Abuela is an entertaining but also sentimental character to so many people.

2. She Sports an Enviable Brazenness

To put it shortly, Abuela tells it like it is.

But, she always delivers her impactful statements in a way that softens their “sometimes” insulting nature and makes you realize that, at the end of the day, she does have a good point.

For example, when her family tries to explain Coachella to her, Abuela seems like she doesn’t understand at all saying, “Coachella? Como un cuchillo,” when cuchillo — a knife — doesn’t have anything to do with Coachella even if they sound the same. But in that same conversation, Abuela cleverly asks, “You can’t listen to music without being naked? I don’t understand,” showing that she has better ideas for how festival-goers should be spending their time and isn’t afraid to speak up about it.

Abuela also isn’t afraid to speak her mind about growing up and preparing to be a competent adult. In a skit where Abuela is the voice of GPS, she reroutes a young driver from Taco Bell to the grocery store and exclaims, “You need to learn to cook for yourself,” and in another scene, she tells her granddaughter, “You don’t already know how to make rice? Who’s going to marry you like that?”

Even though these words might seem harsh, behind those little glasses is the mind of an Abuela who is smart, wise and wants the best for you. In a time where messages are veiled in ambiguous emojis and GIFs, Abuela’s boldness and candidness are qualities that everyone should practice a little more by saying what they really mean.

3. She Is Shamelessly and Unapologetically Herself

In one of her most popular videos, Abuela explains why she would be the best presidential candidate. She has plans to improve nutrition with authentic meals instead of junk food, reform healthcare with chicken soup and her special Spanish rhymes to cure diseases and, lastly, to improve the safety of neighborhoods with a program that rotates neighborhood-watch members looking out their windows for constant surveillance.

Are her propositions silly? Maybe a little. But through all of her ideas and comments, Abuela shows that she is unafraid to express herself and promote what is truly important to her. Her way of life isn’t typical or “normal,” but she is proud of who she is and her role in life to help others around her.

Jenny Lorenzo is a famous YouTuber in her own right, but her Abuela character has taken on a life of its own. (Image via YouTube)

In this way, Abuela expresses the aims of Jenny Lorenzo’s own content on her page, in that they both speak proudly about embracing your quirks. Outside of her Abuela skit, Lorenzo speaks about body positivity, the joys and oddities of growing up Cuban American, the importance of self-esteem and embracing your passions, even if they’re considered “nerdy” by outsiders.

She admits that it isn’t always easy to be confident about your passions, but proves with her growing audience that expressing what you love and know can relate to a wider audience than you would have thought.

Together, Lorenzo and her character Abuela make for a fantastic team, creating content that is entertaining and inspiring. Her work teaches you about a culture that isn’t often represented as authentically and with as much soul as Lorenzo creates.

Kiersten Lynch, Seton Hall University

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Kiersten Lynch

Seton Hall University

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