MLK Day Series Review: Netflix Jaguar, & Justice vs. Revenge?

   It was El Ministerio Del Tiempo that brought my attention to  the Franco era, and the fact that Franco had been allied with the Nazis.  The Netflix short series Jaguar dramatizes one aspect of life under this dictatorship: the hunt for fugitive Nazis living under the protection of Spain’s dictator.  A team of hunters, all camp survivors except for the youngest, who is the son of a man killed in the camps, are working to bring a prominent Nazi to justice as he transits Spain on the way to South America.  To do this, the team needs to recruit a young survivor bent on killing the handler of this Nazi.  Since she happens to be the only person able to recognize the guy, having survived as a servant in the headquarters during the war, the team leader must persuade her to put justice above personal vengeance.  It is an excellent drama, also dealing with perceived  betrayal, redemption, and the horrible paradox of a sadistic torturer whose research also happened to provide scientific data.

statue of martin luther king jr in west potomoc park washington dc
Photo by Tim Simons on

   Today we observe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday, and remember that he was preparing, when he was killed, to lead a campaign that would advocate for all people suffering from injustice.  He reminded us that

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

    This series is set in 1962 Madrid, and can be a bit hard to follow in places (particularly when the person speaks who is hard of hearing), so the Closed Captions help.  Thousands of Spaniards died in the camps, many of them simply sent for being Republicans (part of the alliance of the Republic that Franco destroyed in 1939).  Some quotes from a few episodes that really got me follow:
Ep. 1:  “Si lo pegan un tiro…nadie se enterería de sus crímenes. Nadie se sentiría vergüenza de sus actos.” Por eso tenemos la justicia.”
“If he’s shot…no one will hear of his crimes.  No one will feel the shame of his actions.”  This is why we have a justice system.
Episodio 2: “Alguien tiene que evitar que esos desgraciados mueren de viejos en sus camas.” Gracias!
Ep. 2: “Somebody has to prevent these jerks from dying of old age in their beds.”  Thank you!
And we also deal with the trauma of survivors, and their inability to fit in in a society that expects us all to be happy, to be normal, to live as if all were well:
Episodio 6: “…te das cuenta de que ya no eres como los demás y nunca lo vas a ser…te han quitado…”
Ep. 6: “…you realize that you are no longer like everyone else and you never will be…they have taken from you…”

   The interesting thing about this series is that we never really find out why any of the team members were sent to the camps.  The only religious references are to the oldest team member, a formerly devout Catholic, who has lost his faith due to the horrors he saw in the camps.  All bear the tattoos and the emotional scars, even the kid, who does not have a tattoo, but does have a photo of his father who died in the camps, and for him, it is the same as the tattoos of the survivors.  We see, in this kid, the result of trauma passed down, even when he was not in the camps, but suffers the same pain as the older survivors.  Being young, of course, he deals with it in less rational and more impulsive ways that cause problems, of course, for the team.  Even more interestingly, for  the story, we never find out who funds and runs this team.  Hopefully, that will be for a season two of this series, which deserves to be renewed and watched far more widely than it appears to have been thus far.

Podemos hacer y ser mejor…
(yes, we can Do  and Be Better…)”

This is another part of the work, imho, that Toni Morrison spoke of for the Black woman writer.  We must bear witness to what has been erased about our own past, yes, but Dr. King pointed out that we must also speak for those who were unable to speak for themselves, so that the past of others who were unjustly persecuted may also be uncovered, and eventually reconciled.   #ProjectDoBetter focuses on the language learning needed to facilitate both the empathy, and also the hearing and telling of those stories.



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