Dra. Ana María Polo is truly iconic. There is no one like her, though some say she is like a “Latina Judge Judy''. The theme song to her court show, Caso Cerrado, once was like background music that played throughout my apartment.
That sounds crazy, right? The show was such a massive hit on Telemundo that it used to run for 3 hours straight every afternoon. My husband always had the TV on in the background while he painted. So there she was, Dra. Polo's booming voice carried through the halls as my kids ran around and my husband prepared canvases.
Caso Cerrado focused on human drama: marriage disputes, family fights, even disagreements between neighbors. But with each passing season, the so-called trials became weirder and weirder, more amarillista and even perverted. For example, one time a woman came and claimed she couldn’t stop “twerking” or another time a husband sued his wife for allegedly “impaling” him from behind during sex. The list of these absurd cases goes on and on. The show became too raunchy to play while my kids were listening. So as much as we loved her, Dra. Polo and her beautiful voice were gone from my life.
In her absence, I realized what the show actually represented to me: a strong, smart, bold Latina who, on a Spanish language network, brought up progressive issues. She would take on cases surrounding wage theft, domestic abuse, and people trafficking. In those moments, La Dra. Polo elevated the humanity, dignity, and rights of all people –many of them immigrants and folks from the LGBTQ+ community– before it was commonly accepted to do so.
I’ve always seen her as a fellow disrupter; A powerful woman in the media who did what she wanted.
And then there was her voice. As an audio journalist, what I hear is often more important to me than what I see. Dra. Polo sings the “Nueva Trova” Caso Cerrado and her thick, honey-laced alto voice carried the show. I am a big follower of the Cuban Nueva Canción movement, which was based in highly political folk songs drawing on traditional roots and rhythms. Showcasing the movement is how my own radio career started at WKCR back in the ‘80s. It’s pretty badass to be a real lawyer with your own tv show and on top of that, get the producers to let you sing your own theme song.
Dra. Polo also influenced the name change of the show from Sala de Parejas (Couples' Court) to Caso Cerrado (Case Closed). She ended every case with what she understood as a musically dramatic gesture: banging her gavel and stating “Caso cerrado!”
This TV judge has me in my feels! Who knew?
Dra. Polo’s show has not been taped live since 2019, but reruns still show every day across the country on Telemundo. Recently a Latino USA fellow proposed I interview Dra. Polo. The piece turned out great.
In the interview, I asked how Dra. Polo wanted me to address her.
“My friends call me Anita,” she responded, “so you can call me that.”
“But we aren’t friends yet.” I said, “I just met you.”
“Yes, but you and I are very similar, Maria.” She countered. Dra. Polo went on to say we are both powerful women in the media who are not afraid to use our voices.
It turns out she’s been an avid public radio listener and has followed my show for a long time.
Anita went on to discuss her sexuality with me, something she is usually very private about.
“I am bisexual.” She confided in me.
I love that a Latina icon for millions of people, both in the US and in Latin America, is an openly bisexual woman in her 60s. She inspires me in how she never let the world tell her who to be, but forged her own path and encourages us all to do the same with her example.
Check out her A interview and let me know what you think in the comments! I personally feel like a lot was left on the table. Who knows, maybe there will be a part two 😉.
Featured image courtesy of Dra. Ana María Polo.
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