Doctora Polo: “This is who I am”
If some Latinos hear the doctor, it does not evoke the image of a doctor. Instead, it’s that of a Cuban-American lawyer-turned-show host who sings her own theme song. You know this scene: Dra. Ana María Polo sits behind a raised desk with a cool blazer (and blowout). She grinds her teeth, swears, sometimes she even cries. But more often, tiene tremenda pena for the litigants who stand before it and share certain intimacies, most people would never want to repeat themselves, let alone on one of the most-watched Spanish-language TV shows during the day. Intimacies like a woman who needs to twerk for hours to seduce her partner or a man who sues his wife for biting her testicles.
Much like his television personality, Dra. Polo’s birth year was dramatic. She was born in Havana, Cuba in 1959, the year of the Cuban Revolution. Dr. Polo’s family decided to flee Cuba for Miami when she was two years old, and then they emigrated to another Caribbean island, Puerto Rico, where Dra. Polo spent his childhood and adolescence. It was there, as a Catholic schoolgirl, that she discovered two passions that would one day converge: justice and entertainment.
Even as a young girl, she was argumentative. When her parents told her about the American dream, she questioned them, saying, “I can’t be president; I was not born here. As a teenager, she wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts, but her parents told her, “Nina, you must be a teacher or a lawyer… Forget the music. And she almost did for two decades. After returning to Miami with her family, Dra. Polo earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and eventually a doctorate. in law, meaning, that’s right, she really is a Ph.D.
Dr. Polo had been practicing family law for over 20 years in Miami when she was “discovered”. Her friend had convinced her to sing at an opening party for a new restaurant across from the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. A Telemundo producer was also present at this party and in the middle of a talent search for the host of a new show called “Sala de Parejas”, or Couple’s Court, he invited Dra. Polo to audition after seeing her perform. Y bueno, ya tú sabes. Sala de Parejas premiered on Telemundo in 2001 and was eventually renamed after its best-known phrase, “Caso Cerrado”. It often aired several hours a day on Telemundo and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy.
With nearly two decades in television, Dra. Polo is a pop culture icon, especially among Latinos and Millennials and Gen Z Latinos who grew up watching her. Pitbull may be Mr. 305, but Dra. Polo is the daughter of Miami – there is a street named after her in Hialeah, Florida, one of the municipalities in Miami-Dade County.
In this episode of Latin United States, Dr. Polo reflects on the impact of “Caso Cerrado” on Latin American television and culture and his role as a Latin American artist. She also touches on her personal and professional paradoxes: like how “Caso Cerrado” was often dismissed as low culture but was hosted by a highly educated Latina, and how she’s a lifelong queer lawyer but has kept her own private sexuality – until now. . While new episodes haven’t been taped since 2019, “Caso Cerrado” is forever. Reruns are still broadcast daily on Telemundo, and the show has been commemorated with viral clips and internet memes.
Image courtesy of Dra. Ana Maria Polo.