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"We are Cuban. We don't get divorced. We die."
—Lydia, This Is It

Lydia Margarita Riera (née Inclán[4]) is one of the main characters on the Netflix Original Series One Day at a Time. Her full name is Lydia Margarita del Carmen Inclán Maribona Leyte-Vidal de Riera. She is portrayed by Rita Moreno.

Personality

Lydia Riera is the mother of Penelope and the grandmother of Alex and Elena. Lyda is what is said to be the heart of the family, she brings them together. She values her beauty and fitness. She is a dance instructor and does yoga.

Lydia is a devout Catholic and finds inspiration in the pope. Her husband, Berto, passed away, but she still talks to his "ghost" and remains loyal to him.[5] In "Supermoon" it's mentioned by Alex that Lydia still goes on "dates" with him ten years after his death.

Although Lydia is a devoted Catholic, she is very accepting of Elena and her sexuality.

She was very obstinate at her daughter leaving for Afghanistan and said she prayed everyday for Penelope's protection. Her daughter said that they fought because of it, but when her mom was in the hospital, she realized why her mom opposed to it all along.

In the episode "Hermanos," it is shown she occasionally likes to pitch her children Tito and Penelope against each other for fun making Tito believe she thinks Penelope is perfect and making Penelope think she thinks Tito is perfect. The siblings come to the conclusion that Lydia simply thinks she herself is the perfect one.

Physical Appearance

Lydia has short, brown hair with bangs across her forehead. She wears glasses.

She is very well-groomed and well dressed. She wears elaborate dresses when dancing. When not dancing she wears patterned blouses, pants, and high-heeled shoes. After she s She often wears large statement jewelry such as necklaces. The only one who has ever seen her without makeup is Elena.

In "The Politics Episode," an animated Lydia appears with brown eyes, visible eyelashes, light pink lips, short brown hair and bangs going across her forehead. This hairstyle is much poofier than her real counterpart's. She is seen wearing large navy colored glasses and gold earrings.

Her attire consists of a knee-length white dress with a red floral print with green leaves, a navy unbuttoned blazer, and navy flats.

Bio

Lydia is originally from Cuba, but came to America at fourteen in 1962. She came with her brothers and sisters, all except Blanca. Blanca was nineteen, and too old for the Pedro Pan Program. She died before Lydia could ever see her again, of the "flu." She says that she has never regretted coming to America but wishes she had seen her sister one last time.

Lydia is immensely proud of being Cuban. She is strongly protective of her connection to Cuba, and her Cuban identity. She said that when she came to the US, she didn't speak the language and experienced racism, and there were moments she didn't feel welcome.

She struggled to give up her Cuban citizenship, because of her deep connection to it (she still had the deed to her father's house as of the episode Roots.), However, after Elena convinced her to get naturalized, she realized that she didn't have to stop being Cuban but had an immense amount of love for America. She became American with Schneider.

She once had a stroke while Penelope was pregnant with Elena, but she kept it a secret because she didn't want to bother her or for the family to think she is old. She was hospitalized after Penelope found her in her room after having yet another stroke. Lydia was visited by Berto's ghost and offered the chance to go to heaven with him. She told him "not yet."

Lydia clearly has feelings for Leslie, but refuses to admit them, claiming they are just "friends." However, she was very jealous of his "relationship" with his date. When Dr. Berkowitz confronted her about it, she said that she could never give him as much love, because Berto is the love of her life and her soulmate. However, when she was in the hospital, he told an unconscious Lydia that he didn't care and that for him she was the love of his life.

Lydia and Alex have a very close relationship, and she considers him her other half. He frequently reminds her of her husband Berto. The two also share secrets between them that they keep from the rest of the family.

She and Elena are very close too, however, she is often snarky towards her, and their ideas differ greatly being from very different generations. Lydia frequently wishes Elena would be more feminine and wear makeup, however, this makes Elena uncomfortable as she feels that's not really her or her personal style. None the less, they love each other very much, and Elena regrets not speaking Spanish as much with her grandmother.

Storyline

Season 1

In "This Is It," Penelope comes home from work and her mother Lydia dramatically opens the curtains. She sighs and says they have a problem as she puts her hands on her hips. Penelope then says the hipsters have discovered Porto's and the line around the block is like the freakin' Apple Store now.

Penelope's daughter Elena comes out from the hallway calling for her mom. Elena enters the living room where Lydia says she doesn't like her anymore. Elena retorts that she does not care if her grandmother likes her anymore. Penelope says it sounds like they are both on the same page. Lydia then tells Penelope that her daughter does not want to have a quinces.

Penelope, sounding disappointed, then says they already booked a room. Penelope then says she found a great band, and then says it's actually a DJ, and then finally admits it's just her brother with an iPod but it's a really good playlist of songs.

Elena angrily then says she researched the history of quinceañeras and found out they are totally misogynistic. Lydia then questions why Penelope lets Elena read. Elena glares at this and her mother says that she knows she's a monster, she lets her daughter do math too.

Elena then says she made captain of the debate team but all Lydia wants to talk about is throwing a quinces. Lydia says Elena has to have a quinces otherwise they won't know she's a woman. Elena says that Lydia missed it, she was twelve and it was during gym and ironically it happened during first period.

Lydia also points out that if she doesn't have one then she is throwing away her Cuban heritage. Elena says that only the bad parts and she doesn't want to be paraded around for the men of the village like a piece of property for two cows and a goat. Lydia then says "Someone thinks they're worth a lot."

Penelope then asks what century they are both living in. Penelope tries to convince her that it's just a fun party and she should just relax. Penelope then goes on to say she'll have a little too much wine and embarrass her while she sobs during her toast. Lydia will dance inappropriately in front of one of her guy friends to which Lydia dramatically says she can count on it. Elena says she's not doing it.

Lydia then calls Elena a scoundrel in Spanish and says Penelope needs to do something about her. Elena then questions what that means. Lydia then retorts that Elena does not realize she is being insulted in Spanish. Elena says she'll learn to speak Spanish when Lydia learns to speak English.

Lydia then goes up to Alex and tells him his sister is a scoundrel which they both laugh at.

Lydia then asks Penelope if she's really going to eat the sad-looking meat. Penelope says she bought it, so she's eating it. Penelope then tells Lydia she needs to let her establish her own traditions. Lydia then says she agrees and they should talk about Elena's quinces. Penelope then says she doesn't want to force Elena to have one and she wants to handle it right. Lydia then says a father would really make sure his little girl had a quinces. Penelope then asks if she really wants to go there as she holds the meat hammer.

Lydia then says that when Victor who is Elena and Alex's father comes back they can work it out. Penelope then says when the family all moved in together Lydia said she would go away when Penelope asked her to. Lydia finally takes the hint and heads to her room. Penelope aggressively pounds the meat as Lydia heads to her room talking in Spanish. Once Lydia has closed her curtain Penelope sneakily eats the dinner that was cooked by Lydia. Lydia then calls out that she's welcome from her room.

Later, Schneider, their landlord comes over to fix the sink. Lydia greets Schneider before calling Elena to come to the family room. She shows Elena Penelope's quinceañera album. This leads to Penelope challenging Elena to a debate. They each pretend to be the other and talk about the reasons why they are for or against having a quince. Elena then brings up a whole bunch of reasons Penelope hadn't thought of which works against her. Penelope wins, which means Elena will have a quince. This causes Elena to storm off, yelling in Spanish. Lydia who is stunned says Elena can speak Spanish.

The whole situation upsets Penelope, who goes into the kitchen and pulls out the antidepressants. She tells Lydia, that she's going to be taking them from now on. Lydia tells her that she doesn't need those pills, that what she needs is a husband. Penelope goes off on her, asking Lydia did she think that Penelope wanted to do this alone and without a partner. She says no, that all she wants is for someone to hug her, and tell her that they got her. Lydia takes her daughter into her arms and reassures her that she's got her.

Penelope goes to see Alex telling him that he doesn't have to worry about being the man of the house. She also gives him a pair of shoes that he bought that were under forty dollars. Penelope then goes to tell Elena that she doesn't have to have a quince, but that if she pulls that crap again with her school work, that she's going to put her tiara on Elena and post it to Instagram.

Penelope says that in reality, she was making the quince about her so that she could prove that a single mom could pull off such a big party. Elena says, that she's been looking for a good reason to have a quince and that that's a good reason. She agrees to have a quince. This makes Penelope happy. She tells Elena, that she'll use the photos they take, to scare her children. Elena declares that she isn't having children. Penelope goes to bed and soon after Lydia comes to spoon her.

Season 2

Season 3

In "The Funeral," Elena and Alex are sitting solemnly with Lydia on the couch. Penelope comes in with pizza, celebrating the fact that she bought one and got two free. Penelope then questions if they hate pizza now or was it the song. She asks them to please say pizza because she felt that jam really worked. The three of them don't respond. Lydia then says that Tía Ophelia is dead.

Penelope says that that is terrible and asks who she is again. Elena comes over and says that they can't remember either. Elena then asks if she's the tía who always wears yellow. Penelope says no, that's Tía Big Bird. Alex then asks if she's the one who always finds new ways to insult you. Penelope makes a face and rolls her eyes saying that's Tía Bitchy. Penelope then asks if none of them can remember who she is.

Schneider comes in and is upset over Ophelia's death and calls it a tragedy. He says that they danced all night at Elena's quinces. Schneider then says Ophelia had scarlet fever as a child and lost her right eye. Coming to a realization, Elena says she was the tía with the eye patch. Alex then calls her Tía Jack Sparrow. Penelope then says she called her Tía Blackbeard but then that got confusing because there is another Tía who had an actual black beard. All of them laugh at this except Lydia who bangs on the table they then apologize crossing their chests.

Penelope says that at least they will get to see the family at the funeral and names of some of them. Lydia says that it will be good to see everybody, except La Diabla, who is her younger sister, Mirtha. Schneider then asks about Tía La Diabla and Elena explains she is Lydia's little sister, Mirtha. Penelope points out that Lydia has been mad at Mirtha for twenty years over a stupid mantilla. Alex starts to point out that Lydia has it, but she interrupts him calling Mirtha a liar. Alex then starts to ask if Lydia had the mantilla the entire time but she cuts him off saying she rightfully accused Mirtha of having it all these years because she does.

She then tells Alex to go fix his hair and then messes it up. He runs off screaming. Schneider asks what a mantilla is, and Elena explains that it is a lace veil that is passed on from bride to bride in the family and the couples' names are stitched into it. Lydia then says it's a Spanish tradition and that's why they will never speak to Mirtha or her family ever again. Lydia then asks Penelope if she's right and Penelope tells her no and that this feud between the two sisters ends now.

Penelope then tells her the reception after the funeral will take place in their home. Lydia then questions La Diabla being at her house and says she will never make it past the cross. Penelope says the only things they are burying is the feud and Tía Amelia. The rest of the family and Schneider correct her to say her name is Ophelia. An agitated Penelope then says "whoever."

Lydia then asks how Penelope can not take her side, saying family is everything, and she has to hate her sister. Penelope then says she is sick of this old lady beef and that cost her the relationship she had with her best friend, Estrellita. Schneider then says that Estrellita is Mirtha's daughter and Penelope's cousin. Penelope then threatens to tell the whole family that Lydia had a stroke if she doesn't end the feud with Mirtha.

The family is entering the funeral. Lydia and Alex are hug Tía Bitchy and another woman, while Penelope and Elena are greeted by Tía Bitchy.

Elena points out Tía Pilar who is with Susan, and that she's always wondered if she's gay. Lydia says that Elena thinks everyone is gay and that Pilar is just eccentric and gives examples of this, saying she lives with her roommate Susan.

Lydia's sister Mirtha walks into the room wearing a veil on her head. Both Penelope and Lydia see her walk in. Lydia says that La Diabla herself has arrived with her lizard eyes, vulture claws, and grey roots. Mirtha removes her veil and dramatically and says she's here. She walks up to Ophelia's open casket and says she can finally rest in peace. Lydia then says she could take on Mirtha.

Penelope then reminds Lydia she said she was going to apologize. Lydia then walks up to Mirtha and gives her a hug. Penelope then goes up to her cousin Estrellita and tries to talk to her and catch her up on her life. Estrellita reminds her they are not allowed to talk due to the feud between their mothers and it's not safe. Penelope then explains she talked Lydia into smoothing things out with Mirtha and they will be able to hang out like old times.

Just then, Mirtha comes by and walks past this saying if Lydia gets close to the coffin, she will push her in. Estrellita then says "really?" Penelope then says no and says she doesn't know what just happened but the feud will end that day. Estrellita then tells Penelope not to make promises she can't keep.

Penelope then tries once again to confront Lydia about Mirtha. Lydia tells her this will all be over soon which Penelope doesn't like the sound of.

Lydia is about to sneak the mantilla into the casket when she is approached by Pilar. In order, not to get caught Lydia puts the cloth back in her purse and starts fake crying and is comforted by Pilar. Pilar then compliments Ophelia on her rhinestone eye patch calling it a nice touch before knocking on the coffin and walking away.

Lydia then calls Alex and says there are too many people around, she has him create a diversion by showing the Tías his homecoming pictures on his cell phone. He says went to homecoming with a Cuban girl he might marry. All the Tías then run towards him so they can look at his phone.

Penelope then sees Lydia stuffing the mantilla in Ophelia's casket. Penelope then questions if she had the mantilla the whole time. Lydia then points to Ophelia and says no she had it. Mirtha then walks up to Ophelia's casket and says Ophelia was the only one who understood her. Mirtha then picks up the mantilla and calls Ophelia a thief. Lydia pretends to look shocked and asks if Ophelia had the mantilla the whole time.

Penelope gives Lydia a look and says that it makes sense. Lydia then claims Ophelia had her eyes on it for a long time, until 1952 then she had her eye on it. Mirtha then says all these years she blamed Lydia. The two sisters then grudgingly make up both saying they'll never actually say they are sorry out loud. They then hug.

Estrellita and Penelope celebrate and hug at being able to spend time together again.

Lydia takes the mantilla from the casket and Mirtha asks what she is doing. Lydia then tells her they don't want the mantilla going down in the dirt with Ophelia. Mirtha then says she's right as their great grandmother got married and executed in it. Lydia then says that was quite a quinces that Mirtha also agrees to.

During the reception in the Alvarez home after the funeral, Lydia says she wants to kill Mirtha for telling a story about her cancer. Penelope tells her cancer is scary. Lydia tells her Mirtha only had a mole the size of a tic-tac and the whole story is exaggerated. Penelope says Lydia can tell people about her stroke. Lydia's pride, however, will not allow her to let the family know about her stroke. Lydia then says she is surprised Mirtha is not singing.

Mirtha then starts singing a song dedicated to Ophelia and Lydia buries her face in her hands. Lydia then says she sings like a donkey and goes to approach Mirtha. Mirtha then invites Lydia to sing with her. Lydia tells her she doesn't think she can sing as beautifully as she can. The two then start singing together.

Lydia and Mirtha hold hands and finish their song and everyone applauds. Penelope then tells Estrellita she is glad the stupid mantilla crap is behind them, Estrellita agrees and asks where the mantilla is, saying she wants to get her and her husband Juan's names stitched into as they didn't have it at their wedding. Penelope takes it out of Lydia's purse and asks if she will give it back after.

Estrellita then asks if she's getting remarried. Penelope says she might but she wants to save it for her kids as they are the next oldest in the family. Estrellita says that doesn't make sense because Elena is gay and Penelope retorts saying her son Flavio is super gay. This then leads to the two women fighting over the mantilla and Estellita says Penelope and Victor's names should be removed as they are divorced.

They then realize it's just a piece of lace that does not have any names on it. Pilar comes up and says she and Susan used it at their wedding and she has it. She then pointedly tells the family they were all at the wedding which confuses them because they had not realized the event was a wedding. Lydia even goes so far as to say she thought it was an affectionate barbeque. Penelope then says they should at be ashamed at themselves for fighting over nothing. Lydia finally admits she had a stroke and she and Mirtha makeup and apologize to each other.

Penelope then says just because they have their differences doesn't mean they will stop being family. Estrellita then proposes a toast to Ophelia and says at least she was alive to see the president make America great again. Everyone else looks uncomfortable and the episode ends with Penelope saying "I'm, sorry. What?"

Season 4

The Politics Episode

Lydia as she is portrayed in "The Politics Episode."

The episode begins with Penelope, Schneider, Alex, and Elena in the living room. Lydia comes in from behind the curtain with her phone and says Chago's daughter Margarita is getting baptized, and they're all invited. Everyone else gets excited over the news. Penelope then says the baby's real name is Alice but her nickname is Margarita because that's how she got made.

Schneider then questions if he can be the baby's godfather and Penelope tells him he can't because he is not Cuban, Catholic, or family. Lydia then says she needs to spritz the apartment with holy water because her sister Mirtha is coming with Estrellita and the rest of the family from Miami. She then goes on to say Mirtha is La Diabla and the room darkens and thunder flashes behind her.

Lydia then proceeds to spritz Febreeze, which startles both Penelope and Schneider. She then explains the Febreeze is only temporary until she can get actual holy water. Elena then questions this, saying she thought they settled the mantilla feud and are all good now. Alex then says no, that Mirtha made a comment about Lydia's croquettes being dry and now it's back on.

Lydia then says the only thing that will be dry is every eye at Mirtha's funeral. Penelope then says their old lady feud won't be the problem this time. Alex then questions what the problem will be this time.

They imagine Mirtha, Estrellita, Juanito, and Flavio in the living room, wearing red hats and repeatedly chanting "Make America Great Again!"

Elena remarks that she always forgets the Reyes family is conservative because they are Cuban like the Alvarezes. Penelope then says they should be fine, as long as they stay away from the topic of politics. She then goes on to say it's a baptism and after the service, they can gossip about how Chago and Valentina got married seven months ago and Margarita is a miracle baby.

Lydia then questions what they will do after, as the Reyeses are staying with them. Penelope starts to protest this, saying she knows they are family but simultaneously everyone says they can't send family to hotels like cold Americans. Lydia then says it's good that they get it.

Penelope then says they have to make an exception this time because the best way to keep the family together, is to keep them apart. Lydia then says the family will stay with her in her bedroom.

The Alvarezes imagine their guests sharing Lydia's bed with her and Mirtha sleeping on the floor. In the fantasy, Lydia tells Mirtha she hopes the floor isn't as hard as her breaded steak. Mirtha then retorts that if she wanted to hear from a screeching old bag she'd play with the zipper of her sleeping bag. Lydia then says the only thing she wishes had a zipper was Mirtha's mouth.

Lydia then says the Reyeses have to stay because they are family.

Schneider says he loves how the Alvareses talk about everything. Elena then asks why he's telling them what they already know. Schneider then says they should use his dysfunctional family as a guide and just not talk to each other.

Lydia says that's impossible and Penelope elaborates, saying that Lydia Facetimes her while she's using the restroom. Lydia then clarifies that is only when she's cooking otherwise, she would just walk in.

Later, Lydia tells Penelope she is worried about nothing and they just have to be polite. Penelope then asks what that would look like and they imagine the family wearing royal baroque-style clothing and speaking in British accents. In the fantasy, Estrellita says she is nervous Penelope ad her family will steal her musket. Penelope then reassures her she will keep her musket. Elena then says "crumpets." Alex then says he is hearing rumblings about Hamilton. Juan then gives him money.

This fantasy causes Alex and Elena to laugh and Elena says she thinks they are confusing politeness with Britishness. Lydia then thinks back to the time Mirtha borrowed her lipstick and used the whole tube. Lydia then questions if it's her fault Mirtha has the lips of a pufferfish. Penelope then says once again they are screwed.

Lydia then says the only way to settle this is with a talent competition. In her fantasy, the living room has a blue banner that says “LYDIA’S GOT TALENT” and a microphone. Mirtha and Lydia try to one-up each other as they fight for the microphone and sing their song. Lydia images Gloria Estefan judging the talent show and declaring her the winner.

Lydia continues dancing and says Gloria's name. Elena then questions why Gloria Estefan would be there and Lydia replies that it's because everyone knows that if a Cuban closes her eyes and swishes her hips three times, she appears. Penelope then tells her mother she's lost her mind. Lydia replies that the whole situation is stressful and she's been drinking rum as she takes another swig of rum from her bottle.

Penelope imagines herself and Estrellita getting into a physical fight while the family watches her act it out. In the fantasy, Mirtha tells them to stop fighting but then winds up in a fight with Lydia.

Back in reality, Penelope says they are screwed.

Penelope imagines herself and Estrellita each giving their perspectives on the current president.

Back in reality, Elena tells her she is ready and Alex gives her money. Penelope says she wishes they didn't have to talk about this, but now she knows she can. The Alvarezes hear a knock at the door. Lydia asks if they were expecting someone and says she had a little rum holding up the bottle. Penelope then says she knows the Reyeses are nuts but they are family and the Alverezes love the anyway, despite their different beliefs.

The Reyeses are seen standing in the hall having a similar conversation, saying they know the Alverezes are crazy liberals but they love them anyway.

The episode ends with Penelope opening the door and everyone greeting each other and the Alvarezes, Schneider, and the Reyeses embracing in a group hug.

Memorable Quotes

I’m going to spoon you.” (When she walks into Penelope’s room wearing her pajamas.)



Okay, shh!” (When she was going to “spoon” Penelope.)



Don't put me in a home.” (To Penelope at a church.)


No, no. Just me.” (While getting everyone to shut up at Dr Berkowitz’ birthday party.)



Hey, you guys!” (While trying to get everyone to pay attention to Penelope at Elena’s quinces.)



The room is yours.” (When everyone looks at Penelope after she says the previous quote.)



"Leslie and Lydia, Leslie and Lydia, we're just good friends!" (Whilst she was talking to Lupe and Dr Berkowitz)


"You don't know where Julio spends his time." (While comforting Penelope after she woke up from a nightmare.)



"The condiment or the dance? I am equipped for both." (To Schneider after he said he had a salsa emergency.)



"Jesus and Santa were cousins, everybody knows this!" (While Penelope and Elena were debating whether or not Elena should have a quinces.)



"Elena, that is how you come out of the closet." (Introducing herself in a fashionable matter when her son Tito came to visit.)


"My shade is Scarlet Sunrise." (Penelope and Lydia reciting the lipstick shade that they would put on Lydia if she died)



Trivia

  • Lydia hasn't spoken to Mirtha in twenty years because she thought Mirtha stole the family mantilla. Alex thinks he finds the mantilla in a closet, which she reveals that she actually had it the entire time. But then finds out that it's just a piece of lace. They find out that Pilar had it the entire time and had used it on her wedding day to marry her wife Susan.
  • She calls a curtain a wall with no self respect.
  • She drank alcohol and smoke cigars while pregnant with Penelope.

Notes and references

  1. There are some continuity errors with Lydia's age. In One Lie at a Time, Lydia said she was 73 during 2016, meaning she was born in 1943. But in Viva Cuba, she said she was 14 when she came to America in 1962, meaning she would have been born in 1948, making her 68 in 2016.
  2. In Benefit with Friends, Lydia says she had a grandmother named María Luisa
  3. Lydia mentions in Checking Boxes that her aunt Chuchi, after her fiancé left her, swore off love and spent the rest of her life lonely and having nobody.
  4. It is likely that Lydia's maiden name is Inclán, due to its position in her full name.
  5. Exclusive
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