The Rocky of Squash: Little America

A still shot from “The Jaguar” (image: Chicago Sun-Times/Apple TV)

Last week Apple TV Plus released the first season of Little America, an anthology television series that looks at the unexpected lives of immigrants in America. There are eight half-hour episodes in the first season. Episode two, directed by Aurora Guerrero and called “The Jaguar,” is based on Reyna Pacheco.

A member of Access Youth Academy, the urban squash program in San Diego, Pacheco grew up as an undocumented immigrant. She played varsity squash at Columbia and then on the pro tour, reaching world No. 70.

The series has received tremendous coverage across the world, with the squash episode receiving attention in Rolling Stone, the Guardian and on Scott Simon’s “Weekend Edition” on NPR. Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times said that the episode “is highlighted by a powerful and lovely performance by Jearnest Corchado as Marisol, a whip-smart but hard-edged and troublesome teenage daughter of an undocumented Mexican housekeeper.” Roeper concluded: “As is the case with every episode, ‘The Jaguar’ has an epilogue with images of the true-life people who inspired the story, and updates on their lives. The continuation of Marisol’s journey is so uplifting and triumphant, there’s enough material to fit the classic sports-movie formula. It’s the Rocky of squash.”

“’The Jaguar,’ in particular, would one million percent be a smash Sundance sensation if developed into a feature,” wrote Gregory Lawrence in “It’s an underdog sports story with a fierce, star-making lead performance (Jearnest Corchado), a delightfully eccentric supporting performance (John Ortiz as an unpredictable coach), a warmly non-confrontational political subtext (Corchado and her family are undocumented immigrants) and exhilarating action (who knew squash could be so cinematic).”

You can watch the episode here.

In March 2020 a book Little America: Incredible True Stories of Immigrants in America will be published. These are the original stories, including Pacheco’s, that ran in Epic Magazine and upon which the television series is based.