It’s OK for The Real Housewives to bare their claws in the show’s trademark catfights.
But don’t trash talk Hialeah.
That’s the lesson Alexia Echevarria — the self-proclaimed “Cuban Barbie’’ on The Real Housewives of Miami — learned this week after dissing the city’s 250,000 residents on the cable network.
She apologized Wednesday for comments about Hialeah locals being “lower” that sparked an online firestorm and strong stirring of Hialeah and Cuban-American pride.
It’s the latest drama from the reality TV franchise that has become a pop culture phenomena — a guilty pleasure for viewers who enjoy watching rich women from Orange County to New Jersey flip tables and call each other whores.
On the Miami show’s second episode Tuesday night, Echevarria’s seeming put-down started simply enough when the 43-year-old magazine editor addressed the camera about her glossy magazine, Venue.
She referred to Hialeah residents as “lower’’ and wanting to live vicariously through the socialites portrayed in her magazine that caters to Hispanics.
One reason some took issue with Echevarria’s comment: She is married to Herman Echevarria, a former Hialeah City Council president, former chairman of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce and Industries and a well-connected marketing executive.
Many Hialeah residents take pride in their city, with its blue-collar roots and strong ties to Cuba. There is even a bumper sticker with a pink flamingo that declares: “My Pride Hialeah Mi Orgullo.”
Longtime resident, sixth-grade science teacher and former political hopeful Phil Secada, 56, said Echevarria’s comment was uncalled for.
“We got good people,” Secada said. He noted how once his lost wallet was returned within hours by a recent Cuban immigrant.
“I can’t think of a better place to live than Hialeah. I have been to all 50 states except three. I love Hialeah,” Secada added.
Society writer and former Herald columnist Daisy Olivera called the comment a “case of ‘open mouth, insert Louboutin.’”
She vented via Facebook.
Nobody “with any semblance of class or humility call anyone else ‘lower persons,’ especially not your own, hard-working people,” wrote Olivera, blasting Echevarria for unfavorably portraying Cubans to the country at large.
Fellow Real Housewife castmate Adriana De Moura told the Herald on Wednesday that Echevarria’s comment was “unfortunate.”
Echevarria quickly recanted Wednesday. In a statement on Facebook and Twitter, she said viewers didn’t get to see the entire question due to editing, which caused the “misunderstanding.”
“The question was if Venue Magazine was only for the upscale people of Miami. My answer was no, our magazine is for everyone. I explained the fact that Venue Magazine caters to everyone regardless of who you are, where you are from and what your socio-economic level is,” Echevarria said in a statement.
She added: “I admire and respect the people of Hialeah; in fact my husband is a product of Hialeah.”
The put-down on reality TV follows another stinging critique of Hialeah in the national media.
In January, Newsweek included the City of Progress on its list of America’s Dying Cities, citing its high foreclosure rate that is nearly twice the national average.
Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina declined through a spokesman to wade into the Bravo brouhaha.
“The mayor has got to run a city. That’s more important than the Real Housewives of Miami,” said Arnie Alonso, the mayor’s spokesman.
Hialeah Council President Carlos Hernandez similarly declined to comment on the reality TV show, but denounced the Newsweek report.
“We’re a city of progress and we’re going forward,” said Hernandez. “Ask anyone in Hialeah — We’re very proud of Hialeah.”
Bravo executives may want to tap into that pride: Real Housewives of Hialeah, anyone?