Mexican soap operas – Telenovelas mexicanas

What would be of Mexico without their telenovelas?

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Telenovela‘ is a genre which it somehow mimics those Bollywood productions we all seen on Youtube: farfetched plots, baroque scenery, overacting characters, all paired with way too much passion, beatings, murders, love, betrayal, haciendas, mustaches, horses, maids (who the hell can afford an in-house maid in Mexico besides Carlos Slim?) and many other Mexican and too unrelated things… just to tell a love story, everything mixed up for just one season. The Wire’s plot is a kid’s autumn festival play in comparison!

While the (British) name soap opera comes from the fact that they were sponsored by soap companies as the main audience for these programs were housewives, in Spain are called culebrones (long snakes) because of the convoluted and long plots, but in Latin America are called novelas or more exactly, telenovelas, as they are staged narrations of the love books (novel), which later inspired the radio narration of them (thus called radionovela), and later the broadcasting (telenovela), keeping the eccentric and dramatic plots and exaggerated performances from the time of this format on the radio.

For those knowing Spanish, here is a video explaining the transition from radio-novela to tele-novela and the history of telenovelas in Mexico, worth watching! Note the sponsors in the beginning… ;)

Nowadays there are telenovelas all day long on public TVs here in Mexico, but the best ones are shown during prime time, and they drag the entire country in front of the TV to see if the maid has finally discovered the plot of the devilish priest who through tricks and manipulations, disinherited the pure, candid and hot heroine; or maybe this was time to see that the resolute, independent and strong-willed, as well as gorgeous heroine (damn, always gorgeous main characters!) falls in love with the shirtless, hot, heir of the neighboring hacienda, whose families held a sour feud for centuries, just to be reconciled and join their enormous extensions of land together and live happily ever after, despite the twisted plots their families, maids, secret lovers and other surprisingly interested people tried to pull on them to prevent… a wedding that solves it all! Hooray! And magically puts the bad ones either in jail, disabled, dead or into bankruptcy. Because this is Mexico. And we ride horses to get coffee at the Oxxo on the corner. Ándele arriba.

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They are so popular that even the city buses have TV’s playing downloaded episodes in the case you missed any plot twist:

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But in the end, telenovelas are just love stories, whose main characters have to face adversities (bizarre ones) to keep their love and have a badass wedding (free unions are not appreciated in Mexico) in the last episode, with the villain receiving some sort of biblical punishment for what he/she did and/or tried to do.

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“Dunno how, but my evil brother is dead and his fortune is mine, babe...”

But telenovelas can be extremely funny violent. The video below shows how deadly is to disobey your mother when it comes to kiss a girl… telenovela intensity at its best!

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Besides this linear plot (forbidden love > adversities > wedding), where the good triumphs over the evil, and sacrifice and suffering are always rewarded, the common stage elements of any Mexican soap opera are:

  • First of all, somebody has to end up in a hospital as soon as possible, preferably for a coma or something that will keep him/her restrained in a bed for half the season.

  • Fights! Doesn’t matter the reason or if there is any at all, but there has to be some serious slapping, preferably between women, either two respectable old women or two hot girls in bikini (which happens more than often). You will not find too many fights between men, because Mexican machos seem to prefer to talk and threaten close-range. Either way, epic all the times:

  • Shirtless, ripped men. Any occasion is good to take the shirt off and show how Mexicans are NOT. Besides the video on the previous link, here you can see the internationally-TV-issued mexican:

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Let’s guac-and-roll, babe

And here, the average, IRL-issued mexican. CAUTION, eye bleeding may occur:

  • Hot girls! The main female character is ALWAYS gorgeous. Same as above. And miraculously ends up dating the producer of the serie at the end of the season. I’m not putting pictures of them because this blog will be flagged, just Google “telenovela actress“.

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  • The background music serves not only to point out if a fight is comic or serious, but also brings little more substance to the poor interpretations. For the music, you know there’s gonna be some serious s**t coming down: 

  • There is always a priest/maid/servant/bartender whose nose is in everybody’s business.

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By the way she raises her eyebrows and the look-away posse, you can tell she’s evil

  • Epic bitch-slapping scenes. They were too much on the Internets, so here’s a pill:

  • Rich people. Not upper-class rich, but big-ass, full-loaded bank accounts type. Depending on the producing channel, “los ricos” are portrayed as good or evil, depending if they try to conquer the poor but gorgeous girl or they try to be more rich stepping on other people or just acting like assholes. Last wills always in-between. But never losing class, though.

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And well… there’s way more to be told, but this post will be longer than the longcat and I’m no sociologist nor mexican TV expert… but in the case you need a sample of what a mexican soap opera can be, here’s the best video on them I could find… enjoy! ;)

Buenobuenoo…!!

9 comments

  1. Millions of people can afford a maid in Mexico, that’s right, not thousands, millions.
    You need to do some research before writing such ignorant stuff.

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    1. So now millions of mexicans are rich and the World Bank lies when say half of mexican population lives in poverty… Yes, lots of people here have someone helping at home for few hours a day, cleaning and doing the dishes, but NOT being there all the time, all day at the hacienda home… ;)

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      1. There are approximately 115 million Mexicans residing in Mexico. Given your math of 1/2 that means that about 57.5 million live above the poverty level. Assuming that fact it is very plausible to believe that a couple of million of those 57.5 million make enough to be able to afford at least a part-time maid.

        I personally haves multiple friends in Mexico and almost all of them or their family members often have someone who comes in to clean and cook at least twice a week if not full-time. I even know one person who has a live-in maid. So it is highly feasible.

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        1. Actually, it is not ‘my math’, it’s INEGI’s math (Mexican Institute for Statistics), as seen here. And again, yes, there is many houses having a ‘maid’ or someone helping clean and such, but not like in the telenovelas.

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  2. Fred is correct.

    Live in maids (just like in a telenovela, 24/6 … they usually get a day off ) are pretty common in Mexico, specially in densely populated areas. (And yes, we are talking millions of households).

    Thats the main reason for them appearing in telenovelas. Maids watch them in the households they take care of (for these purposes there is usually a TV set in the kitchen). Telenovelas sell these people the idea that with a stroke of luck (or something in the manner) they too can

    – Improve their social mobility (while falling in love with the usually handsome and rich boss)
    – Make the lives of their family and friends better
    – Love conquers even the widest social and economic gaps

    Amongst other concepts.

    This is a HUGE issue in Mexico because maids are usually not subject to any Social Security, Taxes or even basic Healthcare. They are usually paid in cash and forge no real contractual obligations with their boss.

    They have tried many times to regulate it, but it’s so common place and can have so little oversight that it’s proving (or has proved) to very difficult to do.

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    1. Really appreciated the point on the maids appearing in TV and social mobility. It really needs a post apart. I’ve actually NEVER seen or heard a maid staying so much time in anybody’s house here in Culiacan, as much maybe half day, per week, not everyday, and I’m talking about upper-middle class houses. And again, there’s NOT ‘many’ million mexicans rich enough to have a stay-at-home maid. Period.

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  3. I just want to add my “two cents” about the ‘maid’ thing… topic, whatever. I inffered by what I read that… “logatfer”?, was talking about the kind of maidens that work in a mansion/manor/hacienda, with the maiden’s uniform and all; he even mentioned Mr. Carlos Slim like the kind of person that will afford that kind of ‘service’. So, Julio and Fred, no, there are no MILLIONS of people that can afford that kind of maid.
    Julio and Fred, you are talking about a “chacha” (short for “muchacha”), right? For which are plenty of modalities, from the ones that stay single forever (“quedada”) and lives within the house where she works, even acting as “nanas” (babysitter) for the kids, to those who only work one day at week at single house for some hours.
    There are also other maids portrayed in telenovelas, the ones in black and white oufits (or pink, blue, green, whatever soft color… with white), that lives in a house full of luxuries, where the owners have a gardener, cook, driver and other persons that helps around the property. “logatfer” you may think that only Mr Slim can afford that kind of service, but that’s not true, since there might be thousands of (rich, rich, very wealthy) persons that have it. Trust me, there’s plenty to talk about that topic, so I don’t want to go on.
    NOW, regarding the main topic… “logatfer” you have spoken a lot of true about the telenovelas, you got them right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for your contribution!
      You are right, I was referring about those ‘maids’ living in mansions and haciendas, some kind of living la vida loca… millions is farfetched, as you point out. Regarding the ‘chachas’, there’s many modalities as well, and as far as I know, many friends have somebody to come their home and clean up a little, but no uniform.
      Surely the employment of domestic service here in Mexico and its impact on the economy and society could have a post itself!
      Cheers!
      My name is David, by the way :)

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  4. Although I agree with most of your points, I just wish you included some good telenovelas too, like the ones with Angelica Aragon (MDM, Ni una vez mas, etc.)…. I think majority of Mexicanovelas are way too exaggerated but I adore Angelica Aragon.. XOXO desde Philippines

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