Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Growing up Colombian

As I have mentioned before in class,  I was born in Bogota, Colombia and moved to the United States when I was 4 years old. Despite the fact that I immigrated at such a young age, I have always maintained contact with my Colombian roots. This includes listening to Colombian music, expanding my Spanish speaking skills, and of course, watching telenovelas. In fact, after reading other people's posts, I couldn't help but feel surprised at how many people had never been exposed to telenovelas before this class. When I was growing up, my peers would watch shows on Disney channel while I was watching La Costeña y el Cachaco, Rebelde, and La Gata Salvaje with my mom (probably not the best things for a 6 year old to be watching but oh well!) This was also largely due to the fact that we didn't have cable and I only had access to channels like PBS and Univision.
As I grew older, I stopped watching telenovelas regularly and moved on to consuming American and British series. However, my parents continued to watch episodes day after day. I think it was a way to remain contact with their native Colombia on a daily basis. Adjusting to life in the US proved to be difficult at times and as a result, telenovelas provided an escape back to normalcy for my parents. It wasn't until Telemundo's Pablo Escobar: El Patron del Mal that I decided to give telenovelas more attention. For most people, series like El Patron del Mal and Netflix's Narcos are just a gripping dramas about a criminal mastermind. For me, however, it was honestly the first time I was really exposed to the violent history of my native country during the 1990s. Did I know about the cartel wars that almost brought the Colombian government to its knees? Of course. But it is very different to read about these events in a book than it is to see them unfold on screen. It's different when your own parents watch car bomb after car bomb explode and make comments like "I remember that day," or "I was at so-and-so's house when that happened." So what I'm basically getting at is that sometimes it's easy to get sucked into telenovelas and not see past the melodrama. But I urge each and every one of you to think critically about what each and every scene says about Latin American society. Because I can almost guarantee you that as engrossing as it can be to watch Pablo Escobar come to life on screen, he is not the character you should be rooting for.


  1. Izzy, is there any shows in the United States that will even compare to your telenovelas you watched growing up?

    I feel like also the telenovelas are so explicit also! I feel like the sex scenes in them are a lot worse than American ones, but I don't watch a lot of intense shows also.

    Also, do you know if your family there literally sees the drug lords and all around town like the telenovelas make it seem.

    1. Hi Mary,
      I feel like there's plenty of sex/mature themes on American television. However, I don't know if they are quite as accessible as telenovelas are. Growing up, I literally only had Univision, PBS, and other news channels so telenovelas were readily available to me.
      Yes and no. Back in the 80s, my parents said that you would see men that were referred to as "los magicos." They attracted attention because they typically drove brand new, large American cars, wore flashy clothes, and were followed around by other men (probably sicarios). That being said, my family is from Bogota. Most of the large cartels are either from Medellin or Cali so I'm sure that if you would have ventured into the slums of either city during the 80s-90s, you would have noticed "strange individuals."

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  2. Wow Izzy! This is awesome. I think keeping in touch and keeping up with your Colombian roots is so very important. Although I was unaware about telenovelas coming into this class, I was also surprised that I had never heard of or watched them before even though I have been studying spanish since I was 4 years old. It's also interesting to know that your parents kept up with telenovelas even while living in the United States. I think it speaks volumes about the importance they place on their culture and heritage. I also agree with you in the fact that sometimes it's easy to become wrapped up in the telenovela and not realized that these events could possibly or have happened in the real world. This class has taught me many things I was unaware of before, but I feel like I am much more knowledgable about the hispanic culture now!

  3. I think it's great that you used telenovelas to stay in touch with your Colombian roots. I've used them in almost an opposite way- to stay connected to the several close friends I have who live in Latin America. When I watch a telenovela, I see the culture and trith behind the entertainment, and that helps me connect with my Latino friends. Because I am, in a way, "there" for what happens in the show, I gain a better understanding of situations or feelings that my friends may not be able to fully explain to me. I'm moving to Central America next month, and I have less trepidation about the experience because of the exposure I've had to several cultural themes in telenovelas. It also makes me wonder if perhaps regular American shows can be used the same way- to keep me connected to the American culture that my friends and family will be experiencing while I'm living in Guatemala.