Growing up in a Spanish speaking, Colombian household, I have been exposed to telenovelas throughout my entire life. For as long as I can remember, every night, a given telenovela has echoed throughout the walls of my living room as my parents have always been daily viewers and enjoy to watch telenovelas to wind down the day. For some of these, including Pasion de Gavinales, Anita no te Rajes, Eva Luna, and Corazon Valiente, I can clearly remember watching beautiful women and men portraying drama-filled episodes, and to a degree, I can recall the storyline. Even though I probably only half understood the entirety of what was happening due to my young age, I do completely understand that telenovelas have always been an integral part of my parents’ days contributing to my exposure to telenovelas.
Despite my close familiarity with telenovelas, I do not really have much knowledge regarding the Telenovela Industry. After these past two weeks of being in Dr. Acosta-Alzura’s Telenovelas and Society course, my personal idea of what a telenovela entails has transformed from the ordinary, family pass time I have observed telenovelas to be throughout my life, to a more educated view on what a telenovela is, their “despecho” hook, and their uniqueness within the television industry.
This course has my answered my unresolved questions, as well as expanded and corrected my view on some elements of telenovelas. For starters, I used to wonder why telenovelas were so unique to the Latin American community since I saw American soap operas also existed. I thought those were equivalent. However, this course has answered that question for me. The telenovela and the soap opera have some similarities but mainly a variety of differences. The “despecho” factor of telenovelas is particularly unique to Latin American cultures. “Despecho” answers why televenolas are so captivating, since it serves as a hook that makes the audience tune in every single night. “Despecho” is a such a Latin American concept, that it doesn’t even have a direct translation in English!
This course has also clarified the different origins of telenovelas. Before this course, when I thought of telenovelas, I thought of either Latin American based productions, whether that be Mexican, Brazilian, or Colombian, or Miami-based productions featuring Latin Americans. My parents’ preference of the traditional, or more Rosa, telenovelas that are based on the Latin American culture have fostered that belief. This course, however, has showed me that other cultures are featured on telenovelas as well. Turkish productions are a great part of the telenovela industry, and Brazil’s co-productions in Indian have also introduced the Indian culture into the telenovela industry.
A third important take away that I have obtained from this class is the idea of the telenovela as a coping mechanism for Latin Americans who escape the troubles of their lifes by watching telenovelas. As Benavides mentions in our assigned reading, “telenovelas provide emotional relief to a continent burdened by enormous socioeconomic and material hardships.” Although I never actually thought about this, the idea is so true and accurate. Telenovelas are a part of the life of an average Latin American, not just because they are a form of entertainment, but because they are a part of the continents’ culture. Latin American communities face poverty and steep socioeconomic hierarchies. However, the telenovela provides an outlet or escape route for Latin Americans. It’s not exclusive to the privileged and wealthy. Though the socioeconomic hierarchy can be noticeable when it comes to cars, houses, and clothes, members of a variety of social classes can all tune in to the same telenovela and observe a fictional world to distract their troubled realities.
Although I’ve mentioned a few here, there have been several interesting facts and concepts introduced to me in course. I have really enjoyed this course, and I look forward to expanding the list of surprising realizations regarding telenovelas.