Thursday, August 25, 2016

Portraying Problems as Plots

Like seemingly every other student in the class, I didn't expect to have my views changed so abruptly in such a short time. I've had no previous exposure to telenovelas, even in my high school Spanish classes. As others have said, I chose the class because I wanted to keep up with my Spanish. In the last two weeks, though, I've learned more about contemporary Latin American culture than I have in my last 7 years of Spanish classes.

I particularly like the idea that telenovelas portraying real, modern problems and conflicts in these countries is a way of coping with the problems in reality. A country producing telenovelas about narcotrafficking is, in a way, admitting that the problem exists. The same is true for portrayals of poverty, corruption, and stigmas attached to certain forms of social deviancy. This is why the idea that so much of Venezuelan television is censored resonates so much with me- denying that there are problems makes the problems worse, which is both obvious and subtle.

In December, I'll be moving to Guatemala, so I try to draw parallels between what I learn about Latin America with what I know and will experience in Guatemala. Clearly, Guatemala does not produce telenovelas, so none of the problems portrayed in them are specific to Guatemala. But many of the wider problems- especially the drug trade- are equally as applicable there. One of the signs that Guatemala is a less-developed country (socially) than those that produce telenovelas is that there are few media by which Guatemalans can discuss big-issue topics, so many go unnoticed or unattended. A few years ago, one of my older Guatemalan friends told me that, though there is a lot of discrimination towards the Mayan community in Guatemala, that community hasn't had a very strong leader to be a face for the group in a long time. Because of this lack of representation, the conflict is not addressed.

I think it would be interesting to look into how telenovelas focusing on racial prejudice could impact the social situation in Guatemala. Not that I think it likely that a telenovela would ever be made focusing so specifically on Guatemala and the social problems they face, but it would be interesting to compare their social growth with that of countries who can use telenovelas to face and admit the problems they are facing. To be fair, the area of Guatemala that I visit most often has a very low percentage of homes owning television sets or even having electricity, so this is all hypothetical.

Still, I find it intriguing and am really looking forward to learning more about the topic as the semester progresses.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That's so wonderful that you're moving to Guatemala. I know you will have the time of your life. This past summer, I traveled to Costa Rica and was able to experience some of the poverty and issues that they face as a Latin American country. The amount of violence from gangs, the children not finishing school, and the lack of parental involvement was astounding for me to learn about. Although Costa Rica does not seem to be as involved with the making of telenovelas as other countries, I think that many of the problems they face are similar to other countries in Latin America, which are portrayed in the telenovelas. I wish you the best of luck in Guatemala and in finding your telenovela!

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