Throughout this semester, I have been watching La Reina del Sur. I have been thoroughly enjoying this telenovela and I am a little over one third of the way through the series. For this blog post, I want to cover the character development of the main character, Teresa Mendoza, played by Kate del Castillo. Being this far into the series, I have seen emotional and physical aspects of Teresa Mendoza’s character develop; however, her character changed dramatically within the first couple episodes. I am an avid TV watcher and I was seriously impressed how quickly the writers were able to showcase the transformation of Teresa Mendoza’s character in only a matter of episodes.
At the beginning of the series, she meets her first love, El Güero, while she is on the job money changing. El Güero is in the drug trafficking business with the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. He started trading on the side for himself, which in turn interrupted the cartel’s profits. The leader of the cartel orders El Güero’s death. It is revealed that Teresa had a very dark past, so it was hard for her to open herself up to El Güero. However, once she did, she was head over heels in love. El Guero’s business allowed them to have a lavish lifestyle; he took her to lovely dinners where they traveled by plane, and they hung out with his cartel as if they were family. She seemingly had the perfect life with the man she loved.
The beginning of this telenovela is similar to a Cinderella story and during this stage of Teresa’s character, I would say that she qualifies as a stereotypical girl in a more Rosa telenovela. She was a poor innocent girl who was rescued and swept off her feet by a rich man. At this stage she is very naive about the world, her love with El Güero, and about the risk his business brings to both of them. El Güero babied her and he treated her like the delicate flower she was at this point in her life. Kate del Castillo as an actress, does a great job embodying this naivety. She looks at El Güero with these hopefully eyes, is always smiling and giggling like a young and in love girl, and her demeanor is one of pure warmth and joy. She does a great job portraying Teresa as what she was—a girl who has yet to experience the evils of what life can bring. She shows how Teresa is young and trusting because she has yet to experience how hard life can get to gain wisdom and knowledge of the world around her. Kate del Castillo’s look helps her achieve all of this: she has bangs to make her look younger and innocent, she wears high heels and youthfully colored outfits, and she also wears a bolder more youthful makeup.
After El Güero’s death is when Teresa is forced to put on her big girl pants and actually face the really of what she got herself into. She had no clue how deep El Güero was in his business—he never told her the details about his business to protect her and he always warned her about his possible death. Teresa never saw any of this as a red flag. Teresa ended up being chased by the cartel in their attempt to kill her, she was raped by one of the cartel members, her best friend and her family was killed. Teresa had to strike a deal with the leader of the cartel to escape Mexico and flee to Spain to start a new life. Upon arriving in Spain, she is referred to work for Driss, owner of the bar “El Yamilla”. Working here, she is surrounded by prostitutes and by men who try to pressure her into prostitution for money. Teresa stays strong and keeps managing to only keep the books for the bar with her small wage.
This is where her character development really begins to show. Imagine being raped, trying to flee the country, and escape death when the love of your life has just been killed within a couple days. Anyone who would be put through this series of events would grow up real fast. These events stripped her from her nativity and revealed Teresa’s true character traits. This woman embodies the person a lot of women would want to be: she is cunning, brave, smart, caring, stubborn, and is one of the strongest women I have ever seen on a television show. This woman went from being babied and trusting everyone around her to being thrown across the ocean to Spain. Her trip there is what matured her and cured her of trusting everyone. She trusted the leader of the cartel with her life, when in reality he was using her to get El Güero’s drug planner, she trusted a man who claimed he would take her to the United States to get money El Güero saved for her when he was in fact working for the United States government. She trusted she would be set up with a respectable well-paying job, when she in reality makes hardly enough to live and is being pressured into prostitution. This woman will never trust anyone like she did ever again.
Teresa’s whole fairytale was destroyed in a matter of days. This far into the telenovela, you see Teresa mature into a woman within a matter of a couple episodes. No longer does this woman have the naive bangs, wear the tall heels and bright colors. This is all replaced with plain dark neutral tones, dark stares, and a very cold demeanor. She is now a heart broken, stone cold woman who will not be controlled or pushed around by anyone. She is no longer the stereotypical woman in a telenovela—she means business. The new Teresa is also suffering from depression and other anxieties from what she was put through. Kate del Castillo shows this in her acting: Teresa hardly laughs or smiles, she constantly stares into the distance with dark eyes, and she no longer has a warm presence. Her journey and the scars she carries from it is visible on her face and the way she carries herself. No one will be messing with the new Teresa Mendoza.
Once again, I would like to reiterate all of these events happened within the first couple episodes. This is the most impressive character development I have seen because it was done in a way that set the character up for the rest of the series and literally gave the character a new identity. After the speaker that came to class today, it now makes sense to me why the develop happened so quickly. This is due to the differences in filming with Telemundo and Spain. The culture clash with this telenovela caused small number of episodes, around 60, compared to the hundreds other telenovelas have. With that being said, I am still excited to see how this character develops as the series continues.