Many of us might fondly remember growing up with novelas playing after la cena, curled up on the couch watching the overly dramatic and rarely believable drama unfold (wait, so the not-murdered switched-at-birth twin’s suegra’s cousin is the ACTUAL heir to the family fortune??). Into adulthood novelas remain that escape from reality that we love to dive into. We’re bringing you a list of the best telenovelas to revisit and reminisce about.
Maria la del Barrio
One of the most famous novelas in TV history goes down as Maria la del Barrio. Featuring superstars Thalia as Maria and Fernando Colunga as Fernando De La Vega, our all-time favorite telenovela star (and meme queen) Itati Contoral plays Soraya Montenegro as the villain in this classic novela. This rags to riches story resonates with so many of us, as the release year of this novela was also amidst the start of some of the highest immigration numbers of Latinos to the United States.
Rubí Pérez is a poor woman intent on making it by marrying a rich man. Bárbara Mori dazzles us in this novela about a woman who falls in love with Alejandro, a middle class doctor, only to dump him in search of the life she has always wanted with Héctor, a rich architect. The twists and turns are endless in this classic story, making it a must-see in our book.
Who doesn’t love a self-sabotaging protagonist looking for a way out of poverty? Teresa is one of our most beloved novelas with Angelique Boyer in the main role, scheming her way through life looking for financial security after growing up poor. Love interests come and go, but Teresa is always true to her goals in this story: “Entre ser y no ser, yo soy” after all.
Dos Mujeres un Camino
A classic love triangle ensues when Johnny, a married man and truck driver from Mexico, falls in love with a woman while delivering goods to the United States. Erik Estrada, Laura León and Bibi Gaytán are the main characters in this show from the early 90s and they’re sure to stir up some memories.
We can’t forget about La Usurpadora, featuring Gabriela Spanic as twins Paulina and Paola with Fernando Colunga as Carlos Bracho, the main love interest for both characters. Separated twins at birth, dramatic romance, and an evil sibling make this one of the best telenovelas in history.
Amigas y Rivales
A star-studded show, Amigas y Rivales tells the tale of four women from all walks of life as their lives intersect in different ways. Endless drama surrounds Laura, Jimena, Ofelia, and Nayeli as they navigate life together, a true coming of age story (with a huge dose of twists!) It also became one of the first novelas to resonate with millennials, as an insight into life as young adults.
Who else loved Rebelde so much that you’d end up singing the theme song for weeks? We definitely did. Six students attending Elite Way School named Mia, Diego, Roberta, Miguel, Lupita, and Giovanni all navigate school while coming together to form a band. Elitism runs amok in this story of love, music, and a classist society - the drama!
La Reina Del Sur
Kate del Castillo plays Teresa Mendoza, a woman from humble beginnings whose life takes a dramatic turn after the murder of her pilot boyfriend. This series quickly escalates as Teresa makes her way to the top of the drug trafficking world in Spain. A show that took an eight year hiatus before coming back in 2019, it’s now been renewed for a 3rd season and we can’t wait to watch!
La Fea Mas Bella
Angelica Vale takes the screen as Leticia Padilla Solis (also known as “Lety”) with Jaime Camil as Fernando Mendiola in this love story. By mainstream beauty standards, Lety is an unattractive woman who lands a dream job at Conceptos, Mexico’s leading media company. Elizabeth Alvarez, who plays Marcia, Fernando’s jealous fiance, plots to keep him all to herself. Drama unfolds in this classic novela that resulted in an American adaptation (Ugly Betty) that cast America Ferrera as the lead.
Labels are ever-illusive as they change through generations and as people struggle to identify with the boxes. Labels are constantly evolving and as long as people keep changing and expressing how they feel, the labels will change, especially in such a misunderstood and complex community like “Latinos.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 47% of Latinos identify with their country of origin, and 39% by Hispanic or Latino. When the vast majority of the Latinx community identifies with personalized AND broad catch-all’s, how do most people figure out what race box to put themselves in? (and yes, at Luz Media we use all the terms interchangeably – we’re certainly not going to attempt to be the arbiter of this topic desmadroso!)
Without getting into the discussion of race, we are sticking to the superficial topic of identity labels that exist for Latinos, Latinx, Hispanic, WHATEVER YOU CALL YOURSELF (and what non-Latinos call us).
Yeah, yeah, we know we’re tired of that label, and of course, it’s problematic because it highlights the language and, therefore, the heritage from Spain. Paloma Celis Carbajal states that the term Hispanic came to prominence in the late 1960s, and it wasn’t until 1980 that the term Hispanic first appeared on the U.S. Census. At least for a while, Hispanic was the go-to term when referring to people with heritage from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. It has since fallen out of favor for what was once considered the more “accurate” term for our community, “Latino.” Read on…
After the controversy of Hispanic, the Latino term arrived! Felicidades, mi gente! The already known and widely used term appeared in 1997, where, according to Carbajal, the Office of Management and Budget issued a directive adding the term Latino to government publications, and it appeared on the 2000s Census as Hispanic/Latino. It intends to be a catch-all for people with origins from all Latin-American countries, and a few Caribbean countries.
The problem? Not everyone is from Latin America – ummm, hello native Mexicans before the Mexican-American War, and is this when we talk about some Brazilians who don’t consider themselves Latino or Indigenous who opt to identify as White? The answer to the latter is absolutely not. Have that discussion on your own with a Brazilian in your life. Needless to say, the catch-all “Latino” has more holes in it than our old chanclas that we refuse to get rid of.
A new term! It’s the gender-neutral version of Latino or Latina. It exists to be more inclusive and considerate of non-binary folks who are part of the Latinx community. It’s most often used amongst young, liberal, and college-educated Hispanics. Here at Luz Media, we like it because we like the spirit of it.
That being said, we get it. The main argument we often hear is that the term is an affront to the Spanish language, which is a gendered language. And dios guarde, we can’t change the basics of our mother tongue! Considering that Spanish is the language of colonizers and if the genocide of indigenous Latin-Americans had never happened, most of us non-Spanish people would be speaking local native languages and dialects, we don’t buy the “our Spanish is sacred” argument, but we do buy the argument and fact that the very vast majority of people simply do not identify this way.
But also, Latinx is ironically often criticized for the same reason Hispanic fell from grace – the term is said to have originated from high-brow academia and the scholarly “woke” that has a largely U.S. and English-based construct, and therefore doesn’t really accurately represent the large population that includes first-generation immigrants.
The evolution of language takes time, and we’re open to waiting for the adoption of this one or the transition into the next one.
Speaking of which, wait no further, gente hermosa!! As expected, all new terms are challenged, and Latinx is no exception. Wait – remember that Spanish language critique? Turns out a lot of people respect that critique, and in an effort to be the everlasting people of peace (that didn’t go well for our ancestors…), the term Latine can be more easily integrated into the pronunciation of Spanish. So now the gender-neutral term is pronounceable. Now it’s the wait and see game – will this newest label become widely adopted?
But hold up, hold up. According to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau population estimate, among Hispanic subgroups (their word, not ours), Mexicans made up the largest group at 61.4 percent. Following with: Puerto Ricans (9.6 percent), Central Americans (9.8 percent), South Americans (6.4 percent), and Cubans (3.9 percent). So we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the OG label, Chicano.
This label is used primarily in the Southwestern U.S. and amongst Mexicans. It’s a combination of Mexican and American and was used as a pejorative word at first. When Mexicans joined their Black brothers and sisters in the quest for Civil Rights in the 1960s, the term was proudly reclaimed in an effort to rid the word of its negative connotations. Wikipedia tells us it was Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, who was one of the first to reclaim the term.
In today’s quest to seek personal truth and proud identity, the term is experiencing a bit of a resurgence amongst newly minted young Chicano activists.
The term Afro-Latin@/x has recently emerged into widespread use as a response to the invisibility and intentional erasure of Latin-American and Caribbean people with African heritage. To further expand, Black Latinos is the label to account for Latinos who are mixed race, or don’t identify with the “afro” description. The rise in popularity of the terms has helped discuss and address the rampant anti-blackness and colorism within the Latino community both from our native Latin-American countries and at home in the United States.
These terms, specifically as it relates to Afro and Black Latinos, are evolving even faster than the rest because after being ignored and discriminated against for so long, the Afro-Latino community has a lot to say about their experience and identity. Rightly so, and we’re here for it.
We know our people will have something to say after this roundup. Did we miss any? (wasn’t intentional!) Don’t cuss us out. We’re just the messengers. Luz Media is run by Latinas, and we’re for Latinas, but in our coverage of topics and people, we go out of our way to refer to people the way they identify themselves. Don’t let this article give you high blood pressure; remember, at the end of the day, we’re all just people doing our best (most of us, anyway, some people actually do suck).
Last Thursday, I received a text from a good friend. It read, ‘I’m pregnant!’ and I smiled. I was happy for her. I know this was the next step in her life and it was a season of joy. It left me feeling excited for her and yet it also made me wonder where I am in life. I’d be turning 30 in less than 20 days and yet found myself with no desire for children. In fact, the next day I was going in for an appointment to get an Intrauterine Device (IUD) inserted. I was nervous but felt a sense of relief that I’d have one of the safest forms of birth control to prevent a pregnancy for the next six years.
The next day I arrived at the appointment right on time to avoid having to sit in the waiting room and think about the intense pain I might be in in the next 30 minutes. Instead, I arrived 2 minutes before the appointment and was called in five minutes after I checked in. I was still nervous and dreading it for many reasons that didn’t include the physical pain of inserting a foreign object into my cervix.
For starters, I’d consider myself a typical Mexican daughter who grew up in a very Catholic and religious home. Not only does the Catholic church not allow birth control, but it also prohibits cohabitation with a partner before marriage and I was already breaking two rules under a religion that was so persistently shoved in my face as a kid and young adult. Although I’ve wrestled with those demons and would consider it a won fight, I still find myself feeling shameful in these types of situations. The Catholic guilt is still there, along with the idea that I might be doing something wrong is still there.
Yet, when I was laying back, inhaling and exhaling deeply as I felt tightness and severe pressure in my pelvis, I felt a continued sense of relief. A few moments of pain to avoid an unplanned pregnancy reminded me that it was all worth it.
What a dichotomy. The idea that I can feel so liberated by the choice to plan my life, yet feel trapped by the beliefs I was raised with. Now mind you, I am very open with my mother and our relationship has shifted, but even then, I feel a weird hesitation to share with my mom that I have an IUD. I still feel the echoes of advice around staying away from boys and not getting pregnant at a young age. I am thirty years old. Why are these echoes still so loud?
I find myself wondering if this is why I also feel so unready and quite frankly, uninterested in bearing a child. I wonder if years of repeated messaging that a child would end my dreams and goals still carries weight in a time in my life when I’m well positioned to do as I please. I can’t help but wonder if my brain has been wired to fear a baby and the responsibility of a child because it correlates it to the end of my aspirations and goals.
I can’t help but wonder if years of trying to deliver the highest results of who I am to my parents has engraved in me a fear of ruining the fruits of my labor.
And yet here I am, almost 30, wondering what is next and when I’ll get over this hump. Wondering if my realization of not wanting kids soon (or maybe ever) will help me start the process of healing all the trauma of the things I was told as a young teen. I am reminded that this is yet another hurdle that immigrants and first-generation children go through. That this is just another experience in many of our lives - the ongoing guilt and shame of needing to make my parents’ efforts worth it all. The pressure to ensure that I was not to end up a statistic.
I left my appointment on Friday feeling relief and a mix of heaviness wondering if 15-year-old me would have imagined this life. A life of choosing what comes next and a life of unlearning what made me who I am.
For now, I sit with my emotions thinking they are okay, no matter what I feel. Fear, joy, relief, happiness or even resentment - all things that I felt in that moment. One thing I do know from my lived experiences is that the culture I love so much won’t look the same for the hypothetical children I might decide to have. I know that it will be a much more understanding culture that honors their natural feelings of sexual curiosity and knowledge.
Latinidad is complex. We’ve already dived into the meaning of the various terms our Latinx community uses. What people used to consider part of the Latinx community has evolved and changed, and so have our standards, what we expect from artists, and how we perceive them. So as labels change and get nitpicked, we’d like to kindly ask that we sit back and reflect on a certain artist taking credit for being from a certain ethnic background she is not actually from. We explain.
Last year, Rosalia won Best Latin song alongside Billie Eilish at the VMAs. People were confused. How can a Spaniard win a Latin award? She isn’t considered Latinx or Latina, she is Spanish or Hispanic. Above all, Billie Eilish, a white American girl, also won the prize? What about Bad Bunny? Maluma? Shakira? Three talented and well-known artists were also nominated for Best Latin song.
that one time i tweeted rosalia isn\u2019t latina and the spaniards were in my mentions mad about it pic.twitter.com/gLb3zf8nXl— nube (@nube) 1631827822
Despite these other Latinx nominations, Rosalia keeps getting nominated for the Latin Grammys and also winning it. Of course she isn’t the only Spaniard who was nominated. C Tangana was among the nominees for his El Madrileño, but he has never tried to claim the Latino identity as Rosalia has.
Though this has happened for many years now, it wasn’t until recently that discussions about Hispanic and Latinx identity have started to take shape in earnest. In fact, Enrique Iglesias, a Spaniard, was a big part of the 90s “Latin Explosion” but was identified as Latino.
Enrique Iglesias - Bailamos www.youtube.com
jAt that time the Latinx community severely lacked representation, recognition, and leadership, so having a small, albeit not quite right representation of Hispanic culture was reason to celebrate. But things have changed and our standards have too. We expect better. We demand a more accurate representation of our diverse and nuanced culture.
Rosalia’s attempt to identify as Latina is particularly disturbing because she’s robbing other women from our community of this recognition. Opportunities that should be for women who speak about our truths and use their voices to speak out about our issues.
Spaniards have centuries of colonialism on their hands where they’ve exploited native Latin-American people and cultures, and now they continue to do so by appropriating our culture to thrive from.
Award shows are notoriously biased, white, and culturally disconnected. The Rosalia debacle stems from these problems and artists have started to actively call the organizers of these shows out for their inaction on very blatant issues.
The issue within the Latinx community doesn’t end at Spaniards passing themselves off as Latinx, but also the frequency in which white-passing Latinx artists are chosen over darker-skinned and Black/Afro Latinx.
The Latinx community is still very much grappling with colorist tendencies. Many parts of Latin America don't recognize the influence of Black people in their culture and continue to promote an anti-Black agenda within their people. Colombia, for example, did a census in 2019 where only 2.9 million of Colombia’s approximately 50 million people reported being of African descent, when in the 2005 census, about 4.3 million people, approximately 10% of the population, identified themselves as black. Almost half of the Black population were somehow erased from the census. Anti-Blackness paves the way for white artists to benefit from the Latinx label while still checking the white box that award show organizers are so used to working with.
In contrast, talented dark-skinned people are cast aside, like Tego Calderon, who has only won one Latin Grammy. One of the kings of reggaeton, Calderon, was part of revolutionizing the genre by fusing different rhythms like dancehall, hip hop, and salsa while also speaking out about the struggles of his people both in his music and in his personal life. His album El Abayarde was innovative, genre-bending, and brought attention to artists in Puerto Rico. He owns the color of his skin proudly and celebrates his Afro-roots.
Alongside this, we also know how few women are recognized for their talent.
Only three Latina or Hispanic women have ever won the Latin Grammy for best album: Natalia LaFourcade, Shakira, and the non-Latina Rosalía, so even when women have won, they were all white-presenting. Where’s Ivy Queen’s recognition? She’s only been nominated three times and has never been awarded despite being one of the most prominent reggaeton pioneers. What about Ile, Julieta Venegas, Ana Tijoux, Lido Pimienta, Kali Uchis, to mention some of them. Rosalia, in 4 years, has surpassed the number of nominations and wins of all these talented Latina artists.
When these diverse, talented people aren’t recognized, their careers also don’t benefit from the attention these awards generate. for example, the “Grammy Bounce” produces growth in concert ticket sales and producer fees of at least 55%
Continuing to recognize only these privileged, white artists contributes to the hoarding of opportunities and benefiting from the influence of BIPOC talent without giving them their well-deserved praise. Therefore, Spanish artists like Rosalia should be called out, but we also have to hold those in the highest positions accountable. These people are the ones perpetuating the problems.
They are the people that are constantly imposing their perceptions and racist views of what is considered good enough. They celebrate genre-bending styles when done by white people, but when it’s time to recognize people of color doing it, the praise disappears. There are very little words, no apologies, and what seems like not even a remote desire to solve their POC underrepresentation issues. Actor John Leguizamo said it best, 'If you don't have Latin people, there's no reason for me to see it.' We know who will be seeing the award shows, though. Rosalia will be front and center basking in the Latinx glory.