These Telenovelas Critically Shaped Our Lives And Continue To Impact Our Views On Reality
In Latino households, telenovelas are, for better or worse, congruent with our culture. The TV is always on and if it’s not on Primer Impact or Walter Mercardo, you can certainly bet that some telenovela is playing.
It’s not that we’re obsessed with dramatic storytelling, but we totally are. However, this kind of programming is sort of like an escape from our own personal drama, and the actors end up becoming a part of the family. So why wouldn’t you watch the new telenovela featuring Ludwika Paleta or Angélica Vale, especially if we have grown up watching them?
That’s what it comes down to really. These actors and these stories somehow became part of our lives during crucial formative years. So while we know they’re fantasy, we’re still hooked on them simply because of the nostalgic factor of where we were when we first watched them, and how they were intertwined with our family.
Here are 19 telenovelas that shaped our way of thinking, our way of dressing, and sometimes our way of loving.
“Carrusel de las Américas” ( 1992)
As a kid, this was probably the one telenovela that was okay to watch, and that didn’t show any inappropriate make-out session. These kids were just like us, and they looked like us too. They weren’t all cute blonde skinny kids (although it did feature one) like the ones that were on American television, so it was exciting to be a part of their world.
Oh, Thalia! If we could count the ways we loved her, we’d never stop. By the time “Marimar” came on the air, we were very familiar with the singer and actress, but we couldn’t get enough, which is why she had telenovela after telenovela.
“Marimar,” however, was our “Pretty Woman” fantasy without the prostitution part. Here was a poor young innocent girl who was raised by her grandparents, and by happenstance, falls in love with a rich hot guy. Like in all love tales, these two worlds cannot easily blend. The rich don’t just fall in love with the poor, but in this case loved conquered all, giving hope to many of us that grew up dreaming of the perfect life.
“Yo soy Betty, la fea” (1999)
One of the most important elements that every telenovela must have is relatability, because without that, how can we see ourselves in those stories. “Yo soy Betty, la fea” was one of those stories, with many incarnations from various countries, that made us feel like we didn’t have to be the pretty girl to get the guy. Not only that, we didn’t have to be the most attractive person to get far in life. With the right attitude and passion, anything is possible and Betty was proof of that.
“Corazón salvaje” (1993)
“Corazón salvaje” is a period pieces that continues to be timeless to this day. The story of a love child born out of wedlock has been one of those very popular telenovela themes. Who doesn’t love a good love triangle between two young countesses? One of the reasons why this telenovelas was such a hit and crucial in our lives because it showed the intense passion and incredible chemistry between actors Edith González and Eduardo Palomo. It was palpable!
“Los ricos también lloran” (1979)
Another Edith González classic is “Los ricos también lloran.” In this drama, we, the regular working class Latinos, see how the other side lives. Yes, rich people have problems too. Like “Marimar,” we once again see a young impoverished girl who wins the heart of a wealthy man. Here we see the man as a mean and unloving person. Thankfully, his love for her changes him, which made us hopeful romantics think: our love can certainly change a man.
“Rubí” (2004 )
“Rubí” is one of those telenovelas that speaks to the devil in all of us. Internally, whether we’d like to admit or not, we are always secretly wanting more, envying those with a better life. That’s what Rubí represented, a devious and stunning woman (played by the amazing Barbara Mori) who would go to any length to get what we she wanted. While it’s great to have that kind of determination, what will cost you? Your dignity? Perhaps, yes. Y que?!
“La usurpadora” (1998)
This novela is all about actors Gabriela Spanic Fernando Colunga, who we basically grew up thinking were part of our every day lives, simply for the fact that they starred in every telenovela. The storyline centers around twin sisters that are separated at birth and who reconnect later in life, but not in a good way. The poor sister has to act as a stand in for her rich sister who wants to leave her husband. Now, if the rest of us could have a double to do our dirty work, maybe we’d all be a little bit happier.
This is the one telenovela that needs to be redone again and again in order for the new generation to fully understand what it’s like being a teenage girl. Now that quinceañera’s are pretty much a term known around the world, this 1998 show, starring a young Thalia, needs a reboot asap.
The problematic experiences that a teenage girl endures stays with her forever, and for best friends Maricruz and Beatriz it is no different. They experience date rape, drugs, gangs, the whole enchilada, and while it was hard to watch some scenes, it’s crucial to remember that this things are a part of real life.
“Cuna de lobos” (1986)
This novela, we should say, would have been nothing without the role of Catalina Creel (played by María Rubio) and that freakin’ eye patch that matched every single thing she ever wore. Catalina’s role as the evil mother could be seen as the original Donald Trump: a person who will do anything (even murder) to protect the wealth of her son. This story taught us the true definition of a mama’s boy.
“Dos mujeres, un camino” (1993)
Do not call this another love triangle. Erik Estrada in “Dos mujeres un camino” is anything but. We were finally confronted with what happens when a Puerto Rican is perfectly placed in a Mexican setting. It’s insane and hilarious. That’s why we loved this telenovela. Where else would you see a cougar and a young muse fight over a truck driver that doesn’t speak Spanish very well? We need to rewatch this one again.
“Amor en silencio” (1987)
This story could be one of the most complicated telenovelas of all time, which is why it’s one of the most beloved. The storyline revolves around Marisela and Fernando who, naturally, should not be together for a variety of reasons but it technically comes down to his mother. Either way, these two get together and shit goes down at the wedding, and that’s only the beginning.
Parents should be informed that you should never ever tell a child what they should or shouldn’t do because they’ll end up doing the opposite, especially if they end up being your secret relative. So ew but also, been there. It made sinful loving no so bad (but still eww).
“María Mercedes” (1992)
Once again we see poor little Thalia, we mean Maria Mercedes, get swept of her feet by a rich older man, which in her case is a very good thing because she had to take care of her siblings. Of course, the wealthy man can always save the day, right?! Like we said before, for better or worse, these archaic storylines somehow seeped into our mentality that all you need is a rich man and all your problems go away.
Whatever your social status was in life, “Muchachitas,” starring a young Kate del Castillo, fit the bill for you and all your friends, which is why we loved it. Whether you were the rich popular girl, the super poor and pathetic girl, or somewhere in between, you could see yourself in one of those girls, the only thing we lacked was their knack for drama.
“La dueña” (1995)
Before being a badass boss bitch was a thing, Regina Villarreal, played by Angélica Rivera, made that attitude famous in “La dueña.” Sure, Regina was pure evil who thought her money could buy anyone, even her lover, but Regina taught us that with a commanding and persistent spirit you could pretty much whatever you wanted in life.
“De pura sangre” (1985)
In life you have to ask yourself: do you marry for love or money? For Florencia, played by Christian Bach, the question isn’t an easy one to answer. What do you do when your cheating husband can’t procreate and your marriage and inheritance depend on it? Well, the only thing left is to fall in love with the mysterious dark stranger. Yup, that’ll fix everything. Always follow your gut and your heart.
High school can be one of the most hardest years of anyone’s life, but for the students of Elite Way School, it’s so extra. While the students at this prestigious boarding school spoke to us on so many levels, what really made “Rebelde” legendary was their talent and artistry.
How many other high school students go off to make millions as a pop group around the world? Just one, so the crew of “Rebelde” will be with us for life.
“El Premio Mayor” (1995)
Way before Diego Luna was head of the cartel in Netflix’s “Narcos Mexico,” he was just a chubby little guy looking to stand out, which was basically all of us in real life. In “El Premio Mayor” there were a lot of flashy characters after they main protagonist Huicho, played Carlos Bonavides, wins the lottery and is perplexed on how to handle his new found fortune, especially when there’s gold diggers around every corner. There’s one lady that is completely different from the rest, and that’s the great Laura Leon who plays Rebecca, his true love.
One key thing that made this telenovela a hit, the title song sang, of course, by Leon.
This 1984 telenovela from Venezuela told the story of young Topacio. She is blind, poor, and very beautiful. She meets Jorge Luis who comes from a wealthy family. Here’s the catch, they were born on the same night and switched at birth. So, in reality, she is born into wealth and he’s just slim pickings, but the hearts wants what the hearts. Just goes to show, you never know who you’re going to fall in love with so always do a background check before you walk down the aisle.