There are a few things that were never discussed growing up: relationships, periods, sex. Probably in that order.
The only advice I ever got on love and relationships was from watching TV. But of course rated R movies were prohibited in our house, however, my parents had no issue with telenovelas.
From telenovelas, I learned it all: how to handle scandals, how to have passionate sex, romance, and how to deal with malditas who betray me. You could say that Univision and Televisa served as my sex-ed — and all of these lessons took me very far in life.
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. But here’s the catch, they were switched at birth!
Moral of story: your parents might not really be your parents.
If you think “High School Musical” or “Glee” changed your life, you haven’t watched “Baila Conmigo.” This 1992 novela dealt with many things that high schoolers go through like rejection, betrayal, and first loves. And the entire thing was a musical!
Before I had ever seen this novela, I didn’t know the term “bad boy.” After watching it, it definitely made me feel like I wanted to be with the “bad boy” because it was probably the best way to rebel. It took me YEARS to get that notion of wanting the bad boy out of my head. Sad but true.
Moral of the story: If you see a guy in a leather jacket, chances are he’s the bad guy. So stay away from him! (Even though you won’t.)
I didn’t have a quinceañera nor did I want one, but this novela really made me see what could have been. The theme song on its own is great, and it really deals with the hardships that girls go through.
The novela is actually more controversial than I realized at the time but I learned a lot about real issues that no one ever talked about in my family such as rape and drug use.
Moral of the story: Just because you had your big birthday party doesn’t mean your life will turn out for the better.
Los Ricos Tambien Lloran
Growing up, I had no idea my family was poor. I suppose I had no gauge of understanding what poverty or wealth really was. But then I was introduced to “Los Ricos Tambien Lloran.” While I didn’t understand our financial situation, I knew we didn’t have the money problems that these people faced. In fact, the people in this novela were downright evil.
Moral of the story: Money isn’t everything.
Dos Mujeres Dos Caminos
This novela is as porny as you can get, or at least that’s how I understood it to be as I was a kid. For starters, the main dude who’s stringing along two ladies, is the dude from Chips! It made no sense. However, this show made it seem like all men cheat. It wasn’t a positive way to see men, but then again they also glorified his actions on this show.
Moral of the story: Dump a dude if he seems sketchy or too good to be true.
Cuna de Lobos
The funny thing about this telenovela is that I couldn’t really pay attention to the drama because the matriarch of the family was missing an eye! Throughout the series, this lady wore an eye patch – a really fancy patch, so it was hard to focus on other things.
Moral of the story: Make nice with family or else they will leave you out of their will.
La Fea Mas Bella
This storyline, which has spawned similar novelas worldwide, is one of the very few that I could actually relate to. Letty, a simple girl with big aspirations, is career minded but also in dire need of love. This girl will stop at nothing to get to to the top and get to her man, who seems like he might be out of her league.
I was Letty in so many ways. I was the girl out of place, the girl looking for love, and the girl that wanted it all. Watching Letty climb the corporate ladder and defying all odds was really inspiring to me as a kid. It made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted, and it didn’t matter what I looked like because eventually the guy of my dreams would see the person inside.
Moral of the story: The awkward girl is more awesome than you think.
Amor En Silencio
This novela is kinda bonkers but insanely good. 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. The more my mother said to me: “you shouldn’t be with him,” the more I wanted to. But also, never hook up with your third cousin, that would be the talk of every family reunion.
Moral of the story: Be careful who you fall in love with because they might be your relative.
I really thought of my older sister as Maria Mercedes. They both had the same problems. She had to take care of her siblings and basically be the adult and could never live a proper life. In the novela, Maria’s life is turned upside down when a wealthy man takes her just because he feels sorry for her. While that never happened to my sister, it did make me feel like the only way out of a miserable situation is if a man got you out of it. Not true by the way, but try telling that to an impressionable kid, especially one that would like to look like Thalia.
Moral of the story: Men will not save you, only you can do that.
Maria la del Barrio
Speaking of popular Thalia telenovelas, “Maria la del Barrio” is also a lesson on true life. This novela is very similar to “Los Ricos Tambien Lloran,” however, this one features the one and only Itatí Cantoral, which makes it even better.
One important teaching in this novela, like many others, is that just because your life sucks now doesn’t mean it won’t get better. Or perhaps I should say, just because you’re a gem living on the bad part of town doesn’t mean you can never end up a rich lady ruling her throne. For me, it was more like “good comes to those who wait.”
Moral of the story: Work as a maid with rich people and one day they might work for you! (Or go insane, one or the other.)
I could not relate to this telenovela at all, but that’s why I loved it even more. If you’d ever want to know what the other side lives like — you know, the rich, attractive, talented, and popular, these kids were it. “Rebelde” was my way of being part of the in-crowd without ever leaving my house
I really took notes from watching these characters because I really felt that one day I’d be put in the spotlight, or a cute guy would ask me out, or I’d get invited to hang out with the cool kids. And when those things happened, I’d know exactly what to do.
Moral of the story: Being beautiful and talented also comes with a heavy price so count your blessings.