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Find Out Why One West African Country Adopted Mexican Telenovelas As One Of Their Own

Picture this: A muscular man and an attractive woman are in the middle of a passionate love scene in a horse stable on a pristine Mexican hacienda. They’re both kissing, sweating, and, as the scene progresses, wearing less and less clothing.

In a matter of moments, a jealous ex-lover rides up to the hacienda on a beautiful white horse, walks into the horse stable, and fires a gun, immediately killing one of the lovers.

Though this scene is completely fabricated, it’s a sequence of events that tends to be used repeatedly in Mexican telenovelas and could easily have been played by someone like Cuban-born actor, William Levy, or Mexican singer actress, Thalia.

CREDIT: Credit: Facebook

Telenovelas have grown to be a important part of Mexican culture since they first appeared as radio programs in the 1930s, which were later transformed into television series throughout the United States and Latin America. Each has its own story line but they tend to follow themes related to love, family, murder, and crime.

But the popularity of Mexican telenovelas, which some estimates show, attract more than 40 million viewers on any given night, have also spread to countries outside of Mexico and Latin America.

The West African country of Ghana is home to over 27 million residents and is considered to hold one of the largest Mexican telenovela viewerships outside of Latin America. Mexican telenovelas like “Esmeralda,” “Rosalinda,” and “La Ursupadora” have become so popular in Ghana that they have been consistently translated and dubbed, forcing television companies to create shows dedicated to offering commentary and analysis on Mexican telenovelas.

The world is becoming increasingly smaller and interconnected, today, through digital platforms like Facebook and other forms of social media, but Mexican telenovelas in were introduced to Ghana long before the internet frenzy.

Ghanaian cultural critic, Ameyaw Debrah, remembers the moment Mexican telenovela “Acapulco Bay” was first introduced to Ghana in 1997 by TV3, a Ghanaian television company.

CREDIT: Credit: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Getty Images

“TV3 first introduced ‘Acapulco Bay’ and it became a smash hit because aside from the love story there was a lot of suspense and crime,” explained Debrah, who has amassed an enormous social media following for his analysis on Ghanaian pop culture. “This made it interesting for both male and female audiences, and then, seeing the success of telenovelas, also introduced ‘Cuando Seas Mias.'”

Like “Acapulco Bay,” “Cuando Seas Mias” featured two prominent Mexican actors, Silvia Navarro and Sergio Basañez, who played the leading protagonists.

In a country where women have had a large role in the country’s informal and formal market growth in the past ten years, they often, according to Debrah, often leave work early or close their businesses to rush home and watch the shows.

“Telenovelas have been disruptive to the normal TV viewing culture of Ghanaians,” described Debrah. “It has been known to affect productivity, especially with working females and even housewives. So market women close early to catch their favorite show.”

Ghanaian women also viewed telenovelas as a way to learn about concepts of love and romance.

“In a country where women have had a large role in the country’s informal and formal market growth in the past ten years, they often, according to Debra, leave work early or close their businesses to rush home and watch the shows.”

“My entire life revolved around telenovelas,” explains Delali Quarshie. “They were such beautiful stories and were my first introduction to what ‘true love’ seems to be about. As a girl growing up in my society, I was swept away by prince charming and fighting against the love triangle.”

“Even if it doesn’t end with love, there’s always that note of a positive light ahead for them, and that’s something that I think makes a telenovela the beautiful genre that it is.”

It’s not the first time, however, that Mexican telenovelas have become extremely popular in a country outside of Latin America.

Both China and Russia had their own telenovela craze in the early 1990s and have since created their own adaptations based on their cultural customs and language.

Ghanaian television companies have yet to follow China and Russia’s model. But a new generation of filmmakers and creatives throughout the country are realizing that creating authentic Ghanaian-based films requires depicting the impact that Mexican telenovelas have had on one of Africa’s most diverse nations.

Popular musician and filmmaker, Blitz the Ambassador, born Samuel Bazawule, whose upcoming film, “The Burial of Kojo,” depicts the life experiences of two Ghanaian brothers, understands the impact of cross-cultural storytelling in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected.

CREDIT: Credit: Blitz The Ambassador

“The film is about two brothers who deal with tragic consequences,” the filmmaker described over the phone from his home in Accra, Ghana. “The brothers are miners and engaged in illegal mining with gold and diamonds, which is a trend that continues to grow with Chinese investors.”

The prominent musician and emerging filmmaker is part of a growing group of Ghanaian creatives who grew up with telenovelas as part of their cultural experience.

“Telenovela culture is huge here and we’re very attracted to the melodrama and its very African when it comes to the very dramatic nature of things, it’s pretty much up our alley,” he described.

CREDIT: Credit: Blitz The Ambassador

Because Bazawule wanted to portray an authentic Ghanaian experience, he and Mexican-American cinematographer, Michael Fernandez, felt like it was important to create a storyline for their film where they could reflect the influence of Mexican telenovelas in Ghana. 

But affording the licensing fees required to purchase the rights for an established telenovela was outside of their budget, forcing them to find creative alternatives like to creating and shooting their own telenovela, which they titled “Puebla Mi Amor.”

“When I was making this film we couldn’t afford the telenovela license,” he explained. “We had to find a way and we had to be clever. So in the telenovela that we create for the film, there’s similar circumstances and there’s a parallel to what’s happening in the film.”

Filming the “Puebla Mi Amor” was initially supposed to take place in Miami, but Bazawule — who self-funded most of the film — was forced to shoot in Ghana.

CREDIT: Credit: Blitz The Ambassador

“We were planning to shoot in Miami but we didn’t have enough money, so we had to recreate scenes that looked like Miami using Puerto Rican and Spanish actors.”

Finding ways to work around budget concerns was a common occurrence during the film’s production, but including a telenovela scene in the film’s production was a way to show Ghanaians, like anyone else, live in an interconnected world.

“Nobody is on an island and as much as we may not recognize, our ideas about love, relationships, and family are often borrowed and it’s huge.”

Still, he hopes that one day Ghanaian culture and media can have the same impact that Mexican telenovelas have had in his own country.

“Nobody is on an island and as much as we may not recognize, our ideas about love, relationships, and family are often borrowed and it’s huge.”

“What’s not happening is the reverse, as much as we know about the world, you rarely go to Latin America and people know about Fela Kuti and other African musicians.”

“The influence has not been an exchange.”

As the Ghanaian filmmaking community continues to grow and consistent collaborations between Bazawule and Fernandez continue, perhaps Bazawule’s wishes might come true.

CREDIT: Credit: Blitz The Ambassador

“Michael is Latino and understands the importance of black and brown media images. The work that we continue do has to be global and has to leave a footprint.”

At that rate, what’s to say that Latinos in the U.S. and Latin America won’t be glued to their television screens while watching Ghanaian telenovelas in twenty years?

READ: 11 Crucial Life Lessons I Learned, Not From My Parents, But From Telenovelas

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The World Can’t Get Enough Of J Balvin, He Is YouTube’s Most Streamed Artist Worldwide

Entertainment

The World Can’t Get Enough Of J Balvin, He Is YouTube’s Most Streamed Artist Worldwide

Roger Kisby / Fotógrafo autónomo / Getty Images

¡Mi gente! Your faves could never. Latin music domination continues around the world with the top spots of global streaming platforms being stacked with Latinx artists. What a time to be alive. Remember when we all had to pretend Drake was Dominican to get some kind of representation out here? But when you think about the sheer number of people on the planet that speak Spanish, it totally makes sense that Latinx artists would have such a massive reach. 

And let’s be real, while fluency helps, you really don’t have to be proficient to enjoy reggaeton. The energetic, pulsating beats can compel anyone to move. Do you really think everyone in the United States knew the English translation of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” in order to enjoy it? Music transcends language and so does Colombian trap artist J Balvin apparently. Do you think anyone even noticed that the lyrics in “Harlem Shake” are largely in Spanish? Nope. 

J Balvin is here to stay.

For six consecutive weeks, J Balvin has chopped the global charts on YouTube. That’s a total of 1.26 billion views on the platform. 

“Artista más visto en YouTube Global,” Balvin wrote in an Instagram caption.

This comes as no surprise to Balvin fans. In 2018, Balvin ousted drake as the most-streamed artist worldwide on Spotify. The singer surpassed 48 million monthly listeners last summer thanks to his single “X” with Nicky Jam which streamed over 327 million times. Balvin is in great company on the global charts with Daddy Yankee, Bad Bunny, and Ozuna all in the top 10. The trio’s single “China” with Anuel AA and Karol G is currently number 1 on the YouTube global charts and number 2 in the United States chart. However, we’re pleased to note that “Señorita” by Camilla Cabello and Shawn Mendes is topping the charts in the states. 

Balvin shouts out his Latinx fans. 

“Artista más escuchado en el mundo en @spotify posición #1 que celebro con todos mis latinos y los soñadores. Gracias Gracias Gracias,” Balvin wrote in the caption. 

Our boy is famous basically everywhere?

The top countries streaming Balvin’s music are Mexico with 240 million views, Argentina with 121 million views, and Colombia with 121 million views. The United States is in fourth place with 112 million views, followed by Spain, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela. But fear not, Balvin has fans in at least 100 different countries according to YouTube. 

We stan a humble king of the masses!

Like, literally could you imagine how this level of adoration and attention would completely warp your mind? I would be a monster. I would build a house out of fan mail and then set it ablaze just to laugh at my stupid fans. I’d have so many, who cares! Meanwhile, the artist, who typically regales his followers with personal messages on Instagram every morning at 5 a.m., knows how to connect with his fans. Balvin even served ordinary people from a coffee cart in New York City the other day. 

“Buenos días , buenos días , buenos días !!!!! ARCOÍRIS TOUR empieza 30 de Agosto en Puerto Rico !! Choliseo,” he wrote on Instagram. 

 We stan a humble king of the masses!

This isn’t the first Latin wave (and it won’t be the last).

In the 1990s, the late and great Selena catapulted Tejano and Cumbia music into the mainstream American consciousness. This ushered in the era of the “Latin Explosion” where legends were born. Ricky Martin, Thalía, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, and Jennifer Lopez made their marks. Hell, even Frank Sinatra personally invited Luis Miguel to record a duet of “Come Fly With Me” on his 1994 album Duets II. 

In the 2000s, there was the “Latin Pop Boom” that saw the likes of Shakira, Paulina Rubio, and Christina Aguilera topping the charts. You may even remember non-Latinx artists trying to ride the wave with Beyoncé collaborating with Shakira on the duet, “Beautiful Liar,” and releasing a Spanish language version of the single “Irreplaceable.” It almost feels odd to call these decades different waves or eras when it is pretty clear Latinxs have been consistently rocking the charts since Gloria Estefan in the 1980s. Since then, in the United States, we have been blessed with many more Latinx acts including the likes of Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, Becky G, and Cardi B. And of course, there are all the amazing imports from Latinx countries around the world. If we want to continue this Latinx chart domination, I only have one piece of advice: stream “China” by J. Balvin on YouTube and Spotify!

Sparking Tequila: It Better Be On The Menu At Your Next Pool Party Or I’m Not Going

Culture

Sparking Tequila: It Better Be On The Menu At Your Next Pool Party Or I’m Not Going

@AzulanoTequila / Twitter

Summer 2019 is officially the summer carbonation took over the hearts and minds of the the adult beverage industry. Natty Light, PBR, Four Loko, and practically any alcohol company with a pulse who can make and bottle boozy seltzer jumped on a train that continues to bubble out of control.

The next phase of the sparkling beverage boom: Sparkling tequila.

LA-based Pure Azul just announced that it will be rolling out Azulana sparkling tequila this week in California, producing the first and only beverage on the market made with 100% blue agave tequila and sparkling soda.

Crafted in Jalisco, Mexico, it comes canned in three flavors: Original (… tequila-flavored sparkling soda), Lime, and Pineapple Rosemary. Azulana sparkling tequila will be released in 12-oz. cans, containing 4.3% ABV with 145 calories.

In other words, the legit perfect drink for summer. You just may want to break out some sal y limon to fully enjoy it. 

The three flavors are each unique and, not gonna lie, sound straight up tasty.

Credit: @AzulanoTequila / Twitter

According to the company’s website, the “Original” flavor goes down smooth with a “lightly sweet” and “slightly tart” taste.

The “Pineapple Rosemary,” meanwhile, boasts a fruity, herbal flavor somewhat reminiscent of flowers, while the “Lime” option is zesty and tropical.

Sparkling tequila is the the latest in a total takeover of the alcoholic beverage industry by sparkly, bubbly bebidas. 

Clearly, Azulana looks to capitalize on two glaring beverage industry trends: The proliferation of sparkling hard seltzer and the continued success of tequila, which Azulana notes “continues to thrive.” In 2017, for example, the US saw an 8.5% increase in tequila liter sales over the previous year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

In a press release, Katie Pittman, Head of Sales and Marketing at Pure Azul notes, “Our goal is to help others understand that tequila isn’t just enjoyed during a wild night out – with Azulana, it can truly be enjoyed during all occasions – anywhere, anytime.”

It’s also good timing – tequila sales are up up up across the US. 

It may not seem like it to those of us who regularly order the Patron or some Cuervo when we having a party, but it’s true. Tequila sales are booming in the US. In 2017, for example, tequila sales were up 8.5% from the year before. 

So if there was ever a time to enter the tequila business – it would be now. Make them coins. 

The grand unveiling was August 22nd at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

And, of course, it made its debut at a Rolling Stones concert. Because I guess tequila and Stones go together like…sal y limon? 

But don’t worry if you didn’t make it to that concert. You won’t have to wait long. The sparking tequila beverage will be available at Bristol Farms supermarkets in Southern California from August 28th before expanding to other markets and regions from then. 

While some seemed to at least be open to the idea…

I mean, it all really depends on your feelings towards sparkling drinks to begin with. If you’re already a fan, then sparkling tequila isn’t too much of a stretch. 

Mexicans were openly skeptical.

But let’s note, many on Latino Twitter basically said they were simultaneously fascinated and disgusted by the idea of sparkling tequila.

And a few people pointed out that summer is nearly over. 

But if you have sparking tequila at your house…is summer ever really over? I don’t think so. 

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