Silvia Derbez’s Legacy Lives On in Modern Retelling of Mexico’s First Telenovela ‘Senda Prohibida’
It was 1958, and “Senda Prohibida” burst onto Mexican television. This pioneering telenovela dared to break the tradition of the damsel in distress and brought an anti-heroine to the forefront. It was undoubtedly an unexpected twist in television storytelling.
Silvia Derbez, the fiery actress and mother of Eugenio Derbez, stole the spotlight with her role as Nora, a tantalizing mix of ambition and charm. The anti-heroine was a small-town woman who, lured by the promise of a better life, spun a saga of love, betrayal, and subterfuge.
From the very first episode, Nora mesmerized viewers.
‘Senda Prohibida’ marks the beginning of an era
“Senda Prohibida” was the first telenovela in history. It was produced by Telesistema Mexicano, the precursor of Televisa, and aired June 12, 1958, from Monday to Friday.
At the time, television was not yet using videotape. Therefore, there were no live program broadcasts. That is why the proposal to create a daily telenovela represented a formidable obstacle.
“The advertisers approached me, inquiring, ‘Do you believe this is feasible?’ My response was affirmative. I assured them it was possible, banking on my exceptional memory,” Silvia Derbez said during an interview.
A successful anomaly
“Senda Prohibida” shocked audiences, not only because of its novelty. Derbez’s interpretation of Nora was so persuasive that viewers often blurred the lines between fiction and reality. They saw not an actress playing a role, but Nora, the ambitious woman wreaking havoc. This fierce reaction even led to Derbez being escorted by the police to protect her from angry fans.
Nora stood out as an anomaly in a world where female protagonists were innocent and pure. The protagonist of “Senda Prohibida” was a character willing to trample social norms and decimate a family for her own benefit. It was a bold role, masterfully played by Derbez, that would forever alter the course of telenovelas.
“She told me that people still didn’t quite understand the soap opera format,” Eugenio Derbez recalled of his mother’s career. “They believed the stories as if they were real. They would wait for her outside Televicentro […] and threaten her. Somebody even said they were going to gauge her eyes.”
A legend was born
“Senda Prohibida” marked a turning point for Silvia Derbez, launching her to stardom. It cemented her position in the industry and allowed her to rub shoulders with the likes of Pedro Infante.
As proof of its enduring relevance, “Senda Prohibida” was recently re-released for the streaming platform, with Ela Velden in the formidable role of Nora. Like its predecessor, the new version has captivated audiences, once again demonstrating the power of complex, multifaceted female characters.
“I feel the honor and the weight of interpreting a role so historic and powerful and to follow into the footsteps of Silvia Derbez, one of my heroines,” Velden told mitú.
The new version, which can now be seen on Vix, is set in the 1950s. Nora is now a cabaret dancer, and the love triangle is between a father and son who are in love with her.
Silvia Derbez’s powerful legacy
Silvia Derbez’s bold interpretation of Nora in “Senda Prohibida” launched her career and revolutionized the telenovela genre. By embracing the role of an unconventional leading lady, Derbez completely removed barriers, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire and shape the world of telenovelas.
And as Velden said, “When people think about telenovela female leading roles that are antagonists, they mention ‘Rubí’ or Catalina Creel (from ‘Cuna de Lobos’), but Nora was the first of everything.”
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