One of the major questions maybe: why did I choose these two soap operas? For many telenovela followers they might question why I did not choose the most popular and recognizable “Ugly Betty” or as it’s original followers know it “Yo Soy Bety La Fea”. Originally a Colombian soap opera, this one took a course of its own inspiring remakes all over the world, including three seasons of a American version on ABC. In the United States it was produced by Salma Hayek a well-known Mexican Actress and producer.
Turning back to the classroom in East Harlem, my teacher was passionate and it seemed almost resentful of what he explaining to us. He began to tell us about the typecast set upon just race relations in Latin American countries. In Mexico, for example, the landowners, the wealthy urban dwellers are of European ancestry. They are men and women with profiled faces, bright blue or green eyes, and with extremely well kept light hair.Usually if the protagonist was an “orphan” who actually belonged to a higher social class then she (as the protagonist was usually dropped off at an orphanage by the antagonist or one of her henchmen and grew up to be a beautiful young lady with street smarts and heart of gold caused by her experiences as a street beggar) was a young woman with fair skin, and dark hair. Hair for women of Latin American culture is especially significant of beauty and ancestry.
Looking at the other roles within a play, or soap opera, the working class, or more crudely known as “los pobres”, the poor, are men and women who live in la vecindad, a tenement of small apartments with a common landlord. These are men and women, actors and actresses, who are older, fatter, and shorter. Most have dark short “Indian” hair, at least the men do. Women on the other hand have outdated, long shapeless black hair. Their dialect is full of words made by in a mixture of their native language and Spanish. Terms such as naco (having a meaning almost to American “rednecks”), guero (a person with dominant European physical traits. Including but not limited to white skin, light eyes and hair), cuate (meaning, best friend, buddy) are common Mexican slag words, but in telenovelas they are words used by the kids who have not only grown up on the street but resent the upper class.They distrust everyone and the protagonist and her leading man have to restore faith in them. These children are usually dressed in hand-me downs, shirts and pants that have lost their original coloring and again these children are dark skin and they have dark hair. But then I begin to look at the inclusion of these kids… why is it only that the girls are the beautiful ones? Why can they be taught to be a part of the upper class while the boys remain in the impoverished cycle?
*included in this blog are the images of some of the rich landowners in popular Mexican soap operas. Like Laura Flores as the overbearing elitist mother of the leading man in Al Diablo Con Los Guapos (2007) [also a remake from the original Argentinian Mueñeca Brava (1998)].
**Destilado Amor’s own Doña Pillar. The racist and classist grandmother who does not approve of her grandchildren’s choices in mates when one decides to love a woman well below their “comfort level” of wealth, and her granddaughter comes home with a black man.
***The poor women, those who were “orphaned” after birth, are young women living in poverty on the streets or an orphanage run by the Catholic Church. The women included here are Maite Perroni, once a singer of the worldwide successful pop group Rebelde (also a group that first started as a soap opera), was the orphaned at birth only to find she is actually the daughter of rich and important parents.
****In the same soap opera Laura Flores plays a villain, her character is extremely disapproving and even spiteful of the protagonist Milagros “Millie” portrayed by Allison Lozz. Milagros is the love child of a man from a wealthy family and a house servant mother.