The Paradox of Latin America’s Telenovelas

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

by Contributing Author Elbana Vargas for Zaftyg Magazine.

Telenovelas are often parodied and mocked ad-nauseam by Latinx and non-Latinx audiences alike. However, even the staunchest advocate of the genre can see where the memes are coming from—after all, you could make the world’s tastiest sandwich with all that ham and cheese. 

But beyond the melodramatic approach to the scenic arts or the firmly established clichés, telenovelas have played a pivotal role for Latin American women through the last sixty years. For good and bad. As such, the telenovela phenomenon deserves to be analyzed and acknowledged without the misogynistic and even slightly racist disdain they tend to evocate through each discussion.

$4.95 + free shipping
Zaftyg Skincare

Look, we all know telenovelas are problematic under scrutiny. Your grandmother’s beloved Kassandra, your mother’s María la del Barrio, or your childhood favorite Betty la Fea feature machismo, enforce gender roles, have their fair share of toxic relationship dynamics, and even include homophobia for extra pizzazz. Not to mention the colorism and classism that permeates through the casting and writing.

$4.95 + free shipping

However, it is time to give telenovelas recognition long overdue, which often remains buried amidst the more negative connotations they carry. 

Telenovelas are Latin America’s version of Hollywood, and performers can reach their countries’ peak stardom through regularly starring in them, unlike American soap operas. What makes it fascinating is that telenovelas are designed for women and, as time advances, by women. In short, Latin America’s celebrity culture has been historically centered on content catered to women. 


This is no minor deal. Although Latin America has a thriving and growing film industry, a significant portion of the media is dedicated to telling women’s stories, struggles, and journeys. Even if telenovelas can be tone-deaf or present the aforementioned issues, they still displayed the untold stories of Latin American women through a filter of melodrama, a good dose of exaggeration, and a guaranteed happy ending

With Latin American women being historically oppressed by highly misogynistic and chauvinistic societies that impose strict gender expectations and roles, it is not a surprise that we have latched to content catered to us. Telenovelas were a source of understanding and a mirror for women to see their struggles acknowledged and overcome in cultures where machismo encourages marianismo and women’s martyrdom. 

Logo 468x120

This is by no means denying the rightful criticism telenovelas have received across the decades. However, we must push the genre towards improvement and further inclusivity. Encourage racial equity, tell more Afro-Latinx stories, embrace gender discussion and LGBTI romances, and ditch uncomfortable classist undertones. Many contemporary telenovelas make an effort to be inclusive and diverse. Still, they’re not nearly numerous enough to be the new norm.

Logo 468x120

Telenovelas can and must improve alongside societies, but they should never go away. Content catering to women is mocked enough as it is; let us give Soraya Montenegro one more shot. 

Figuratively, not literally. Don’t give her a gun.

The Paradox of Latin America’s Telenovelas, by Contributing Author Elbana Vargas for Zaftyg Magazine.

In this episode of Zaftyg's podcast, we spoke with Six about her …
This "Venice of the North" attracts travelers from all over the world. …
"The book incorporates exercises to balance your energy through your numerology core …
I will continue to write LGBTQ and POC characters as whole people …

Welcome to Zaftyg!

About Zaftyg, it is a community space for the forward thinking woman! We are a progressive lifestyle brand and online magazine focused on delivering high quality products and starting meaningful conversations. No matter how you identify, we are here to help you look your best, and live your best life!

About Zaftyg, it is an evolution of the Yiddish word Zaftig – a full figured woman or plump in shape. Our brand supports all women and those that identify as women, and all those who accept themselves for who they truly are. This includes any being that identifies as a woman too. We take PRIDE in standing with the with anything that aligns for the higher good of our communities.

Your purchase is directly supporting our Zaftyg team of entrepreneurs, contractors and freelancers from around the globe. We are doing our part in offering support for a better life – work balance for our team, so that our we may live well balance life. Learn more about our Zaftyg team here! Interested in partnering up with our subsidiary brand Onus Social? Take a look at what we do over at Onus Social Digital Marketing Agency, an Internationally Award Winning Digital Marketing Agency.