Telenovelas are seen as a genre – a soap-opera style of television with wild theatrics, colorful sets, and a romance-oriented storyline. However, telenovelas are much more inclusive and can be considered a format, rather than a genre, due to the fact that there have been telenovelas that have been mysteries, horror shows, and action-oriented, rather than the traditionally recognized “romance”. A question that I will attempt to answer in this essay is: why did telenovelas become so popular in Mexico when they emerged in the late 1950s? My argument is that it was because of social pulls, with the Mexican media conglomerate, Telesistema-Televisa, through collaboration with the Mexican government and the United States media and capitalistic empire that caused this success due to a need of maintaining order in a post-World War II socio-political climate.
Although they attempted to appear to not be in collaboration, the Mexican government was working closely with Telesistema-Televisa. The Mexican government itself allowed the formation of Telesistema-Televisa, and allowed for it to have a monopoly over television networks. Having only one television network to control was easier than having multiple outlets, so it was in the government’s interest to have a system that was made up of one entity and that would not appear to be connected to it. “The PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) needed to communicate its ideological agenda to the mass of people, and Telesistema-Televisa needed more audiences to ensure the highest possible profit through economies of scale” (Lopez 76). According to an article printed on October 4, 1975 from the New York Times, Emilio Azcarraga, the president ...
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... these, 501,458 have television sets… the United States Census places four people in each Spanish-speaking household, thus the Spanish-speaking UHF [ultra-high frequency signal] audience is currently 1.6 million people” (Ferretti).
An example of this collaboration is the telenovela Senda prohibida, which translates to mean “Forbidden Path.” Senda prohibida was the first telenovela produced in Mexico; it was released in 1958, and was first introduced to Mexico as a pre-packaged product by Colgate-Palmolive (citation). Presented as “Your Colgate Telenovela,” Senda prohibida was a creation of Colgate-Palmolive, who was heavily involved in the production of radio and television for many years, expanding from the United States into Mexico. Jesús Gómez Obregón, the head producer of Colgate and of Senda prohibida, contracted Fernanda Villeli to write the show (Paxman 88).
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