Brazilian and Latin Telenovelas – the Best 15 Soap Operas

Women loved them, and men surreptitiously followed the fates of popular characters. Latin American series in the 1980s and 1990s won the hearts of viewers and still evoke sentiment today. We recall 15 popular telenovelas from the hot continent.

The first Brazilian telenovelas in television history was the 1951 telenovela “Sua Vida Me Partenece”. It was the pioneering production of its kind in all of South America, and was aired by TV Tupi Sao Paulo. Of course, it turned out to be a huge commercial success, paving the way for subsequent shuffles.

Hispanic productions are a very peculiar cinematic phenomenon, categorized as popular culture that flatters ludic tastes. The main plot of Brazilian or Venezuelan series is the love story of a beautiful couple, who encounter many obstacles on their way. Here we are dealing with a patriarchal pattern, reflecting the low position of women in the social hierarchy. The only way for a girl to achieve high status is to marry a wealthy man.

The very image of women in Latin American telenovelas is subject to idealization. She is an innocent angelic woman, who at the same time has distinct erotic attributes. The creations conceived in this way gave the female players of the main roles the potential to become stars. And indeed, actresses such as Lucelia Santos, Grecia Colmenares and Leticia Calderon gained great international popularity. Men in Brazilian or Venezuelan series, on the other hand, are the embodiment of the southern macho role model, albeit in a softened, romantic guise.

It may be interesting to note, however, that Hispanic series belonging to popular culture are based on the classical pattern of ancient tragedy. The most recognizable, fixed element of this structure is the Greek “anagnorismos,” or “recognition,” whereby in the course of the plot it turns out that one of the heroes or heroines turns out to be an illegitimate or historically missing child of a wealthy parent.

Brazilian Telenovelas

1. “Isaura: Slave Girl” (Escrava Isaura, 1976)

Brazilian telenovelas - Isaura Slave Girl

“Isaura: Slave Girl” was the first Brazilian telenovela broadcast in Poland, which gained unheard-of popularity. It was the program with the highest viewing figures in the history of Polish television – the fate of the characters was followed by more than 80% of homes with a television set. The series was created in 1976, while it appeared in our country less than a decade later. The film was based on the novel by Bernardo Guimaraes.

The plot of Slave Isaura is set in the 19th century, shortly before the abolition of slavery. The title character is a young slave girl who is raised by her cotton planter mother as her own daughter. However, when Leoncio returns home from a long journey, the situation changes. The apodictic man wants to seduce the beautiful girl at all costs, disregarding her feelings. Starring the legendary pair of Brazilian actors: Lucelia Santos and Rubens de Falco.

2. “Ciranda de Pedra” (1981)

The best brazilian telenovelas - Ciranda de Pedra

“Ciranda de Pedra” is another popular Brazilian series starring Lucelia Santos. The film is based on the novel by Lygia Fagundes Telles. The story is set in the 1940s. Lucelia Santos plays the role of Virginia Prado, the daughter of a wealthy patron who, on the threshold of adulthood, must move in with her father and learns the dark truth about her past. The film also starred Eva Wilma and Armando Bogus.

3. “Sinhá Moça” (1986)

Best 15 brazilian telenovelas Sinha Moca

“Sinhá Moça” is a Brazilian telenovela in which Lucelia Santos once again created a popular performance. This time she played the role of a maiden from a wealthy house of planters and slave owners. Sinha falls in love with a young man (Tarcisio Filho) who speaks out against slavery. The couple must therefore overcome many adversities to be together.

Argentinian and Mexican Telenovelas

4. “Maria di nadie” (1985 – 1986)

Argentinian telenovelas - Maria di nadie

“Maria di nadie” television series, broadcast in Poland in the early 1990s, starring the beautiful Grecia Colmenares. She played the role of a poor girl from the province who comes to Buenos Aires in search of work. Enchanted by the woman’s beauty, Huan Carlos Arocha (Jorge Martinez) offers her a job in his mother Amelia’s house. Soon the man strikes up an affair with the maid. An Italian version of the series was broadcast in Poland.

5. “Manuela” (1991 – )

Argentinian soap operas - Manuela

“Manuela” is another Argentine telenovela starring a popular couple, Grecia Colmenares and Jorge Martinez. The film tells the story of two half-sisters (both roles are played by the same actress) who do not know of each other’s existence and are raised in different environments. Coming from a once wealthy home, Isabel marries Fernando Salinas. Soon, however, the marriage goes into crisis, and Fernando, while in Rome, strikes up an affair with the beautiful Manuela, his wife’s half-sister.

6. “Amor Sagrado” (1996 – 1997)

Latin soap operas - Amor Sagrado

“Amor Sagrado” is another Latin American soap opera starring Grecia Comenares and Jorge Martinez. The film is set in the 19th century. Simon marries the beautiful Eve, who soon gives birth to a son. However, a group of bandits invades the house and kidnaps the child. The boy manages to recover, but Eve sinks into mental illness and is confined to a mental institution. Eve’s twin sister, nun Angeles, shows up at Simon’s house to take care of the child. Soon Angeles and Simon strike up an affair.

7. “Humble Maria” (María la del barrio, 1995 – 1996)

Mexican telenovelas - Humble Maria

“Humble Maria” is a Mexican telenovela starring Thalia, a popular Mexican actress and singer. She plays the role of a poor girl who lives on the street and sorts garbage. One day she is hired at the wealthy home of Mrs. Victoria, whose son, Luis Fernando (played by Fernando Colunga), soon falls in love with the beautiful maid.

8. “Esmeralda” (1997)

The best mexican soap operas - Esmeralda

“Esmeralda” also won the hearts of viewers. Leticia Calderon played the lead role, while Fernando Colunga partnered her. Esmeralda is a story about a beautiful blind girl with whom the rich Jose Armando falls in love. The man has no idea that years ago, he and Esmeralda as infants were switched, as a result of which the girl grew up in a poor shack, while he ended up in the wealthy home of her parents. The couple, in order to be together, must overcome the family’s reluctance and many adversities.

9. “Peligrosa” (1994)

Old latin soap operas - Peligrosa

“Peligrosa” is a Venezuelan series about the fate of a girl hailing from the slums and making a living by robbing people. One day, when Elisa (Rosalinda Serfaty) tries to rob the wallet of a millionaire, Luis Fernando (Victor Camara), the man makes her an unusual proposition. The man wants to make the thief into a lady who will seduce his disloyal friend. Soon, however, engaged to Clementina (Emma Rabbe), Luis Fernando himself falls in love with Elisa.

10. “Maria Celeste” (1994)

Venezuelan series - Maria Celeste

Maria Celeste is a series of Venezuelan telenovela. The title character, played by Sonya Smith, is a girl who did not have an easy childhood. She lost her parents at an early age and was later adopted. As an adult, she meets the handsome Santiago (Miguel de Leon), but Maria’s foster sister Irania (Fedra Lopez) stands in the way of their love.

11. “Luz Maria” (1998 – 1999)

Greatest latin telenovelas - Luz Maria

Luz Maria is a popular Peruvian telenovela, a remake of the series Stellina, which aired in Poland. Playing the main character in the film is Angie Cepeda. Luz Maria is a beautiful, poor girl who finds employment in the Mendoza household after the death of her mother. Miguel Mendoza’s son-in-law Gustavo (Christian Meier) falls head over heels in love with the young maid, but refuses to abandon his wheelchair-bound wife Angelina (Rosalinda Serfaty). The man has no idea that his spouse is in fact healthy, but he pretends to have a disability in order to keep his beloved with him.

12. “Wild Angel” (“Muñeca brava”, 1998 – 1999)

Spanish telenovelas - Wild Angel

“Wild Angel” is a popular Argentine telenovela. It starred singer Natalia Oreiro in the lead role, while she was partnered by Facundo Arana. Milagros is a girl who grew up in an orphanage. Upon coming of age, she is hired as a maid in the wealthy Di Carlo family’s home. It soon turns out that Milagros is the illegitimate daughter of the master of the house, and on top of that she has feelings for his son Ivo.

13. “La usurpadora” (1994)

Old telenovelas - La usurpadora

“La usurpadora” a popular soap opera telling the story of two twin sisters – one good, the other bad. Both roles were created by Gabriela Spanic. Paola Bracho is a calculating wealthy lady who is bored with life alongside her husband and two children. So when she accidentally discovers that she has a double – Paulina Martinez – she decides to “take a vacation” from her role as mother and wife. Her place is replaced by her gentle sister, and she goes on a trip with her lover. Soon, however, she returns and intends to reclaim what she abandoned.

14. “I Am Betty, the Ugly One” (“Yo soy Betty, la fea”, 1999 – 2001)

Colombian telenovelas - I am Betty the Ugly One

“I Am Betty, the Ugly One” is a Colombian telenovela. “I Am Betty, the Ugly One” is a not very pretty, but incredibly intelligent girl who finds a job at the fashion house “Eco Moda”. Almost immediately the girl falls in love with the handsome CEO, Armando Mendoza. However, her lack of beauty causes the boss to initially overlook her as a woman. Nevertheless, the situation slowly begins to change.

15. “Pobre Diabla” (2000 – 2001)

Brazilian and latin telenovelas list - Pobre Diabla

“Pobre Diabla” is another telenovela starring Angie Cepeda. The Peruvian capital is home to an influential press magnate, Mejia Guzman. When the man learns of his terminal illness, he decides to spend his last moments in the arms of a beautiful, poor girl, Fiorella, who becomes his spouse. After her husband’s death, the young wife hopes to receive the estate, but first she must fulfill the requirements of the will.

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