The Nigerian Craze For Mexican Telenovelas

The Nigerian Craze For Mexican Telenovelas

Nigerian Soap operas/drama productions, rocked our TV screens back in the days (especially in the 80’s), which transcended into the 90’s from Cock Crow at Dawn, Village Headmaster, Mirror in the Sun, Behind the Clouds, Ripples, Mind Bending, to Supple Blues, Checkmate, Fortunes, amongst others. Foreign comedies as well dominantly from the USA and Britain gave Nigerians a worth while fun time viewing experience, such as The Jeffersons, Good Times, Sanford and Sons, Different Strokes, Mixed Blessings, Mind your language, Doctor in the House, Rising Dam, Some Mothers do have them, Rent A Ghost, amongst others. Unfortunately, they stopped the broadcast of these programmes and Nigerians had to be content with the stream of local productions that were flung in our faces.

However, “The Rich Also Cry” back in the late 80’s set the precedent for a plethora of Latin American telenovelas (dominantly from Mexico) and in some cases Venezuela, to flood our screens. It was the first Telenovela that ruled the Nigerian airwaves back in the days. Following the viewership hit recorded, “Secrets of the Sand”, “No One But You”, “Lady of the Rose”, “Maria de los Angeles”, took successive turns in entertaining Nigerians with the latin American flavoured stories. Unfortunately, somewhere along the 90’s, the broadcast of the Telenovelas came to an abrupt halt, closing the book of the Latin American epoch of thrilling, exciting, cliff hanger moments, and intricate plots. Nigerians especially those living in Lagos state (The Hub of the Entertainment Industry) had to make do with other foreign genres other than drama, broadcast straight into our living rooms especially from God’s own country.

However, the revival of telenovelas on our screens returned with a big bang in 2005 with “Cuando Seas Mia(when you are mine)” with 238 episodes starring Paloma/Elena Olivares( Silvia Navarro), Diego Sanchez Serrano (Sergio Basanez), broadcast on African Independent television (AIT) at 9pm and MITV at 7pm from Monday to Friday. To say the least, at such times especially at 9pm, women, teens, children and surprisingly a good number of the men folk tuned to AIT’s frequency to watch fresh episodes of the programme. Great was the response to the telenovela that even with the epileptic power supply in the country at that time(which hasn’t changed) families were seen eagerly powering on the generators to watch, while those who didn’t have one could be spotted at open bars, clubs, local restaurants, shops, neighbours/ friends apartments gladly watching same.

The cliff hanger moments were always heart stopping and at the end of each episode splinter groups would emerge, giving their views about what transpired in various scenes in the episode, what could and couldn’t have been done by a particular character, who they suspected was the guilty party, and a prediction of what would happen in the next episode. To miss an episode was to miss out big time! and those who did miss it where seen the next day eagerly asking to be filled in on the details by their friends at schools, offices etc. All the actors and actresses played their roles well and none was found wanting. Shouts of Paloma, Diego, The three witches (Barbara, Berenice, Angela), Mariano, Fabian and other characters never failed to come up during discussions. It was a great story which kept Nigerians glued to their TV sets at the fixed times. Thumbs up to the script writer, casting director, director, and the entire crew who made our viewing pleasure a memorable one.

“Catalina n Sebastian”, “The Gardener’s Daughter”, “Second Chance” also recorded good viewership. Second chance having been concluded an American soap took over in its stead, unfortunately Nigerians were not that receptive to it and I think the sponsors realized that they ought not to have changed the winning brand, and have come up with another telenovela “Until my last breath” shown only on AITand Fish Port Princess. Other TV stations such as Galaxy, MBI (now defunct), NTA 10, STV, TVC have also leveraged on the popularity of the Latin American telenovelas and have / still airing them such as “Lorenzo’s Wife”, “la Usurpadora”, “Esmeralda”, “Camila”, “Rebeca”, “Rubi”, “La Revancha, “Storm Over Paradise”.

Perhaps, the beauty of these televovelas lies not only in its foreign origin but its content which brings to bear the realities of life encapsulated in betrayal, deceit, love, hatred, thirst for power and fortune, heart breaks, class distinction standing as a hurdle to marriage, weakness of man, seeming insurmountable mountainous challenges which man irrespective of race, nationality, tribe, gender, religion, confronts on a daily basis. The suspense/cliff hanger moments, intrigues, makes one want to watch the next episode. Love, quest for true love and happiness is greatly projected in the telenovelas and tends to revolve around the plot of the story. Serenade (which is alien to this part of the world) is respectively seen in scenes where love is being professed and re-assured. They no doubt have a great love culture.

The English voice overs for the characters with certitude achieved through a high level of professionalism helps non- Spanish speaking people follow the unfolding drama in the story easily. Imagine if it had been subtitled, not everyone would have been able to keep up with the on going dialogue. Another thing they have going for them happens to be the theme songs. The theme song for “When you are mine” became a ‘soap opera anthem’ on the lips of Nigerians (even though we couldn’t understand the lyrics of the song) but the beats, chorus, and the voice of the lead vocalist made the song a memorable one. La Usurpadora, Rebeca, Until my last breath also have good theme songs. Nigerians can clearly reel out certain phrases reflected in the dialogue process by the actors and actresses such as “My Love, Love of my life, I swear to you, forgive me, On the contrary, Salu,”.

However, certain negative re-curring decimals such as unforgiveness, paving the way for revenge, the propounding of the love theory as a justifiable reason for adultery and sought after happiness, divorce, separation, single parenting, lustful desires, cleavage revealing tops relegates Christian doctrines to the background in a country where the Christian faith is presumably practised. This has the tendency to send the wrong signals to people from other Nations.

Despite the short comings, the Telenovelas have overtime proven to be worth being sponsored and watched by the Nigerian populace. It is my utmost belief that more of these exciting soaps will continue to hit our screens. Nigerians, are however waiting patiently for the Latin American telenovela that would surpass the overwhelming effect “The Rich Also Cry” and “Cuando Seas Mia” had on them.

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