So, I thought it was incredibly interesting how Telenovelas came to be. How long days of rolling cigars seemed to get pretty mundane pretty quickly for the women doing the work. It is incredible that something that began as reading stories aloud to the workers, turned into a worldwide phenomenon with enough force behind it to pause war for some countries, and to change time of prayer for others. My mom and her entire side of the family is from Cuba, so the fact that this phenomenon began on the beautiful island in cigar rolling shops completely grabbed my attention. So, I thought this would be a great opportunity to call my grandfather in Miami and see if he had any memories of the Telenovela’s impact on my family history. I expected it to be a simple; “yes we all listened to and watched them.” Well, he had a little more to say about it so get ready, because it’s really cool!
I decided to sum up everything he told me, so here is a little snippet from my Papi…
The Telenovela is such a huge part of Cuba’s history. The different stories contained philosophical topics about the country, about the history, and especially Cuba’s independence. They lasted for months covering all different thought processes and interests of the people that called Cuba home. The men loved them just as much as the women, and when they started playing over the radio, the world literally stopped spinning, people would stop whatever they were doing because that broadcast took priority over anything going on at the moment. When my Papi was young he remembered his mom and his dad listened to them religiously. But going back to before they took over the radio… The workers in the cigar placed often couldn’t read or write, so my great grandfather found a way to make money since he couldn’t support his family on just a missionary’s salary. He decided to help in building these little platforms with steps and a railing to read these novels (which would later turn into Telenovelas) to the workers to keep them entertained and interested. He called them “escogidas del tabacos”. Sooner or later the novels started playing on the radio and everyone in Cuba would drop whatever they were doing to listen to them everyday. (My grandfather even joked that they were so important that a daughter would be late to her mother’s funeral to make sure she didn’t miss a show.) He remembered in the 40s, El Derecho del Nacer. The novel was about the right to be born. A lady had a baby out of wedlock and hid what happened for years and the only one who really knew what happened was the grandfather except that he couldn’t speak because he was deaf. The story was so dramatic and the grandfather would always mumble and try to say, “I want to talk, I want to talk,” because he wanted to tell the truth about what was going on. He also remembered another one called Los Tres Villa Lobos, which was about 3 brothers fighting against the abuse of a big shot. The brothers were wealthy so it was more of a crusade on their part to help the poor. He said he loved when they began adding sound effects, and people would clap wooden spoons to mimic horse hooves, or would shake maracas to mimic rain. He finished by saying that they were still a huge part of his life, and that if I didn’t remember, when he and my grandmother would take care of me when I was little, my Abuela would always watch at least two a day and I would sit and watch them with her before she passed away. I don’t remember this because I was very little, but it’s a sweet memory to be reminded of.
This was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with my grandfather, and it was so amazing to hear the pride in his voice for his country and his pride for Telenovelas.