When it comes to Mexican television there is one show that is so iconic that it’s unquestionably become a national treasure. In fact this show has been so treasured and adored in Latin America that it is still broadcast today, 44 years after it first appeared on the air in 1971. While other programming at the time focused on the melodramatic lives of the wealthy and fortunate in Mexico, El Chavo del Ocho was able to bring light and humor to a way of life that was an underrepresented reality for the majority of Mexicans. The show was able to face poverty, hunger, and homelessness face-on while still remaining incredibly humorous, uplifting and inspirational. The cultural of impact of El Chavo has left it’s mark on Latin culture though characters that are instantly recognizable anywhere they make appearances and it’s catch-phrases becoming a part of everyday vernacular. More importantly, El Chavo has surprisingly been able to bridge the gap between generations, allowing abuelitas and nietos to enjoy the show generation after generation. Even today the humor remains poignant, the characters remain lovable and the program remains a cultural bond amongst all Latin Americans.
2. La India María
While the majority of Mexicans on television have always been (and sadly, most still are) depicted as well-to-do, light-skinned, beautiful people, La India María challenged the norms by creating a character of an everyday indigenous woman and making her a star. La India María’s films and television show took head-on important issues that Mexico’s indigenous population has had to endure over the years. The situational humor frequently featured silly slap-stick comedy while still shedding light on racial discrimination and classism in society. Finding honest depictions of relatable characters on television can be an enthralling and liberating experience for minorities that are often left out of mass media. La India María gave a voice to the native populations of Mexico and has continued to do so throughout the years. María Elena Velasco first portrayed La India María in 1972 and continued to do so up until her passing in 2015.
3. María la del Barrio
Of course, any exploration into Mexican television should include at least one telenovela and there’s no better example than María la del Barrio. Words cannot even begin to express how much there is to love about this novela. The plot is completely outrageous and the acting is atrocious, yet it’s impossible not to be captivated by the sheer hilarity of it all. What starts as a simple (though cliché) story of a poor girl from the streets falling in love with a wealthy douchebag quickly spirals out of control into a tale of debauchery, revenge, and murder. Thalia’s acting as María is so unbelievably bad that it’s really hard to understand what propelled her to stardom in the first place. But the real star of the novela is Itatí Cantoral portraying the deliciously evil Soraya Montenegro. Her hatred of María and desire for revenge is one of the main plot drivers of the novela and leads to some of the most riveting scenes ever captured on film. The infamous ‘Maldita Lisiada’ scene has found new life on the internet and is once again bewitching and perplexing new and old fans alike.