This is a class blog run by Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru and her students in the course "Telenovelas, Culture and Society" at the University of Georgia during Spring 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Telenovelas & Race

Though it is not DIRECTLY related to the topics covered in the syllabus of this course, some of the issues that Dr. A has brought up has prompted me to research more into the racial makeup of Venezuela and race relations within the country.

As most of us know, both the trans-Atlantic slave trade was initiated by the Portuguese in the late 1400s to early 1500s. The use of African slave labor was a tradition that lasted well into the late 19th century, Brazil and Cuba being the last two countries to give up the inhumane practice. Blacks played an integral role in Venezuelan society. Venezuela (before the 1994 coup) had long adhered to the theory of exceptionalism--that race relations in the country were fine and that they, unlike other countries, did not suffer from issues like discrimination, racism, etc. The article I read, mentioned in particular Hugo Chaves' presidency and well since we've dedicated class time to discussing politics in Venezuela I thought it to be relevant. In the article, the author discussed the depictions of Chaves as a monkey and the references political adversaries made to him as an "Indian", "big-lipped", or "African mixed blood". I agree with the author when he argues that these references to his physical appearance and ethnic heritage show the deep-rooted sentiments of the different classes and races that make up Venezuela.

In all of the Telenovelas I've seen (and I admit, I haven't watched them all!), there has been little to no racial diversity in them. This is not a direct reflection of Latin American society, which is incredibly diverse. As a viewer (and researcher), I am continuing to look for racial/ethnic diversity (or the lack thereof). I can say however, that I find the history of race relations in the individual countries to be a reflection of the ending products (Telenovelas).

Article: Leal, Ildefonso. "LA UNIVERSIDAD DE CARACAS Y LA SOCIEDAD COLONIAL VENEZOLANA." Revista de Historia (Venezuela) 3.13 (1962): 27-39. Historical Abstracts with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.

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