Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world and yet Spanish language media, specifically television, gets a bad rep. When people hear Spanish language television, they often think of trashy and overly dramatic telenovelas that abuelas worldwide tune into every afternoon.(We’ve all seen this viral clip circling the Internet) This isn’t a bad thing, a bit of campy drama can be entertaining, but just like media in English or even Japanese anime there is many diverse and engaging television shows from the region of Latin America and Spain. It’s a shame when it’s boiled down to the most extreme cases.
In recent years, Netflix has begun producing original Spanish language programming and purchasing licensing rights to shows that had huge success in their home countries. This is a step in the right direction as it not only makes this content accessible for a previously sidelined demographic but it also makes it available for worldwide audiences that wouldn’t have had access to this content before.
Here’s a list of 5 Spanish-language programs available for streaming on Netflix to start with:
1. Club de Cuervos — Mexico
Club de Cuervos tells the story of an underdog Mexican soccer team (one of the running jokes is that even people in their hometown don’t go to their games), los Cuervos de Nuevo Toledo, when their management is thrown into disarray after the death of their club president. This sparks a fight between the president’s two children, Chava, the irresponsible and spoiled son, and Isabel, the highly-qualified daughter, over the highly-coveted presidency. This show is an enjoyable blend of comedy, classic sibling rivalry, athlete eye candy and a heavy use of Mexican slang (¡No mames güey!). As the show progresses it attempts to tackle the sexism and homophobia of the futbol arena, often dominated by a culture of machismo. This Mexican dramedy made Netflix history as the platform’s first foray into original Spanish language content.
2. The Time In Between (El tiempo entre costuras) — Spain
The Time In Between is a period drama, adapted from the popular Spanish novel of the same name by Maria Dueñas. This story follows the life of a seamstress named Sira Quiroga in 1930s Spain. After running from Madrid to Morocco in a flurry of passion with a man she met in a typewriter shop, she wakes up to finds that he’s taken her money and abandoned her, forcing her to make ends meet in an unfamiliar country with what she knows best: sewing. Amidst the chaos of the Spanish Civil War and World War II, she moves back to Madrid where she is recruited as an agent for the Allied forces to spy on German dignitaries and their wives who frequent her popular dress shop. Adriana Ugarte has rightfully won two Spanish acting awards for her role as the resilient, talented, and quick-witted leading lady of the show.
3. Celia — Cuba/Colombia
Celia is a biopic telenovela produced by Fox Telecolombia based on the life story of the late Celia Cruz, worldwide famous Cuban singer known as the Queen of Salsa. The show follows the young adulthood of Celia in 1930’s Cuba, her rise to fame, and the obstacles she faces later on in her career. The highlights of this show are the bright and colorful environment (almost every scene shot in the daytime is bathed in warm sunlight) and masterful use of music. Sadly, there is a noted lack of Celia’s actual music due to Sony’s ownership of her discography. This show also shines a spotlight on the sexism and racism that Celia faced throughout her life and her career in an unexpected but welcome detour from the whitewashing and misogyny of other programs targeted towards the Spanish-speaking demographic.
4. La Niña — Colombia
Based on a true story, La Niña is a Colombian drama based about a girl who is forced to join a group of guerrilla fighters. The show follows Sara as she tries to reintegrate into society after her time with the guerillas while tackling the residual effects of her childhood trauma. This is the darker and more serious of this list, addressing the issue of child soldiers and the psychological damage of warfare.
5. La Reina del Sur
La Reina del Sur is a classic narco-novela about a woman named Teresa Mendoza, based on the Spanish novel of the same name by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Teresa is first introduced to the world of drug trafficking by her boyfriend, a higher up in the Sinaloa Cartel of Mexico. In an unforeseen string of events, she rises to become the kingpin of the drug trafficking business of Southern Spain, earning her the title of La Reina del Sur or The Queen of the South. This action-packed, female lead drama had one of Telemundo’s largest budgets and the impressive ratings to match. Due to its wild success, the program was recently adapted in 2016 as an American remake by the USA network, titled Queen of the South.
3% — Brazil
Even though 3% is in Portuguese and not Spanish, it would be a crime for it not to be mentioned in this article showcasing content from Latin America on Netflix. This thriller is directed by César Charlone (Director of the critically acclaimed 2002 film, City of God, about the Brazilian favelas), takes place in a dystopian Brazil where young people who live in impoverished shantytowns are screened by the high-tech Process for a chance at living in a paradise known as the Offshore. The catch: only 3% of them are allowed in.
Author: Danielle Fraser
Editor: Han Angus