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Delia Fiallo, ‘the Mother of Telenovelas’ Who Didn’t Fear Exile Nor Feminists

Delia Fiallo, la madre del melodrama que no se amilanó ante el exilio ni las feministas

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Cuban writer Delia Fiallo died on Tuesday at the age of 96 and was known and celebrated as the queen of melodrama. Fiallo and was a precursor of the telenovela genre, both in Cuba and Venezuela, and neither the exile from her native Cuba nor the feminists could put an end to her success.

Considered the mother of the Latin American soap operas (telenovelas) for her contribution to the genre in the 1970s and mid-1980s, Fiallo’s telenovelas have been adapted in numerous countries and languages, which have resulted in a total of more than 80 successful versions.

Fiallo, who would have turned 97 on July 4, rose to international fame with telenovelas such as “Cristal”, “Topacio”, “El Privilegio de Amar” and “Esmeralda”. The writer studied creative writing in Havana and began writing radio novelas in 1949.

In 1966, she fled Cuba with her family to go into exile in Miami. From there, she worked as a scriptwriter of telenovelas for Venezuelan and Mexican channels.

It was in Venezuela where she wrote some of her most important melodramas. Among them are: “Leonela“, “La heredera“, “Esmeralda“, his first production in that country. BBC reports that Fiallo did not visit the nation again since the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998.

In spite of not having returned to the country, she acknowledged that it was in Venezuela, from exile, where she triumphed. “Venezuela helped me to triumph”, she said in an interview with EFE news agency.

In that sense, the Cuban lamented the fate of Venezuela, which she considers her second homeland. “It is a great pain to repeat in Venezuela what happened in Cuba,” she said.

Delia Fiallo: “Telenovelas have forgotten about feelings”

In an interview with AFP, she said that the telenovela genre was destroyed because scriptwriters left feelings aside. “The themes of my novels were social themes. They were themes that dealt directly with family and youth issues. They sent positive messages,” said Fiallo.

Similarly, she stressed that telenovelas are more than violence and drug trafficking. “The content of the novela is neither drugs, nor sex, nor violence, nor spectacle: it is feelings. Telenovelas have forgotten about feelings,” she maintained.

Likewise, Fiallo made fun of “feminists” who called her scripts “escapist” and defends with conviction a woman’s search for “the man of her life, no matter how professionally fulfilled she may be.”

The Cuban writer and screenwriter died far from her native Cuba, in Coral Gables, at the age of 96. “She died in peace and surrounded by her loved ones,” her daughter told Televisa channel.

Williams Perdomo es periodista y escritor, especializado en las fuentes Política y Cultura.

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