My Top 15 Picks of the Best Mexican Telenovelas

Carolina

Carolina

Argentinian Carolina has an extensive movie background in the cinematic universe. She is our resident TV analyst and a seasoned expert in global streaming platforms. She showcases her comprehensive knowledge through her love for Netflix 'Originals', Frozen, The Good Place, and The Dragon Prince.

Mexico has been one of the pioneers in producing telenovelas in Latin America. The first Mexican telenovela was Senda prohibida from 1958.

Mexican production has been constant through the decades, of course, with ups and downs. Besides the original stories, Mexico has adapted telenovelas from Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, and Brazil.

Mexico has been traditional with the telenovela plot, following, in most cases, what is known as a telenovela rosa structure.

Also, Mexican stories portray the social and racial differences commonly found in its society, and there is a huge influence from religion.

Although I already picked some Mexican telenovelas among the best Latin American titles, many series were left out. So, this is my redemption for the Mexican telenovelas.

The following list is composed of the most iconic Mexican telenovelas, including a couple of my favourites.

1. Bodas de odio (Weddings of Hate) (1983)

Romance, Drama – 151 episodes

This period drama is set during the end of the Porfiriato in Mexico, around 1910.

The story follows Magdalena Mendoza, a young woman in love with José Luis Alvarez, a poor soldier.

However, Paula, Magdalena’s mother, wants her to get married to Alejandro Almonte, a young rich man. When Paula finds out Magdalena is in a relationship with José Luis, she pulls the strings to send the soldier to prison.

Magdalena gets married to Alejandro, so now José Luis must find a way to get free and fight for his love.

2. El maleficio (The Curse) (1983)

Horror, Mystery, Suspense – 162 episodes

El maleficio was ahead of its time by changing the basic elements in a telenovela for supernatural features of horror and suspense.

This was the first telenovela to include such topics. Beatriz is a widow devoted to raising her two children, Vicky and Juanito, along with her mother-in-law.

When she meets the powerful billionaire, Enrique de Martino, she falls immediately for him and accepts to get married.

Things will turn creepy for her and her family once they move to de Martino’s mansion, where Beatriz finds out that Enrique is a sorcerer devoted to an evil entity named Bael.

El maleficio is available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

3. Cuna de lobos (Cradle of Wolves) (1986)

Crime, Drama, Suspense – 169 episodes

The story follows Catalina Creel, an unscrupulous woman who is willing to do anything for her son, and anything that includes lying, manipulating, and killing.

In this telenovela, the focus is on the villain instead of the hero or heroine. Catalina Creel is inspired by Mrs Taggart, played by Bette Davis in the comedy The Anniversary.

Just like Mrs Taggart, Catalina always wears a patch covering her right eye, and like Bette Davis’ character, she’s evil, manipulative and without remorse for her acts.

When her husband dies in a car accident, she will do anything for her biological son to get the inheritance due to some conditions his husband left in his will.

Recently, there was a remake in 2019 in the format of a TV series starring Paz Vega as Catalina Creel.

The original version is on Vix, available in the US and Latin America.

4. Cadenas de amargura (Chains of Bitterness) (1991)

Drama – 80 episodes

Cadenas de Amargura follows a young woman named Cecilia, who was orphaned when she was a child and ended up living with her two aunts, Evangelina and Natalia.

While Natalia always supports Cecilia on everything, Evangelina only shows cruelty. Evangelina is a resentful, bitter woman who takes her niece as the target of disappointment from the past.

Cadenas de amargura is available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

5. Corazón salvaje (Wild Heart) (1993)

Drama, Romance – 160 episodes

This period drama set at the beginning of the 20th century focuses on the rivalry between two brothers and two sisters.

Juan del Diablo and Andrés Alcázar y Valle share the same father, Francisco Alcázar y Valle.

However, Juan is a son born out of wedlock. Francisco Alcázar y Valle is a rich man and owner of the Campo Real sugar cane plantation.

He had the intention to recognise Juan as his son, but his wife, Doña Sofía, opposed it.

Fifteen years later, Doña Catalina Montero, widowed Countess of Altamira and her two daughters, Countesses Monica and Aimée, are back in town to fulfil the promise to Doña Sofía of Monica to marry Alejandro.

When they meet in person, Alejandro falls in love with Aimée, who accepts marrying him.

However, she becomes Juan’s lover. As you can see, all the telenovela tropes are checked in this story.

Corazón Salvaje has been one of the most successful Mexican telenovelas and has spawned a couple of remakes. Corazón Salvaje and the remake from 2009 are available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

6. Mirada de mujer (The Gaze of a Woman) (1997)

Drama – 240 episodios

The story follows María Inés Domínguez, a middle aged housewife whose main occupation is her husband and three children.

When Ignacio, María Inés’ husband, falls in love with a woman named Daniela and decides to put an end to his marriage. This decision leaves María Inés devastated.

In the middle of this crisis, María Inés meets Alejandro Salas, a writer and journalist 16 years younger than her.

This encounter makes her feel different because Alejandro doesn’t see her as his senior but as an equal.

Mirada de mujer is currently available on Prime Video in Latin America.

7. Rubí (2004)

Adventure, Drama, Family – 115 episodes

Based on the comic of the same name created by Yolanda Vargas Dulché for the magazine Lágrimas, risas y amor, Rubí follows the titular character, a beautiful young woman studying at the university living with her mother and sister in a poor neighbourhood.

Rubí attends a private university thanks to half a scholarship and the other half is paid by her sister.

Rubí is selfish, envious, and arrogant, and she’s decided to find a rich man to take her out of poverty. Her best friend, Maribel, is a sweet girl with a problem in her right leg as a consequence of an accident.

Maribel meets a young man on the internet, Héctor Ferrer. Héctor is a rich architect who loves Maribel and wants to meet her in person.

Maribel is afraid to show Héctor the disability in her leg and sends Rubí to meet him. From there on, Rubí will seduce Héctor to make him fall for her.

This is the second adaptation in the telenovela format, the first one is from 1968.

Rubí also has a Philippine remake and a new Mexican version from 2020. Rubí and the remake from 2020 can be found on ViX in the US and Latin America.

8. Las Aparicio (2010)

Comedy, Drama, Romance – 120 episodes

Las Aparicio belongs to a new type of telenovela with more common features with a TV series.

It leaves behind the typical trope of a good heroine searching for the love of a man and facing an evil antagonist.

Las Aparicio follows a family composed entirely of women. Only girls are born in this family, and men die suddenly.

The story focuses on six women of this family, the matriarch Rafaela, who had three husbands, all dead. She had a daughter with each one: Alma, the eldest, Mercedes, the middle one, who is a lawyer, and Julia, the youngest, who deals with doubts about her sexual orientation.

Las Aparicio presents characters who aren’t totally good or bad, as happens in most telenovelas, they’re like real people.

The curse on the Aparicio women works as a metaphor for female empowerment. Also, the story touches on topics of lesbianism, bisexuality and polyamory.

When it was airing in Mexico, the series created some fuss in conservative groups because of these progressive topics.

In 2015, a movie was produced with the same cast and following the same premise.

Las Aparicio is one of the few telenovelas that caught my attention in the past few years because it breaks many tropes and stereotypes and works at levels that common telenovelas don’t work.

9. Teresa (2010)

Drama, Romance – 162 episodes

Teresa follows all the tropes that make a typical telenovela: the rivalry between the poor and the rich, jealousy, and betrayals.

Teresa is a character who is more on the side of the villain than the heroine, something similar to Rubí.

Teresa Chávez is a beautiful and intelligent young woman desperate to get out of the poor neighbourhood where she has spent her whole life.

Her desperation becomes an obsession that makes her do anything to get what she wants like seducing rich men without loving them and making the lives of the people who care about her miserable.

Teresa is available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

10. La reina del sur (The Queen of the South) (2011)

Action, Drama, Crime – 3 seasons – 183 episodes

La Reina del Sur is an American Spanish-language telenovela produced by Telemundo with Mexican actors.

It belongs to the new trend of telenovelas known as super series, with more character development, action, crime and relegating romance.

This telenovela can also be included in what is called narco novelas for its topic. La Reina del Sur is based on the novel of the same name by Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

The story follows Teresa, a woman living in Sinaloa, a Mexican state corrupted by drug trafficking and money laundering.

She must run away after her boyfriend is killed. She goes to Spain and after her new partner dies in an accident, she’s sent to prison, where she meets her best friend Patricia.

After they were released from prison, they started a drug trafficking business. Teresa becomes a powerful drug dealer known as The Queen of the South.

La Reina del Sur has an English-language remake that was aired on USA TV. La Reina del Sur is available for streaming on Netflix, where there is also the remake.

Although narconovelas are the target of criticism because of the violence and crime portrayed, I must admit that I prefer this new trend instead of the classic one that nowadays looks outdated.

11. El señor de los cielos (Lord of the Skies) (2013)

Action, Crime, Drama – 9 seasons – 734 episodes – Ongoing

After the success of La Reina del Sur, three years later, Telemundo produced another American Spanish-language telenovela belonging to the subgenre of the narconovelas.

It has been a success since its release, and it’s still on air, making it one of the longest telenovelas in history.

Mixing the format of telenovela and TV series, with a lot of action and crime, El señor de los Cielos is inspired by the real life of the Mexican drug dealer Amado Carrillo, who was renamed Aurelio Casillas in the series.

The story follows Casillas, one the most powerful drug lords in Mexico who created the Juarez Cartel and got the nickname Lord of the Skies because he used his aircraft fleet for drug delivery.

El señor de los cielos is available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

12. Alborada (The Dawning) (2005)

Drama, Romance – 90 episodes

This period drama starring Lucero is set during the Spanish domination period in Mexico with references to historical facts like the Mexican Inquisition.

The story follows a Mexican young woman, María Hipólita Díaz, who lives with her grandma in Panama.

She gets married to Antonio de Guzmán through an arranged marriage to keep Antonio’s sexual dysfunction. Hipólita is under the abuse of her mother-
in-law who wants his son to consummate the marriage and get Hipólita pregnant.

When Don Luis Manrique y Arellano, a young Mexican nobleman visiting Panama ends up in Hipólita’s house running away from the people who want to kill him, their lives will change forever.

Alborada checks all the tropes you can expect from a melodrama, full of secrets, betrayals, and adverse situations for the protagonists.

You can watch Alborada on ViX in the US and Latin America.

13. Rebelde (Rebel) (2004)

Comedy, Drama, Family – 3 seasons – 440 episodes

After the success of Rebelde Way in Argentina, a telenovela aimed at teenagers created by Cris Morena, famous for creating iconic children’s telenovelas, the story was sold to Televisa to make a Mexican version.

Rebelde was equally or even more successful than the original. With a bigger marketing machine behind it, Rebelde even had its doll collection produced by Mattel.

The story takes place in the Elite Way School, an exclusive private school where teenagers from high society go to study.

The school offers scholarships to low-income students who stand out in the academic or sports field. However, these students always end up dropping out because of an elite group called La Logia whose objective is to keep the school as pure as possible.

When Mia, Miguel, Diego, Roberta, Lupita and Giovanni meet in the summer camp of the school before the academic year begins, they find out that even though they come from different backgrounds, there is something they share: their passion for music.

Just like what happened with the Argentine original version where the Erreway band created inside the series was also a band in real life, the band created in Rebelde, RBD was a success in the pop music that went beyond the Latin American frontiers and the Spanish language.

Besides this remake, there are other versions: Remix (India), Rebelde Way (Portugal), Corazón Rebelde (Chile), and Rebelde (Brazil).

Rebelde is available for streaming on ViX in the US and Latin America.

If you’re curious about Rebelde Way, you can find it on Netflix in Latin America.

14. María la del barrio (Humble Maria) (1995)

Drama, Romance – 185 episodes

María la del barrio, starring Thalía, is a remake from the classic Mexican telenovela Los ricos también lloran from 1979.

Los Ricos también lloran is considered one of the best Latin American telenovelas with an emphasis on drama and acting.

However, María la del Barrio has surpassed it in popularity worldwide, but perhaps not for the same reasons. Although the story is almost the same, María la del Barrio is famous for exaggerated acting and has spawned several memes on the internet thanks to the infamous scene of the “cripple”.

The story follows María Hernández, a humble, uneducated and innocent girl who lives with her Godmother on the outskirts of Mexico City and works as a picker of recyclables in a landfill.

When her Godmother dies, María is welcomed by businessman Fernando De la Vega, who educates her, teaches her manners and introduces her to his home as a family member. There, María meets Luis Fernando, the eldest son of the family.

They fall in love with each other, but as in every telenovela, their path to happiness is not easy.

María la del barrio has a Philippine remake.

María la del barrio is available on ViX in the US and Latin America. If you make me choose, I prefer Los ricos también lloran.

15. El pecado de Oyuki (Oyuki’s Sin) (1988)

Adventure, Drama, Romance – 125 episodes

Based on the comic book of the same name written by Yolanda Vargas Dulché, this ambitious production by Televisa is still considered one of the most expensive telenovelas.

Something interesting about this telenovela is it is set in Japan but the characters are played by Mexican actors.

El pecado de Oyuki is set in 1970 and follows the titular character, a young Japanese woman living in the country. When Oyuki’s parents die, her older brother Yutaka, a vicious man, takes her to Tokyo to take advantage of her beauty and her knowledge of traditional dances.

Yutaka’s intention is for Oyuki to become a geisha and work in a ryotei. Once in Tokyo, Oyuki catches the attention of Togo Fushoko, a rich businessman who falls in love with her.

Yutaka sees the opportunity to marry her and take advantage of Fushoko’s wealth. However, everything changes when Oyuki meets Irving Pointer, an English painter. They fall for each other but they must face several obstacles like prejudice for being a biracial couple.

Oyuki faces a tragedy and she ends up paying for it unjustly. Originally, the telenovela was going to be shot entirely in Japan, but due to budget, it was decided to shoot only the exterior scenes there and recreate in Mexico the interior and parts of Tokyo’s wards.

After being aired worldwide, the actress, playing Oyuki, Ana Martín, was invited by the Government of Japan to congratulate her because of her amazing portrayal of a geisha.

Summary

Mexico has a rich history of telenovelas during the past 60 years. Being one of the pioneer countries in producing this TV format, Mexico has all kinds of telenovelas for all likes.

This list includes some of my favourites and popular and iconic titles that have been international successes.

Have you watched any of these? Please let me know which one is your favourite by dropping some lines in the message box below.

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