My Top 15 Best Venezuelan 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.

When the telenovela was born as a TV format in Latin America at the end of the 50s, Venezuela was among the pioneer countries producing this type of series.

For more than 30 years, Venezuela was among the most important telenovelas producers and sellers.

With several iconic titles that were a fever worldwide, Venezuela not only exported telenovelas but also actors.

Grecia Colmenares is a great example of how she was so famous and popular that was she was hired in Argentina to star in local productions.

At some point, Venezuela became a synonym of telenovelas.

Sadly, at the beginning of the 2000s, the Venezuelan telenovela market began to shrink due to the economic and political crisis.

The Hugo Chavez regime was a serious blow to the industry because of censorship, the closing of private TV stations, and regulations about the content and topics allowed on TV.

In the past decade, the production of telenovelas in Venezuela has been the lowest. However, last year, there was a rumour that production would resume soon, so we’ll probably get another wave of Venezuelan telenovelas.

In this list, I have made a selection of the telenovelas that made history, whether for their topics, success, or originality.

Most of them are from the early times of telenovelas, so I haven’t watched all of them, others are from the time I was a kid and I know them by the title.

I remember some of them because my mom, grandma, and aunts watched them and commented on them all the time.

So let’s take a look at mine and others best.

1. Esmeralda (1971)

Drama, Romance – 140 episodes

Written by Cuban writer Delia Fiallo, famous for having penned several telenovelas during the 60s and 70s, Esmeralda follows the titular character, a blind young woman who was changed when she was born.

Landowner Rodolfo Peñalver has everything he wants except a son. His wife, Blanca, has gone through several miscarriages until she gives birth to a girl who seems to be dead.

With Chana, her maiden and Dominga, the midwife, Blanca decides to exchange her baby girl for a baby boy who was born in the town and lost his mother during birth.

Dominga takes the girl with her and finds out she’s alive but blind.

Since she got a pair of emerald earrings as payment, she named the girl Esmeralda. After a fire in Dominga’s hut, Esmeralda is saved by Marcos Malavé, the town’s doctor.

Malavé decides to keep Esmeralda and educate her to later marry her. However, when Esmeralda is a young woman she meets with Juan Pablo Peñalver, the boy who was raised in her place, and they fall in love.

Esmeralda was the original version that spawned several remakes, and Topacio was the most successful one.

2. Doña Bárbara (1975)

Drama

Doña Bárbara is an iconic Venezuelan telenovela for many reasons.

This telenovela is based on the novel of the same name written by Rómulo Gallegos and published in 1929.

The novel is considered one of the most important pieces of Latin American literature. The story follows the titular character, Doña Bárbara, who is a violent landowner who has a history of violence and bitterness.

The telenovela portrays a part of Venezuela’s history and society, mainly the rural life, marked by the contrast of civilization and savagery.

This version is the fourth one to be adapted for TV. Including this version, there are a total of eight adaptations of Doña Bárbara, some of them from Cuba, Peru, Mexico, and Colombia.

3. La Señora de Cárdenas (1977)

Drama, Romance

Written by José Ignacio Cabrujas, considered the Master of the Venezuelan telenovelas, La señora de Cárdenas is among the most iconic productions from Venezuela.

This was one of the first telenovelas to portray a strong female character whose development and success are built from her suffering as a consequence of the end of her marriage.

Pilar has been married to Alberto for nine years, and they have a daughter.

She’s happy with her family until she finds a love note on her husband’s shirt signed by Fanny. There, she realises that her husband’s distant behaviour for a while now makes sense.

As in any telenovela, or melodrama, secrets and trouble are assured, but the interesting detail is Pilar always remains strong pursuing a successful career and finding love and happiness with another man.

She rebuilds her life and family and leaves behind the pain from the past. And this was pretty much ahead of its time for a telenovela from the 70s.

If you’re interested in watching La señora de Cárdenas, you can find on YouTube a short version consisting of seven episodes.

4. Estefanía (1979)

Drama – 133 episodes

Estefanía was the first Venezuelan telenovela broadcast in colour.

Set in the 50s during the harsh military regime of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez, the story follows the titular character, Estefanía, a strong young woman who fights clandestinely to free her father, a prisoner of the National Security under the control of the cruel Pedro Escobar.

Estefanía meets Luis Alberto Seijas, a young man regime supporter and fiancee to Ana María Escobar, Pedro’s daughter. Luis Alberto helps Estefanía to stay safe, and between them an attraction begins to flourish.

Estefanía doesn’t trust Luis Alberto completely because she knows how involved he is with the regime, but what she ignores is that he has a double life as the leader of a clandestine organisation that fights against the regime.

Although this telenovela has the typical elements of the genre, it also stands out for its political background, creating a thriller atmosphere.

5. Por estas calles (1992)

Drama, Romance – 591 episodes

Por estas calles was a success during its two years on air, making it a milestone for Venezuelan TV. This telenovela broke the standard of telenovela rosa, risking its potential to be sold worldwide, by addressing the social reality of Venezuela in the 90s.

The story and characters worked as a mirror for the audience. The story portrays the social issues in the context of the crisis related to impunity and corruption.

Although there is romance throughout the story, the main focus is on corruption, violence, and drug trafficking.

Por estas calles follows Eurídice Briceño, a teacher living in the poor neighbourhood called Moscú, in Caracas.

One day, she discovers one of her students has a gun and she decides to report it to the police. This single action unleashes a series of incidents, making Eurídice the target of violent actions.

Besides the success of Por estas Calles, this telenovela also created some controversy in the government because it portrayed with rawness the violence and corruption of the society.

Por estas calles is available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

6. Juana, la virgen (2002)

Drama – 152 episodes

Probably, you know the story thanks to the American series Jane, the Virgin which is based on this Venezuelan telenovela.

The story follows Juana Pérez, a 17-year-old girl afraid of falling in love because of all the sentimental failures in her family. One day, she starts feeling sick and when she goes to the doctor, finds out she’s pregnant. She’s in shock because she’s a virgin.

The reason for her pregnancy is during a routine medical check-up, she receives artificial insemination when the doctor in charge mistakes her file.

Now, Juana’s plans to study in the US are shattered, while the sperm owner is Mauricio de la Vega, a man who suffered a chronic illness and got his sperm stored to become a father with his wife.

You can bet that this story is full of trouble, secrets, and suspense. Also, it was ahead of its time in showing progressive topics such as artificial insemination and single motherhood.

Besides the American version, there have been nine international versions, including Polish, Turkish, and South Korean remakes.

You can find Juana la Virgen on ViX (the US, Latin America), Tubi (Australia, Canada, the US), and Pluto TV (Latin America, the US).

7. La mujer de Judas (2002)

Crime, Drama, Horror – 126 episodes

Six women who are best friends are in the church on the night of January 3rd.

After the priest Sebastián is brutally murdered, the six women swear to never talk about what just happened. One of them, Altagracia, was about to get married that same night, but she’s caught with her wedding dress stained with blood.

She’s accused of Sebastian’s assassination and she’s named by a journalist as The Wife of Judas.

Altagracia is sent to prison, and she swears revenge. Twenty years later, Gloria Leal, a young woman and daughter of one of the six women, is investigating the case of the Wife of Judas for a documentary for her class at university.

She heads to town for her research at the same time Altagracias is free from prison. La mujer de Judas has a Mexican remake in 2012.

You can find La mujer de Judas on Tubi in Australia, Mexico, Canada, and the US.

8. Cosita rica (2003)

Romance, Drama – 271 episodes

Cosita Rica is one of those telenovelas that portrays Venezuelan idiosyncrasy and the crisis of the moment. Like what happened with Por estas calles, Cosita Rica was a huge success in Venezuela but it was hard to be sold in an international market.

The story follows Paula, a young woman with the dream of becoming a dancer. She meets Diego Luján, the heir to a cosmetic holding, and she falls for him immediately.

Diego is about to get married to Vicky Cárdenas, a famous model.

However, an encounter between Diego and Paula marks the beginning of a love story. Of course, since this is a melodrama, this is going to be plagued by drama, mistakes, betrayal, and jealousy.

Cosita Rica is available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

9. Ciudad Bendita (2006)

Romance – 214 episodes

Ciudad Bendita is a telenovela about romance but not conventional. The story is set in a popular market, with the protagonists being two losers peddlers.

Bendita Sanchez is beautiful, but with the detail that she has a limp. On an autobus trip, she meets Juan Lobo, an ugly man who dreams about becoming a musician and falls immediately in love with her.

But Bendita’s heart is already taken by Yunior Mercado, a playboy. Ciudad Bendita is about unrequited love, but also about the search for love and happiness in the middle of poverty.

10. Leonela (1983)

Drama, Romance – 133 episodes

Written by Cuban author Delia Fiallo, Leonela was split into two series, with the second part under the title of Miedo al amor.

This structure, which can be common nowadays, was something strange in the 80s, but it was due to regulations in Venezuela regarding the length of telenovelas.

When Leonela was sold worldwide, it was released under one title as a single series.

Leonela made a big impact on the audience, not only in Venezuela but also in the other countries where it was aired, because of its raw and realistic topics and the realistic and anti-hero characters.

The story follows the titular character, Leonela Ferrari, a young woman who just graduated as a lawyer and is about to get married to her boyfriend, Otto Mendoza.

On the day of their engagement, Otto fights and beats Pedro Luis Guerra, a poor and hardworking young man. Pedro Luis swears revenge, and when he sees Leonela walking on the beach, he rapes her.

As a consequence of the rape, Otto leaves Leonela while she suffers the abandonment of her friends. When she finds out she’s pregnant from the rape, she rejects the baby. She doesn’t want to abort but decides to give the baby up for adoption.

Although the success of Leonela, this telenovela has been the target of criticism due to the romanticise raping and problematic men’s behaviours.

Leonela has a remake made in Perú in 1997 with the title of Leonela: Muriendo de amor.

11. Ligia Elena (1982)

Drama, Romance

Ligia Elena can be considered the first Venezuelan telenovela aimed at a juvenile audience. The story follows the titular character, a young woman belonging to a rich family.

One day, she meets Ignacio Ramón “Nacho” Gamboa, a wild boy from the neighbourhood, son of Ligia’s family driver.

They fall for each other, but Ligia is engaged to Alfredo. When she finds out that Nacho has a lover, she decides to get married to her boyfriend.

12. Las amazonas (1985)

Drama – 151 episodes

Las Amazonas is the name of the farm owned by Emiro Lizárraga, who has three daughters: Isabel, Carolina and Eloísa.

The story follows the lives of the three sisters at Las Amazonas, along with their loves and troubles.

Las Amazonas has several remakes, most of them produced by Televisa in Mexico.

13. La dueña (1984)

Drama, Romance – 80 episodes

Considered one of the best Venezuelan telenovelas and also the vehicle for several actors, La dueña borrowed inspiration from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.

Set in 1928 during the tyrannical regime of Juan Vicente Gómez, the story centres on Adriana Rigores who happens to be the heir to the fortune of his father Esteban.

In a failed attempt to take down Gómez’s government, a group of patriots is killed, among them is Esteban Rigores, an idealist rich man.

On the verge of death, he instructs his servant Basilio to find his daughter Adriana and give her the documents that make her the owner of his fortune.

So, Basilio’s journey begins looking for the young woman who was raised as an orphan by a family.

After a lot of tribulations, including being in prison, Adriana reunites with her father in Europe and when she’s back in Venezuela under the name of Jimena, she’s nicknamed The Owner for her fortune.

Now, she’s decided to take revenge on everyone who betrayed her and destroyed her life.

14. La dama de rosa (1986)

Drama, Romance – 228 episodes

La Dama de Rosa is another telenovela that takes inspiration from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.

However, the trope of betrayal, prison, new identity and revenge can be found in many stories. In this case, the story revolves around Gabriella, a young woman who studies drama and works in a car wash to help her family.

She has a brief but intense romantic affair with the owner of the car wash, Tito Clemente, a famous businessman. Gabriella is falsely accused of drug trafficking and sent to prison for twelve years.

Clemente leaves her on her own without knowing she’s pregnant. After seven years in prison, Gabriella manages to escape seeking revenge on Clemente, thinking he’s the culprit of her situation.

When she’s back, she changes her name and appearance to seduce Clemente and get her revenge. La dama de rosa is available on ViX in the US and Latin America.

15. Paraíso (1989)

Drama, Romance – 160 episodes

Paraíso is about romance, but above all, it’s about tragedy. In 1969, Adrián Arturo is flying in his small plane and crashes down over the poor house of Eva Julieta.

Marcela, Eva’s mother, dies in the crash, and this tragic accident joins the protagonists in a complicated bond of hate, guilt, and passion.

Twenty years later, Adrián and Eva meet again, each of them with their families. However, the feelings from the past are back for better or worse.

Summary

Venezuela was one of the main telenovela producers for decades. The country sold its production and talents to the world, creating a frenzy where they were aired.

This list is a selection of the most iconic titles through the decades. Some of these titles were the source of many remakes in different countries.

I hope you enjoy this list as much as I enjoyed making it.

Which telenovela is your favourite? Please let me know by dropping some lines in the message box.

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