I have a friend who will call her mother to record her telenovela — the soap opera — so she won’t miss it when she’s at a party. For my part, it was one of those I didn’t hear about, even when a new one started. So things stood, I being pretty radical in not letting myself get snagged by the mass media. That is until the other day when I saw a fragment of a new soap opera from Brazil.
It’s about a back-of-beyond country town in Brazil where two young men, a journalists and a publicist, arrive to start a newspaper. They report on a bartender, leader of the opposition in the place, who tries to criticize current policies and denounce the excesses of the administration in power. In addition, they want to promote some campaigns that could benefit the community, and so they invite all the dissidents to participate in the project.
Then I understood everything. Like when one is engaged in an abstract mathematical problem and suddenly a simple formula solves the whole numerical mess. A sort of mystical enlightenment. I understood in that instant why the better part of the population of my country obsessively watches soap operas. I felt like calling my friend and telling her I’d discovered the mystery behind the TV screen. She watches the shows perhaps because the women always find the love of their life — my friend has a certain obsession with that topic — my mother watches because the houses are always clean and bright, the mother-in-law of a friend because the Brazilian landscape is dazzling, and a neighbor because the bad guys never win.
I imagined myself disembarking, let’s say, in the newly created province of Mayabeque — recently created from part of Havana province — and opening a newspaper called, for example, “Havana Forever.” It could focus my attention, perhaps, on what a disaster it’s been for a whole community to have left the capital without even changing their place of residence. It would address the local news ignored by the official press, and of course could analyze the work of the cadres in the area in exposing corruption. It would also give a voice to the opposition politicians in the neighborhood. In short, after so much dreaming, since last week I, too, have been watching the telenovela: That magical world on the screen where you can go from town to town opening newspapers where they talk about politics and criticize the government.