Our 10 Favorite Telenovelas of All Time

Were you glued to the TV last night as the monster hit telenovela La Reina del Sur came to an end? We certainly were.

In the Telemundo drama, Kate del Castillo played Teresa Mendoza, an unexpected drug lord. The soap was based on the best-selling book by the same name written by Spanish author Arturo Pérez Reverte. After Mendoza’s lover is killed by drug cartels, she flees from her small Mexican town for the Costa del Sol in Spain. Eventually, Mendoza becomes a big time Queen Pin, running a drug dealing ring spanning three continents.

The premiere of La Reina set ratings records, netting 2.4 million viewers for Telemundo. Now the network has launched its first ever Emmy campaign, hoping to land a Best Drama Series nod for Reina and a Best Drama Actress nom for del Castillo. “It would have been stupid not to do it,” del Castillo declared of Telemundo's decision to push for awards recognition. “We have to elevate our voice to make them acknowledge all the Spanish-speaking shows.”

In honor of the end of the first new telenovela to get us super excited in a while, we decided to take a trip down memory lane and round up our ten favorite Spanish-language soaps of all time. Let us know if we forgot any!


1. Telenovelas: Reina del Sur

2. Telenovelas: Betty la Fea

Yo Soy Betty la Fea

Betty La Fea became an international phenomenon after it originally aired in Colombia in 1999. The story follows Beatriz Aurora Pinzón Solano, aka Betty, who works as a secretary at the fictitious fashion empire, EcoModa. Though she is brilliant, Betty is marginalized at the company because of her looks. Eventually she wins everyone over with her charm and smarts. More than a dozen versions of the telenovela have been made all across the world including the U.S. hit Ugly Betty, starring America Ferrera.

3. Telenovelas: Pedro el Escamoso

Pedro el Escamoso

This popular telenovela about a hapless womanizer also hailed from Colombia and aired in 2001. Starring Miguel Varoni as Pedro Coral Tavera, a charming but unlucky man who moves from his small town to the big city in search of his fortune, the show was an instant hit. Pedro finds work as a driver for high-powered businessman Cesar Luis Freydell, and falls in love at first sight with the beautiful Paula Divel. Too bad for Pedro that Paula's already head over heels in love with Cesar.

4. Telenovelas: Gitanas


This Mexican telenovela aired in 2004 and was about Maria Salome (played by Ana de la Reguera), a gorgeous gypsy woman who falls in love with a non-gypsy man, or "gayo." In a classic Romeo & Juliet tale, it is love at first sight for Maria and Sebastián—but their union is forbidden by Gypsy law and looked down upon be those in mainstream society that consider the Gypsy way of life inferior.

5. Telenovelas: Volver a Empezar

Volver a Empezar

The Mexican telenvola Volver a Empezar became one of the most popular soap opera's in Televisa's history. Starring Mexican singer Yuri as Reni and Puerto Rican heartthrob Chayenne as hiumself, the story follows Reni through a complicated path of love, fame and redemption. After an accident renders her paralyzed and with amnesia, she leans on her friend Tony and the two eventually fall in love after Reni makes a triumphant return to the stage, fully recovered.

6. Telenovelas: Marimar


Marimar starred Thalia as the titular character, a poor girl who lives on the beach with her loving grandparents. Eventually, Marimar falls in love with Sergio, the son of a wealthy family whose mother will stop at nothing to keep them apart. After Sergio's mother frames Marimar and kills her grandparents, the once innocent girl returns seeking revenge.


7. Telenovelas: Muchachitas


Before Rebelde or RBD, there was Muchachitas for Anahi! Shown on Univisión in the early 1990s, this charming telenovela told the tale of four young women(Mónica, Elena, Leticia and Isabel) who join a special school to pursue their dreams of fame and fortune. All the girls are from different walks of life; Monica is wealthy, Elena is an outside, Leticia is a wanna-be and poor Isabel is engaged to a much older man.

8. Telenovelas: Rosa Salvaje

Rosa Salvaje

This is an oldie but a goodie. Starring Verónica Castro as the main character, Rosa, this Mexican telenovela aired in 1987. Rosa is a poor tomboy living on the ouskirts of Mexico City when she meets the wealthy Ricardo while trying to steal plums from his yard. Of course, the two fall in love, but Ricardo's evil sisters want him to marry a wealthy woman to assure their place is society and scheme to keep them apart.

9. Telenovelas: Cafe con Aroma de Mujer

Cafe con Aroma de Mujer

This Colombian soap aired in the early nineties and has one of our favorite telenovela titles of all time. Commended for its accurate portrayal of the coffee industry and beautiful cinematography, Cafe con Aroma de Mujer is about the love between Gaviota, a coffee harvester, and Sebastian Vallejo, the grandson of a powerful coffee businessman. After the two are separated, Gaviota learns that she is pregnant with Sebastian's child and tries to track him down in Europe only to get caught in a web of human trafficking.

10. Telenovelas: Soy tu Duena

Soy tu Dueña

This mega-hit telenovela starred Lucero as one of the most kick-ass heroines we've ever seen on a soap opera. Valentina Villalba (Lucero) is a beautiful heiress with bad luck in love. After moving away to the country to run her hacienda in isolation due to the betrayal of her fiance, Valentina finds herself caught up in a complicated web of lies, love and loyalty. Eventually, she is able to find true love with Jose Miguel Montesinos, a rich neighbor whose land Valentina tries to purchase. Airing in 2010,Soy tu Dueña was so popular it set new rating highs for Univision.

11. Telenovelas: Luz Clarita

Luz Clarita

Loveable orphan Luz Clarita (Daniela Luján) is taken in by the rich  de la Fuente family after being raised in an orphanage for most of her life. The little girl is on a mission in life to help everyone realize their dreams and love even though the one love she has been searching for her whole life has always been out of her reach—she thinks her mother is still alive and has been looking for her, even though Luz Clarita's mother is supposedly dead. Her perseverance teaches everyone she comes across about the importance of love and faith. 

12. Telenovelas: Related Links