By Mari D. González
What makes an e-novela appealing to acculturated Latinos(as)?
I watched the first five “capítulos” (chapters) of “Vidas Cruzadas” (Crossed Lives) the first webnovela -an online limited-run soap opera featured on Univision.com. I noticed this Internet “novela” had some characteristics that set it apart from the traditional ones shown on major U.S. Spanish-language TV -Univision and Telemundo or Spanish-language TV from Latin America.
An “acculturated” e-novela
1. It is online.
2. It is bilingual. It has English subtitles.
3. It is filmed in the U.S. Yet, it feels Latina.
4. The main characters are bilingual.
5. Modern plot, not the usual Cinderella-like who is saved by the rich guy.
Vidas Cruzadas’ main female character Mariana is an U.S. second-generation professional and independent Latina whose parents emigrated from Latin America. They represent the traditional and working-class family who has achieved the American dream by giving her daughter the education they did not have. It has very good reviews by viewers as expressed on the novela’s forum. They consistently remark that it is a great production, yet that it’s too short. The webnovela it’s from 5 -8 minutes long shown three times a week with one commercial at the beginning and other embedded in the novela. For instance Mariana helps her mom dye her hair. She shows L’Oreal’s hair color package and tells her mom that she has used it before and is happy about the results. There is also a link on Univision.com on L’Oreal including information in English.
Cultural Relevance and Research
Research points out three main cultural values when targeting online U.S. Latinos/Hispanics: 1) preference for bilingual content; 2) familismo; and 3) the use of celebrities as spokespersons. I will focus on the first one and will discuss the other two later.
Bilingual Content Preferred by a Bilingual Audience
The majority of online Latinos/Hispanics prefer English content. Yet, bilingual U.S.-born or second generation, and 1.5-generation who immigrated as children, prefer English websites that include Spanish because those sites speak to their cultural identity and make them feel included (Lee Vann (2006). In fact, researchers (Singh, Baack, Kundu, & Hurtado, 2008) argue that “Language in this case… Spanish, tends to be the most visible manifestation of U.S. Hispanic identity” (p.2). According to Williamson (2006), Latinos/Hispanics appreciate “quality Spanish-language content online…. [It resonates with their] cultural pride and a feeling of community” (p. 17).