La Esclava Blanca: The New Telenovela Rewriting Colombia’s History of Slavery

Yesenia Barragan photoThis is a guest post by Yesenia Barragan, a historian of race, slavery, and emancipation in Colombia, Afro-Latin America, and the Atlantic/Pacific worlds. She recently received her Ph.D. in Latin American and Caribbean History at Columbia University and will be a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College in the Fall 2016. She is currently revising her book manuscript, tentatively titled The Darkest Place: Slavery and Emancipation on the Colombian Pacific, which is the first detailed study of the gradual abolition of slavery (1821-1852) and the immediate aftermath of emancipation in the Pacific lowlands of Colombia. Yesenia is also a longtime activist and has published several pieces for the Latin American news agency Telesur on the historical memory of slavery in the Americas, Black Lives Matter, and Colombian politics.

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white slave

Between Underground and Roots, the past year has witnessed a boom in the cinematic portrayal of the ugly business of and resistance to slavery in the U.S. South. Little known to American audiences, however, is the recent debut of a television series from the Latin American country of Colombia titled La Esclava Blanca (The White Slave), which depicts the slaveholding world of post-colonial Colombia, currently the country with the third largest Afro-descendent population in the Western Hemisphere (after the United States and Brazil). Produced by Caracol TV (Colombia’s largest television network) and first aired in late January 2016 in Colombia, La Esclava Blanca was transmitted to a larger Spanish-language audience in the United States via Telemundo in April. In contrast to Brazil’s longer history of telenovelas (soap operas) set during the time of slavery (see, for example, Greg Childs’s AAIHS piece on A Escrava Isaura), La Esclava Blanca is actually the first telenovela about slavery in the history of Colombia. Yet, as reflected in the title of the telenovela (The White Slave), the show engages in a violent historical revisionism by centering the fantastical travails of a white woman who ostensibly holds the key of freedom for the region’s enslaved.

Set in the Caribbean port of Santa Marta, Colombia, La Esclava Blanca follows the life and struggles of Victoria Quintero, the daughter of a prosperous, slaveholding family and owners of a cotton plantation in the countryside. Although the enslaved population of Colombia (then known as New Granada) was smaller than centers of slavery like Cuba and Brazil throughout the nineteenth century, Colombian slaveholders depended heavily on enslaved labor to work the gold mines of the Pacific coast or the tropical plantations of the Caribbean like those featured in La Esclava Blanca. Misfortune falls upon the Quintero family when a rival slaveholder secretly burns down their estate, thereby killing Victoria’s parents. Merely an infant at the time, Victoria is saved by her enslaved wet nurse, who escapes with her enslaved family and other slaves from the Quintero plantation to join a palenque, or a runaway slave community deep in the jungles of Santa Marta and several days’ journey away from the capital. Victoria is subsequently raised in the palenque from infancy to early childhood, that is, until Spanish authorities discover and destroy the palenque, resulting in the re-enslavement of the palenqueros while Victoria is shipped off to a convent in Spain. The vast majority of the telenovela depicts Victoria’s masterful return to republican Santa Marta (disguised as a Spanish duchess who is engaged to be married to a wealthy slaveholder, coincidentally, the same man who killed her family) and plan to free her adopted black family from the chains of slavery.

As a historian of slavery and emancipation in Colombia, La Esclava Blanca is troubling for several reasons. Just as the movie The Help (2011) sought to revise the history of southern white women’s complicity in the racism of Jim Crow, La Esclava Blanca seeks to rewrite the place of white women in the history of slavery in Colombia. No doubt, at times La Esclava Blanca graphically depicts the emotional and physical violence wielded by white women slaveholders, both young and old. But ultimately, the white, Virgin Mary-like would-be-slaveholder-turned-slave-redeemer Victoria Quintero absolves the racial consciences of (white and mestizo, or mixed race) Colombian and Latin American viewers in a country where anti-black racism is alive and well. The show could be subtitled: “See? Not all of them were so bad.” Furthermore, the television series engages in a violent historical fantasy by inserting a white woman in what was an exclusively and necessarily black-only space, the palenque.1 In other words, as far as the historical records show, white women were never, ever raised in palenques. The entire show is premised on a deep, historical lie. Its cinematic depiction feeds the sensationalism of Colombian and Latin American viewers to the detriment of historiographical truth.

Yet, if we place La Esclava Blanca in conversation with the recent historiography on race relations and racism in nineteenth century Latin America, we can see that the television show upholds the nineteenth century myth of racelessness. As Ada Ferrer documents in Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898, Cuban insurgents articulated a politics of racelessness in their late nineteenth century nationalist struggle against Spain, claiming that equality was so powerfully engrained within the new nation of Cuba that there was no need to identify nor speak of race. This raceless perspective persists today–in evolved form–in “colorblind” or “postrace” declarations. Hints of this mythology of racelessness are sprinkled throughout La Esclava Blanca, as in one scene where the adolescent Victoria is comforted by her fellow palenquero/childhood love Miguel after other palenquero children inform her that she shouldn’t belong to the palenque because she is not black. Consoling Victoria, Miguel tells her that “it doesn’t matter what color skin you have” and “our blood is the same.” Here, Miguel is not quite speaking to Victoria but rather to the viewer, specifically, a Colombian and broader Latin American audience whose national mythology was built on “racial harmony”and racelessness.2

orian-suarez-nerea-camacho-la-esclava-blanca_0
Scene from La Esclava Blanca

More than reproducing this myth, the main producer of the show, Juliana Barrera, even articulated an overtly racist perspective when interviewed on Caracol TV. In response to critiques of the show, Barrera described Victoria Quintero as a white character “but one who does everything possible and has a completely black and passionate heart” (“pero que se desvive y tiene una corazon completamente negro y aspasionado”). The reference to a “black and passionate heart” within the white Victoria Quintero is the product of centuries of racist belief in the fiery and primordial “nature” of people of African descent. But in Colombia, where race and racism operate differently than in the United States, and where blackface abounds in carnivals without causing multicultural audiences much perturbation, Barrera’s comment likely did not disturb most Colombian viewers.3

But what has disturbed most Colombian viewers, allegedly, is what has been deemed the “excessive” or “exaggerated” violence against slaves in the show. In early February 2016, Caracol TV even devoted a nearly thirty-minute television segment titled “Are the violent images of La Esclava Blanca outside of historical context?” to this topic. According to Caracol TV, the network received numerous letters criticizing the show’s graphic scenes of “excessive” physical and sexual violence against slaves, and, in response, the show conducted interviews with Colombia’s leading scholar of slavery Rafael Antonio Díaz and Juan de Dios Mosquera–leader of one of Colombia’s largest Afrocolombian civil rights organization Movimiento Cimarrónto corroborate that slavery was, indeed, a violent institution. More than anything, this debate reveals the current racial tenor of Colombian audiences steeped in the tradition of both racelessness and racism who cannot accept the horrors upon which their nation was founded. “See? Not all of them were so bad” and “It couldn’t have been that bad” meet hand in hand.

To be sure, some Colombians, have publicly condemned La Esclava Blanca for its racism. Rudy Amanda Hurtado Garcés, an Afrocolombian anthropologist, sociologist, and activist has organized a digital boycott of the show via Facebook for its Colombian premier in February. “The television series,” Hurtado Garcés wrote, “is a fiction, but that fiction today portrays the bloodthirsty, murderers and assaulters as heroes…white women and men imposed a system of death through slavery.” As one of the supporters of the digital boycott of La Esclava Blanca posted online, the television show is produced in a context where Afrocolombian actors face immense obstacles in acquiring roles on television and film outside the stereotypical parts of chambermaids, bodyguards, or, in the case of this telenovela, slaves. La Esclava Blanca is furthermore broadcasted for a Colombian society where Afrocolombians are still treated like second-class citizens and subject to virulent anti-black racism. In fact, as Caracol TV discussed on their segment on the show, one twelve-year-old Afrocolombian boy from Pereira pleaded with the channel to broadcast the show later in the evening so that children wouldn’t be able to see it. Since the show’s airing, the boy had been subject to racist bullying by his classmates who told him he had to be their slave “like in the novela.”

No, it would be unfathomable for Colombian producers to create a show about slavery with a leading black protagonist, man or woman. Instead, they decided to center the pearl-skinned, green-eyed female daughter of slaveholders as the hero, the redeemer of slaves. In so doing, the producers made the conscious decision to rewrite Colombia’s history of slavery and assuage a shared (white) Latin American conscience of the present.

  1. For more on palenques in Colombia, see Aline Helg, Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770-1835 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
  2. For more on “racial harmony” in Colombia, see Myths of Harmony: Race and Republicanism during the Age of Revolution, Colombia, 1795-1831 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007).
  3. See Melissa M. Valle, “Africa Through the Latin American Lens: Reflections on representations and perceptions of the African Continent in Latin America,” AfroLatino Forum, http://www.afrolatinoforum.org/afrolatin-blog/archives/04-2014, April 1, 2014.

Comments on “La Esclava Blanca: The New Telenovela Rewriting Colombia’s History of Slavery

  • “La Esclava Blanca is actually the first telenovela about slavery in the history of Colombia” is not necessarily true, in its absolute terms it is, but in Colombia we had Azúcar in 1989, which depicted what they called “maids and servants” rather than slaves. It also happened in a later historical time than that of La Esclava Blanca but not for much.

    In any case, I applaud you Yesenia for bringing to the fore the truth about Colombia’s anti-black racism and insistence on racelessness. I believe the writers of the telenovela, especially Juliana Barrera, are incredibly irresponsible (I listened to her Vimeo talk and she’s got some serious sociocultural blinders). If Caracol TV is making an effort to help Colombian audiences try and understand our painful past of slavery and oppression of black and mulatto people, through educational interviews with scholars that DO know about the topic, I hope it makes a difference. To dance to Joe Arroyo’s Rebelión and shout “no le pegue a la negra” and not make a connection to the very reality black people lived (and some still do) in the country, is an indictment against Colombia’s educational institution.

  • So wrong; the article shows lightness in the treatment of the topic and lack of research.

    In the late 70’s they made “The Devil’s Hoof”, an approach of 18th century slavery and witchcraft in Cartagena, basically stating all “imported” african paganism was satanism (and implying satanism still survives among black people); it also made heavy use of blackface; there was also a heavy-blackfaced adaptation of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. There was also a production on the life of Pedro Claver, a missionary dedicated to the welfare of slaves (in which main black people roles were portrayed by white actors) and several other historical(ish) series and miniseries on the topic, most of them produced by the (now defunct) RTI company.

    And, adressing the topic of racism and whitewashing in colombian TV, it’s noteworthy what they’re doing with a current series, “La Niña” (“The Girl”), a story purportedly aimed to present and help solve possible issues happening to ex-combatants and children recruited by force by the guerrillas when they re-integrate into civil society; in the series, the main “villains” (corrupt armed forces officers and soldiers, and other characters) are portrayed by indigenous-looking actors and, in any case, by actors not conformant with western (caucasian) beauty models, while “good” characters are almost all of them not only white but even blonde (despite the fact naturally blond people in Colombia are scarce.)

    • Do we have insight into how these types of casting decisions are made? Is there anything that we can research showing the creators of a specific series overtly deciding to go with white characters for certain roles? I know that we can judge by the results, but it would be especially revealing to find something tangible.

  • The show just got added on netflix, the premise seemed interesting, it’s got a high rating and the reviews on netflix are off the chats so okay I’ll give it a try. It started out well, so far I am on episode 17 now, so the thing is I understand the character of victoria and I even feel for her but the real problem and this is a problem with the show is that it gives off this message that I’m somehow supposed to feel more for Victoria than Milagroes, when Milagroes poisons Victoria and Miguel and Romedios or even Tomas do that self righteous speeching to Milagroes I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Milagroes is the slave yes, so am I supposed to hate her for seeking vengeance/justice (the two are not always exclusive) against a powerful agent that benefits from the institution of slavery. Victoria isn’t a slave, she hasn’t lived the life of a slave unlike her “family”, she is relatively safe, other than one person and his greed wishing her dead, the law protects her, she has people more than happy to keep her safe and alive and I’m supposed to feel sorrier for her. When her “sisters” are taken and became slaves she is saved from that fate and taken to a nunnery and no matter how hard they try to convince me otherwise it is not the same thing. She lived a different life that Milagroes and Rosita, vastly different. Don’t tell me that skin doesn’t matter because Victoria is able, because of her skin, to fool everyone into thinking she is a Spanish noblewoman something that Milagroes cannot do. She created a new identity for herself with easy something that no slave or former slave or free black can do because they are forever seen as nigger/slave/less than and so even though she is the main character I gotta say that the only reason I’m even staying with this show is because of two woman who I consider the true heroines in the show so far are Milagroes and Eugunia (who probably will turn out to be a villain later on but who I love anyway) and I hope that Milagroes doesn’t forgo her own physical well-being and survival in a bit to protect Victoria like the way Tomas seems to be doing. Anyway I’m probably keep watching, probably keep rolling my eyes at well at least until Milagroes is free or dies (which is more likely the way things are going/it’s either her or Tomas, anything to make me feel even more sorry for Victoria to lose the rest of her family *insert rolling eyes*)

    • I am in episode 50 and I am not going to ruin the rest of the episode for you but keep watching you will love after each episodes ends. One thing I can tell you is that Milagroes will find love but not among her people so stay tune…

    • OMG!! I’M NOT REALLY INTO NOVELA’S, PLUS IT DOESN’T HELP THAT I DON’T SPEAK MUCH SPANISH EITHER, BUT ONCE I STARTED WATCHING IT I WAS HOOKED SUBTITLES AND ALL. I STARTED WATCHING IT ALMOST A WEEK AGO AND I’M ON EPISODE 51 ON NETFILX.. I TRY TO WATCH EVERY CHANCE I GET..

      • Lol I got hooked too! I just finished the last episode like 5 minutes ago lol

    • I am 20 minutes in and I immediately had questions, so here I am. I am going to watch this show for what it is a telenovela. Any historical content that doesn’t appear accurate to me I’m going to research. Therefore, it looks like I’m gone be a researching somebody Google here I come..lol. But in my opinion that’s a good thing because I want to get to the truth. So, I encourage others who are intrested in the truth to do the same leave it to anyone to do for you. Subsequently, in the meantime I’ll be with you rollimg my eyes but watching the show all the same.

      #IntrestedBlackWoman

      • I agree with your approach. I did a little research online myself, and the few articles I was able to find online (all in Spanish) focus on the records regarding the number of slaves in each province, which doesn’t get to the core of the veracity of the drama or the methods of punishment of slaves. What it does say is that the major impetus for the abolition of slavery, which likely had its proponents and detractors for the decades following Colombian independence, took place during the presidency of José Hilario López (1849-1853). During his administration, shortly after the official abolition of slavery in Colombia in 1851, there was actually a rebellion by slaveholders against the government in several provinces of Colombia (but not as strong in the setting of the telenovela in the province of Magdalena), which was put down by López within a few months.

  • What an amazing telenovela! I’ve only watched 14 episodes so far, and it is even better than the original Roots and I love that it is incredibly long (60, or 62 episodes on Netflix). While historically it may have some contentions, it is what it is…a telenovela. Enjoy the superb acting, beautiful scenery, and the story line. I’m hooked and give it 5 stars. I’m not saying this telenovela is 100% accurate, and don’t expect it to be, but it has sparked an interest to learn more of South America’s true slavery history.

    Slavery has been around for ions. Think back to Egyptian times and who actually built the pyramids. And even earlier in history, violence and a caste system had always been in place. Slaves could be any color (white included), depending upon the geographical location. Mankind has not been kind, as even the original Indians of any America (Central, South, or North) were all pretty much annihilated or turned into slaves due to invasions and takeovers by invading Europeans and other natives. So this story is a bit different, in that a white woman is brought up in a “zone” meant only for runaway slaves. Whose to say this could not have ever happened (maybe unlikely), but again, it makes this a different story to watch and wonder “what if”.

    There is always going to be someone not pleased by any story, TV show, movie, novel, historical account, etc. If you don’t want your children watching it, then don’t let them watch. Or educate them and tell them some of what they are watching may be historically right and some of it not, and not to believe everything they see or hear but to take it for what it is…..It’s like the things taught in the US, that Christopher Columbus discovered the North Americas, which was not true. But anyway, I love this telenovela and hope the writers, whoever they are, bring more historical shows to our viewing. I hope Netflix also brings on “River of Passions” from Caracol TV.

    • We just finished watching this on Netflix and found it very interesting. We couldn’t understand why the masters were considered as white people who clearly looked Latin and spoke Spanish.

      • Please, would someone who is more versed than I am explain to Phyllis that the majority of people of Spain, both historically and currently, are white Caucasians whose skin color reflex diversity of ancient tribes and Moorish contribution to the gene pool. The same is true as you move from north to south in the other Mediterranean countries. Latin should not refer to the looks of a person. It generally refers to the modern language of a country that has a substantial contribution from the Latin language. I don’t want to get into the complex discussion of what the generally accepted difference is between people who call themselves Latinos versus Hispanics or both, but some of them are as white as a typical Irishmen. In summary, the native people of Spain are generally darker than people from England or Sweden, but are usually considered white. which is not a race but a color.

      • Phyllis, if you are interested, do a search on the history of Spain, and there you will find a complicated blend. Among those on the throne of Spain prior to and during the exploration of the New World may be numbered those of Austrian, French, Croatian, German, etc. As John mentioned, the “Moors” (darker-skinned North Africans) were also in control of much of Spain from 711 A.D. to the 1300s. And then, of course, when Spaniards finally settled in the central and south America, they were often quite a bit more light skinned than the Mayans and Incas and other natives, but eventually mixed some.
        So, at one point, having light skin actually depicted your social class, and therefore rich landowners, like in this series,or the dons in California, would have often been quite light-featured.
        The term “Latino” has nothing to do with color of skin, rather, a culture of rich variety and substance. And, I’m somewhat confident, (leaving room for error), that “latino” only refers to those from the Americas, not from Spain. They would be termed Spaniards or Hispanic, I believe.
        As I said before, it’s easy these days to find information…I highly encourage a little search deeper into the histories that are creatively alluded to in “La esclava blanca”.

      • In addition to what others have posted here, I wanted to provide another perspective to Phyllis’ question regarding the masters being called “white people” though they looked Latin and spoke Spanish. Though I’m not an expert on the subject, my experience has convinced me that we don’t just “see” things, but rather process them through our prior experiences and education, so what we’re processing is more indicative on how we see the world than how the world actually is. Our filters cause us to see things not as they are, but as we perceive that they are. An extreme example of this filtering is evident when one sees offensive caricatures of black people from earlier decades, which are more indicative of the prejudices of those individuals than the way that blacks actually looked and behaved. There are degrees of filtering, and I have my own filters, to be sure, and the way to control them is to educate oneself and seek out others’ perspectives.

    • Huge sigh!

      Show me a book where it is stated that in the antiquity or during biblical times, several kingdoms decided to organize something so huge that it was called TRANSATLANTIC slave trade, between 3 continents and targeting ONLY one group of people! Are you that… uninformed?

    • I concur. Whites we’re only slaves to other whites.

  • It is above all fiction. The history of slavery in Colombia is no different from the abused towards slaves that took place and still continues to take place in all places where it exists. Historical research or not it describes with fantasy much of the struggles the black people experienced and how with sacrifice and courage the issue is more open for discussion today than in the past. I find the show entertaining and at no time I believed it would be the real history. I certainly would not consider it a serious description of the battles that took place that led to abolition. For those familiar with movies based on historical event, like “Gone With The Wind” do they really think that the civil was like the movie? The reality is, it was a real human tragedy. No movie can capture the horrors of war, perhaps today the clossest we can come to view the cruelty of man is through original documentaries like we began to see from the horrors of the Holocaust and all other wars since those times.

  • Watching the series on Netflix. Everyone needs to remember movies/tv series are are at times loosely based on historical events, but embellished with author+director visions. Lots of comments both pro + con. So in essence, the script was on target– open discussion among varied individuals which contribute to learning more accurate historical facts!

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this Columbian mini series! It kept me in the edge if my seat! I agree it may not have followed the real history if the slave problem, but, this is a novella, I don’t think the author was trying to make a statement regarding slavery but was just using past history as an outline for the story! I thought the acting was excellent but I missed a lot because I had to read the transcription on the bottom of the screen! Would much rather have had voice translation! Maybe the next series out of Columbia will have this done!
    Look forward to more from the Latin countries, thank you, Charmian McDaniel.

    • It’s spelled “Colombian”, not like Columbia, South Carolina!

      • Is there a season 2 out yet? Must see..

  • No no. Vocal dubbing is horrible. Original version with subtitles is the only way to judge the acting and enjoy their real voices. Just learn to read.

    • I agree hold heartedly

  • Hello,

    I’m currently on episode 17 but I wanted to ask Spanish speakers a question about the English translation.

    I was told that the term “negro/negra” is not derogatory, but a term to describe skin color and can be used as a term of endearment. I can hear this when the slave characters speak amongst themselves and it is translated as brother/sister.

    I’m wondering why when it is said by the bad white characters it is translated to the N-word? Is this accurate or something they are doing to get the point across to English speakers? Is there a Spanish word that translates directly to that slur?

    Thank you to anyone that can clarify this for me!

    • @Learning Spanish Through Telenovelas

      When a black character says negra/negro they usually do mean it as sister/brother. When it’s between romantic partners they say “mi negro/negra” which would be like saying “my (black) woman/man”.

      When one of the white characters says “negro” to one of the slaves it’s usually said in the term “negro de mierda” which is what I’m thinking the English subtitles are translating to the n-word. The literal translation of that term is “black shit”. I’m not 100% sure though because I don’t use English subtitles when watching the show on Netflix.

      • Thank you for clearing this up! I will have to listen a little bit closer to to see if I can spot the differences.

      • Thank you for seeking clarity on the word ‘NEGRO’ used by the masters towards the slaves. I was getting concerned b/ca I am a Spanish language learner, and even in music, I hear ‘oye’, negrita’ and even call my black friends negitas/negritos and was horrified at the thought that all this time–I was possibly I was calling them a word that might mean the ‘N’ word!

      • I can’t speak for others but I find it offensive. You don’t go around referring to white people as blanquito or blanquita so why do it with black people? I think it’s demeaning.

  • I just spent 2 weeks watching the whole series on Netflix and I absolutely loved it! Although I know that the show was not a 100% accurate depiction of slavery in that the Colombian region of South America, the story-line was still interesting and had me coming in for more everyday.

    As an ordinary viewer, I didn’t analyze the episodes the way the writer of this article probably did, so I can’t judge the accuracy of the show or the ramifications of this novela to the Colombian (and international) population. I was drawn in to the story-line because of the characters. I cheered for the protagonists and squirmed whenever the antagonists got away with their evil deeds. I sympathized for the deaths of characters that I grew attached to, and rejoiced when karma finally bit Nicolas, and all his friends, in the ass. I did not view this show as an educational film that I could learn facts from, but as a source of entertainment that I could tune in to whenever I had time to do so. To think of this show as anything more than entertainment media would be looking for things to complain about.

    Although I do agree that I rolled my eyes when the “white woman” came to liberate the “suffering, black slaves”, I understood that the show was meant to be pure entertainment. The media does have a bias for white, or lighter skinned, actors being portrayed as the heroes, but we also have to understand that Victoria’s family came from Spain, a country with many white people. As someone said before, the show is based on the “what if” concept. What if the daughter of slave-owners was saved by slaves from being murdered, and was then raised in a community of runaway slaves? You wouldn’t be able to tell the story any other way because in that region, during that time period in the show, only rich, white men could buy and sell slaves. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Victoria is white.

    I did like to see the interactions between the different groups of people such as the white citizens, the black slaves, the freed black citizens, the mestizos and the indigenous people. I also like that the show touched on racism and sexism in society, as well as the inclusion of some lgbt representation. The mixing and contrast of several cultures was also a great touch to the show.

    • Great review. Just finished the show today, and I agree with you 110%. As a black viewer myself, I wasn’t offended in the least bit by the idea of this white woman being a source of hope and relief for the slaves, because I viewed Miguel in the same way. The advantage that Victoria had over him was beyond the color of her skin (although it allowed her to work from the inside out), but she also had the financial power and nobility to help bring justice to those she considered to be her people. My thing is unity, justice… I dont care if its coming from a black person, white person, blue person or purple person – our focus should be on acts of kindness, love, peace….

      To me it was nice to see Victoria following a path that DEF wouldn’t have been common amongst those with her same ranking at that time. It was also nice to see characters like Gabriel, Felipe and Catalina fighting for those rights as well. I know of blacks who still to this day have a hatred towards white people for a path that may have been taken, not by them, but their ancestors – something they have no control over. And in my opinion, that type of attitude is just as racist and no better than anyone else, regardless of how justified those feelings may be. Whether this was romanticized or not, I’m sure there were those similar to characters like Victoria or all the oher characters working against this type of hatred during those difficult times that history may not talk too much about… probably because they were a disgrace – I dont know.

      But yes, indeed. Not everyone feels that they’re better than us. Not everyone is out to get us. Some recognize that yes, we do share the same blood, and that we are one race – the human race. Regardless of whose taking the lead, it’s important to work together, realizing that we’re one in the same – an attitude that’s going to promote and maintain love and peace. I tey not to over analyze too much. It sometimes creates problems that weren’t even there to begin with.

      P.S. Loved the way it ended. I was like 👏👏👏😂😂😂!!!!! Very nice!!!! Thats what we need. All over. ☺☺☺

      • And also! I would’ve liked to learn more about Eugenia’s character. She’s still a mystery…. Bummi, possibly being considered ‘mullato’… I wanted in on her story.

  • How does a tv show rewrite history? Where did it say it was a true story?
    Does Sesame Street rewrite history so we all must believe that puppets live in trash cans and have the capacity to teach our children?
    I am a fan of historical dramas and subtitled entertainment. As I hit the midway point of the series I started to wonder how the show was received in other regions. As an African American raised in the Deep South I saw the horrible treatment of the slaves reflected in the stories told about slaves treatment in the south. Yes, it was that bad and most likely even worse.

    The U.S. has always tried to sweep the massive abuse of oppressed people under the rug or white wash it. The show first drew me in on the unique premise and that there were so many actors of color.

    It is a historical drama. Just like Dowton Abbey, The Color Purple, The Tudors, The Borgias, etc. Are you demanding the same historical accuracy from those shows/movies as you do for Esclava Blanca?

    As much as we dislike the use of the fair skinned character to come and save the day we must not negate the fact that it takes the united effort of both factions …people of color and white people to bring about change.

    It also makes me wonder would the show have done as well if it was named more appropriately? So far I have yet to see Victoria be a slave?! Or what if the same story was told but via Milagros, Tomas, Miguel?
    In the US, shows that feature a person of color or family of color as the main characters does not last long. The Cosby show to Empire.

    I feel for the boy who has endured bullying. But, if the children are making the choice to bully because of the show then it is way past time for the parents to use the show as a spring board to discuss history and acceptable behavior.

    That’s like saying watching Law and Order made me go out and commit violent crimes. And asking to change the show time is contributing to the society’s use of rather putting their head in the sand than deal with racial and cultural problems. Don’t sweep it under the rug by changing the time.

    • Great points

    • Exactly. 👏👏👏

    • Stop referring to them as the fairer skinned. That term makes my skin crawl

    • Your points are well taken. As entertainment, I can watch the telenovela and treat it as fiction and just get absorbed in the story, especially as the writing, acting and directing are very good. Regarding its value as a historical drama, I would judge it based on the types of modifications it makes in service to the story, and in the context of how people of color are treated in Colombia, the use of a white protagonist in a story about slavery seems to accentuate the inequality that still exists there.

  • Can anyone please tell me will there be more season

  • I enjoyed the series, my wife and I thought it was accurate and if not,who’s to say it was any different of the treatment of slaves everywhere else.Only problem to me was the general’s change of heart not warranted. my best character was isabilita,fantastic acting.

  • Now granted the actresses playing young/old Victoria don’t look alike. But in real life, I’d think a “parent/sister/lover” would recognize her. Or is this supposed to be a Superman/Clark Kent/Batman/Bruce Wayne type sci-fi fantasy deal? I’m confused. 😳

    • Not necessarily after ten years

      • Ten years isn’t that long. Especially if they’re family members who you’ve looked at for days on end and they haven’t undergone some radical process. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying the series although some things are a bit far-fetched. Like the slaves extensive and quite lovely wardrobes, especially the women.

  • I found this series interesting and almost obsessive to watch. Great entertainment my vote goes to the actress Isabilita for most engaging.

    • No question… Isabelita is great…. This is an addictive series

    • I am a African American woman in the United States. .I absolutely loved it!! I know it’s not real it’s a series ..a show…the history is not this show…and yes all movies make the white looking one the champion. .but regardless I still loved the acting…the characters were marvelously played…I couldn’t sleep good couldn’t study good..damn I even burnt some food on the stove for the first time in my life and I am 55 years old…Bravo for keeping my attention through 62 episodes. …Un freaking believable. ..

      • I loved this series, just finished watching it today. So sad that it’s over, but I learned how to read faster and learned a little more Spanish. Bravo to the writer and creators of La Esclava Blanca.

      • You are absolutely right about the story. The creators certainly know how to maintain the suspense.

  • La Esclava Blanca’ Telenovela wow! This got my attention last week ☺. The story sounds like a good movie just by looking at the pictures. I’ve always admire myself watching interesting stories and this novellas got my attention. ☺👍 Definitely a good story about Spanish and black slavery. I’ve never seen or watch any movie’s like this before except these right. now. The actresses and actors in this novellas are amazing they are really good. I give them my applause👏👍! I don’t have problems with Spanish language i can understand what their saying. I started watching this recently and wow it’s a long episodes. I believe this is the only telenovellas I’ve watch so far that’s so long. But I adore it! I hope it has a good satisfying ending. I enjoy watching novellas but I don’t like it when it has a bad ugly ending. I hope this one has it!

    • It’s great

    • I haven’t stopped watching since I saw the first episode!!! normally not my thing to get hooked on a telenovela but this is really good

  • Personally I loved the show, I’m a black man who has watched historical shows and documentaries about how different countries treated black people during & after slavery…. It depicts a lot of what life was at the time, you had some white people who genuinely wanted to help and cared for black people.. It teaches a lot of lessons…. I’d definitely recommend it to everyone….

    • One positive outcome of the show for me was to feel the need to do some research on slavery in Colombia. Though there may have been others, the first push to abolish slavery came when Simón Bolívar regrouped and reinitiated the war of independence against Spain. The first phase, which started in 1810 and came to an end with Pablo Morillo’s reconquest of the country in 1816, was initiated by the white criollos (i.e. those born in the Americas) and did not involve other sectors of the population. When Bolívar returned to South America to fight the wars of independence and defeat Morillo, he enlisted the help of the campesinos, including blacks, in the struggle, and part of the agenda of the new movement was the eventual abolition of slavery, which went through some phases before becoming final in 1851, despite slaveholders’ resistance to the idea, including an unsuccessful rebellion against the government.

  • This series really puts the relationship between blacks and whites into perspective. White supremacy was overtly practiced and enforced 24/7. I loved when Felipe Restrepo, the lawyer tells Miguel ” You have to understand how these people see you.” Many black people cannot comprehend that simple notion. That people really hate you for being an African descendant person and not behaving in the manner that they deem appropriate for a black person.

    • 👍👍👍👍

  • Loved the production. Acting, directing, production was terrific. Hope to see more productions by these professionals

  • I to really enjoyed the show and applaud the producer Juliana Barrera for doing a great job – much better that you or I could ever do. Like any TV show or documentary – there can never be 100% accuracy as facts always get skewed in some form or shape. If anything we viewers can
    at least take away the fact that back then there were some honest white people who were very sincere in wanting to help and free black people from the horrific treatment they were receiving. We should
    be very thankful that we live in the 21st century and our laws protect people of all colour, race or
    origin (at least in Canada we do!!)

    I hope to see another season – wishful thinking at this point…..

  • Wish they have made a “10years after” . Wanted to see Nicolas life ( if he made it of course) after 10years or his face when he sees his daughter and Victoria after his release.

  • loved the show….tv can be good and this is an example. would love to see more
    like this

  • This was a fabulous show, sub-titles and all. Loved all the characters and especially Isabella…she was cute, funny, strong..just loved her!!! I am missing the show!!!

  • My opinion is that this show overwhelmingly communicates a very positive message about unity within the one human race. Let’s remember that to look at any person and make assumptions about their character based on skin color is bigotry and profiling. Victoria is not the heroine because she is white. She is a heroine because she broke the mold of her place in society and fought for her people to not be subdued by evil. She is a heroine because she went against false societal values and discovered truth and justice for herself. Her efforts would have been meaningless without the help of her friends and family of all shapes, colors and sizes. I sense an over dissection of truth/meaning within this article and while it is certainly well written and makes interesting points, it’s supported by intrinsic bias of division that fails to acknowledge unity and love: the most powerful themes embedded within this series. We cannot achieve anything without them. And we certainly will always fail when we fight darkness with darkness. The story ultimately seeks to unearth unity between people, regardless of ethnicity, culture, sex, or physical idiosyncrasies. And whether it historically did or did not occur in this particular country or this particular time seems irrelevant to me because it is certainly achievable now. And I think that is what’s most important. The story ends in love. What else is there to say? It’s time that we all put our barriers down and stop dissecting things of surface value like skin color. It’s time to look deeper than what’s happened in the past or what injustices other people are committing right now. It’s time to ask ourselves what we as individuals can do to end racism. And that starts with looking within ourselves first. If we are truly free from bigotry and prejudice and the pain caused by them, we will free those we come into contact with. Honesty and truth bust down walls. Confusion and deception and fear builds them up. Just be you: be who God made you to be. God bless every person on this forum for writing, reading and caring. We are on the same team when we walk in love and freedom. 🙂
    -JN

  • I’m confused why so many are “confused” or would prefer not to discuss the atrocities depicted in the show. This says that Columbian society is still struggling with its own true history of slavery. As disturbing as the scenes with “corporal punishment”, they illustrated the education I received both formal and informal on the atrocities that were inflicted on our people.

    I looked at the series for its entertainment value. The producers handled a difficult topic, SLAVERY. We would all like to say it didn’t’ happened and move on, but we all must acknowledge it almost destroyed a people, its families, and heritage. The title sets the stage for this family’s fictional story. I was hooked after the first episode. The Spanish speaking charters were intriguing with beautiful costumes and the land as a backdrop was post card perfect.

    As I enjoyed the first couple of shows, the plot “thickened” quickly to keep me tuned in for 62 episodes. I loved Milagros and Eugenia for different reasons. Milagros was strong willed keeping her family first. Eugenia was a thorn in Nicolas side, which I loved!!! Miguel and Victoria were the romantic vision, but I’m not too sure if it was realistic considering the time, although I admired the conviction to be together no matter what. Victoria‘s fight for her family was unprecedented. She evolved as a character wanting to see slavery abolished. Heck, I thought Norma Martinez’s performance, as Adela was great! She made the supporting villain character entertaining. I don’t want give any spoilers so I’ll stop.

    Personally, I liked the show for its entertainment value. The programming was so different than the typical US American crime show and certainly worth my time to tune in.

  • I absolutely loved this show. I think it was well done. I cried in many episodes, cheered in others. I applaud the mixed marriages, being in one myself, I found it beautiful that the stories ended that way. I miss the characters now, like friends in a good book. Farewell Miguel, Victoria, Isabel, Trinidad and Remedios, Milagros and her baby coming…such a good story ending.

  • I’m a 50 Year old African American woman born and raised in California. I just finished watching the last episode and I absolutely loved it! But I also have enough sense to know that this is a telenovela, for entertainment only. Just like The Color Purple, and The Help, I know how sugar-coated the racism is portrayed, but at the same time it reminds me of how grateful I am to be born in the right place at the right time, even if we still have a ways to go. We need these shows to grab the interest of the public to start conversations (like we’re doing now) to peak curiosity into the history of what really happened as Ms. Barragan and other historians have documented. We as parents need to educate our children so they also have an appreciation, never forget and do better.

    • I appreciate your perspective. My wife, who is Colombian, started watching this telenovela and, like yourself, I decided to watch it with her for the entertainment value and not expect an historical documentary. It’s difficult to summarize here exactly how the slavery experience, and racism in general, in Colombia has differed from our experience here in the United States. In the area of casting at least, as a general rule it would be unthinkable in Colombia for a person of color to be given a leading role in any television program. (The only area where I have seen people of color in prominent roles on TV is in the news media.) In the case of La Esclava Blanca, as the story would be written around the white female lead, those aspects of the plot may in turn have driven some of the issues that Ms. Barragan alludes to in her article. Still, aside from the entertainment, one positive outcome is that there were viewers who would normally not be exposed to a story with any relation to Colombian history.

      • Of course, I am forgetting two recent Colombian telenovelas that had a person of color as the lead: Celia, based on the life of Cuban singer Celia Cruz, and El Joe, based on the life of Colombian singer and bandleader Jose Arroyo.

  • Just finished this telenova today and I adored it. Cried like a little girl in the last episode. I expect that my opinion has a sort of invalidity on the matter since I am white, but as a person in a mixed marriage this really hit home for me. I couldn’t help but think of the people I love the most in the world and how much I’d fight for them. It’s true that mainstream media really loves its “white savior” archetype, which is far more hurtful to the truth than helpful, but I didn’t see this series quite that way. I don’t see Victoria as a savior at all. She made a lot of mistakes and was frankly terrible about using as much sway as she had to help. She constantly pushed away Nicholas and Adela when she should have been manipulating them for more advantages, instead she inspired mistrust from the start and lost opportunities I think she could have had (but of course if she had been really smart about it we would have lacked the drama). I think several times she made things worse and she couldn’t do anything by herself alone, in fact she DID nothing by herself alone. What I took away from the show was how much the slaves and those that supported them rallied together when they saw the opportunity. It wasn’t Victoria that turned the tide, it was a combined and very risky effort made by all involved, whites and blacks alike. Everyone put their life on their line. It also didn’t shy away from showing just how despicable the land owners and the complicit whites were (I imagine they were even more horrible in real life), which I was grateful for, even though it was painful to watch, these are things we can’t ever forget. Atrocities should never be swept under the rug like they are 90% of the time. Of course at the end of the day it’s a tv show and it’s not going to be historically accurate by any stretch of the imagination no matter how much most of us would like it to e, but it told a good ‘what if’ story from an entertainment standpoint and it villified the right people, though a few got away with far too much in the end. All in all I would have actually preferred if Milagros had been the main character. I really loved her. And I was all set to hate Isabel at the beginning but by the end I adored her. I can’t even begin to describe how many emotions I went through watching this show.

  • I agree with everyone. My husband and I finished up last nite watching we will miss all the characters. Nicholas and his mother were amazingly to watch so bad!
    I would like to know if some of the actors can be seen else where or will there be a series two??
    We will be missing all those actors!

  • OMG!!!! Phyllis!!! Unless you are 5 years old, you have managed to write a comment that allows you to come across as highly ignorant. I’ll say it in Spanish: Phyllis, que BRUTA eres!!!! Don’t do that again.

  • Netflix true crime series Narcos spurs huge demand for Colombian women.

    Produced by Netflix, the show “Narcos” takes on the infamous Medellin drug cartel which follows the rise and fall of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Drug Enforcement Agency agents hunting him. The story is told largely from the points of view of Escobar (Brazilian actor Wagner Moura) and U.S. DEA Agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), on opposite sides of what would become an all-out war.

    Many critics of true crime dramas have always complained they are promoting crime and violence by glorification, an unintended consequence of American entertainment industries. These shows can have other interesting consequences. The Foreign Bride industry has seen a huge spike in demand for Colombian women. This can be viewed as positive or negative, depending on social perspective.

    Foreign Brides, sometimes referred to as “mail order brides”, a term the industry completely rejects, have become a billion dollar a year business. According to industry leaders, Colombia represented only about 3% of the market three years ago. Since the popularity of Narcos, many companies have seen near tenfold increases in men seeking Colombian wives.

    A Foreign Affair (AFA), a company that helps men find women through international tours, says tours to Colombia are now selling out. AFA arranges group tours where 10 to 20 men travel together to Medellin, Cartagena or Barranquilla. During the tour, they attend arranged Social events where the men meet hundreds of beautiful Colombian women looking for marriage. Women can also place their profiles on the AFA web site, in the hopes of finding a husband.

    Kenneth Agee, the marketing director for AFA says, “Because of the show we are doubling our tours to Medellin for next year. Narcos has brought a lot of attention to the intense beauty of Colombian women. Although the show is often very violent, the women of Colombia come across as very family oriented and loyal. These values seem harder and harder to find in this world. I would have to agree, because of the interest in Narcos, we even added an excursion to where Pablo’s self-built prison was located, in the hills overlooking Medellin.

    The crowning of 2015 Miss Universe Paulina Vega put Barranquilla, Colombia on the map. Barranquilla now has recognition for being home to some of the most beautiful and talented women in the world. Not only is Miss Universe from here, Grammy Award winning pop singer Shakira, and actress Sofia Vergara also call Barranquilla home. Vergara stars on the ABC series Modern Family as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett. She’s been nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards, 4 Prime time Emmy Awards, and 7 Screen Actors Guild Awards, all stemming from this role. In 2014, she was ranked as the 32nd Most Powerful Woman in the world by Forbes.

    David from Mesa AZ says he met more qualified women in one week than he has during the last 10 years. In 2010, Lisa Ling and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) filmed a one hour show on the AFA tour called “Online Brides – Our America with Lisa Ling.” Even Lisa Ling was surprised by the beauty and sincerity of the women from Barranquilla.

    Janet Davis, head of a women’s rights group says “AFA is just taking advantage of women from these third world countries. This is no different than Pablo trafficking in narcotics, but these companies traffic women.” Proponents refer to a Report (INTERNATIONAL MATCHMAKING ORGANIZATIONS: A REPORT TO CONGRESS) that these marriages have much lower divorce rates and abuse rates compared to traditional domestic marriages. This data makes international dating similar to a woman in the US joining eHarmony to look for a husband.

    23-year-old Viviana, from Cartagena, says “I come to these events because I know the men attending are serious about marriage, they are faithful and are good to family. For Colombian women, it is the most important thing, good husband and good family.

    Kenneth says, “It has not been all rosy. Narcos has brought us some problems. In Cartagena, we have several Penthouses we rent out. One was originally owned by “Don Diego” head of the Norte Del Velle Drug Cartel, the other by Pablo’s people. Over the past year, the properties have been tracked down by individuals thinking they will find large qualities of cash hidden, thus we sometimes find holes all over the walls after a tenant leaves.

    For Narcos fans, those who love the gangster genre, or just those who just like seeing beautiful Latin women, there’s good news; Netflix’s has confirmed Season 3 and 4.

  • I myself have mixed feelings about La Esclava Blanca, which we are currently watching at home. On the positive side, without disputing anything that the author of this article has written about the lack of historical accuracy of the telenovela, I have learned some insights about how the gradual abolition of slavery played out in different parts of Colombia. I took some graduate courses in political science at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá in 1980-81 and don’t recall that this subject was dealt with in any detail in any of my courses that touched on Colombian history from that period. On the negative side, La Esclava Blanca, like virtually any drama that pretends to deal with a period in history, tends to play fast and loose with facts, and feels obsessed to make history subordinate to dramatic tension, because entertainment and economics are more important to the creators, and most likely to audiences, than any historical veracity. (There are, of course, some literary devices that are employed out of necessity, such as when a private conversation between historical personages takes place.) In addition, the obsession with placing a white woman in the position of protagonist in a story about African slaves, and building the whole narrative around her, assumes that having a protagonist of color would be unthinkable in order to prevent low ratings among viewers who have their own preconceptions and biases. Without knowing more about the main producer’s motives for creating the story, I can only speculate about her motives, aside from the economic ones. Did she feel, consciously or unconsciously, that her audience needed a fictional white protagonist to assuage their guilty consciences or reaffirm their superiority?

  • Something called, “poetic license” is greatly appreciated in the United States where no screenplay is without fantasy in a fact driven topic. The overarching theme of “overcoming the odds” helps the audience to stomach the horrors of the era, horrors that are still reflective in today’s society. The series is beautifully written, directed, perfectly casted and produced. The ongoing quest by Blacks to overcome slavery is hardly told. African culture, orientation and appropriation in music, foods, healing is wholly missing in other slave narratives, particularly those produced in the United States, so it is a true pleasure to see them represented in this story. This fantasy about the slave era is deeply and profoundly told from an elevated point of view of a person of color which is exactly what is needed in the face of the legacy of slavery worldwide. Bravo to all involved.

    • This series is amazing, still watching it. I am Colombian but lived here in the US. My family is mixed, my dad’s side of the family is white and my mom’s side mestizo. I have cousins and uncles that are blonde on one side of the family and uncles and cousins that are black on the other side. I grew up in Colombia not knowing the tensions and racism that still persist today, but never saw it in my family. This is fiction, but a lovely story, with good acting on all fronts. Colombia was one of the first Latin American countries to abolish slavery, but it was a difficult period for many Black Colombians. By the way, many Black-Colombians do not like to call themselves African-Colombians, I learned that in my last trip home.

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