Delia Fiallo, Master of the Telenovela, Is Dead at 96

Delia Fiallo, Master of the Telenovela, Is Dead at 96

Delia Fiallo, Master of the Telenovela, Is Dead at 96

Delia Fiallo, Master of the Telenovela, Is Dead at 96

In Cuba before the revolution, that form flourished thanks to the sponsorship of companies like Colgate-Palmolive, said June Carolyn Erlick, the editor of ReVista: The Harvard Review of Latin America, and the author of “Telenovelas in Pan-Latino Context,” (2018). Writers like Ms. Fiallo honed its central themes: “Love, sex, death, the usual.”

Ms. Fiallo met her future husband, Bernardo Pascual, the director of a radio station and a television actor, when they were both working in radio. They married in 1952. (Their daughter Delia said it was love at first sight, just like in one of her stories: “She told herself, ‘That man is going to be mine, ese hombre va a ser mío.’”)

After the couple moved to Miami in 1966, Mr. Pascual worked in construction and then started a company that built parking garages. “The family joke is that in exile Bernardo passed from the arts to the concrete,” Ms. Fiallo told The Miami Herald in 1987.

Ms. Fiallo first tried to sell her scripts in Puerto Rico, for $15 an episode, but Venezuelan broadcasters offered her four times as much; to prepare, she immersed herself in the culture of Venezuela, a country she barely knew, by reading novels and interviewing Venezuelan exchange students in Miami to learn the local idioms.

She took her themes from the news, but also from romance classics like “Wuthering Heights.” She often tackled social issues — rape, divorce, addiction — which meant often butting heads with the censors. A late-1960s drama, “Rosario,” a sympathetic exploration of the trauma of divorce, was suspended for a time by the Venezuelan government. In 1984, the government threatened to cancel “Leonela” if Ms. Fiallo didn’t kill off one of its characters, a woman who was a drug addict.

“Some friends say I could have chosen a more literary genre,” Ms. Fiallo told The Miami Herald. “But this is what I feel most comfortable with. You can touch more people this way than with any book. Novelas are full of emotions, and emotions are the common denominator of humanity.”


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