Unless you grew up watching telenovelas (AKA Mexican soaps), you might not be familiar with Corazones Al Limite (Hearts’ Limit) or Amarte es mi Pecado (Loving You is My Sin), but unlike their American counterparts these daytime dramas are a huge part of not only Mexican culture, but pop culture all over world. Telenovelas are, in fact, one of Mexico’s largest exports and have an ardent viewership throughout Latin America as well as in Africa, Asia, Europe and the USA. They’ve birthed some big names, including Selma Hayek, Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal. One star, René Casados, was the image consultant for Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Mexico’s last president, and Rogelio Guerra, the male lead in Los Ricos También Lloran (The Rich Also Cry), was so popular in Russia that the show’s finale was watched by 70% of the population. Guerra even stood in for Boris Yeltsin to deliver the Russian New Year’s presidential address.
All these telenovelas are shot at the famous Televisa Studios, located in the San Ángel neighborhood of Mexico City. Because many of the actors who get their start in Mexican soap operas actually go on to film or become famous for their soap work, the studio has been dubbed “The Factory of Dreams,” which is also the title of photographer Stefan Ruíz’s upcoming book from the Aperture Foundation. Ruíz spent eight years behind the scenes at Televisa, shooting actors on and off set in a series of surreal portraits. Costumed in maid uniforms, sultry dresses, sharp suits or fully topless, it’s difficult to tell if these actors ever venture out of character. Ruíz also shot the students training for their impending celebrity status at the Televisa “soap school”, where they enact the genre’s most tried and true story lines of betrayal, deception and romance in what the book calls a “world of beautiful women, handsome men, and rags-to-riches Cinderella stories that reveal the underlying fantasies of social aspiration, as well as entrenched racial hierarchies.”
“The Factory of Dreams” releases 30 June 2012 and will be available at the Aperture Foundation shop for $50.