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It's been six years since the murder of former beauty queen and TV actress Monica Spear. Via Univision.
It's been six years since the murder of former beauty queen and TV actress Monica Spear. Via Univisión.

Venezuelan telenovela stars find refuge in Miami

The political and social crises in the Latin American country and the growing censorship and violence have caused an exodus of celebrities to the U.S.

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It has just been six years since a murder that shook Venezuela, that of the well-known actress and former beauty queen Monica Spear and her husband during a road trip. It was a death that added to the more than 300,000 that have occurred in the country in the last 20 years. 

However, it is not the one who wants to run away, but the one who can. And a few years ago, Venezuelan television stars began a massive exodus to other destinations that they feel are safer and where they can continue working: Mexico, because of its proximity, and especially Miami. 

"Today there are talented Venezuelans everywhere because of the situation we all know. But Miami and Mexico have been very generous with those of us who work in television, for obvious reasons," Carlos Bardasano, president of W Studios, part of Televisa and Univision, told Efe

"There is no end to my country's nightmare. But that's not a soap opera, there's nothing pink about it. It's a macabre film," Jeannette Rodriguez, "Cristal".

Long before Nicolas Maduro's government caused a political upheaval in the country, which is still in a humanitarian emergency, the alarms about the growing violence in Venezuela were already sounding and it was the talk of television professionals looking to be the next to go before the ship sank.

However, Spear's death on Jan. 4, 2014, marked a turning point for celebrities. The star, her partner Thomas Berry, and their daughter, all living in Miami at the time, were attacked by a group of men during a vacation in their country. Only the little girl survived. 

The Mecca of the telenovela

"Monica's murder marked us all, but even before that, there were many actors, producers, writers, directors, executives, and technicians migrating," Marcos Santana, president of Telemundo Studios, told Efe. 

Santana, like Disney Media Latin American director Leonardo Aranguibel, and Bardasano himself, trained as executives at Venevisión and Radio Caracas, two channels that lived through their golden era as soap opera exporters until the 1990s.

0Lupita Ferrer, one of the great telenovela stars of the 70's who now lives in Miami and participates in the Telemundo series, was one of the most well-known figures from that era, along with Jeannette Rodriguez, star of "Cristal," the mythical soap opera of the 80's and 90's. 

"My country's nightmare has no end. But that's not a soap opera, there's nothing pink about it. It's a macabre film," Rodriguez said in an interview.  

Leonardo Padrón, the screenwriter of the new "Rubí," which will premiere Jan. 21, was almost taken prisoner, he told Efe. A critic of President Maduro's regime, he found out during a trip that he was being sought by security forces and quickly left the country. 

"I kept what I had in my suitcase. I had nothing else," he said. However, he managed to make his way into successful Televisa and Univision soap operas, such as "Amar a muerte" (2018).

Screenwriters, actors, directors and television producers remember the time when Venezuela was the Mecca of telenovelas, a "school" that many of them have been able to take advantage of even in exile. They include Perla Farias, who wrote the screenplay for "Juana la Virgen," the series that would later be adapted in the United States as "Jane The Virgin." 

"Insecurity, the economic crisis, censorship, are all factors that have forced us to be outside," she said. 

Although not everyone has managed to find their place in the television industry. Actor Ricardo Álamo, the star of "Juana la Virgen," had to reinvent himself and open a photography studio in Miami, while Juan Alfonso Baptista "El Gato," from "Pasión de Gavilanes," is also working on other temporary jobs, he told Efe.

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