Saturday, March 1, 2014

life before technology

I took part in a sociological study; one that I think about often.

In the village I called home from 2004-2006, a few of my neighbors had
televisions – and cable. What kind of cable tv worked out into the rural
countryside of Honduras? I don't know. What I do know is that one single cable
made its way into my village, and snaked it's way throughout the more posh
parts of town (some streets had nice houses, while others had shacks with no

What's important about this "cable" is that what it truly brought with
it was Telenovelas. If you aren't familiar with a Telenovela, a Spanish soap
opera, it's a 5-6 month long saga that plays out for one hour, four nights a
week (Monday-Thursday).

Here is the opening from one of my town's favorite Novelas: 
Rubí. It was quite
addictive, honestly.

With the injection of a steady stream of Telenovelas into Pulperias up and down my street, I witnessed dramatic changes. Changes in behavior and vocabulary. Changes in teenage drama and a staggering increase in teen pregnancy rates.

I saw a direct link between the plotlines of these Novelas, and the dramatic issues the teens in my town would complain about. How did I know their problems were Novela driven? 

Let's take a look at the plot of Rubí: Rubí starts dating Alejandro, but when she finds out that he comes from a middle-class background and is not rich, she decides to dump him. She then decides to seduce Héctor, who is wealthy but engaged to a friend. When Hector dumps his fiance, and marries Rubí, she decides several years later she wants Alejandro, because he is now rich (she even kills Alejandro's fiance). These were not the problems common to the teenagers in a rural Honduran village. But they were now the exact problems the students (many my students) would complain about. So and so is rich (a ridiculous concept in Gualaco) and must be "seduced". I could hear the students repeating lines from Rubí verbatim. How did I know? I watched Rubí for background.

What I want to know now is this: what has technology brought and changed? Are the inhabitants of Latin American villages smarter, now that they are "more educated"? Are students who have never set foot outside the village more worldly now? Are their babies healthier because they can look up answers to common infant illnesses?

Or have computers (and the internet) just brought easier, more universal access to Novelas? Are students concentrating on teenage drama and sex scandals more than homework assignments? Haven't Americans been caught doing the same? Perhaps technology really does even the playing field. We can all spy on Kate Middleton bathing nude, if we so choose. We can spend our hard earned Pesos on an hour of internet, instead of on a Coca Cola. There isn't any more money in my village, just another way to spend it. 

I can't wait to see how the Mayan students of the Yucatan choose to spend their limited (albeit no cost) internet search time. Will they look up maps of the world, answer math problems, sign onto Kahn Academy, or read books online? Will they watch YouTube and Vine and Telemundo? Or will they do all these things? I have my suspicions (social networking - but which ones?) 

I can't wait to see how life before computers becomes a fading memory.


  1. Watched it for that's your story :)

  2. It wasn't my favorite Telenovela - but I did learn a lot of Spanish. :-)