Most evenings during the week, Cuban television is now showing a Brazilian telenovela: “Ciudad Paraiso” (Paradise City).
What fascinates me about this work in comparison to its analogues is the social environment in which the plot is unfolding.
“Paradise City” is supposedly a small city somewhere in Brazil, far from what one would call civilization.
It’s a town where only recently a radio station was created. Women there still remain virgins until they’re married, and men generally respect the feelings of women and of other men. It’s a place where landowners work together with their farmhands; where there are no beggars, favelas or ecological problems; and the youth here are educated in weighty notions of decency. Obviously, there are no homosexuals.
Today some Cuban politicians and educators would say that they respect the values presented in the series. But does there exist such a city or anything like it in Brazil?
I sometimes think that — for its make-believe character — such a conservative place must make Brazilians themselves laugh. But they must know, obviously better than me, whether such notions are based on reality or not.
I believe I’ve found the reason for the telenovela’s concept: today’s disintegration of traditional social molds has made it attractive for suddenly — though merely on TV — a conservative town to appear.
It’s not that the conservatism in question is too aggressive, but indeed that it’s apparent. And the fact that they don’t present the thorniest problems that such conservatism entails makes it extraordinarily attractive to many people.
In times in which it’s almost impossible to base oneself on any value (love, fidelity, diligence, honesty…), it is not illogical that people would spontaneously drift to conservative platforms.
The deconstruction of the framework of chivalry didn’t bring about alternatives, beyond guaperia (the tough guy image) or the law of the survival of the fittest. I’m speaking of the “university of the street,” precisely how life exists in the majority of Havana’s poor neighborhoods. Under such conditions, “Paradise City” serves very well as a utopia.