Turkey has achieved what many other countries yearn for: conquering Hispanic audiences.
In countries including Brazil, considered the birthplace of telenovelas, characters named Zeynep, Elif and Omer have come to replace names such as Maribel, Esmeralda and Victor Manuel.
MIlagros Perez, a 60-year-old Cuban, has declared herself a “fan” of the Turkish drama genre. She says she watches at least one episode every day but sometimes binge-watches an entire series.
Her love for Turkish melodramas has even crossed over to social media. She founded a fan group on Facebook for Kerem Bürsin, one of the most desired Turkish actors of the moment. The group, created in February, has more than 6,000 followers from various Spanish-speaking countries including Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Spain.
“He is a great actor and human being. He is also handsome and multifaceted. I love him,” said Perez, who claims to have ”lost count” of the number of Turkish TV dramas she has watched.
More than 100 Turkish series are watched by 700 million people in more than 146 countries, Anadolu Agency reported in March.
Several factors are key in driving the growth of Turkish dramas in the region. Among them are the fact that Latin American viewers have a cultural affinity with Turkey and that they are quality productions, experts say.
“Turkish stories revolve around family, which we can relate to because in our culture, we are extremely family oriented,” says Maria Paula Bustamante, programming director of Caracol Televisión, the leading TV network in Colombia, which has aired more than 12 Turkish series.
Some 4 million people in Colombia have watched Turkish productions such as Elif and 1001 Nights. Turkish dizi, or series, have also been a big hit in Argentina and Chile, where viewers can watch up to 10 Turkish TV series a day, some of them during primetime.
“Turkish series are known for their stories of love, heartbreak, revenge and betrayal,” said Bustamante.
Eugenia Velez, vice president of programming for the RCN television channel in Colombia, said these are themes which Latin American viewers identify with.
“They use the same plots that are used in traditional Colombian, Venezuelan and Mexican novels,” Velez said.
She said stories of old-fashioned romance like these make the audience connect well with the characters.
MIlagros Perez is one of the millions of Hispanics who, despite never having been to Turkey, not speaking the language or having eaten its food, feel it is easy to connect with the shows.
“The actors are so convincing. They seem to be living real stories, and we are living that reality with them too. They are beautiful stories that involve real, selfless love,” she said.
Turkish series are also known for having a very high quality, which helps bring Turkey to audiences’ living rooms, said Velez, who is confident that the Turkish adaptation of The Good Doctor, Mucize Doktor, to be aired by RCN soon, will be a hit.
“They are shot in real locations like mansions, palaces, the Bosphorus and the streets of Istanbul. Their natural set is Turkey,” she said.
Bustamante agrees that the aesthetic part is key to their success.
“They have wonderful landscapes, luxurious houses, spectacular costumes... Everything is very majestic and visually appealing.”
Perez said she would love to travel to Turkey to see in real life the scenery she so regularly watches on television.
“I wish I could visit such a magical country,” she added.