The Fotonovela As a Tool for Class and Cultural Domination

Publication year
Latin American Perspectives

This appears to have been reprinted in 1989 in the SVA newsletter, with different pagination. I have not checked if there are any other changes. The quotations below come from the original 1978 version.

The fotonovela - a love story told in photographs with balloon captions presenting the dialogue - is omnipresent among the masses in Latin America, Northern Africa, France, and Italy. We have identified three types of fotonovelas, each stressing different aspects of the ideology necessary to reinforce capitalist relationships. The first serves to break primary ties and integrate workers and peasants into an urban lifestyle. The second provides a mechanism of escape from real problems. The third encourages consumption of middle-class items. (135)


Two major types of plot emerge. Each has a series of basic functions around which the action evolves, although many variations are possible within each of the functions. Other functions may occur in some of the stories, augmenting the essential functions that define the plot type. Following are examples of these two types of plots:

Plot I: Individual Love Rewarded

1 Hero/heroine is in love.

2 Beloved is not in love with hero/heroine.

3 Beloved seeks another goal.

4 Crisis occurs to beloved.

5 Hero/heroine keeps loving beloved.

6 Beloved loves hero/heroine.


Plot II: Mutual Love Rewarded

1 Hero meets heroine.

2 They fall in love.

3 Something keeps them apart.

4 That something is unknown to them.

5 They remain true to each other.

6 The unknown becomes known.

7 The unknown was a false obstacle.



It is not the medium itself that is counter-revolutionary. Under Allende in Chile, a number of radical fotonovelas were produced and distributed. Women's liberation groups in Mexico have attempted to use fotonovelas to raise consciousness of women's oppression among working-class women. The plot devices and types of functions are a direct result of the multinational capitalistic industry which produces and sells the volumes to the working classes in both the developed and developing world and the fact that their survival depends upon mirroring the values that support that type of system. (149)