The Telemundo telenovela La Reina Del Sur (Queen of the South) recently aired an episode revealing that one of its main characters, Alejandro Alcala — the intelligent and well-composed campaign manager for a Mexican presidential candidate — is gay and in a closeted relationship with Danilo Márquez, an athletic architect and interior designer.
In the clip, Alcala (played by actor Mark Tacher) leaves his boyfriend Danilo Márquez’s apartment early in the morning after a memorable evening together eating hamburgers, riding in a helicopter and watching fireworks. Danilo laments that they have to stay closeted, and Alcala says that coming out in a sexist society is political suicide during a campaign season. Danilo is disappointed, but the two men obviously love one another.
Here’s the clip:
La Reina del Sur is Telemundo’s most successful telenovela and “narco novela” (drug dealer drama). It’s also the network’s second most expensive telenovela since it’s shot on location in eight countries. It is also the only narco novela to feature a female drug lord. The show’s titular Queen of the South, Teresa Mendoza, gets sucked into the international narcotics trade after losing several loved ones to drug-related violence.
According to The Los Angeles Times, narco novelas are a rising genre in Latin American TV that don’t present a simple world of “good” cops and “bad” drug dealers:
These so-called narco novelas offer a striking contrast to what you see depicted on English-language TV — a compelling complexity in the face of the simplistic story lines that emerge out of Hollywood. Narco novelas generally dispense with the black and white in order to look at the world in shades of gray….
[In] narco novelas … the world of narcotrafficking isn’t a separate world that you need a passport to visit. It is part of everyday life — an invisible narco state that inhales people voraciously, whether you intend to be inhaled or not. It is the woman who falls in love with the wrong man, the bystander who becomes an accidental witness and therefore must be killed, the journalist who digs in the wrong place. It is a place where the dead pile up to feed the need for cocaine in the U.S.
The publication says that while some critics worry that narco novelas glamorize the drug trade, others feel they explore a complex social reality. La Reina del Sur in particular, “explores the prejudices endured by Mexican and Moroccan immigrants in Spain.”
La Reina del Sur is actually based on a 2002 fiction novel of the same name by Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte based on Sandra Ávila Beltrán, a real-life person who was known as the “Queen of the Pacific.” Beltrán achieved infamy by becoming one of the first female drug cartel “bosses,” a position usually held by men.
Tacher, the actor who plays Alcala, has been involved in over 15 telenovelas throughout Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela. In an interview, Tacher said that although he has played a closeted gay character before, this role is more challenging because it delves more deeply into his relationship with another man.
“Alejandro Alcala is a character that has a lot of layers,” Tacher said. “Alejandro … is a character that is addicted to power. He wants power beyond anything else…. If you look to Alejandro’s life, it’s almost a perfect life, but it isn’t … because he can’t trust himself.”