Binge-worthy podcasts may be a 21st century phenomenon, but addictive, serialized storytelling is nothing new. From the 1930s through the 1950s, Cuba exported more daytime and nighttime radio serials than any nation in the Spanish-speaking world — even Fidel Castro was a fan.
After the Revolution, Cuban emigrés in Miami began making original Spanish-language radio soap operas — better known as radionovelas — that reportedly ran on more than 200 stations worldwide. The Latin American Library at Tulane University is now digitizing a whopping collection of those 1960s-era programs and encouraging academic study of Cold War soaps.
Library director Hortensia Calvo, who acquired the collection for Tulane, says the stories and the manner in which they were promoted to radio stations throughout Latin America reveal a nascent middle class searching for a new way to live. Many of the programs were aimed at housewives and the frequent breaks in the action allowed advertisers to pitch all manner of household and luxury items.