*Cries in Spanish* Who does this phrase remind you of? Meet Soraya Montenegro, the villain behind the famous meme.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or trapped in a basement for the last few years, you’ve probably seen the famous “cries in Spanish” meme, featuring Soraya Montenegro. This Latin American cultural gem transcended time and geographical barriers thanks to its unwittingly ironic sense of humor, and made Soraya Montenegro’s character popular around the world. In 2017, you couldn’t browse around on social media without seeing her face, but who is she, the most evil and feared telenovela villain of all time?
It all started in 1995, in the first episode of María la del Barrio, one of the most popular Mexican telenovelas of all time. This novela tells the story of María Hernández, a young woman, who somehow ends up living in the home of the De La Vega Montenegro family, one of the most powerful in the country. Our favorite villain is the cousin of Luis Fernando Vega, María’s crush, and - surprise, surprise! - she’s in love with him too. The novela has more relationship drama than the movie Valentine’s Day and more incestuous love affairs than Flowers in the Attic, but if you love drama, you have to watch María la del Barrio.
So, Soraya is in love with her cousin, Luis Fernando, and after many years of being obsessed with him, she manages to marry him (by lying, of course). But her happiness is short-lived, and they eventually get divorced. When Soraya finds out that Luis Fernando is in love with María, she swears she will get revenge. María and Luis Fernando get married, and they have a son called Nando. While they’re enjoying their happy marriage, Soraya marries a millionaire from the US, then, she kills him and keeps his money and the custody of his daughter, Alicia. Later, she returns to Mexico and falls in love with Nando - her first cousin once removed -, but he falls in love with Alicia, so Soraya tries to kill her, but fails. Finally, after many different and unsuccessful revenge plans, and a long string of affairs, Montenegro dies as a result of one her own ploys. This is, after all, a telenovela, where good always triumphs over evil, and the villain dies in a way that befits their evilness. Simple, right?
Now, let’s get back to the main point here. How did Soraya turn into such a viral meme? It clearly helped that her character was already so famous in Mexican popular culture. She is remembered for her over-the-top histrionics, which were very common in telenovelas and movies from this period. But there are also other factors we must take into account, like the translator’s (not so) great idea to subtitle one of the character’s most dramatic and important scenes in the telenovela with “cries in Spanish.” I mean, really? Thanks to this unorthodox translation decision, we learned that it’s possible to cry in more than one language, and we discovered one of the secret formulas behind viral memes:
Over-the-top drama + honest mistake + Mexican sense of humor = viral gold
This formula even led to more viral images taken from popular Mexican telenovelas:
Montenegro’s meme was such a hit that she was even invited to join Orange Is The New Black for a few cameos. Here, it’s same old deranged Soraya, but a little funnier. When she catches her handicapped stepdaughter kissing the man she loves, she screams, “Why are you kissing the handicapped girl?” and then attacks them mercilessly.
In the end, no matter how many other villains we meet, she’ll always be our favorite. She might bore us and get in our way, and we might even hate her at times, but we’ll always love her - only true fans will understand. That’s why this woman, who caused so much pain and anger, and also made us laugh quite a few times, is inarguably one of the best memes in recent years. That, in internet years, that’s a long time.