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I was searching for something good to watch in Spanish on Netflix and had the amazing good fortune to discover LA NIÑA, a 86-episode Colombian telenovela from 2016.


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It's about a girl who was kidnapped by guerrillas as a child (more accurately, as a tiny child of like eight, she nobly asked the guerrillas to take her rather than her epileptic brother--so they do) but who gets demobilized and is now trying to reintegrate into society. Opportunistic former comrades are out to get her because they believe she knows where their commander hid a huge stash of cash, and a corrupt army colonel is out to get her because she was a victim of his and might expose him.* But from the very first, she has the support of brave Dr. Tatiana, a psychologist working for the Reintegration Program, and Father Rivas,** a priest who also helps reintegrate former guerrillas and paramilitaries. It's Father Rivas who suggests, after she demonstrates some impressive quick thinking and skills in that direction, that she consider becoming a doctor, and from about episode 3 onward, that's what she's embarked on: training to become a doctor.

Belky--the main character, whom we first meet as "Alias Sara"


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An actual Sara, whose story may have inspired this drama:


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(Here's an article about her--it's in Spanish, though. I'm working through it slowly.)

Dr. Tatiana and Fr. Rivas


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And here's Manuel: he was sold by his father to the paramilitaries--"to make a man of him," when really what he likes to do is cook. He's been demobilized too. I suspect these two are destined for each other--they become good friends in the reformatory in the first couple of episodes-- but this is a telenovela, and currently there's some distance between them.


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Here's a group shot:


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In the upper lefthand corner, you can see two of Belky's classmates in the medical program, one on each side of her. That's Victor on the left, a super sweet guy who helped her and her father get set up selling vegetables when they first arrived in Bogotá. And that's Santiago on the right. He's the wealthy son of a doctor and is quite smitten by Belky. The reason they're both side-eying her in that picture is because she's in tears as she describes the cause of death of a woman. The threatening-looking man in the center is Col. Barragán.

One of the reasons I love this show is that all the major characters, bar none, have things about them that make you take an interest in them. Col. Barragán, for instance, is an awful man--but he really cares about his daughter and sticks up for her when his wife tries to pressure the girl about her weight. The daughter is a really interesting character, though so far she hasn't received much screen time. She lends Belky a pencil before an exam, and she's friendly and somewhat lonely. She loves her dad--doesn't realize that he's done monstrous things. Then there's Natalia--she seems to be all sharp edges and nasty words, but at one point you see her interacting with a child in a clinic sensitively and empathetically, and while she plays the part of a rich, privileged woman, in fact she, her mother, and her daughter can barely make ends meet.

Maria Luisa, Col. Barragán's daughter

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Natalia

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Oh, and here's Julie, the pampered, spoiled daughter of the dean of the medical program. Victor announces to Belky on first seeing Julie that she's the woman he's going to marry--never mind that Victor's the son of a farmer. His confidence is charming rather than offputting--he's so good natured, kind, and perceptive about people; he consistently manages to bring out the best in others.


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Especially in the early episodes, you get a lot of flashbacks to Belky's life with the guerrillas. There are two kids who portray her when she's young--and it turns out these two are sisters. Helps with continuity of looks!


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We're on episode 27 of 86, so we still have a lot of ground to cover, but so far I really recommend this show.

*TW for flashback to scenes of rape (not graphic; suggested) and torture (also not graphic)
**Such a treat to see a priest who's portrayed as a good man, hardworking and ordinary--in a good way: another person working for human rights and a better future.
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