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Top 15 Mexican TV Shows to Boost Your Spanish

Passive learning is an essential component of adopting a new language and making it second nature. It’s not all about sitting down, cracking the books, and studying verb tenses. It’s about immersing yourself in the culture and letting the rhythm, cadence, and structure of that new language subtly seep into you.

True, it’s easier said than done. What if you haven’t had the chance to go to a Spanish-speaking country and make it your home for a few months, or even years?

While that may be the ideal immersion scenario, you can always mimic immersion by consuming the culture of those countries.

And how do you consume the culture of a country without visiting? Well, that’s simple. Just devour everything they send out into the world.

TV shows, movies, music, books, media—they’re all a window to the people of each country, thus portraying their actual language as a living breathing thing, not the pasteurized version you get from a textbook.

So! That being said, if you’re particularly interested in learning Mexican Spanish and want a window into that country’s culture, here are some of their best TV shows as of 2018, hand-picked to aid you on this quest.

These Mexican TV programs were chosen not just for being in Spanish, but taking into account their quality and relevancy in Mexican contemporary society. In other words, they’re popular but also better written and produced than your standard telenovela.

Also, we tried to make it easy for you, dear reader, by focusing on TV shows that you can find on Netflix, or stream elsewhere on the Web.

¡A disfrutar!

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Table of Contents

  1. Series about Sports and Music
  2. Series About Narcos
  3. Traditional Crime Series in Spanish
  4. Sports, News, and Culture Programs
  5. How to Study Spanish with TV Shows
  6. How Can SpanishPod101 Help You Learn Your Spanish Idioms and Expressions?


1. Series About Sports and Music

While most people think of El Chapo or Narcos when trying to think of TV series in Spanish (and due to current trends, it’s frankly inevitable), we tried to start off with some that stray off that topic.

Here are some Mexican Web series that deal with the sports world, music stars, or celebrities in general.

1- Club de Cuervos

Club de Cuervos logo

This series follows the many mishaps of the Iglesias family, the owners of a fictitious football team called Los Cuervos de Nuevo Toledo (“The Crows of New Toledo”), which is hailed in the series as “The Real Madrid of Latin America.” When the head of the family dies, the heirs get into a long battle to determine who has control of the football club.

This was actually the first Spanish-language Netflix original series, and it stars Luis Gerardo Méndez and Mariana Treviño as the two siblings. The former’s character, Chava Iglesias, is immediately elected as the president (just because he’s a man) but has no clue how to run a football team. Mariana’s character (Isabel Iglesias), on the other hand, is actually much more intelligent and experienced in the football industry, but is shunned out of the role because she’s a woman.

Club de Cuervos, in spite of being a Netflix production, was done by an almost all-Mexican cast and was shot mostly in Pachuca, Hidalgo. Its genre is best described as black humor or comedy, and it’s actually a somewhat accurate gaze into football culture in Mexico. There is a lot of machismo, sex scandals, throwing around of money, telenovela-style tragedies with the team always on the brink of total failure, and avid football fans that keep the whole thing going for everybody.

2- La Balada de Hugo Sánchez

La Balada de Hugo Sanchez Poster

This one’s actually a spin-off of Club de Cuervos. While named exactly as the Mexican football icon, it has nothing to do with the footballer.

This comedy-drama series follows Chava’s personal assistant (who is named Hugo Sanchez) in the perilous mission of taking the team to a tournament in Nicaragua.

Hugo is named “temporal manager” of the Cuervos just because Chava, the actual manager, doesn’t really want to go to Nicaragua.

The rest, as you can imagine, is fuel for continuous laughter. Just watch the trailer to see for yourself!

Vocabulary:

  • Futból: This is the hispanization of the word “football.” Mexicans use this or “futból soccer” to refer to the most beautiful sport in the world.
  • Junior: This is an anglicism to refer to Mexican rich kids who don’t ever have to work hard because they choose to rely on their parents’ wealth. Chava in the series is an embodiment of this concept.

3- Luis Miguel (La Serie)

Luis Miguel Poster

And talking of Mexican icons, if you’re remotely interested in Mexican culture and don’t know of Luis Miguel by now, you should seriously stop reading and put on one of his albums. Soy Como Quiero Ser is a good one to start with.

While the music may seem cheesy as hell and, depending on your level of Spanish, maybe a bit difficult to understand, know that this guy is probably the biggest Mexican singer of all time—at least in terms of popularity. People have nicknamed him El Sol de Mexico (“The Sun of Mexico”), for chrissake!

So anyway, Luismi (another nickname) began his career as a child star, with his dad (a failed singer from Spain) as his manager. When the guy was about sixteen, he fired his father, got new management, and relaunched himself as a serious male performer, eventually reaching international superstar status.

If you think that story actually has some drama series material, just wait ‘til you hear about his mother. Apparently, he hasn’t seen her in years and nobody seems to know what happened to her. There are quite a few conspiracy theories about the whole thing, but the bottom line is that while Luis Miguel’s career is as bright as the sun, his family life has always had a dark undertone to it.

And thus! Somebody decided to make that into a series. It’s uncertain what the arrangement was on selling Luismi’s life story to Netflix, but this thing has been on fire since being released. By “on fire,” we mean that the hype for this thing is quite tremendous. As someone living in Mexico, I can tell you that people talk about each new episode as much as they did about the national elections or the World Cup.

Now the actual series, while a bit exaggerated and full of cliffhangers and—at times—telenovelesca (“soap-opera-like”) offers a pretty good look into Mexican celebrity culture of the 1980s. And you will definitely get to listen to some genuine Spanish.

Here’s a trailer.

Vocabulary:

  • En vivo: Spanish way of saying that music is played live
  • Grabación: (“Recording”)
  • Éxito: (“Hit; hit song”)

4- Jenni Rivera, Mariposa de Barrio

Jenni Rivera

Jenni Rivera is one of the most important female figures in Mexican music, particularly in the banda and ranchera genres. This series is based on her autobiography, Unbreakable: My Story My Way, which was published after her death.

It chronicles pretty much every stage of Jenni’s life and path towards fame, picking up all the way from her childhood.

This one was actually produced by Telemundo, which is one of the largest American Spanish-only television networks. Fortunately, it was then made available through Netflix.

Watch the trailer to get a glimpse of what this show’s all about!

Vocabulary:

  • Barrio: This means “‘hood” in Spanish, as in a bad neighborhood.
  • Rancho: As you probably guessed, this word means “ranch.”
  • Calar: This is an informal verb that means “to try” something.
  • Señora: This means “married woman” and is the polite way to refer to an adult lady.

5- José José, El Príncipe de la Canción

Jose Jose poster

Nicknamed “The Prince of Song,” José José is also one of the biggest Mexican male singers of all time. He began his success during the 1970s as a balladeer, eventually rising to international prominence during the 80s.

As with many artists, his life had its fair share of drama and ups and downs. In spite of his amazing vocal talent and early success, he battled for decades with heavy alcoholism and faced near bankruptcy due to shady management practices, but still managed to lay a timeless legacy in Mexican music.

The series, naturally, is based on his life and was produced by Telemundo as well. That may mean it has some of that soap-opera feel to it as well, but it’s a good dramatized glimpse into The Prince’s life and career.

If you’re still on the fence about this one, watch the trailer to see if it’s a good fit for you!

Vocabulary:

  • Triste: (“Sad”)
  • Productor: (“Producer”)
  • Renunciar: (“To quit”)


2. Series About Narcos

1- La Reina del Sur

La Reina del Sur poster

Oh look, we’re talking about a narco series now. We guess it was inevitable, since (a bit sadly, to be honest) “Narcoculture” has become one of the most publicized and internationally known aspects of Mexican culture.

Obviously, the executives at Telemundo had to cash in on this and created this series in 2011, actually spending more in its production than it did in any other of its series to date.

La Reina del Sur follows the fictional story of a woman (portrayed by Kate del Castillo) who used to date a narco, who then gets killed, so she has to flee her home in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Eventually, she starts dating another criminal—this time a smuggler of hashish and tobacco—and starts helping out with the activities. This lands her in jail, where she makes some friends who help her get into drug trafficking when they all get out.

Sooner or later, she ends up becoming the leader of one of the most prominent drug cartels in the fictionalized version of Sinaloa. Hence the name of the series, which translates literally to “The Queen of The South.”

Watch a trailer with some good ol’ English subtitles.

Vocabulary:

  • El Bote: This is literally the Spanish homologue for the English slang “The Can,” as it refers to prison.
  • Güero: This is a “blonde male person.”
  • Contrabandista: This word translates to “smuggler.”
  • Contable: A contable is an “accountant.”

2- El Chapo

El Chapo poster

And now for a not-so-fictional story. You’ve probably already heard about Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Mexico’s top drug kingpin. He was considered the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world” by the U.S. Department of Treasury for a good number of years.

This series, produced jointly by Netflix and Univision, covers the life of “El Chapo,” from his meager beginnings as a low-level member of the Guadalajara Cartel, to his rise to power as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel—all the way to his eventual downfall.

Feel free to watch a trailer for season 1 to get an idea of what to expect.

Vocabulary:

  • Millonario: (“Millionaire”)
  • Túnel: (“Tunnel”)

3- Cuando Conocí A El Chapo: La Historia de Kate del Castillo

Cuando Conoci A El Chapo Poster

If you were already familiar with El Chapo, perhaps you’ve heard or read about this 2016 story of how Kate del Castillo (that’s right, the actress from La Reina del Sur) was able to earn the drug kingpin’s trust and broker an interview between him and—of all people—Mr. Sean Penn.

This is a documentary mini-series, covering the whole event in a matter of three episodes. Think of it as a real-life conjunction of the two former series, proving how easily fact and fiction blend in the world of Narcotráfico.

Watch the official trailer and then prepare to sit down later to binge this little series.

Vocabulary:

  • Correspondencia: This is essentially to write a series of letters, to correspond with someone.


3. Traditional Crime Series in Spanish

1- Sr. Ávila

Sr. Avila poster

Where’s HBO in all of this? If you’re looking for one of the best Mexican TV shows, this one has all the trademarks of an HBO series, with a story set in Mexico City and as much Spanish as you could hope for.

Sr. Ávila tells the story of a middle-class family man, who passes as an insurance salesman but leads a double life as a sicario—which is the Spanish word for “hired killer,”—within an organized crime group.

This is one of the Mexican TV shows on this list that strays the most from the telenovela genre, being more similar in genre to other dark-vibe-crime sort of shows such as True Detective or Dexter.

While this can’t be found anywhere other than HBO or HBO Go, it might be worth the effort (if you were, let’s say, to look for it online), if you want something a bit more serious.

Check out Tony Dalton in the role of Mr. Ávila.

Vocabulary:

  • Lobo: (“Wolf”)
  • Señor: This word is used to call a married man or full-grown adult.

2- El Dandy

el dandy

This Mexican TV show might be a great bet to learn Spanish if you’re a native English-speaker, as it’s based upon the 1993 Al Pacino and Johnny Depp film Donnie Brasco.

It follows the story of a law professor who goes undercover in one of the most notorious criminal organizations of Mexico City. He takes the nickname “El Dandy” and while he starts to gain and leak information regarding the clandestine network he finds himself becoming a part of, he starts to find the sense of danger exciting, even enjoyable.

The series stars Damián Alcázar, of Narcos fame, as one of the criminal bosses, who takes “El Dandy” under his wing. Watch some excerpts of the show and prepare to become addicted.

Vocabulary:

  • Echado p’alante: This literally translates to “thrown forward,” and is used to refer to someone who’s very proactive, a nearly fearless self-starter.
  • Fusca: This is another word for pistola which is a “pistol” or “gun.”


4. Sports, News, and Culture Programs

Now, the most popular Mexican television shows aren’t all series that have to do with crime or celebrities. Some of the biggest TV shows from this country are simply the ones that deal with reality. Not in a “reality show” sort of way, but simply regular sports, news, and culture shows.

Here’s a quick list of some of the best ones. While these will be hard to find unless you have access to a Mexican TV signal, or some sort of satellite package that includes some of these, you can always find clips on YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook, as these shows all have a channel on one or all of these social media platforms.

1- ESPN Deportes

ESPN Deportes logo

This is the Spanish-language arm of ESPN, aimed primarily at the Hispanic population in the United States. That being said, it does have a base in Mexico City that caters to both markets, as well as some parts of Latin America.

This is available on most cable and satellite providers in the U.S., but you can always get clips from its Twitter and other social media.

2- CNN en Español

CNN Espanol Logo

From this one, you can get mainstream news and sports in Spanish, as it caters to pretty much all of North and Latin America.

Whether it’s on its social media or directly on its webpage, it’s extremely easy to find clips from this source. This channel is a 24-hour source of content in Latin American Spanish.

3- MTV Latinoamérica

mtv logo

MTV Latin America is all about Youth Culture. As with the original MTV, it’s not so much about the music now, but about reality shows, series, some films, and yes, the occasional videos. And you’ll get much more than just Spanish music; all of its channels feature whatever’s hot at the moment, so it will include a lot of English music as well.

MTV Latin America is now so big that it has some sister channels too, such as VH1, Nickelodeon (cartoons in Spanish, yaaay!), Comedy Central, MTV Hits, and some others depending on the region.

4- Tercer Grado

news

If you’d like to get deep into Mexican politics, this is the foremost TV show to watch on the subject. This one is within Noticieros Televisa, which is one of the news television shows in Mexico.

The good thing about Tercer Grado is that, even though it belongs to Televisa, it can be pretty impartial when it comes to politics. Its round tables usually feature journalists and intellectuals from various political inclinations.

The second good thing, is that sometimes it posts clips of its whole episodes on its Youtube channel, so you can watch these online at any time.

5- El Financiero Bloomberg

economics

Now, if you’re looking to get knowledge on Mexican economy, finance, and business news, this channel is a joint venture between financial broadcaster Bloomberg, and El Financiero, one of the leading finance news outlets in the Spanish language.

It’s also kind enough to post a ton of content right on its YouTube channel, so it provides daily news on Mexican “grown-up” topics.


5. How to Study Spanish with TV Shows

If you’re looking to boost your Spanish with Mexican TV shows, there is a myriad of options for various tastes and ages.

To send you off, some additional advice when learning Spanish through TV is to watch it in the original language with English subtitles. Then, watch with Spanish subtitles as you’re progressing, and eventually try to remove the subtitles completely.

Don’t be afraid to watch the same episode or clip over and over again, as it’s a great listening comprehension exercise—even if you’re doing something else at the same time, such as washing clothes or cooking.

As you start progressing, be sure to look up any words or phrases that you don’t get. Spanish slang, and especially Mexican slang, is insanely vast. Fortunately, the meaning of most phrases and words can be found online.

Further, if you’d like even more Soabusg contents, be sure to look up Mexican films, video bloggers, and standup comedians. If you know where to look, the resources are truly endless.


6. How Can SpanishPod101 Help You Learn Your Spanish Idioms and Expressions?

Infographic

If you liked this guide to the top Mexican TV shows to learn Spanish, then feel free to find more resources, idiomatic expressions, and fun lessons in our SpanishPod101 website. We have over 1,800 audio and video lessons, lively community forums, and a good combination of energetic hosts to help you with your Spanish needs in a fun and easy manner!

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