La Reina del Sur: synopsis

La Reina del Sur (The Queen of the South) is a Spanish-language telenovela produced by the United States-based television network Telemundo. Based on a novel of the same name by Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte, the drama depicts the rise of Teresa Mendoza, a young woman from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, who becomes the most powerful drug lord in southern Spain. La Reina del Sur: synopsis

With a $10 million budget, La Reina del Sur was the most expensive telenovela ever produced by Telemundo. The program's premiere on the U.S.-based Telemundo network on February 28, 2011 was the network's highest rating for a telenovela to date. Over its run, the program frequently achieved dominance in its time slot, even over English language programming on other major U.S. television networks. As with most of its other telenovelas, the network broadcast the program with English subtitles as closed captions on CC3. The theme song, performed by Los Cuates de Sinaloa, is a cover of Los Tigres del Norte's 2002 song, "La Reina del Sur," a satire of the narcocorrido genre whose lyrics recount the story of Perez Reverte's fictional heroine.

La Reina del Sur will complete its 62 episode run on Telemundo on May 30, 2011, and is being broadcast in several other markets, including co-producers Spain and Colombia, along with Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Albania, and Serbia (among others).

Original airing   
United States in February 28, 2011 - May 30, 2011
Spain in March 14, 2011 - May 30, 2011
Mexico in April 4, 2011 - current
Puerto Rico in April 11, 2011 - current
Costa Rica in April 25, 2011 - current
Colombia in May 16, 2011 - current
Chile in May 9, 2011 - current
Albania in May 1, 2011 - current
Hungary in June 14, 2011

The plot centers on Teresa Mendoza (Kate del Castillo), a young woman introduced at the age of 23 when she is living with her boyfriend, "El Güero" (Rafael Amaya), a drug trafficker and rising star in the Sinaloa cartel. El Güero has been dabbling in his own trade, which is starting to cut into the cartel's profits, and is ordered to be executed by Epifanio Vargas (Humberto Zurita), his godfather and leader of the cartel. After El Güero is assassinated, Teresa receives a phone call telling her to run. Teresa is unaware that El Güero's death was ordered by Vargas, mistakenly believing that he was killed by rivals in the organization. She trades El Güero's business ledger to Vargas in exchange for his help fleeing the country.

Arriving in Spain, Teresa is referred to work for Driss Larby, a businessman and low-level underworld operator in the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the North African coast. On the ferry, she meets Fátima Mansur, a prostitute who turns out to work at Driss's bar "El Yamilla." Teresa soon proves herself to be an invaluable asset at "El Yamilla" by balancing the books every night. At "El Yamilla," Teresa meets Santiago Fisterra (Iván Sanchez), a Galician ("El Gallego") who works smuggling black market goods such as cigarettes across the strait of Gibraltar into Spain, and his friend Lalo. Teresa and Santiago begin dating, while Lalo dates Teresa's coworker Soraya. Knowing that Santiago is unhappy working the small time, Teresa arranges with Colonel Abdelkader Chaïb (Eduardo Velasco) to get Santiago working on the hashish trade. The payoff is huge, and Teresa and Santiago move to Málaga where they marry.

A year later, Driss Larby is still smarting from Teresa's abandonment, and conspires with a Spanish Naval Officer, Cañagotas (Julio Pachón), who is on Chaïb's payroll, to have Santiago busted during a major drug run. Instead, however, Santiago crashes his boat into rocks at high speed and is killed, while Teresa is thrown free, arrested, and sent to jail. Santiago's crooked lawyer, Eddy Alvarez (Carlos Diez), subsequently liquidates all of Santiago and Teresa's property and spends it on his mistress.

In prison, Teresa meets Patricia O'Farrell (Cristina Urgel), the wild child in a wealthy Irish-Spanish family whose exasperated father has abandoned her to her fate after having had to bail her out of trouble too many times. The two become fast friends—although the bisexual Patricia clearly wants more. Upon release, Patty reveals to Teresa that she knows where half ton of cocaine was hidden by her late boyfriend, and hatches a plan to sell it back to the Russian mob. During the negotiation, however, it becomes clear to the Russian mob boss, Oleg Yasilkov (Alberto Jiménez), that Teresa is the one with the true business acumen and would be a valuable asset to him. Teresa deftly negotiates the retrieval of the cocaine from its hiding place, under the nose of the confounded Spanish police, headed by Pablo Flores (Juan José Arjona), the first of many successes in her new career as a rising drug lord.

DEA agent Willy Rangel (Cristian Tappan) travels to Spain, where he begins working with Flores to build a case against Teresa, who is rapidly becoming the most powerful drug trafficker in southern Spain. Backed by Yasilkov, and with the assistance of Teo Aljarafe (Miguel de Miguel), a lawyer and occasional lover of Patty, she opens Transer Naga, a shell company set up to disguise her true business. Shortly afterward, three assassins arrive from Mexico, bent on seeking revenge against Teresa. With Oleg's help, one of them is executed, one escapes, and one, "El Pote" (Dagoberto Gama) eventually becomes her personal bodyguard. Teresa and Teo grow closer, despite her reservations about it, and eventually embark on a relationship.

In the meantime, Willy has brought his assistant, Veronica (Sara Maldonado) to Spain to pose as a love interest for Patty in order to gain access to Transer Naga. Willy also pressures Teo into turning informant, threatening to reveal to Teresa that Teo has been skimming from the company. As months pass, Teresa and Teo attract media attention, and Patty, dumped by Veronica and jealous of Teresa replacing her as media darling, begins a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol. Stalking Veronica in an attempt to get her back, Patty learns the truth about her ex-girlfriend: that she works for the police and has been using Patty to take down Teresa. Distraught, Patty drives the car off of a cliff, killing Veronica. On awakening in the hospital, she tells Teresa everything she knows, then commits suicide.

In Mexico, Epifanio Vargas has been working as the chief of campaign for the next presidential election. His nephew (who is, in fact, his son) Ramiro (Salvador Zerboni) arranges for the candidate to be assassinated, ensuring that the candidacy will go to Vargas instead. Spurred on by the fact that the head of the Sinaloa cartel is about to be elected president of Mexico, the DEA changes tactics and offers Teresa immunity against prosecution if she agrees to testify against Vargas and destroy his political career. At the same time, Vargas asks Ramiro to bring Teresa back to Mexico under the guise of extending an invitation to attend his candidacy, but in reality to execute her because she is the only person still alive who knows about his criminal past.

Oleg presents Teresa with evidence that Teo is a police informant. Teresa sets a trap for Teo and confronts him with the truth, after which Pote executes him. Finding that the Spanish police are trying to obtain an arrest warrant and do an end-run around the DEA, Teresa accepts the immunity deal and agrees to testify against Vargas who, she realizes, has been her enemy all along.

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