‘Blue Beetle’s María la del Barrio Reference, Explained

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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DC’s Blue Beetle, the first superhero movie featuring a Latino lead, was certainly a movie geared toward our communities. From the music to the setting, without forgetting Jaime Reyes’ family, there was a lot about the movie that was familiar to Latine audiences – including a great deal of Easter Eggs. Some of them, like El Chapulín Colorado, are a bit more mainstream within the community. Others, like María la del Barrio, require some specific telenovela knowledge.

The María la del Barrio reference comes via Jaime’s family, who compares his relationship with Jenny Kord to the Mexican telenovela. The scene features the entire family discussing if Jaime is “María Mercedes” or “Marìa la del Barrio,” with them settling on the latter in a hilarious way. Of course, once they do, the family quickly starts singing the telenovela’s theme song to reinforce the point.

But what is María la del Barrio about, and does the reference even fit?

María la del Barrio is a 1995 Mexican telenovela that starred world-renowned singer Thalía, Fernando Colunga, and Itatí Cantoral, among others. The telenovela was wildly popular in its day, having been broadcast in over 180 countries. In it, María, born into poverty, is taken in by a successful businessman and ends up falling in love with his son and becoming part of the family.

That is, of course, only the beginning, as the love story between María and Luis Fernando spans decades, and includes a love triangle with the iconic villain Soraya Montenegro (Itatí Cantoral), multiple misunderstandings, several murder attempts, and a stolen child. 

The popular telenovela is, ironically, not the first time Thalía played a poor young woman named María who fell in love with a rich dude.

In fact, María la del Barrio is the last one of the so-called “trilogy” of María telenovelas starring Thalía. María Mercedes, the other telenovela referenced in Blue Beetle, is the first one. That telenovela, which was released in 1992, also starred Arturo Peniche and Laura Zapata. It’s a little different from María la del Barrio in that, on this one, the older rich man María first meets offers to marry her, and once he dies she ends up as the head of a family that, of course, includes her future love interest.

Normal telenovela things.

Marìa Mercedes was then followed by Marimar, which was released in 1994. There’s a young poor woman on that one, but no old rich man, just a young one who uses Marimar before realizing that he actually loves her. It’s too late by then, though, because Marimar has changed and all she wants is revenge.

Of course, all three María telenovelas have a happy ending, as does Blue Beetle. So, in that regard, it turns out Jaime Reyes is a little bit like María Mercedes or María la del Barrio. There’s a lot less drama in his life, though. Thankfully.

Blue Beetle is in theaters now.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, Blue Beetle being covered here wouldn’t exist.