Miami has long been the unofficial showbiz capital of Latin America. Since 1986, it’s been home to the world’s longest-running TV variety show, “Sabado Gigante,” which debuted in Chile in 1962, airing in the U.S. on Univision and syndicated to Spanish-speaking audiences around the globe.

The city is known around the world for its mega-platinum Latino recording artists, including Gloria Estefan and Julio Iglesia, and his sons Enrique and Julio Jr. But in recent years it has developed a reputation as a production center for telenovelas, the limited-run Spanish-language soap operas that reign as the most popular form of programming in Latin America.

“Ten years ago, there was only one small company producing telenovelas in Miami,” says Joshua Mentz, senior exec VP of Telemundo Entertainment. “We started seven years ago with ‘Amor Descarado.’ Soon, we’re going to have three novelas shooting at the same time.”

Last week, Telemundo wrapped “Mi Corazon Insiste” and it’s shooting “Una Maid en Manhattan” while it preps two more telenovelas, “Relaciones Peligrosas” and “Caidas del Cielo.'”

Today Miami also serves as production base for Venezuela network Venevision’s “Sacrificio de Mujer” and “Eva Luna” plus Nickelodeon Latin America’s “Grachi.”

Unlike U.S. soaps, which run for years on end, telenovelas typically air in primetime and have finite storylines that average 120 episodes.

Telemundo’s telenovelas take up all five soundstages at its studio facility near Miami Intl. Airport, and the network will be renting additional studio space for the second season of “RPM Miami,” airing on its bilingual sister network Mun2 next year.

“We have 85 professionals working on each of these productions and we have an additional staff of 45 people that gives support service,” Mentz points out, “so it’s a lot of work that’s going on at our studios here.”

Sun shines, taxes fall, biz rocks | Studios swim to new locations | Miami rises as production hub for telenovelas