Too often television represents Latinos as sadistic gang members or saucy sexpots, but occasionally there’s a breakthrough.
“I Love Lucy” (1951-57)
Desi Arnaz practically invented the exasperated TV husband, not to mention the structure of the modern-day sitcom.
Officer Frank Poncherello
Erik Estrada’s sparkling-white teeth probably did more for toothpaste than Colgate.
“Chico and the Man” (1974-77)
What would Freddie Prinze have accomplished if he hadn’t died so young? One of TV’s great mysteries.
Lt. Martin Castillo
“Miami Vice” (1984-90)
The series was struggling in both ratings and tone until Edward James Olmos marched in and whipped everyone into shape.
“My So-Called Life” (1994-95)
The show was quickly canceled, but Wilson Cruz’s portrayal of an abused gay teenager will last forever.
Det. Bobby Simone
“NYPD Blue” (1994-2004)
Few play tough but sensitive guys better than Jimmy Smits. Who can forget Simone’s stoic deathbed scene?
Dora the Explorer
“Dora the Explorer” (2000- )
Currently voiced by Caitlin Sanchez, Dora is a welcome heroine to young Latinos and may have taught a few Anglos some Spanish as well.
“Desperate Housewives” (2004-12)
Far less well-known than her co-stars, Eva Longoria quickly became a fan favorite with her take on suburban princesses.
“Ugly Betty” (2006-10)
How fitting that an actress named America Ferrera would be such an outstanding representative for both Latinas and underdogs.
“Modern Family” (2009- )
She’s smarter — and richer — than she looks. Sofia Vergara is now the highest-paid actress on TV.