Too often television represents Latinos as sadistic gang members or saucy sexpots, but occasionally there’s a breakthrough.

Neal Justin

Ricky Ricardo

“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

“CHiPS” (1971-83)

Erik Estrada’s sparkling-white teeth probably did more for toothpaste than Colgate.

Chico Rodriguez

“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.

Rickie Vasquez

“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.

Gabrielle Solis

“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.

Betty Suarez

“Ugly Betty” (2006-10)

How fitting that an actress named America Ferrera would be such an outstanding representative for both Latinas and underdogs.

Gloria Pritchett

“Modern Family” (2009- )

She’s smarter — and richer — than she looks. Sofia Vergara is now the highest-paid actress on TV.