22 Strong Latinos On TV Who Awesomely Defy Stereotypes
It’s no secret that representation of Latinos on TV is, to put it mildly, not great. Very few are present in mainstream TV and movies and, more often than not, we’re cast to play stereotypes and/or minor roles. The world needs to see more realistic Latinos reflected back into their living rooms. You know, the awkward Latinos. The smart Latinos. The downright weird Latinos. So let’s take a moment to celebrate the awesomely odd Latinos on TV we DO get to see (and hope that soon we’ll get to see many, many more):
1. April Ludgate
April was not here to entertain you, be the sassy best friend or be reduced to just another pretty face. In fact, she’d rather you not be happy at all, because super happy people are kind of annoying. It was pretty great (and different) to have a Latina on TV who was smart, sarcastic and flawlessly flawed.
2. Amy Santiago
We say this with love: Amy’s a dork. Like, the dorkiest dork who ever dorked. But her dorky weirdness is just so endearing! She’s a people pleaser, an overachiever and truly, incredibly, hopelessly awkward. Just like a lot of us are, tbh.
3. Rosa Diaz
Rosa is a badass to the core, but don’t let her tough exterior fool you: she is layered and is half of the greatest current-day sitcom friendships we’ve seen in a while. Her toughness is balanced by the fact that she’s… kind of weird. Like, owns-an-ax-and-doesn’t-let-her-coworkers-know-where-she-lives level weird.
4. Cristela Hernandez
Cristela was a combination of incredibly ambitious and kiiiind of prone to complaining, which is realistic af to most of us. Sure, she wasn’t always the nicest sister or best employee in the whole world, but she was always smart, loyal, funny as hell and HUMAN.
5. Carmen Peña
Carmen was, in a word, awkward. Especially around dudes. She was the good kid while her brother, Joe, was the troublemaker of the family. It’s a dynamic a lot of girls growing up in Latino families, especially immigrant and exile families, can really relate to. Cheers to the weird, nerdy girls!
6. Jane Villanueva of Jane the Virgin
The beloved Jane is a Latina character who doesn’t rely on heavy accents or maid costumes. Gina Rodriguez plays a witty Latina who is focused on her goals. But, she’s got to grapple with bringing to full term a baby that she was accidentally inseminated with. Yea, wrap your head around that last sentence. #AsiEslaVida
7. Laurel Castillo of How to Get Away with Murder (Karla Souza)
Mexican actress Karla Souza plays the sharp and intrepid Laurel Castillo, who has both the wits to aide her law professor in solving court cases, as well as an under-the-radar darkness that keeps viewers on their toes. Laurel’s last name made us question if she had Latina roots, and the show answered our hypothesis when she was shown in a flashback with her Spanish-speaking Florida family.
8. Rodrigo de Souza of Mozart in the Jungle (Gael García Bernal)
Gael Garcia Bernal’s character Rodrigo De Souza, an eccentric conductor trying to keep the magic of symphony orchestra alive, is based off the real-life Latino conductor who is bringing the joy of classical music to thousands: Gustavo Dudamel. So it was a double ? ? that Gael won a Golden Globe for his performance! A real “si se puede” moment.
9. Alonzo Gutierrez of American Crime (Benito Martinez)
The first season of this ABC network show featured several Latino characters. However, we couldn’t be particularly proud of them since they were having run-ins with the law. Benito Martinez’s character, Alonzo Gutiérrez, stood out from the bunch though as the hardworking and dedicated father of character Tony.
10. Daya of Orange is the New Black (Dascha Polanco)
Dascha’s character Dayanara “Daya” Diaz has an intriguing backstory and storyline in OITNB. Although drugs are involved with her character’s history, the circumstances surrounding her story still make us proud. And of course, OITNB has brought a whole host of Latinas – Diane Guerrero, Jackie Cruz among them – into the spotlight. We applaud that!
11. Chava of Club de Cuervos (Luis Gerardo Méndez)
Netflix made the push into Latin America by premiering its first Spanish-language series, Club de Cuervos. The comedy stars Luis Gerardo Méndez as Chava, a spoiled party boy who inherits his late father’s club soccer team. Despite having more experience partying with players than managing a huge corporation, Chava swears he has ALL the right answers (spoilers: he doesn’t). Futbol and #Netflixandchill? We’re in!
12. Harlee Santos of Shades of Blue (Jennifer Lopez)
J.Lo is back on the small screen, everyone!!! This time, as tough NY detective Harlee Santos. After years of doing not-quite-by-the-book police work, Santos has to do whatever it takes to protect her family. We know Jenny from the Block kicks ass in real life (fashion, live dance routines, being a fierce #cougar), and now we’re excited to see her do it on TV.
Manny is basically an old man trapped in a kid’s body. He takes his coffee black, values good old-fashioned manners and dresses like your dad at a family BBQ. He’s weird in the most awesome way, especially because he doesn’t compromise who he is to fit in. Do you, Manny.
How often do we get to see emo/goth/alt Latinos on TV? Flaca, besides having impeccable taste in music, is an example of taking a character that could very easily have been reduced to a stereotype, and making her complex, complicated and someone we’ll always want to know more about it.
15. Betty Suarez
Betty started off as a fish out of water in the fashion world, her quirkiness and awkwardness confusing many of those around her. She didn’t really fit in with the beauty standards of her peers and she knew it. Eventually, she developed a sense of confidence and independence that we couldn’t help but root for. Stay awk, Betty.
16. Rickie Vasquez from “My So-Called Life”
It all seems like yesterday, but looking back at the 90s its hard not to flinch at the reminders of how rampant negative portrayals of Latino characters and homosexuals was. And yet, a positive representation of the LGBT community unexpectedly emerged on a little teen drama called “My So-Called Life.” Rickie Vasquez. He rocked a mean eyeliner, used the girls’ bathroom as a safe haven, and kept his friends in check while remaining fiercely loyal to them. Rickie was a massive launching pad for TV’s understanding of sexual fluidity that the 90s desperately needed.
17. A.C. Slater from “Saved by the Bell”
Muscles ― lo siento, Mario ― Mario Lopez portrayed U.S. Army Brat A.C. Slater and took things to a next level for us (sexuality wise) after Benny Rodriguez. One peck ripple from A.C. and there’s no questioning what stripped us of the remainder of our Latina youth. And still, despite A.C’s heritage never being a thing in the early days of SBTB (though, there is an entire episode dedicated to Slater discovering his Chicano identity in “The College Years”) we all knew what was up. Besides Lisa Turtle, A.C. was one of the few people of color portrayed on the show which was a big deal considering how massive the show was. It always felt good knowing that we could flip on the TV and see someone who looked like us. LBR, especially one that was so guapo.
18. Ashley Banks from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
Ashley Banks herself might not have been a Latina character, but Tatyana M. Ali whose parents are Trinidadian and Panamanian identifies herself as Afro-Latina. As a non-Latina character on the show, there’s no doubt Ashely still had some influence on us as kids. She was a smart, beautiful and witty girl of color and TV was missing quite a bit of that. While initially, young Ashley did her best to model her dope older cousin Will, it wasn’t long before she began to grow into her own. She developed her own taste in music and fashion all while pushing against the tight reins of father Phil. In short, she became ultimate #rebelforindepence goals.
19. Valencia Perez from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Valencia Perez is the kind of girl we love to hate; beautiful, a yoga instructor, and the apple of almost everyone’s eye. The great thing about “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is that they don’t just make her a bitch because she was dating Josh (Rebecca’s old flame) – she’s a character that feels like a real person, and Gabrielle Ruiz plays her perfectly.
20. Rosita Espinosa from “The Walking Dead”
Hey, if you’re still alive during the Zombie Apocalypse, you automatically get so many badass points. Rosita Espinosa is still kicking it (but with this show, who knows for how long), and she’s become one of the show’s most central characters. Whether it’s her friendship with Eugene, or her kickass fighting, walker-killing skills, she’s definitely someone that sticks out in the series.
21. Dr. Callie Torres in “Grey’s Anatomy”
Dr. Callie Torres appeared in 240 episodes of the mega hit “Grey’s Anatomy.” That’s pretty damn impressive. She was strong, loved dancing, and an orthopedic queen. You better believe that on a show like “Grey”‘s, this character has gone through some major ups and downs, which only makes her an amazing multi-dimensional character.
22. Penelope from “One Day At A Time”
Let’s be real, Penelope Alvarez is the Cubana American television has been deprived of for way too long. From addressing her PTSD to learning how to be an accepting mother of a queer Latina, Penelope is a Latina with a life filled with joys and obstacles.
23. And finally this kid, who just wants to be hardcore
READ: 6 Myths Latinas Can’t Live Down Thanks to Stereotypes on TV
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