Entertainment

The 20 Most Influential Latino Characters Past And Present Who Changed Our Lives

It’s no secret that the characters we see on TV and the big screen hugely influence each of our psyches, and seep into society’s stereotypes. Growing up, we had very few Latino characters to look to on screen, but the ones that were there made a huge impact on us. We got to see a glorified example of how Latinos navigate this world, and as more Latinos take control in developing these characters, they’re more and more often representing who we really are: hella diverse in profession, skin color, dreams, and personalities.

Pues nos vamos, and we hope you agree that these are the gente that give Latinos permission to be whoever they want to be.

Gabrielle Solis in “Desperate Housewives”

@serienjunkies / Twitter

While Eva Longoria worked for ten long years in entertainment before her breakout role as Gabrielle Solis in “Desperate Housewives,” Solis has given her a major platform. She’s founded the Latino Victory Project and is super active in immigration reform legislation.

Plus, whatever you think of the show, we’re glad there was at least one Latinx family livin’ it up in the upper middle class.

Eva Rodriguez in “Center Stage”

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Eva Rodriguez, played by Afro-Dominican Zoe Saldana, in “Center Stage” (2000) was my actual idol growing up. My primas y yo were all in ballet together for a decade, and watching Eva give everyone that Latina attitude was everything. The best part was when she shocked everyone (specifically the racists) by stepping in last minute for the lead role.

Veronica Lodge in “Riverdale”

@jakesherondale / Twitter

Okay, yes. The Lodge Family is kind of enemy No. 1 on the show, and Veronica’s villainous super rich dad is confusingly hateful and sexy, but Veronica is an evolution. At first, we see her vie for her parent’s approval (so relatable), but ultimately relies on her integrity, which puts her at odds with her family. Regardless, it’s so much more exciting to watch a wealthy, sassy, elegant Latina play Veronica Lodge than another rich white girl.

Ruby Martinez in “On My Block”

@onmyblocktv / Twitter

There are too many loveable Latino characters in Netflix’s “On My Block,” but Ruby is a favorite. He’s not just another funny Latino kid in the background. His character is complex, and we get to know his family, including his abuelita who cannot be denied in anything… including testing out makeup looks and quince dresses.

Ana García in “Real Women Have Curves”

HBO

There’s not a single Latina who has not been given life by America Ferrera’s character in “Real Women Have Curves.” This movie came out in 2002, when heroine chic was all the rage and the closest thing to bopo was your abuelita lovingly calling you ‘gordita.’

It was a confusing time for anyone who didn’t wear a size 2, and Ana gave us a newfound feeling of empowerment. We deserve to take up space, and love our bodies because they give us life.

Allegra Acosta in “Marvel’s Runaways”

@marvelsrunaways / Instagram

Finally. Netflix’s “Marvel’s Runaways” has given us a female Latina superhero we can all look up to. She’s the youngest, most optimistic and actual strongest in the clan of superheroes.

Penelope Alvarez in “One Day at a Time”

Netflix

Thank Netflix for one of the best possible representations of Latinos that exist today. Cuban-American Penelope Alvarez, played by the incredible Justina Machado, is a retired vet, a single mother of two, and the Cuban mother we all swear we’ll be when we grow up.

We get to see her navigate living with her expat, Cuban proud mother (Rita Moreno), a quince-resistant daughter and totally transparent hairy Latina. Glad we can all finally stop pretending we don’t have ‘staches.

Elena Alvarez in “One Day at a Time”

Netflix

Watching Elena, played by Isabella Gomez, resist traditional customs, while feeling such a sense of community in her Cuban heritage; her coming out as lesbian and being warmly accepted by her super Catholic abuela and her mother; watching her blossom into a character that was so deeply relatable to me that I laughed and cried hysterically is a gift. Thank you to the ODAAT writers for Elena Alvarez.

Oscar Martinez in “The Office”

@MeganVictoria08 / Twitter

Did Oscar, played by Oscar Nunez, set his pendejo boss straight with his painfully ignorant and racist comments? Rarely. Somehow, watching accountant Oscar exist with an acute awareness that his identity is reduced to ‘gay Mexican’ in the eyes of some of his coworkers, and find solace in knowing he is by far the smartest, most rational intellect in the room, was a signal to all of us. Just know that we’re better than them and you’ll keep your head held high.

Tony Padilla in “13 Reasons Why”

@ohsimplething / Twitter

Today, Tony is one of the few male LGBTQ Latino characters on television and he’s much more complex than you might initially expect. He might look like a tough guy, and he certainly can look out for himself, but don’t expect to see him be victim or perpetrator of any kind of machismo.

Ricky Ricardo in “I Love Lucy”

@JZebrowskiChief / Twitter

At first, real life couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, faced resistance to allow his obvious Cuban-born accent and Latinidad onto television. The actor and couple persisted and Latino-Americans finally had a Latino to look to on television.

The Villanueva Family in “Jane the Virgin”

@cwjanethevirgin / Instagram

The CW has given Latinos what we’ve all been waiting for: a Spanglish telenovela series. We get all the come-back-to-life and evil twin plots we demand in any worthwhile series, but with life stories that matter to us, like immigration and classism.

Four generations of Boricuas under one roof also give at least four Latinxs jobs in television and we’re here for all of that.

Mariana and Jesus Foster in “The Fosters and Good Trouble”

@lonelywhorerose / Twitter

It is pure joy to watch Mariana Foster understand what it means to be Latina, even when you’re adopted into a non-Latino family. We watch her struggle to fit in, dye her hair blond, and reclaim her Latinidad all in one season. She’s a fierce go-getter, and the Jennifer Lopez produced show offers relatable content for anyone with an alcoholic/addict loved one in their lives.

Manny Rodriguez in “Modern Family”

@abcmodernfam / Instagram

“Modern Family” certainly perpetuates harmful stereotypes about the ‘spicy Latina’ but they got something right with Manny, who is very reminiscent of Junot Diaz’s Oscar Wao character. Manny is the antithesis of machismo, a champion for women’s rights, and a major woman-lover, not womanizer. We love seeing a sensitive, smart, Latino kid break stereotypes.

Blanca in “Pose”

@PoseOnFX / Twitter

Ryan Murphy’s new series, “Pose,” is giving jobs, platforms, and voice for transgender people on the screen. The fifth episode is all about what it was like for Blanca to come out as trans in the ’80s to her Latino family. Try not to sob at MJ Rodriguez’ performance.

Amy Santiago and Rosa Diaz in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

@nbcbrooklyn99 / Instagram

Hey look, there’s more than one Latino character on the same show! That means we have more proof that we’re just people, with different personalities, and variations of the same culture. Plus, when Stephanie Beatriz came out as bisexual, the writers had her character, Rosa, come out as well, with Beatriz’ own input changing many of the lines.

Ricky Vasquez in “My So-Called Life”

@audiohelkuik / Twitter

There was something so special about Rickie Vasquez’ character amidst the sea of ’90s era negative stereotypes of Latino criminals, drug lords, and delinquents. Plus, Rickie might have been one of the first positive gay Latinos on television, showing a character who could use the girls’ bathroom as a safe haven, rock jewelry, and makeup and be loved for it.

Melissa Villaseñor in “Saturday Night Live”

@melissavcomedy / Instagram

You might say that Villaseñor isn’t a character on SNL, but then I’d just know you haven’t watched SNL. Villaseñor has made history by becoming the first Latina member of the SNL cast, and has played probably hundreds of characters at this point. Proof that we’re funny right there.

Analisa ‘Ana’ Torres in “Grown-ish”

@grownish / Twitter

You might think that this Cal U. Latina, conservative Republican freshman isn’t a stereotype, but that’s because nadie ni nadie is doing research into how so many Latinos voted for Trump. The truth is that Ana Torres might be the first nod at this huge reality that made MAGA possible. She’s the daughter of Cuban immigrants, a devout Catholic and has some really absurdo things to say. While I’m not here for her politics, I’m here for the truth, and the truth is, Ana Torres exists tenfold.

Callie Torres in “Grey’s Anatomy”

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Unrelated to Ana Torres, Callie Torres was one of the first Latina’s on television with higher education. She was initially created to be disliked by George O’Malley’s friends, but viewers liked her so much that her character changed. Watching her come out to her Catholic father, who initially disowned her, was a heartbreak so many of us have feared.

Callie Torres is also the longest running LGBT character in television history, spanning over 11 seasons and 240+ episodes.


READ: These TV And Movie Characters Brought Bisexual Latinos To Life Because Representation Matters

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America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

Entertainment

America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

It has been 20 years since America Ferrera’s dream of becoming an actor back true. She took to Instagram to reflect on the moment that her dream started to come true and it is a sweet reminder that anyone can chase their dreams.

America Ferrera shared a sweet post reflecting on the 20th anniversary of working on “Gotta Kick It Up!”

“Gotta Kick It Up!” was one of the earliest examples of Latino representation so many of us remember. The movie follows a school dance team trying to be the very best they could possibly be. The team was down on their luck but a new teacher introduces them to a different kind of music to get them going again.

After being introduced to Latin beats, the dance team is renewed. It taps into a cultural moment for the Latinas on the team and the authenticity of the music makes their performances some of the best.

While the movie meant so much to Latino children seeing their culture represented for the first time, the work was a major moment for Ferrera. In the Instagram post, she gushes over the celebrities she saw on the lot she was working on. Of course, anyone would be excited to see Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt hanging out. Yet, what stands out the most is Ferrera’s own excitement to realize that she can make money doing what she loves most.

“I wish I could go back and tell this little baby America that the next 20 years of her life will be filled with unbelievable opportunity to express her talent and plenty of challenges that will allow her to grow into a person, actress, producer, director, activist that she is very proud and grateful to be. We did it baby girl. I’m proud of us,” Ferrera reflects.

Watch the trailer for “Gotta Kick It Up!” here.

READ: America Ferrera’s “Superstore” Is Going To Get A Spanish-Language Adaptation In A Win For Inclusion

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

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