Latinxs have long had a love/hate relationship with Hollywood, including 90s TV. We love when we finally get the representation we deserve and work hard for, but hate that it’s such an uphill climb. We also dislike the fact that these wins are so few and far between, and often the roles that are given to us are stereotypical, one-dimensional, and harmful. But when everything aligns, and we are able to really represent what it means to be Latino, especially in Hollywood, it’s amazing.
Earlier, we shined a spotlight on Latinas who were holding it down on television during the 1980s. Today, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are showcasing five Latinas who made sure we were truly seen on 90s TV.
Luna Lauren Veléz
Half of Latino immigrant characters on television are portrayed as criminals. So, it’s a big deal when we get to see a badass Latina, especially an Afro-Latina, on the right side of the law. Luna Lauren Veléz held it down as Detective Nina Moreno on the hit show New York Undercover from 1995 to 1999. She also acted in several other TV shows during the 1990s, including Oz, Strange World, and The Cosby Mysteries.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a hugely popular show in the ‘90s that is still influencing pop culture today. One of its stars is Tatyana Ali, who plays cool rich girl Ashley Banks. The Panamanian actress began her Hollywood career as a child star, before landing the Bel-Air role; she also appeared on other TV shows in the ‘90s like Living Single and In the House.
Latinas often find themselves being trailblazers in Hollywood, paving the way for more of us to follow. Like Chicana Jackie Guerra, who became the first Latina to have her own sitcom, 1995’s First Time Out. In it, she plays Tracy Vilar, who is juggling law school, her own hair salon, and love. Guerra also could be seen on other television shows, including the ‘90s productions of Sister, Sister, and Dave’s World.
It’s hard enough for Latinx adults to get a break in Hollywood, so just imagine the extra difficulties a Latina child actor has to face. From 1992 to 1994, Mayteana Morales starred in the show Ghostwriter, as Gaby Fernandez. Ghostwriter follows a team of kids in New York who solve mysteries and crimes with the help of their ghost friend who communicates with them through writing.
Can you talk about Latinas in 1990s pop culture without mentioning Rosie Perez?! No, you cannot. The Afro-Nuyorican was one of the most-recognizable Latina faces we saw on the small screen, thanks to shows like New York Undercover, WIOU, and In Living Color. In that one, she famously choreographed The Fly Girls, including an unknown Jennifer Lopez, in addition to using her acting chops.