Latinas and femme Latinxs may be the least likely to be represented on TV but that doesn’t mean we’re absent. So let’s end the year by celebrating the show’s we led in 2020. Yes, the Coronavirus meant some of our favorites didn’t drop new episodes this year (come back, Pose! We miss you Queen of the South) and yes, Latinas and femme Latinxs generally appear as supporting characters or as part of ensembles (and we’re great in these roles — watch Brooklyn 99, Gentefied, On My Block, etc. to see what I mean). But we also helm shows. So let’s take a moment to shout out the series that centered Latinas even if our glory was underrepresented:
Tanya Saracho concluded her beautiful, queer tale of prodigal Boyle Heights daughters this year and we miss it so much. Vida follows Lyn and Emma Hernandez’s return to Boyle Heights as they uncover long-held family secrets and face down the seemingly all-powerful gentrification. The third and final season dropped in 2020 and brought us Latinx drag kings, Chelsea Rindon’s Mari rise as an influencer, and of course, the most fabulous doble-quince you’ve ever seen.
Rosario Dawson played detective Felicity Dill on USA Network’s Briarpatch. Based on a novel by Ross Thomas, the show’s creators exchanged the white, male lead with Dawson and so changed the meaning, consequence, and joy of every scene, every interaction. With Dawson as the lead, Briarpatch dramatized old Texas racism using magical realism and satire, making the old genre story new again.
Julie and the Phantoms
Netflix’s answer to High School Musical, Julie and the Phantoms is a joy, centering Boricua Madison Reyes in the titular role. There’s singing and dancing, ghosts and magic, teens and coming of age. In its first season, Julie and the Phantoms does what so many of these shows do — centers a Latina and lets her shine.
One Day at a Time
If One Day at a Time were about a white family (not just a largely white-passing one), we wouldn’t be saying goodbye after four seasons and one network jump. Especially with talents like Justina Machado and EGOT Rita Moreno, not to mention breakout performances for teens Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz. This show was heartwarming, funny, and timely. We’re sad to say goodbye but excited to see what showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellet does next.
Roswell: New Mexico
We got the second season of this CW reboot and I have to say, I loved it. There were more Latinas thanks to Amber Midthunder’s Rosa awakening and Jeanine Mason’s Liz shinning alone as her love interest Max slept for much of the season. And we got the same silly, campy, fun of the Roswell: New Mexico we know and love, with 90’s and early 00’s music, commentary on immigration and other social issues, and beautiful New Mexican backgrounds.
Saved by the Bell
While we prefer original stories, we enjoyed the Peacock reboot of our childhood favorite, Saved by the Bell. Starring Latinas Haskiri Velazquez in the Zack Morris role and Alycia Pascual-Peña as her best friend, the show passed the Burgos test (we just made that up but it’s basically two Latinas talking to each other not about a man or food. In fact, Saved by the Bell worked where so many predecessors have failed. The trick? Not taking itself too seriously or pretending like its source material was flawless.
We’ve been rooting for Station 19 and the show finally got good thanks to previous Grey’s Anatomy head writer Krista Vernoff taking over. Now Jaina Lee Ortiz’s Andrea Herrera shines outside her father’s shadow (or her husband for that matter). She’s learning about her past, expressing more of her latinidad, and generally being a more multi-dimensional person in a more complex universe. Give us more!
These aren’t even all the shows that starred Latinas this year! An honorable mention goes to Queen’s Gambit, which starred (white) Latina actress Anya Taylor Joy, playing a white, white character. We’re also still rooting for Charmed — it lost its way after its first season but started to recover before the pandemic cut its second season short. Superstore also deserves a shout out — we’re just not sure it qualifies with America Ferrera on her way out. And lastly, there was Selena: The Series, which was, well, not great — and that’s ok.
Here’s to 2021 and more of us taking up more of the screen in shows great and average, smart and silly. We’ll still watch them all.