If you were born in the late 90’s or early 2000’s, our generation of shows and cartoons had more diverse characters who actually represented more than a stereotype. Thinking back to my childhood, I honestly wasn’t aware of the value that diverse, especially Latino characters had societally in the same way I do at age 21.
While I’m sure we all knew and enjoyed the most well-known Latino characters, including Maya y Miguel, Dora, and Diego from “Go Diego Go”, I look back to think of characters that weren’t always at the forefront. Nowadays the Latino characters that had the greatest impact on me, the ones that gave me something to identify with, whose voice I aspired to have, or who frankly made me crack up in laughter the most, were side or even background characters.
These characters are primarily from Disney; that’s what I personally was drawn to as a little girl, but truly that isn’t to say that other channels, shows and movies didn’t inspire other youngin’s of my generation. With that said, I’ll categorize my personal favorite and underrated characters into the side and main characters.
The Side and Underrated Characters
These characters honestly had some of the most personality and when I was a youngin’, I could only dream of being as cozy in my skin as these folks were.
So without further ado, the characters that I feel deserve a shoutout include….
Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramirez
Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramirez was played by Adrian R’Mante in the Disney Channel Original Series titled “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”. The iconic night doorman was of Peruvian nationality.
Esteban highlighted the lovely accent that many migrant and first generation Latinos have. His sassy personality made him as, if not more memorable than some of the main characters in my personal book.
His most meme-worthy line was that of when he was called a thief and he dropped his entire government name. I personally have four names. So when I heard Esteban quickly, smoothly say his own name that is two to four names longer than my own, I grew that much more comfortable with the fact that I have a long name myself.
Rico Suave was played by Mioses Arias in the Disney Channel Original Series titled “Hannah Montana”. To be honest, I was mostly watching the show for the double life storyline, but I deeply enjoyed Rico as a character. I don’t believe he was in every episode, but when he was, I knew I was in for a good time.
Rico had a lot of dramatic one liners and was entirely too flirtatious for his age in the most hysterical way ever. He would frequently mention his billionaire parents and while his nationality was never explicitly mentioned, he wasn’t afraid to rip out some spanish here and there with the most iconic r-roll ever.
The most memorable characteristic of Rico was the way he said his name. While it’s not an “ethnic” in my opinion, I always knew he had Latino roots. Personally, I had a lot of trouble being proud of or even advocating for my long first name, but whenever Rico would say he was his own hype-man, it really did validate my own name.
LaCienega Boulevardez- The Proud Family
LaCienega Boulevardez is a supporting character in the Disney Channel series The Proud Family which aired from 2001 until 2003. She is the main character Penny Proud’s frenemy. Although she was mostly portrayed as a mean girl type of character throughout the series. LaCienega cared about her friends, she even showed her vulnerable side during the episode Love Thy Neighbor where she was bullied for having large feet.
The reboot of Disney Plus’ Louder and Prouder’ explores LaCienega in a new light. She is still the same sassy, sensitive, and strong character that she was however, this time the series allows audiences to have a deeper look into why LaCienega has put up this tough exterior. The show also celebrates her Latina heritage by dedicating an entire episode to her quinceanera.