It doesn’t matter where you grew up, anyone who is Latinx can instantly recognize the characters from El Chavo del Ocho. This Mexican sitcom first aired from 1973 ’till 1980, but the reruns allowed it to be part of the next generation’s childhood.
Roberto Gómez Bolaños, best known as Chespirito, created and starred in the show as a boy named El Chavo, who lives in a low-income neighborhood. Instead of having child actors, the show featured adult comedians playing children, adding an extra layer of silliness.
Xuxa became a Latinx icon for her role as the host of this children’s show. The show started out in Xuxa’s native country, Brazil, under the name Xou da Xuxa. It later moved to Argentina, where the language switch from Portuguese to Spanish allowed it reached many households in Latin America and the US. It featured games and lots of dancing.
Before Hannah Montana, there was Mariana and Silvana. But instead of a pop star living a double life, this children’s telenovela focused on pop star twins (both played by famed child star-turned-pop star Belinda).
In true novela fashion, the twins were separated at birth, but are reunited when they’re 12 years old. One of them, Mariana, can sing, but Silvana doesn’t share that talent, so Mariana pretends to be Silvana so they can get a spot in a children’s musical group. In case you blocked this show from your memory, surely “El Baile Del Sapito” can bring it all back.
For a novela, Cómplices was actually pretty wholesome – at least, for the most part. But before Cómplices, the cast was part of a darker story. This one is about a group of friends united by their love for music, but each kid had their own share of struggles at home.
Martín Ricca stars as Pedro, who faces an extremely tough time at school and is mistreated by its administration. (I vividly remember watching a scene as a kid where he’s forced to write with right hand because he’s a lefty and is forced to get a haircut.) Belinda also stars as Ana, who experienced her own share of hardships and has trouble speaking due to trauma. She also has magical powers, because, hey, anything’s possible in novelas. They find solace in each other and form a long-lasting friendship.
Taina was short-lived on Nickelodeon, but it left a big impact on Latinx millennials who watched it. Christina Vidal, who at the time was the Latina It Girl on both Nickelodeon and Disney projects, starred as the titular character, a Nuyorican with aspirations to be a star. The show was special because it was one of the few representations of Latinx culture on mainstream TV at the time and had Latinx icons like Cristina Saralegui in supporting roles.
Taina only lasted one season, but at least Nickelodeon gave us The Brothers García. It centered around a Mexican-American family living in Texas. Like many Nickelodeon shows, it was very wholesome and showed how close and supportive the family was to each other. The show became a huge deal for Latinxs because, at the time, it was the only one to portray a middle-class Latinx family in prime time.
Latinxs know that long before Ugly Betty, there was the Colombian telenovela that started it all. Ana María Orozco stars as Betty, who has a hard time getting a job despite having a stellar resume because she’s not attractive (yes, it’s a very problematic storyline). She finds luck when Armando, the womanizing president of a fashion company reluctantly hires her as his secretary.
It’s not a telenovela without some romance, so of course Betty and Armando end up falling in love – and, of course, she gets a makeover. Given how the premise certainly hasn’t aged well (and neither did its American counterpart), Telemundo created a remake in 2019 that has a more positive spin on it, titled Betty en NY.
This variety show was hosted by Don Francisco, turning him into one of TV’s most prominent Latinx icons. It was one of those shows that the whole family would gather to watch. But looking back, there are certain aspects of Sábado Gigante that were absolutely bonkers. One of them is El Chacal. He’s the show’s mascot of sorts and he’s an executioner. Yup, you read that right! On the show, people would be brought on to sing. If they didn’t perform well enough, El Chacal would blow his trumpet and escort them out to be “fed” to “lions” as the crowd chanted, “Fuera!”
Mexican music-based telenovelas like the previously mentioned ones were targeted towards kids, but this one was sultrier, edgier, and meant for teens. It’s basically Netflix’s Elite but substituting the murder mystery with music.
The show revolves around a prestigious academy called Elite Way School that offers a scholarship for students that excel academically, but those students are tormented by a secret society called La Logia who want to push out scholarship kids. But when some of the popular students form a pop group called RBD, they find that they have more in common with their classmates and join forces.
The show became a huge hit in part because it had some genuinely catchy pop songs. I admittedly only watched a couple of episodes of the show but I couldn’t escape the phenomenon of Rebelde in middle school and still remember the words to songs like “Sólo Quédate en Silencio” and “Nuestro Amor.”
News – 9 TV Shows That Were A Huge Part Of Latino Millennials’ Childhoods