As the 2010s were starting, Ugly Betty was ending. It was in many ways the OG of Latinx shows: a telenovela crossover, airing on one of the big three networks (ABC), starring America Ferrera and featuring her Mexican-American family. Arguably, its success opened the doors for the Latinx shows that followed.
Unfortunately, that door is barely ajar. We’re still vastly underrepresented in media in network leads, side characters, and even speaking parts. That said, in the ten years since Ugly Betty ended, “television” has exploded with streaming services and more and more scripted shows. We may not have gotten our fair share of that ever-growing pie but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to celebrate.
As we step into the 2020s and the era of Disney++, let’s take a minute to remember the great Latinx shows of this decade. We’re defining the category loosely — it just needs to have made an impact on the E.E.U.U. market and center Latinx characters, either as the protagonist a la Ugly Betty or within its ensemble (so we couldn’t include shows like Mozart in the Jungle with just one, albeit great, Latinx character).
Check out our top twenty Latinx shows of the 2010s, ranked and let us know how your favorites stack up!
Shades of Blue
If the last decade taught us anything, it’s that you should watch Jennifer Lopez any chance you get. Shades of Blue didn’t exactly win a lot of awards but that doesn’t mean its three seasons aren’t worth a watch. It certainly exemplifies the 2010s trend of movie stars headlining small-screen productions.
The cartel story is overdone but you can’t make a list of Latinx shows of the 2010s without including Narcos. Starting in 2015, this critically-acclaimed Netflix series tells the story of the famed kingpin Pablo Escobar (no relation) and doesn’t pull its punches. Plus, the show proved the crossover success of actors like Wagner Moura and Pedro Pascal.
Netflix’s Mr. Iglesias is a throwback, family comedy featuring the warm lighting and laugh tracks of earlier decades. With Gabriel Iglesias in the titular role, the show turns structural problems in education into comedy with heartwarming moments about what a difference a good teacher can make. Its diverse cast (Sherri Shepherd, Jacob Vargas, Maggie Geha, among others) lets everyone in on the fun, even as the show centers the Latinx experience.
Executive produced by none other than Eva Longoria, Devious Maids had its fair share of representation issues (the maids premise!) but still managed to win over our hearts. We loved seeing our favorites — Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty), Dania Ramirez (Heroes), Roselyn Sánchez (Grand Hotel), and Judy Reyes (Scrubs) — lead an hour on Lifetime. We just wish the show had gotten the proper ending it deserved!
This Sons of Anarchy spin-off features Edward James Olmos as the patriarch and while, we’d watch him in anything, Mayans M.C. is great in its own right. In it, Olmos is an important supporting character, the dad of protagonist Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (J. D. Pardo) and Angel Reyes (Clayton Cardenas). We’re a bit tired of the Latinx-as-drug-traffickers idea, but love how the show creators emphasize the indigenous from the show’s (and motorcycle club’s) name to each episode’s title.
Set in LA and airing on Hulu, Marvel’s Runaways is the rare show to get the city’s diversity right. There’s the titular squad who are Latinx, Black, white, and Japenese American; gay, straight, and bi; male and female; healthy and mentally ill. And there’s how Runaways portrays neighborhoods like Brentwood and South Central, dramatizing the extreme disparity without valorizing one or the other. That four of the six principles are women and two are Latina helps too.
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#TBT 5 YEARS AGO TODAY, my sitcom “Cristela” premiered on TV. In my #MusicToMyYears book, I wrote about how diversity is needed BEHIND the scenes. In order for minorities to have a chance, there needs to be gatekeepers like them, familiar w/cultures in order to have them thrive. Here’s proof: This pic is the show poster they wanted to use for my show. I’m wearing a quinceañera crown with my name on it and they’re calling me the “reina” of comedy. Why did they have to do that? Because they thought it would appeal to my ‘my’ people. This was only 5 years ago. I talk more about it in my book. Pick it up and read all the other BS I had to deal with. It’s under the “Lose Yourself” chapter. BTW, I fought against it, they ended up cropping it and thinking I was difficult for having done so. #booksagram
Cristela may have aired for just one glorious season, but that doesn’t make Cristela Alonso’s achievements any less noteworthy. We’re talking about the first Latina to create, write, and star in her own primetime sitcom. She introduced millions of Americans to the Mexican-American Hernandez family with nary a maid or drug dealer insight.
Stephanie Beatriz famously assumed she was out of a role when she heard that Melissa Fumero had been cast on the cop comedy Brooklyn 99. “There’s no way in hell a major network is gonna cast two Latina actresses in such a tight ensemble show I AM SCREWED,” she thought. But six seasons and one network change later, the two Latinas are going strong with dramatically different characters on the spot-on comedy.
Queen of the South
A telenovela crossover, Queen of the South puts a new spin on the Latinx-as-drug-runners trope: this time women are in charge. Alice Braga’s titular Teresa Mendoza is a compelling antihero who wants to run a better cartel. But is killing fewer people in the deadly drug business really a noble cause? Only tuning in will let you find out.
Absurdist comedy, Los Espookys follows a group of friends who are trying to turn their love of horror into a full-time gig by offering “spooks” for hire. The brainchild of Fred Armisen, Ana Fabrega, and Julio Torres, the HBO show is delightfully wacky, even as it takes shots at US imperialism with running gags about the US ambassador and pyramid scheme “Hierbalite.” Plus, we love seeing a bilingual show get the HBO star treatment.
On My Block
Netflix’s On My Block is a Black and brown teen caper, taking place in the fictional South Central LA neighborhood of Freeridge. The show portrays gangs, street violence, and immigration as just facts of life for our four friends. Mixing in a screwball treasure hunt and blue comedy, On My Block is pitch-perfect teen fare.
La casa de las flores
Manolo Caro’s La casa de las flores updates the telenovela genre, mixing in family epic, social critique, and raw exuberance. With stand-out performances from Verónica Castro and Cecilia Suárez, the show has proved popular with millennial audiences on both sides of the border. Expect this show’s influence to extend well into the 2020s.
East Los High
Back in 2013, an original streaming show was still a novelty. Indeed, East Los High came out a few weeks before streaming pioneer Orange Is The New Black. But Hulu wasn’t messing around, feeding its young, tech-savvy (aka Latinx) audience exactly what it wanted, which in the case of East Los included a Boyle Heights setting and impressive dance routines. The show even worked with advocates (including yours truly) to health foster healthy relationships and sexual experiences among Latinx teens and 20-somethings.
America Ferrera leads the NBC comedy, Superstore, as Amy Sosa, mom and eventual manager of a Walmart-type store. This workplace sitcom wrings laughs from what it’s really like to be working class in the 2010s with plotlines about health insurance, making ends meet, and unionization. Bonus points for how it handles immigration – it turns out Latinx aren’t the only people without papers.
Orange Is The New Black
Heralding the start of the streaming era, Orange Is The New Black didn’t start off as a Latinx show. But before long, it was giving us a more meaningful, intergenerational portrayal of Latinas than you’ll see just about anywhere else. After all, it launched the careers of Dasha Polanca, Jackie Cruz, and Diane Guerrero while showcasing the talent of more veteran actresses like Selenis Leyva and Elizabeth Rodriguez.
One Day At A Time
Long before the 2010s, Norman Leer helped invent TV as we know it. So it makes sense he teamed up with Gloria Calderón Kellett to make the definitive, updated, Latinx family sitcom, One Day At A Time. The whole cast is amazing with Justina Machado backed up by EGOT winner Rita Moreno and newcomers Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz. Thankfully, ODAAT is continuing into the 2020s on PopTV after Netflix betrayed the Latinx community by canceling the fan-favorite earlier this year.
With stunning visuals, a stellar cast, and a mind-bending mystery, Undone is a TV-lover’s dream. It’s set in one of the most Latinx cities in the nation (San Antonio) and follows protagonist Rosa Salazar as Alma and her community which, of course, includes her mom (Constance Marie) and sister (Angelique Cabral). With season two already announced, Undone is ready for the Latinx canon, based on the first season alone.
Pose is taking the world by storm, racking up statues from the Emmys to the Peabody. Set in New York’s ballroom scene of the ’80s and ’90s, the show features LGBTQ creatives of color learning to thrive in a hostile climate. Afro-Latino co-creator Stephen Canals isn’t shy about his ambitions for the show: “I’m hoping that on the heels of my success we’ll see more doors open so that more people of color, more LGBT people, and more women will have more opportunities.”
Jane the Virgin
Running from 2014-2019, Jane the Virgin defines the decade for Latinx shows. For one, it revels in its Latinx premise, centering an intergenerational Venezuelan American family and tackling issues ranging from religion to immigration. The show’s genius is in how it empathizes and humanizes each of its characters, even as it gives them out-of-this-world telenovela obstacles to deal with (like accidental, artificial insemination).
Tanya Saracho’s Vida is a damn-near perfect show. Its characters, themes, and plotlines all manage to be complicated and compelling, with no easy answers insight on issues ranging from gentrification to sexuality to identity. Beautifully acted and beautifully shot, it’s also one of the sexiest shows on television with pairings running the gamut of gender expression. The first two seasons are enough to make you subscribe to Starz.