‘Dora’ Revival Celebrates Latin Culture & Spanish Language

Kathleen Herles, the original voice of Dora, makes a return in the Paramount+ reboot

Dora Paramount+

Dora, Streaming on Paramount+. Photo Credit: Paramount+ © 2024 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, Dora and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.

In an era of reboots including One Day at a Time and Charmed to name a few, the major appeal seems to be nostalgia and that’s especially apparent when it comes to children’s programming. Revisiting the characters we watched on TV growing up brings up the little joys we felt tuning into our favorite shows. One of those beloved characters making a return to television is none other than the groundbreaking and iconic Dora The Explorer which originally aired from 2000-2014 with the final episodes airing in 2019. Known and loved for her adventurous spirit, effervescence, and her signature bilingual take on exploration, Dora will be making a comeback this year through the Paramount+ series reboot Dora. This highly anticipated return to television is also accompanied by the return of the original voice of Dora, first generation Peruvian American voice actress Kathleen Herles, who voiced her from 2000-2007, now voicing mami. Mexican American actress Diana Zermeño voices Dora in this reboot and previously voiced the character in the animated short, Dora and the Fantastical Creatures.

Diana Zermeno in Dora, Streaming on Paramount+. Photo Credit: Paramount+ © 2024 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Dora The Explorer is one of the most groundbreaking and recognizable television characters for an entire generation of children. Not only was she a staple of children’s television, she’s also historic as the first ever Latina animated character on Nickelodeon. Since then, Latinx representation remains low in children’s animated television which makes this reboot that much more significant. For many Latinxs, Dora was their sole representation on television, the only character they could identify with and share a cultural identity in a way that was actively celebrating it. From her excited “¡Hola!” to being a proud Latina celebrating her culture, Dora has impacted an entire generation to also celebrate their roots.

“I’ve heard people say many times, ‘Dora was the only character that I felt like I connected to, that I felt like I looked like.’ Hearing that sometimes it did make me feel a little sad because you know, as an animated character and a child to have that connection only on TV with an animated character, made me a little sad, but also happy that they had that,” Herles tells HipLatina. “Kids wanted to look like her. They had the hair cut, they wore the shorts and the pink shirt. It just shows how important representation is in all forms of media, animation, and TV. I think that’s why it’s important to keep telling her story and her being introduced now is kind of saying: Hey, we still need that, we still need the representation. Latinos, we still have a voice, we’re still here, we matter. This new generation needs to carry that on, carry that legacy on with them as well.”

Ten-year-old Zermeño shares the same sentiment, saying that “this representation is still needed now, as it was needed all those years ago.”  Zermeño has had her fair share of exploring Dora prior to taking on the role. She shares she loved watching the original series with her sister, even having a Dora backpack toy, like many Latinas of her generation. She describes getting the role as “unreal” and feels it to be “such an honor to be part of the show”. Herles is proud of the work Diana has done as Dora noting how listening to her voice the character was an emotional experience:  “I remember hearing her voice for the first time and I started to cry because I could hear kind of myself in her voice but just so happy that her voice just made me feel all of those things. I knew Dora was in good hands for sure.”

Kathleen Herles in Dora, Streaming on Paramount+. Photo Credit: Paramount+ © 2024 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved.

For Herles, she found her own full circle moment returning to the show as Mami, a significant shift for the 33-year-old whose own childhood is marked by her experience as Dora.

“I was cast when I was seven, and the show aired when I was ten. Growing up with the show, I especially didn’t know how big Dora was going to get, we didn’t know how iconic she would become. That was something that I was always processing even through my teen years. As an adult, thinking back on all of that, I definitely see it a little differently. I have a lot more appreciation and can see more of the importance of who Dora is and her representation. How much she mattered, and still matters to so many people, including myself. To be back as Mami and to continue to be part of the show, again, is such a full circle moment for me. I get emotional sometimes because Dora was such a big part of my life, even, my personal life. To be back, I don’t have words for it sometimes. I’m just so happy and excited to see how she’s going to be received. I know people will love her and I’m excited to see the legacy continue.”

Looking back at the original Dora, we remember the iconic theme song kicking off each episode and the happy-go-lucky Boots, her best monkey friend, following Dora along the way. This new iteration of the series includes several nods to the original with modern twists. The new theme song showcases Dora’s timeless adventurous spirit while the episodes include exciting musical sequences that teach viewers new words, taking us back to the original Dora teaching us about colors or how to dance the mambo at a quinceañera. This series will also explore more of Dora’s Mexican, Cuban and Peruvian ancestry, producer told The Telegraph.

Memorable characters like Dora’s guide and helper, Map and Backpack, are back as well with new versions of their own signature themes which are sure to have new audiences singing along. While this reboot is a revamped version of the original show, Dora’s love for exploration and her culture as well as the show’s commitment to interactiveness are what make this reboot nostalgic and exciting. Whether it’s teaching this new generation of kids about magical alebrijes or inspiring curiosity about loritos and nature, Dora continues to be a space for children to learn new words and about the world around them and learn about their cultura along the way. The signature fourth wall integrative style is still at play in the reboot including her signature pauses to let viewers repeat the words.

While an entire generation is familiar with Dora, this reboot will allow a new audience to know the catchphrases, feisty characters, and interactive learning process. The same way that many of us today grew up looking up to Dora, this new generation of children will get to experience that through this iteration with a wider range of Latin music and more of an exploration of Spanish language.

“It’s just exciting overall to see Dora and her evolution. Obviously, she looks a little different. Those people like Diana was saying, who watched the show growing up, they’ll feel the nostalgia,” Herles shares. “There will be similarities and things that they’ll hear or see that they’ll be like: ‘Oh, I remember that. I remember that from when I watched it growing up.’ It’ll be a little different, but it’ll be something new that they’re experiencing with whoever they’re watching it with and that’s what makes it special, too.”

The extended cast features Asher Colton Spence as Boots, Anairis Quiñones as Map, Marc Weiner as Swiper, Mike Smith Rivera as Papi, Katarina Sky as Backpack, and Maria Canals-Barrera as Abuela. The series will also feature guest stars such as the Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo playing Quickatoo and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo as Ale the Alebrije.

As of 2021, only 16.5 percent of voice actors identify as Latinx while women only make up 29.2 percent of all voice actors. This makes Latina voices even more of a rarity in voice acting and proof of how much more significant the original was when it first premiered. Herles was one of the few voices we had in animated television; a Latina who like a lot of Dora’s viewers was raised in an immigrant household where both English and Spanish met.

Dora was one of the few Latina characters who proudly spoke Spanish and through Herles genuine interpretation, showed us that there isn’t just one way to be Latina—there is no shame in continuing to learn your language. In voice acting, especially in the context of Latinxs and the stigma of speaking with an accent or speaking Spanish openly, Herles being a Latina voicing Dora helped increase visibility for Latinas in the animation space. Now she’s helping usher in this revival alongside Zermeño for a new generation to feel seen and celebrated and in doing so is continuing to provide much needed representation.

“A lot of people grew up watching Dora. A lot of those people are now adults and maybe they’re old enough to have their own kids or little siblings or nieces and nephews. I feel like that’s something they’ll want to share with them. It’ll be really special to have a show you grew up with and be able to also have your kids grow up with it,” Zermeño says.

Dora premieres on Paramount+ Friday, April 12, featuring 26 CG-animated 11-minute episodes.

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animated television Diana Zermeño dora Dora the Explorer Kathleen herles latina Nickelodeon Paramount+ Reboot
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