Recently much has been made in the news of the changing demographic of America, specifically how Latinos are becoming a large portion of the country as a whole. This is not lost to Television. In terms of how Hispanic americans are represented in television we’ve come a long way from Speedy Gonzalez or his cousin slow poke Rodrigues (my personal favorite) .
As a result of the shift in the capture market television networks have developed shows that go after or incorporates this demo in the content. Children’s television has followed this overall trend. In the case of Disney they had incorporated Latino characters into their lineup of live action shows like Lizzy McGuire and Even Stevens in the early 2000s. Prior to that Disney made attempts into the Hispanic market by taking shows being produced for their Spanish language channels in latin America and offering them in cable packages in the United States. When it was clear that there was an audience for this they began creating shows with diverse casts.
Then Dora happened.
No show has been able to come close to being a bilingual children’s juggernaut like Dora the Explorer. Premiering in 2000 it was a success that crossed all demos. The format is bilingual and is geared towards preschoolers something that would have been unheard of ten years earlier
Dora wasn’t the first children’s show to have a major Hispanic character that honor goes to Sesame Street with Luis and Maria. The reason for the casting choice is the original Sesame Street was meant to appeal to inner city kids and be an aide in educational development. A bilingual format was utilized by Sesame Street then and is still used today.
In 1991 Sesame Street had a new Muppet character named Rosita who was bilingual and taught children Spanish words the very similar to how Dora’s format works. Along the way more characters have been added along with my personal favorite Ovejita who works with Murray Monster in the People in Your Neighborhood segment. This change in format much like the change in population dynamics is not a trend but how things will continue to evolve since a multilingual country will need a multilingual children’s content.