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Growing up with Dora: How Dora the Explorer Revolutionized Television

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SBU chapter.

Dora the Explorer: She’s a brave adventurer, a television icon, and a central part of my childhood.

I remember waking up in the morning, grabbing a bowl of Cheerios and plopping myself in front of an episode of Dora.

She taught me Spanish before I even knew what Spanish was. By the time I started learning Spanish in school, I could still vividly remember the words that Dora taught me when I was five, even though I hadn’t watched the show for many years.

I had a bob with bangs by the time I was four, a dress with Dora’s face on it (which was one of my favorites to wear). Even my bedsheets were Dora themed. I would go to sleep looking at Dora’s face and wake up looking at Dora’s face. So, I think it’s safe to say that I was a fan. 

When I look back on that time now, I see how incredible a show like Dora the Explorer was.

Revolutionary from the start:

The early 2000’s was not an era known for being diverse in its casting of main roles. Many shows and movies reserved the role of a side character for minorities. Mainstream kid’s TV shows didn’t feature many minority characters, and hardly ever in a lead role. So, to have a Latina girl as the central focus of an incredibly popular children’s show was monumental. 

Originally, however, Dora was supposed to be a forest animal according to one of the shows creators, Valeria Walsh Valdes. She stated that after a study came out that emphasized the lack of positive bilingual characters in kids television, they decided to make a change. On August 14, 2000, a little Latina girl named Dora invited the world to join in on her first adventure.

Dora the explorer was now one of the first Latina characters to be the lead role in a kid’s program.

ExploringCuriosity and Inclusiveness:

Dora was all about fostering curiosity and problem-solving skills within children around the world. She was known for “breaking the fourth wall” by addressing the show’s audience directly. This was a way for kids to engage with her adventures and practice the skills the show aimed to teach.

She was also teaching Spanish and giving representation to bilingual children and families across the nation.

By bring such wide-spread attention to Latin American culture, Dora was promoting acceptance of the Latino community in the U.S. during a time when the Hispanic, and specifically Latino, community in the country was facing persecution. Eric Weiner, a creator of the show stated in an interview with NPR, “at the time, Pat Buchanan was running for president, spewing all this hatred about, ‘we don’t want Spanish speakers in our country’.”

Dora first aired amid the chaos and brought the culture so many lawmakers were pushing back against to the forefront of television, planting a seed of acceptance and inclusivity within children and families across the nation.

Following the Map to our Hearts:

Whether Dora was asking me where Swiper was, or if I could pronounce the word “rojo”, I was always engrossed in the episode and ready to respond. I was being taught valuable skills as well as learning about a new language and culture, but I didn’t realize that. I was just going on an adventure with my friend Dora.

I am not Hispanic, so Dora belonged to a culture I was not a part of, but that did not stop me from loving her any less. I can only imagine how it felt for someone that did identify with parts of Dora’s culture to be able to see themselves represented on TV. 

Dora quickly rose to be a pop culture symbol that everyone recognized, whether you were a child or a grown adult.

Young Latino children were now being given widespread representation on a mainstream television network. Dora and all her explorations were emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and diversity in the world of children’s shows, and in an educational way. 

Whether or not you were a Dora kid back in the day, you can’t deny the impact she had on the television industry and kids across the globe.

Jessica Wikander is a new member of the Her Campus chapter at St. Bonaventure University this year, and is excited to write on topics such as movies, books, music, and so much more. She is also looking to get more involved in the world of writing and journalism as well as marketing while at school. Jessica is a freshman at St. Bonaventure University and is an undeclared communications major. Along with Her Campus, she has joined other on campus media outlets such as The Buzz, the campus radio station, and SBU-TV, the campus TV station. She also hopes to be a part of the Campus Conservationists Club, and the Jandoli School Women in Communications group. Back home, Jessica worked at her local public library for two and half years where she grew to love being surrounded by people who shared the same love of books and writing as her. On her own time, Jessica enjoys reading. She is a lover of classic literature, fantasy, and literary fiction. She also loves to crochet and is trying to learn how to knit. A comfort show of hers is New Girl, and is an avid period drama watcher and enthusiast. She is open to any discussions on her favorite pieces of media and is always looking for new recommendations of things to watch or read.