Exactly 92 years ago today, in Santiago, Cuba, a Latino legend was born. His name was Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III (mi madre, what a name!), but American audiences got to know him by another, much shorter moniker: Desi Arnaz.
At 22, Arnaz's career took off when he made his Broadway debut as Manuelito Lynch in the musical Too Many Girls and went on to star in the 1940 movie version (along with one funny lady who would later become his wife: Lucille Ball).
But it was the situation comedy I Love Lucy—which ran for 126 episodes from 1952-1956—that would cement Arnaz’s status as a Hollywood TV star and Latino legend. He played Ricky Ricardo, a struggling Latin band leader married to a goofball housewife with showbiz aspirations. Amid network concerns that American audiences weren't ready for
TV's first multi-ethnic married couple—and even despite Desi's thick, Cuban accent—Lucy thrived, mainly because the show starred two excellent physical comedians at the height of their
creativity. Lucy was also the first program to parody Latinos in a
subversive, tongue-in-cheek way, and it set the benchmark for TV shows about unhappily married couples who
can't live with or without each other (a la Married with Children).
I Love Lucy is still considered a classic, and to this day you can catch it on the Hallmark Channel to wax nostalgic over the charsima and good looks of an undeniable talent like Desi Arnaz. Though the actor is no longer with us today (he died of lung cancer in 1986), his legacy lives on through three unforgettable words: “Lucy! I'm home!”
Are you a fan of I Love Lucy? And which Latino TV stars of today do you think people will remember 50 years from now?
WATCH: Ricky and Lucy learn better English on I Love Lucy