In her police mug shot, the doe-eyed cartoon heroine with the bowl haircut has a black eye, battered lip, and bloody nose. Dora the Explorer's alleged crime? "Illegal Border Crossing Resisting Arrest." It's just one of the doctored images of the Nickelodeon star floating around online, questioning her immigration status in much the way Tinky Winky the Teletubby's sexuality was questioned.
"Dora is kind of like a blank screen onto which people can project their thoughts and feelings about Latinos," says one sociology professor. Nickelodeon won't comment on Dora's background, which has never been made clear. She has brown skin and speaks Spanish, but with an American accent. She seems to live in an unnamed, borderless world, able to travel anywhere without consequence. "It's symbolic of the way many Latinos live ambiguously in the United States," says one Arizona gender studies teacher.