by Pilar Portela, Media Relations Supervisor and LatinoWire Media Representative
Last month I attended a screening of Latino Americans, a 3 part, 6 hour documentary series made for television for Hispanic Heritage Month, along with a signing of the companion book Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation at the Excellence in Journalism 2013 conference in Anaheim, California. Ray Suarez, PBS Newshour Senior Correspondent and author of the Latino Americans companion book; and actor Benjamin Bratt, who narrates the documentary series, were on hand to discuss the project.
When asked why he became involved with the project, Ray Suarez shared:
I think the general audience will come away from reading the book, or listening to the audio book, and watching the TV series, with a much better grasp of American history, not just Latino history. I think Latino readers and viewers will understand not only their own family’s history better, but those of the other countries and cultures that have contributed to this `Latino moment’.
Latino Americans chronicles the rich and diverse 500 year history of Latinos in the United States. It covers everything from expansionism to the Wild West to World War II to the Great Depression to the Civil Rights movement. But immigration is at the heart of the series that has affected and continues to affect the Latino American experience. Featured in the series are entertainer Rita Moreno; labor leader and 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dolores Huerta; Mexican-American author and commentator Linda Chávez; Cuban singer and entrepreneur Gloria Estefan; and Univision Network Anchor María Elena Salinas, among others.
Neyda Martinez, PBS/WETA’s National Engagement Consultant for Latino Americans said, “This project has afforded me the pleasure to have conversations with national, regional and local leaders to develop partnerships on behalf of the series. What’s most exciting to me about this series is the impact it can have on young people for years to come.
“It’s very bold of PBS to roll out the series with the statement, ‘Latino American History is American History,’ and I love it!” continued Martinez:
“We’re not a boom, we’re not a fad, we’re not a trend. We’ve always been here, as University of Arizona Professor Roberto Rodriguez will explain in his blog piece. We’re a diverse people connected through history, culture and language redefining and reclaiming our place in a complicated contemporary world. In talking with educators and leaders around the country there’s renewed confidence and hope. We are here. We are today. We are tomorrow. It’s a very exciting time for our community. This series, in many ways, fits in to the cultural zeitgeist of the day.”
The special documentary will air during Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 (September 15-October 15) on Tuesdays: September 17, September 24, and Oct. 1 at 8:00 PM ET on PBS. It will also broadcast nationally on Vme, the Spanish-language channel on public television, over six consecutive Fridays beginning on September 20.
The companion book, Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation is published by Penguin/Celebra and is now available in English and Spanish and as an eBook.