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Latino Americans

by Michael Shelton September 12, 2013 (Updated: 9:04 PM)
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WNIT Public Television proudly presents LATINO AMERICANS, a three-part, six-hour documentary series narrated by Benjamin Bratt on Tuesdays, September 17, September 24 and October 1 at 8pm and 9pm on 34.1.  It is the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape the United States over the last 500-plus years and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S.

LATINO AMERICANS features interviews with an array of individuals, including entertainer Rita Moreno, the Puerto Rican star of West Side Story and a winner of Academy, Tony, Grammy and Emmy Awards; labor leader and 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dolores Huerta, who in the 1960s co-founded with César Chávez the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers of America; Mexican-American author and commentator Linda Chávez, who became the highest-ranking woman in the Reagan White House; and Cuban singer and entrepreneur Gloria Estefan, who has sold more than 100 million solo and Miami Sound Machine albums globally.

The diversity of the Latino American experience is reflected in both the on-camera interview subjects and the filmmaking staff.  The production team, most of who are Latino Americans, includes individuals who are of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran and Dominicans heritage, among others.  In addition to Bratt as the narrator, award-winning composer and classical guitarist Joseph Julián González will compose the musical score for LATINO AMERICANS, and the acclaimed singer-songwriter Lila Downs will serve as the featured artist for the series, performing the closing song in LATINO AMERICANS.

LATINO AMERICANS relies on historical accounts and personal experiences vividly to tell the stories of early settlement, conquest and immigration; of tradition and reinvention; of anguish and celebration; and of the creation of this new American identity with an influx of arrivals from Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and countries in Central and South America.
The series is broken into the following six chronological segments that cover the 1500s to the present day:
September 17, 8pm

  1. September 17, 8pm - "Foreigners in Their Own Land" spans the period from 1500-1880, as the first Spanish explorers enter North America, the U.S. expands into territories in the Southwest that had been home to Native Americans and English and Spanish colonies, and as the Mexican-American War strips Mexico of half its territories by 1848.
  2. September 17, 9pm - "Empire of Dreams" documents how the American population begins to be reshaped by the influx of people that began in 1880 and continues into the 1940s, as Cubans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans begin arriving in the U.S. and start to build strong Latino-American communities in South Florida, Los Angeles and New York.
  3. September 24, 8pm - "War and Peace" moves into the World War II years and those that follow, as Latino Americans serve their new country by the hundreds of thousands— but still face discrimination and a fight for civil rights.
  4. September 24, 9pm - “The New Latinos” highlights the swelling immigration from Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic that stretches from the post-World War II years into the early 1960s as the new arrivals seek economic opportunities.
  5. October 1, 8pm - "Prejudice and Pride" details the creation of the proud Chicano identity, as labor leaders organize farm workers in California, and as activists push for better education opportunities for Latinos, the inclusion of Latino studies and empowerment in the political process.
  6. October 1, 9pm - "Peril and Promise" takes viewers through the past 30 years, with a second wave of Cubans arriving in Miami during the Mariel exodus and with hundreds of thousands Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and Guatemalans fleeing civil wars, death squads and unrest to go north into a new land—transforming the United States along the way. The debate over undocumented immigrants flares up, with a backlash that eventually includes calls for tightened borders, English-only laws and efforts to brand undocumented immigrants as felons. Simultaneously, the Latino influence is booming in music, sports, media, politics and entertainment. The largest and youngest growing sector of the American population, Latino Americans will determine the success of the United States in the 21st century.