‘Latino Americans,’ New PBS Documentary Series, Is First On US Latino History

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The series will be aired on PBS this fall. Creative Commons

This fall, PBS will begin airing a three-part, six-hour documentary series on the evolution of "Latino American" identity, tracing its origins from the arrival of the Spanish to the Americas in the 1500s into the present day. The series will be narrated by actor Benjamin Bratt and feature interviews with almost 100 Latinos noted for their influence in politics, business and culture as well as chronicles of Latinos who lived through key points in American history.

The filmmaking team responsible for the project will include Emmy Award-winning Series Producer Adriana Bosch, Imagen Award-winning John Valadez, the ALMA Award-winning Ray Telles, the Peabody Award-winning Dan McCabe and the Emmy Award-winning Nina Alvarez. The broadcast will also be available in Spanish and be released in conjunction with a book by PBS senior correspondent Ray Suarez. 

"Latino American history is American history," Suarez told WETA Televison. "Through the paths of many individuals and communities we have come to a collective shared America, and in the 'Latino Americans' series and my companion book, we work against every notion of treating this great story as anything separate or apart from U.S. history. PBS is the essential home for sharing this important project with the nation."

Benjamin Bratt, the narrator, is of partial Peruvian descent (on his mother's side). In 2001, Bratt starred in the film "Piñero" as the Nuyorican poet and playwright Miguel Piñero, who co-founded the famed Nuyorican Poets' Café in New York. 

The documentaries will take a stab at a comprehensive history of Latino cultures in all of their diversity of backgrounds, countries, socioeconomic strata, educational levels and political agendas. It will also handle the creation of the "Latino American" identity through the arrival to the U.S. of immigrants from Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and countries in Central and South America.  

Ray Telles, who produced one of the six parts of the series, said in an interview that the idea for the series had been floated for the first time nearly 20 years ago. He and a team of producers had little luck in raising funding for it during a push in the mid-1990s. A second attempt at funding it, "about four or five years ago", was more successful.

Telles said the first show will cover the 1500s to the 1880s -- from the Spanish explorers' landing in North America up through the Mexican-American War. 

Lila Downs, a singer-songwriter born in Oaxaca, Mexico, will be the featured musical artist for the series and perform the closing song.

 

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