Photo: Benjamin Bratt
The meeting of the Television Critics ASSOCIATION, PBS announced that Benjamin Bratt to narrate ctor LATINO AMERICANS, a landmark six-hour documentary in three parts which will be broadcast nationally on PBS in the fall of 2013. It is the first major television documentary series recounting the experiences and the rich and varied history of Latinos, who have contributed to the transformation of the United States for over 500 years and have become, with over 50 million people , the largest minority in the U.S.
Bratt, of Peruvian mother and a German father and English, and recognized with numerous awards for his work on the television series “Law & Order” and in films like Traffic and Pinero, narrate LATINO AMERICANS. The project, led by the producer of the series and winning an Emmy, Adriana Bosch, has a team of more than a dozen award-winning filmmakers to document the evolution of a new identity “Latino” in the U.S. from 1500 to our days, with interviews with about 100 Latinos in the world of politics, business and popular culture, along with personal portraits of Latinos who lived some of the key moments in the history of this country.
“It’s time to tell the story of Latinos in the United States,” said Bosch, Cuba-born filmmaker, whose previous projects include LATIN MUSIC USA PBS documentaries and series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. “Latinos are an integral part of the United States, and this series shares the stories of a wide range of people from different countries and different fields. It is the story of Latinos, and American history. “
LATINO AMERICANS includes interviews with a variety of individuals, including the artist include Rita Moreno, Puerto Rican star of West Side Story and winner of Academy Awards, Tony, Grammy and Emmy, activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta, awarded in 2012 with the Medal of Freedom from President and co-founder in the 60s, along with Cesar Chavez of the National Association of Rural Workers (NFWA) which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW), the author and Mexican-American commentator Linda Chavez, who became the highest-ranking woman at the White House during the Reagan era, and singer and businesswoman Gloria Estefan, who has sold over 100 million albums solo and with Miami Sound Machine.
Among respondents also included the journalist Maria Elena Salinas, co-anchor of “Noticiero Univision” the most watched news program for Hispanics in the U.S., the columnist Juan Gonzalez, author of Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America and co-founder of Young Lords Organization, a Puerto Rican nationalist movement, Rep. Charles Gonzalez, a retired Texas congressman who served in the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2012 for the district that his father, Henry B. Gonzalez, accounted for nearly four decades, and Herman Badillo, the Bronx politician who, in 1970, became the first Puerto Rican to be elected to the House of Representatives and presented six times his candidacy for mayor of New York.
The diversity of experience is reflected in both the interviewees who appear on camera, and the computer of cinematographers working on the series. The production team, composed mostly of Latinos, including members of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran and Dominican, among others. In addition to the narrative by Bratt, songwriter and guitarist Joseph Julian Gonzalez is responsible for composing the soundtrack to LATINO AMERICANS, and the celebrated singer-songwriter Lila Downs will be the guest artist and will play the final issue of the series LATINO AMERICANS.
Gonzalez has composed soundtracks for films and television programs for over 20 years. Coming from a family of Mexican farm workers in Bakersfield, California, Gonzalez has worked with symphonies around the world and with artists as diverse as Quentin Tarantino, Britney Spears and Slash, and has conducted orchestras at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. “I am delighted to create the soundtrack for this series,” said Gonzalez. “This is an important project and be a part of it allows me to combine and intertwine various musical heritages of many cultures, similar to the story told in LATINO AMERICANS.”
Born in Oaxaca, Mexico, Downs began his musical career playing traditional rancheras and singing with mariachis. He has traveled the world with his music and released seven studio albums with songs in English, Spanish and several native Mexican languages, and has won two Latin Grammy awards and honored with other industry accolades. “We can not underestimate the importance of music for Latinos as a form of expression,” said Downs. “It is a privilege to participate with our music in this series and contribute to this rich tradition.”
LATINO AMERICANS relies on historical events and personal experiences to tell the stories of early settlement, conquest and immigration and reinvention of tradition, of anguish and celebration, and construction of a new American identity from arrivals from Mexico , Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and other Central and South American countries.
The series is divided into six chronological segments ranging from the sixteenth century to the present day:
1. “Strangers in Their Own Land / Strangers in their own land” (wt) covers the period between 1500 to 1880, when the first Spanish explorers come to America, the United States is expanding into territories in the Southwest that had housed people and native English and Spanish colonies, and, by the year 1848, the U.S. intervention in Mexico was stripped of half its territory.
2. “The Pull and the Push / The tug of war” (wt) documents how the U.S. population begins to take a different way through the waves of immigration that commenced in 1880, continued in the 40s, when Cuban Mexicans and Puerto Ricans come to the U.S. and begin to build Latin American communities in South Florida, Los Angeles and New York.
3. “War and Peace / War and Peace” (wt) enters the era of World War II and the years that follow, when hundreds of thousands of Latinos serve their new country, but still suffer discrimination and fighting for the civil rights.
4. “The New Latino / Latin New” (wt) highlights the extensive immigration from Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic that extends from the years following World War II until the early ‘60s, when the newcomers seeking economic opportunities.
5. “Pride and Prejudice / Pride and Prejudice” (wt) details the creation of Chicano identity, when organized labor leaders to field workers in California, and when activists struggle to have better educational opportunities for Latinos, by inclusion of Latino studies and training in the political process.
6. “Peril and Promise / Peril and Promise” (wt) takes a journey through the last 30 years, with a second wave of Cubans arriving in Miami during the Mariel boatlift and hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and Guatemalans fleeing civil war, death squads and riots, traveling northward to a new land, transforming the United States in its wake. Surge debate about undocumented immigrants, with reactions that border reinforcements, English only laws and efforts to criminalize illegal immigrants. Simultaneously, the influence of Latinos is flourishing in music, sports, media, politics and entertainment. Latinos, the largest sector while younger U.S. population, will determine the success of the United States in the twenty-first century.