[Marxism] PBS documentary on Latinos

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 17 08:00:12 MDT 2013

NY Times September 16, 2013
Television Review
The Hidden History of a Substantial Minority

Have you ever heard about the American pilot who took off from an 
aircraft carrier on Dec. 7, 1941, for a routine check of its next port, 
Pearl Harbor? His last words were a desperate “Hold your fire” message, 
just before he was shot down — no one is sure by which side — as one of 
the first American casualties of World War II. That was Ensign Manuel 
Gonzales, as viewers will learn through “Latino Americans,” an important 
and enlightening three-part, six-hour PBS documentary that begins on 
Tuesday night.

Then there was the soldier who in 1836 shouted, “Remember the Alamo!” 
and led a regiment in Sam Houston’s Republic of Texas Army to victory 
over Santa Anna’s Mexican forces. You know: Juan Seguín. And the World 
War II hero who won the Silver Star for capturing 1,500 Japanese 
prisoners of war. That was Guy Gabaldon, a Mexican-American who, in the 
movie about his exploits (“Hell to Eternity,” 1960), was played by the 
blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter.

For those who sometimes imagine that Latinos arrived in the United 
States in the 1950s, just in time to audition for “West Side Story,” it 
is a particular revelation that Latino American history goes back quite 
a bit further and has been, to a distressing degree, Anglo-washed. The 
documentary’s story moves along quickly, though: by the third hour, Dr. 
Hector Garcia is working with the Johnson administration in the 1960s.

“Latino Americans” is the kind of polished, intelligent documentary 
series that PBS does so well. The format is a traditional one now, with 
vintage film clips, zooms and pans of old paintings and photographs, and 
an assortment of thoughtful talking heads. But this time, those heads 
belong to historians named García, Montejano and Ruiz; political 
organizers named Gutierrez, Velásquez and Esparza; academics named 
Padrón; and journalists named Suárez and Salinas. Adriana Bosch, the 
documentary’s Emmy Award-winning producer, moved to the United States 
from Cuba in 1970.

Most of the time, we meet the successful adults — like the 
actress-singer-dancer Rita Moreno, whose acceptance of her Oscar in 1962 
we see at least three times — and then are familiarized with their 
backgrounds. Ms. Moreno was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York 
with her mother when she was 5. In one case, though, we hear about an 
activist’s early years first. In 1946 a Navy war veteran everyone called 
C. C. desegregated a movie theater in Delano, Calif., just by taking a 
seat one night in the middle section with the Anglos. After this story, 
we learn that C. C. was Cesar Chavez.

By the middle of the 21st century, there are expected to be about 127 
million Latino-Americans, nearly 30 percent of the projected United 
States population. Some Latinos see today as “the Hispanic moment” and 
urge that opportunities be seized now or lost.

The second and third parts of “Latino Americans,” whose subjects include 
Chavez, the Chicano movement, the Dominican Republic, Central America, 
the battles against bilingualism and the Mariel boat lift, will be shown 
next Tuesday and on Oct. 1.

Latino Americans

On PBS stations on Tuesday nights (check local listings).

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