LATINO AMERICANS is a landmark six-hour documentary featuring interviews with nearly 100 Latinos and more than 500 years of History.

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.

Immigration is at the heart of the American experience, and a central part of the long-running democratic experiment that is the United States. So it is that our series intersects much that is central to the history of the United States. The story includes expansionism, Manifest Destiny, the Wild West, multiple wars (Mexican-American, Spanish-American, World War II), the rise of organized labor, the Great Depression, the post WWII boom, the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, globalization, and the effects of multiple kinds of technologies – from the railroad and barbed wire to the internet and satellite television.

Despite such familiar landmarks, our history will go to places where standard U.S. histories do not tend to tread. The series will be driven by the human dramas of our characters' struggles and triumphs, successes and disappointments, both historical personages and living ones. They are people whose stories tell us much about their times.

The films will chronicle Latinos in the United States from the sixteenth century to present day. It is a story of people, politics, and culture, large in scale and deep in its reach. The changing and yet repeating context of American history provides a backdrop for the drama of individual lives. It is a story of immigration and redemption, of anguish and celebration, of the gradual construction of a new American identity that connects and empowers millions of people today.

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.


I. Foreigners in their Own Land (1565-1880)

With guest scholar, Prof. Santa Arias, University of Kansas
Friday, April 8, 7:00 p.m.
Lawrence Public Library Auditorium

One hundred years after Columbus' arrival in the Caribbean, Spanish Conquistadors and Priests, push into North America in search of gold and to spread Catholicism. With the arrival of the British in North America, the two colonial systems produce contrasting societies that come in conflict as Manifest Destiny pushes the U.S into the Mexican territories of the South West.

Apolinaria Lorenzana provides a window to the Spanish Mission System while Mariano Vallejo personifies the era of the Californio rancheros an elite class who thrive after Mexico gains its independence from Spain. Juan Seguín, a third generation Tejano or Texan, is caught between two worlds; his commitment to an Independent Texas and his identity as a Mexican. Through the Mexican American War, the U.S. takes a full half of Mexico's territory by 1848. Over seventy thousand Mexicans are caught in a strange land and many become American citizens.

As the Gold Rush floods California with settlers, complex and vital communities are overwhelmed. The elites, including Mariano Vallejo and Apolinaria Lorenzana lose their land. Mexicans and Mexican Americans are treated as second-class citizens, facing discrimination and racial violence. Resistance to this injustice appears in New Mexico as Las Gorras Blancas (The White Caps), burn Anglo ranches and cut through barbed wire to prevent Anglo encroachment. At the same time, New Mexicans manage to transform themselves through education, managing to preserve Hispano culture in New Mexico and their standing in the midst of an era of conquest and dispossession.


II. Empire of Dreams (1880-1942)

With guest scholar, Prof. Ruben Flores, University of Kansas
Friday, April 15, 7:00 p.m.
Lawrence Public Library Auditorium

Widespread immigration to the U.S. from Latin countries begins – first with a small group from Cuba, then a larger one from Mexico. Both flee chaos and violence in their home country and are attracted by opportunities in the United States. In 1898, the U.S. helps liberate Cuba and Puerto Rico from Spain but then seizes Puerto Rico as its colony. The first Puerto Rican arrivals (now U.S. citizens) establish a network in New York.

Juan Salvador Villaseñor whose story is told by his son, Victor, flees the violence of the Mexican revolution of 1910, along with his mother and two sisters. We follow Juan Salvador's story; first through a grueling journey and poverty, then as a bootlegger, and finally as a successful businessman along with his wife and children in the United States.

During the 1920s, immigration is encouraged with the expanding U.S. economy. Mexicans and Mexican Americans build a thriving community in Los Angeles and look forward to a bright future. But when the economic boom of that 1920s ends with the catastrophic Depression of the thirties, the pendulum swings. Immigrants encouraged to immigrate in the 20s are deported en masse in the 30s. Emilia Castaneda loses her home and her family when she and her father and brother are deported to Mexico, despite the fact that Emilia and her brother are U.S. citizens. Puerto Ricans, also caught in the depths of the Depression, rebel against U.S. rule on the Island, and eventually gain Commonwealth status from the U.S. Government.


V. Prejudice and Pride (1965-1980)

With guest scholar, Prof. Magalí Rabasa, University of Kansas
Friday, April 15, 7:00 p.m.
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka, KS

In the 1960s and 1970s a generation of Mexican Americans, frustrated by persistent discrimination and poverty, find a new way forward, through social action and the building of a new "Chicano" identity. The movement is ignited when farm workers in the fields of California, led by César Chavez and Dolores Huerta, march on Sacramento for equal pay and humane working conditions. Through plays, poetry and film, Luis Valdez and activist Corky Gonzalez create a new appreciation of the long history of Mexicans in the South West and the Mestizo roots of Mexican Americans. In Los Angeles, Sal Castro, a schoolteacher, leads the largest high school student walkout in American history, demanding that Chicano students be given the same educational opportunities as Anglos. In Texas, activists such as José Ángel Gutiérrez, create a new political party and change the rules of the electoral game. By the end of the 1970s Chicanos activism and identity have transformed what it means to be an American. Chicano and Latino studies are incorporated into school curriculum; Latinos are included in the political process.


VI. Peril and Promise (1980-2000)

With guest scholar, Prof. Norma Cantú, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Friday, April 22, 7:00 pm
Lawrence Public Library Auditorium

In the '80s the nature of the Latino Diaspora changes again. From Cuba a second wave of refugees to United States – the Mariel exodus – floods Miami . The same decade sees the sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans (Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans) fleeing death squads and mass murders at home like activist, Carlos Vaquerano. By the early 1990s, a political debate over illegal immigration – has begun. Globalization, empowered by NAFTA, means that as U.S. manufacturers move south, Mexican workers head north in record numbers. A backlash ensues: tightened borders, anti-bilingualism, state laws to declare all illegal immigrants felons. But a sea change is underway: the coalescence of a new phenomenon called Latino American culture-as Latinos spread geographically and make their mark in music, sports, politics, business, and education. Gloria Estefan leads the Miami Sound Machine creating cross over hits in Spanish and English. Oscar de la Hoya, a Mexican-American boxer from L.A., becomes an Olympic gold medalist and the nation's Golden Boy. Is a new Latino world being created here as the Latino population and influence continues to grow? Alternatively, will Latinos in America eventually assimilate into invisibility, as other groups have done so many times? Latinos present a challenge and an opportunity for the United States. America's largest and youngest growing sector of the population presents what project advisor Professor Marta Tienda calls, The Hispanic Moment.Their success could determine the growth of the United States in the twenty-first century; however their failure, contributing to an underclass, could also pull this country down. The key, according to Tienda and Eduardo J. Padron, Ph.D., President of Miami Dade Community College, is education.


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