Well folks, it’s September again, which means a whole year has passed since we last celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. A year that brought us cultural milestones like Jane the Virgin, Chile campeón, and Donald Trump – demonstrative evidence that in life you win some, and you lose some. So while we’ll let white America take Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to reflect on the profound impact Latinos have had on American culture, from Jordi Farragut up through Sonia Sotomayor, it’s also a good opportunity for us to celebrate the richness and diversity of our own experience.
How, you might ask? Naturally there are at least a thousand ways we can do just that, but here we decided to narrow that list down to 20: that is, 20 Latino films from PBS that you can stream for free online. From Latino Public Broadcasting to Independent Lens and P.O.V., we already know PBS has shown a deep commitment to Latino stories over the years, which has resulted in a veritable treasure trove of world-class documentaries. But you may not have known that the folks at PBS have been kind enough to make a large part of this audiovisual fortune available for free online including their 4-hour epic doc on Latin music.
From undocumented college hopefuls, to recovering drug addicts giving high school a second shot, teen moms struggling with tough decisions, and families torn apart by deportation, these are stories that get to the heart of our struggles, hopes, and achievements. And now’s as good a time as any to heat up the popcorn, fry up some plátanos, and remember that through the good and bad, it’s great to be Latino.
Reportero follows Sergio Haro, a veteran photojournalist for Zeta, a Tijuana-based weekly newspaper. Even in the face of constant death threats, Zeta’s reporters refuse to censor themselves and routinely publish the names and photos of narco traffickers and corrupt politicians. At the heart of film is Haro’s daily life as a journalist. He sometimes questions himself — the danger, the threats to his life — is journalism really worth dying for? His devotion to his craft is unshakeable. This chilling documentary succeeds at painting a powerful portrait of a man committed to social justice and exposing the truth, no matter the cost.
Ruben Salazar: Man In the Middle
This documentary examines the life and death of pioneering Mexican-American journalist Ruben Salazar. At the heart of the story is his transformation from a mainstream, establishment Los Angeles Times reporter to a supporter and primary chronicler of the radical Chicano movement of the late 1960s. Killed by a law enforcement officer in 1970, Salazar became a martyr to the Latino community.
Stream Irma here.
POV presents a portrait of Irma Gonzalez, the former world champion of women’s professional wrestling. Filmed in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl — a notorious district of Mexico City — Irma contradicts everything we have come to expect from stories reported from Mexico. Featuring music written and performed by Ms. Gonzalez, her story surges with love and deceit, masculine strength, feminine charms, and humor.
Like every Sunday morning, a Zapotec grandfather goes to the city of Oaxaca to visit his granddaughter for the day. Their ritual consists of attending mass and window shopping throughout the city. On this particular Sunday, their routine is disrupted when they pass by a stand selling watches.
In an Arizona Home Depot parking lot, a married couple — Andrew and Jen — hires undocumented day laborer Carlos and his buddy to repair their deck. As Carlos washes up in the family’s bathroom, 7-year-old Jonah interrupts him. A tragedy of errors puts Carlos’ and Andrew’s lives at risk, leaving everyone caught between their individual consciences and the law.
You’re Dead to Me
In suburban Inglewood, California, Andrea — a grieving Chicana mother — confronts an unwanted family member before her Día de Muertos celebration. By night’s end, death offers her a choice that she couldn’t make in life.
Stream Border Bedazzlers here.
Hoping to heal the divide between Mexico and the United States, an inspired group of artists turn the border wall into a giant canvas.
Frontera! Revolt and Rebellion on the Rio Grande
Stream Frontera! Revolt and Rebellion on the Río Grande here.
An animated history lesson looking at northern Mexico during the colonial era, this is a garish and bloody account of repression and resistance under Spanish rule. The enslavement, exploitation, and massacre of indigenous peoples resulted in a series of uprisings against the conquistadores, whose voracious appetite for wealth and power motivated their campaign of terror against the people. The film highlights how spiritual beliefs and indigenous culture were fundamental to the struggle and continue to be relevant to modern-day Latinos.
Stream Los graduados here.
This two-part special examines the many roots of the Latino dropout crisis through the eyes of six inspiring young students who are part of an ongoing effort to increase graduation rates for a growing Latino population.
Stream Sin País here.
Nearly twenty years ago, Sam and Elida Mejia escaped Guatemala during a violent civil war and brought their one-year-old son to California. They worked hard, raised a family, and lived the American dream. Two years ago, immigration agents stormed the Mejias’ house and they have been fighting to stay in the U.S. ever since. Sin País begins two weeks before Sam and Elida are deported and the family is ripped apart. With intimate access and striking imagery, this short film explores the complexities of the Mejias’ new reality of a separated family – parents without their children, and children without their parents.
Baby Mama High
It’s the last few weeks of high school for Yessenia, a soft-spoken senior with two small daughters and a boyfriend who’d rather she stay at home than go to school. Yessenia is forced to choose: stand up for herself and her daughters, or give in to expectation.
Skipping Up follows a group of eighth graders in San Antonio as they finish their year in the Middle School Partners Program, a successful dropout-prevention project that has generated national interest as a model for schools with significant Latino populations.
I Really Want to Make It
Sharon Montano of Oakland decides to go back to school at age 20 after several years of substance abuse and other struggles. When she discovers Civicorps Academy, she finally gets another shot at a high school diploma — and a future.
Immigrant teens face discrimination, language barriers, unfamiliar cultural traditions — all while dealing with the changes all teens struggle with. Many give up on school. Immigrant High takes us into the halls of Pan American International High School in Queens, New York, a school that aims to give its Latino students a place to belong and excel.
Can’t Hold Me Back
Can’t Hold Me Back follows Detroit teen Fernando Parraz as he overcomes a mountain of roadblocks to become the first in his family to earn a high school diploma — his ticket out of the struggles of inner-city poverty and violence. He finds support from an unlikely figure: his father, a former gangster who has suffered the costs of his own mistakes.
New American Girls
Stream New American Girls here.
What is it like to grow up in a country that fails to recognize your status or citizenship, while classing you as “illegal,” in spite of your integration at all levels of culture and society? In this documentary series, three teenage girls (of Mexican, Peruvian, and Indian descent) brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age describe their experiences as undocumented residents who feel American. Having excelled at school, the girls are subsequently unable to go to college, get jobs, or register in a system that impedes their sense of identity and damages their prospects. The situation has led to a national campaign for reform and state recognition of young people’s rights.
Stream The Latino Americans here.
Latino Americans is a landmark six-hour documentary featuring interviews with nearly 100 Latinos and more than 500 years of history. It was the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape North America over the last 500-plus years and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S.
Black in Latin America
Stream Black in Latin America here.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a Harvard professor, an expert in African and African-American history, and the host of Black in Latin America. Gates has taken his knowledge of African history and racial dynamics in the U.S. and focused his attention on the rest of the Americas in this four-part PBS documentary series. He uncovers the hidden history that most Americans, African-Americans, and even Latinos don’t know about. In the series, Gates teaches us that that more than 11 million africanos were taken to Latin America as slaves. That is 25 times the number sent to the United States. He visits Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. He discovers the similarities in religion, food, and music – tracing their common origin to Africa.
Latin Music USA
Stream Latin Music USA here.
Thanks to PBS, we get the history of Latin music in the United States condensed into an easy-to-watch four hours. The documentary shows us the birth of boogaloo, jazz’s influence on Santana and rock ‘n’ roll, the rise and fall of Fania Records’ salsa revolution, the wave of Chicano music starting in the 60s, and artists like Selena, Linda Ronstadt, Ricky Martin, Ritchie Valens, Gloria Estefan, Shakira, and so much more. Even for those who grew up listening this music in their homes from an early age, Latin Music USA shows us just how big an influence our heritage has had on the history of American music.
America by the Numbers
Stream America by the Numbers here.
Bringing together her more than 25 years of experience as a journalist for networks like CNN, PBS, and CBS, María Hinojosa is hosting a weekly news program. In her own words, the new show America by the Numbers covers, “The most phenomenally deep demographic change that our country has ever experienced.” What kind of demographic change? If you’ve been watching mainstream media, then maybe you haven’t heard the news. “We are going to be a majority non-white country in a matter of decades,” Hinojosa explains. This is exactly why she created her company, Futuro Media Group, in the first place: to tell stories that the big networks are ignoring – stories that can no longer be ignored.