As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, PBS will be screening several documentaries both on TV and online that look at the role and influence of Latinos and Latinas in the United States. These films cover a broad range of topics, including history, immigration, civil rights and music, which help define the Latino collective experience. Here is a rundown of some of the films featured in PBS’ season dedicated to Hispanic Heritage Month.
Frontera! Revolt and Rebellion on the Rio Grande
Director: John Jota Leaños
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. Watch it on pbs.org.
New American Girls
Directors: Mitchell Teplitsky, Betty Bastidas
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? Three teenage girls, of Mexican, Peruvian and Indian descent and brought to the USA 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. Watch all three short films here.
The Latino Americans
Producer: Adriana Bosch
The 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. You can watch all six episodes on pbs.org.
Latin Music USA
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.
Ruben Salazar: Man In the Middle
Director: Phillip Rodriguez
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. Watch the broadcast version on pbs.org.
For more details on PBS’ Hispanic Heritage Month programming, visit PBS.org.