PBS is currently showing “Latino Americans,” a three part, six hour documentary series chronicling the “rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape the United States over the last 500-plus years…”
The series presents commonly-taught moments of American history through a Latino lens. The first episode, “Foreigners in Their Own Land,” explores the early histories of California, New Mexico, and Texas—detailing the early settlements, the Alamo, California’s Bear Flag Revolt, racial violence associated with the gold rush, the encroachment of railroads on the common land holdings of New Mexico, etc…
These stories are loaded with shocking realizations for those unfamiliar with Latino history. For instance, viewers are taught that the first European language spoken in what would become the United States was Spanish, and that the name of the soldier who shouted the familiar battle cry “Remember the Alamo” wasn’t Davey Crockett, but rather third-generation Tejano, Juan Seguín.
While the filmmakers take a decidedly individual-centric approach, perhaps focusing too heavily on the accomplishments of “safe” Latino celebrities, the attention paid to Latino contributions is refreshing and I look forward to watching the remaining parts. Full episodes are available online, with the final part scheduled to air on Tuesday. The series is also airing in Spanish on V-Me TV.