LatinaLista — Ever since PBS came under siege from Latino organizations when Ken Burns failed to note Hispanic contributions in his original WWII documentary, the public broadcaster has tried to present a more culturally sensitive side towards Hispanics in its programming.
The latest olive branch is an amazing four-hour documentary that “tells the story of the rise of new American music forged from powerful Latin roots and reveals the often overlooked influence of Latin music on Jazz, Hip Hop, Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll – and on all of American culture.”
The title is Latin Music USA and is scheduled to premiere nationally on all PBS stations on January 21, 2009.
The series is divided into two parts:
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 (9:00pm-11:00pm) on PBS
— Program One: The first program traces the rise of Latin Jazz and the explosion of the Mambo and the Cha Cha Cha as they sweep the US from East to West. Latin Music infiltrates R&B and rock & roll through the 1960s.
— Program Two: Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in New York reinvent the Cuban son and the Puerto Rican plena, adding elements from soul and jazz to create Salsa, which becomes a defining rhythm for Latinos the world over.
January 28, 2009 (9:00pm-11:00pm) on PBS
— Program Three: In California and across the Southwest, a new generation of Mexican Americans, raised on rock, rhythm and blues surrounded by country and western music reaffirm their cultural identity in Tejano, Chicano rock, and Latin Rock.
— Program Four: The last program in the series looks at the Latin pop explosion of the turn of the century, focusing on the success of artists like Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan and Shakira in the English-language market in the context of an increasingly Latinized US.
As studios focus on star-driven pop, Latino youth gravitates toward urban fusions – Spanish rap and Reggaeton – while rising numbers of Latinos entering the US create new markets for Mexican regional music and Rock en Espanol.
Aside from the subject matter of this long overdue film, what makes it rather unique is the fact that it was produced in partnership between Boston’s WGBH station and the BBC. However, the partnerships don’t stop there.
PBS is co-producing the series with WGBH and has struck up a partnership deal also with “People en EspaÃ±ol” magazine which will feature interviews, concert footage and other editorial content relating to the series in both their print magazine and online site.
PBS is also working with the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center to create programming celebrating US Latino culture. A part of that celebration is a symposium about the series on January 27, 2009. The symposium will feature “program producers, musical artists, musical historians and others who will talk about the film and highlighted artists.”
While “People en EspaÃ±ol” is a well-respected magazine, it’s only in Spanish. Seeing that this is a history of Latin music in the USA, it should be noted by PBS officials that not all Latinos speak or read Spanish. Our younger generations, who most likely are not fluent in Spanish, will miss out on the added content that will enrich this viewing experience if it’s solely in Spanish.
We hope that PBS rethinks this strategy and includes more English outlets so that all Latinos can enjoy and take pride in learning how Latino music has impacted the American sound.