The Latino Experience, a three-episode showcase of short films exploring Latin identity and culture, premieres on PBS over three Tuesdays from July 6-20, 2021 at 9pm ET. thirteen.org
In New York City, the PBS station is WNET PBS Thirteen. In New Jersey, it’s NJ PBS. It looks like the episodes will remain available for streaming.
If there is one takeaway from this series, it is that we are incredibly diverse. There is no definitive Latin experience because we are a blend of peoples, cultures and places with unique regional histories. There are even great differences among age groups. Elders tend to be conservative and youth tend to be more liberal. The true Latino experience depends on who you are speaking with, and the context around the conversation.
Latino identity is complicated because we straddle not just two or more cultures, but completely opposite value systems ~ and have to switch back and forth. On top of that in the United States, we encounter endless systemic racism. Racism is everywhere, but in the USA it’s over the top – and violent. And many of us retain strong spiritual connections with the forces of nature, which the colonial religions try to eliminate. Being Latino is complicated (but wonderful).
We should give PBS a lot of credit for looking at these stories. Our shared history can be beautiful, painful or funny, but to create a better future, we have to be honest about our past.
At the end of the day, these are not Latino stories. They are stories of The American Experience.
Episode 1 Premieres Tuesday, July 6
“Death and Deathability: A Period Piece” by Maria Victoria Ponce, tells the story of a teenager who gets her first period without any warning and thinks she’s going to die. So she makes a bucket list of what she wants to do because her death should be art. The very first short film speaks to these opposite value systems. To the Aztecs and Mayans, death is reality and life is but a dream. The European diaspora fears death, whereas Indigenous Americans welcome it. 🇲🇽
“Folk Frontera” by Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn is a magical-realist portrait of life on the border. It follows two women in the Chihuahuan Desert that straddles the U.S. and Mexico. To a European descendant, magical realism seems like a literary construct, but to a Latin, it’s real life. It doesn’t matter whether the magic is real or not. If you think it’s real, it affects you. Magical realism is our reality. 🇲🇽
“The Blue Cape” by María José Delgado follows a ten-year old who is sent to look for his grandfather’s medicine in the destruction that followed Hurricane Maria in 2017. Stateside Americans don’t understand how devastating Hurricane Maria was. It knocked out phone, internet, water, electricity, gas, transport and markets. The normally verdant island turned brown. Government services collapsed because they were also knocked out. The situation didn’t last days or weeks. It lasted for three to six months. As late as 2020, over 10,000 Puerto Ricans still lived in homes whose roof was just a blue tarp. It’s become a symbol of our frustration with government both on the island and in Washington D.C. 🇵🇷
“La Tienda” by Karina Lomelin Ripper follows two artists whose print workshop in Portland, Oregon blends social justice and Spanglish with traditional printing techniques. In the Latin world, printmaking is elevated to a fine art. 🇲🇽
“Dear Queer Dancer” by Sarah Taborga follows two LGBTQ+ couples competing at the World Latin Dance Cup. What a great study in Latin complexity. We have world-class LGBTQ+ scenes, but the machista (male chauvinist) side of us is violently against it. Being LGBTQ+ in the Latin world can be fulfilling one moment and life-threatening the next. You just have to keep smiling and carry on. 🇧🇴🏳️🌈
Episode 2 Premieres Tuesday, July 13
“Un Pequeño Corte” by Mariana Serrano tells the story of what happens when a six-year old cuts off one of her pigtails at school. Her mom takes her to the beauty parlor to get fixed up, but the little girl seeks her own identity. Here we see the generational conflict. The mom is culturally Cuban, but the girl is American. 🇨🇺
“Body and Spirit in Times of Pandemic” by Andrés Caballero is a story about how hard it has been to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. A Guatemalan immigrant is a truck driver and church pastor. Under pandemic pressure, both of his jobs are essential. 🇬🇹
“Our Lady Lupe” by Dominique Nieves tells the story of a 10-year old boy who is a hard core video gamer. When his mom’s car breaks down, the boy sets off on a mystical journey to fix it that teaches him life lessons about tradition and family. 🇩🇴
“Pasos de Valor” by Natalia C. Bell tells the story of a pregnant MBA student whose due date and final exam are at the same time. The professor is inflexible, so she takes the exam while very pregnant. This actually happened to the director. 🇲🇽
Episode 3 Premieres Tuesday, July 20
“Mi Fango, Mi Cerro” by Julia Mendoza Friedman is the story of an artist who looks for utopia in the mountains of working-class Puerto Rico. It’s funny. One value system would hate that life, but to the other the mountains of Puerto Rico are a utopia. 🇵🇷
“The Daily War” by Karla Legaspy is the story of a struggling veteran mom who finds a job opportunity, but it triggers her PTSD. This is real. It is one of the unspoken costs of European-style ever wars. For some of us the battle never ends. The true cost of war is uncountable. 🇲🇽
“Cuban American Gothic” by María Teresa Rodríguez tells the story of a woman living alone in New York City through the 2020 pandemic. Her dead parents come back to help her, but lay on that parental pressure to rise above it all. The short is inspired by a monologue by Bofill. 🇨🇺
“Noche Buena” by Andres Rovira tells the story of a dysfunctional Cuban family’s intergenerational conflict around the Christmas Eve dinner table. You definitely don’t want to get Cubans arguing about Cuba vs Miami. That argument never ends. 🇨🇺
These stories of The Latino Experience are actually stories of The American Experience.