Arturo Madrid, the Murchison Distinguished Professor of Humanities, has been one of the main contributors featured in the three-part, six-hour documentary called “Latino Americans,” recently produced by and currently playing on PBS.
“This documentary addresses the deep history of Latinos in American society, one that goes back to the sixteenth century,” Madrid said. “It also confronts the fact that Latinos have essentially been imagined as newcomers, as recent immigrants, an accretion to the nation rather than central to its history.”
Instead, the documentary explains just how central a role Latinos have played in the formation of the American nation.
“Latino Americans” will delve into the storied history of all the various Latino communities, including the Mexican-origin community, the Puerto Rican-origin community, the Cuban-origin community and all of the recent immigrant groups that are now included in today’s vast American population. The documentary includes interviews with nearly 100 Latinos and covers about 500 years of history.
According to Madrid, documentaries usually focus only on the Latino experience in Texas and Mexico, leaving out several of these other important communities, which have also played a large role in the history of the nation.
“In “˜Latino Americans,’ New Mexico got included because it is the oldest continuously occupied site of Latino experience,” Madrid said.
Madrid explained his qualifications for his feature role in the documentary.
“I’ve been around a long time working on these issues, speaking out on these matters,” Madrid said.
He also calls the opportunity “sheer serendipity.” Producers of the documentary picked up on Madrid’s knowledge of the Latino experience, specifically in New Mexico, after the publication of his family memoir, titled “In the Country of Empty Crosses.”
“The memoir came out, the producers learned about it, they were very curious about this deep history, and so I got invited to be on it,” Madrid said.
Madrid hopes that, by watching the documentary, viewers will realize that the Latino relationship with the United States is deep and central.
“The war against Mexico and the war against Spain are as defining of American society as the Civil War or the Revolutionary War,” Madrid said.
He also hopes that viewers will realize just how optimistic the future is for Latinos currently living in America.
“We are your neighbors. We are your fellow workers. We are members of your churches. We are your classmates. We are already or will soon become your in-laws, and we are your future,” Madrid said.
Madrid hopes that viewers will see that Latinos as a whole are actually a very diverse group with very different histories, and that the Latino community also has very powerful connections.
Several of the aspects of the documentary are also relevant to the research and courses taught by Madrid.
“I teach my course on the U.S. Latino experience and cultural or artistic expression of Latinos, literature, music, film, art, theater, celebrations and ceremonies. Those are central to my teaching,” Madrid said.
“Latino Americans” will be featured on PBS next Tuesday, Oct. 1. Check your local listings for the exact time.
There are also copies of the documentary available for viewing in Elizabeth Huth Coates Library.