April 22, 2011

Are You Watching 'Black in Latin America' on PBS?

Are you watching Black in Latin America? It's the new four-part series on the influence of African descent on Latin America. Turns out that renowned Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has been doing more than drinking beer at the White House. Gates has written and presented 11 documentary films including African American Lives (2006), Oprah’s Roots (2007), African American Lives 2 (2008), Looking for Lincoln (2009), and Faces of America (2010).

Six Latin-American countries are featured in the series
: Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru

Black in Latin America, premiering nationally Tuesdays April 19 and 26 and May 3 and 10, 2011 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings), examines how Africa and Europe came together to create the rich cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Latin America is often associated with music, monuments, and sun, but each of the six countries featured in Black in Latin America including Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, has a secret history. On his journey, Professor Gates discovers, behind a shared legacy of colonialism and slavery, vivid stories and people marked by African roots.

Twelve-and-a-half million Africans were shipped to the New World during the Middle Passage. While just over 11.0 million survived the arduous journey, only about 450,000 of them arrived in the United States. The rest ... more than 10.5 million ... were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America and kept in bondage far longer than the slaves in the United States. This astonishing fact changes the entire picture of the history of slavery in the Western hemisphere, and of its lasting cultural impact. These millions of Africans created new and vibrant cultures, magnificently compelling syntheses of various African, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish influences.

Despite their great numbers, the cultural and social worlds that they created remain largely unknown to most Americans, except for certain popular, cross-over musical forms. In his new series, Professor Gates sets out on a quest to discover how Latin Americans of African descent live now; how Latin American countries acknowledge ... or deny ... their African past; and how the fact of race and African ancestry play themselves out in the multicultural worlds of the Caribbean and Latin America. Starting with the slave experience and extending to the present, Professor Gates unveils the history of the African presence in six Latin American countries through art, music, cuisine, dance, politics, and religion, but also the very palpable presence of anti-Black racism that has sometimes sought to keep the Black cultural presence from view.
  1. Episode One: Haiti & the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided - In Haiti, Professor Gates tells the story of the birth of the first-ever black republic and finds out how the slaves’ hard-fought liberation over Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Empire became a double-edged sword. In the Dominican Republic, Professor Gates explores how race has been socially constructed in a society whose people reflect centuries of inter-marriage and how the country’s troubled history with Haiti informs notions about racial classification. 
  2. Episode Two: Cuba: The Next Revolution - In Cuba, Professor Gates finds out how the culture, religion, politics, and music of this Island are inextricably linked to the huge amount of slave labor imported to produce its enormously profitable 19th-century sugar industry and how race and racism have fared since Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution in 1959. 
  3. Episode Three: Brazil: A Racial Paradise? - In Brazil, Professor Gates delves behind the façade of Carnaval to discover how this ‘rainbow nation’ is waking up to its legacy as the world’s largest slave economy.
  4. Episode Four: Mexico & Peru: A Hidden Race - In Mexico and Peru, Professor Gates explores the almost unknown history of the significant numbers of black people—the two countries together received far more slaves than did the United State —brought to these countries as early as the 16th and 17th centuries and the worlds of culture that their descendants have created in Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico, the Costa Chica region on the Pacific, and in and around Lima, Peru.
In Black in Latin America, Professor Gates’ journey becomes ours as viewers are introduced to the faces and voices of the descendants of the Africans who created these worlds. He shows the similarities and distinctions between these cultures and how the New-World manifestations are rooted in, but distinct from, their African antecedents. A quest he began 12 years ago with Wonders of the African World comes full circle in Black in Latin America, an effort to discover how Africa and Europe combined to create the vibrant cultures of Latin America, with a rich legacy of thoughtful, articulate subjects whose stories are astonishingly moving and irresistibly compelling.

Are you watching this PBS series?  If so, what are your thoughts about it?


CCGroovy!!! said...


The strength of the summaries that you've presented, make me want to tune in!!!

Villager said...

CCGroovy - did you watch any of it?