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Columns

September 16, 2013

CEPEDA: 'Latino Americans' an uninspiring documentary

History, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Here’s a cheery description of the upcoming PBS documentary “Latino Americans”:

“It is the first major documentary series that highlights the varied history and experiences of Latinos. This series is going to serve as an inspiration for young people and their families to learn more about their unique cultural heritage, history and contributions to this nation.”

I screened the film, airing nationally on three consecutive Tuesdays starting Sept. 17. I did not come away feeling inspired.

Instead of an evenhanded chronology I found something resembling the canned rantings of leftist zealots who see America’s history and present solely in terms of colonialist oppressors who toil at keeping the United States predominantly white in the face of rising multiculturalism.

On display is every type of discrimination, bigotry and intolerance toward newly arrived immigrants from Latin America with little context about the mistreatments to which the United States has subjected its own born and bred (America is frequently equal-opportunity awful) and with few mentions of commonplace brutalities “back home.”

Yes, there are scores of wonderful, fascinating points of rarely discussed history and many uplifting stories of Hispanics who went on to lead accomplished lives. But their victories seem couched almost exclusively in terms of how they overcame white bigotry while guarding their culture against the evil forces of assimilation.

I dreaded that non-Hispanic viewers would either feel guilt-tripped or come to the conclusion that all Hispanics are aggrieved and generally reluctant to melt into the American pot.

The endless wrongs cataloged in this six-hour film make you wonder why anyone would ever want come to such an awful land in the first place.

As a member of the scant one-in-five people of Latin American descent the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project reports using the term “American” most often to describe their identity — as opposed to “Hispanic,” “Latino” or a specific nationality — my negative reaction was probably to be expected.

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