Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Two resources for cultura latina ... Black in Latin America and Afrolatinos

These titles are useful for anyone who wants to understand Latin American culture, specifically African heritage in the Americas.  Just as the United States wouldn’t be the United States culturally without African Americans and their contributions, Latin America wouldn’t be Latin America without the ethnic and cultural heritage of Afro descendants. To me, the cultural melting of Latin America is what makes it so interesting and beautiful.  I love that you can take African, Indigenous, and European and make something completely unique, yet with elements of all three original cultures.  This is evident in the music, dance, art, food, and about every other aspect of life in most Latin American countries.   

Black in Latin America is a book and documentary (aired on PBS) by Henry Louis Gates.  It chronicles the history and current state of African affairs in Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.  Gates travels to all of these countries and interviews local experts, scholars, and regular folks alike to get a unique perspective on the similarities and differences of the Afro-descendant people.  Gates paints a complete picture covering topics like music, dance, art, and heavier topics like social conditions racism, and discrimination.   

AfroLatinos is a documentary project that goes to every country in Latin America “From the United States to Argentina”, and also spends time in Haiti and Brazil. You can watch all of the different parts of this film on Youtube, and it is well worth your time to do so.  You’ll gain key insights into the dance, art, food, history, culture, and social conditions of Afrodescendientes all throughout Latin America.

Latin America and Latin Americans are a beautiful mix of the heritage and culture passed down from African, Indigenous, European, and even Asian roots.  Mixing among these ethnic groups started early in the Spanish colonies, the Spanish crown sent mostly men, in contrast to England who sent families to their colonies, which resulted in less racial mixing in the English colonies.  This early mixing, often a result of rape and force, created the multi-ethnic society that we see in Latin America today. If you are interested in heritage in Latin America, please check out the movies and book listed above.  They are amazing resources that give a cultural window into the whole region!

My post on blog where I work: Connecting Kids With Culture

Please see my entry in Eleventh Stack, the blog of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Hasta Siempre Sabado Gigante

It’s truly the end of an era, the legendary Spanish language program Sabado Gigante (SG) is ending its 53 year continuous run, an excellent show that helped unite the Spanish speaking communities in the United States, and was critical to the careers of artists such as Marc Anthony, Lucero, Thalia, Shakira, and countless others.  I didn’t grow up with Sabado Gigante like so many people, actually I saw it for the first time in a Mexican restaurant with my wife maybe 7 or 8 years ago, and immediately fell in love with the show.  

SG was a great help in developing my understanding of spoken Spanish, as guests on the show were from every country, economic background, and walk of life imaginable.  Sabado Gigante originally started in Chile, but was eventually tried out in Miami, for the local market of mostly Cuban immigrants.  Mario Kreutzberger, or Don Francisco as he is popularly known, hosted the show with amazing energy and wit, and managed to connect with not just his home audience in Chile and the new audience in Florida, but also with communities throughout the United States like Mexican Americans in California, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York; all through local syndicates before eventually becoming a national (in the US) show and then being exported to the whole Latin American market.  The show was culturally relevant to all of these groups, and included artists and music genres from many countries and regions, touching stories of distant families reunited on the show after years apart, and provided a platform for a growing immigrant and linguistic minority population.  This platform has helped to bring together a common Latino community in the United States.  Now, networks like Univision, Telemundo, and Televisa are all national and rival traditional networks with ratings, especially in the summer season, and have national programming that target the audiences in all of these markets. SG was the pioneer for Spanish language programming in the United States.  

We won’t be watching the last program, as we cut our cable about a year ago, but I’ll forever be thankful to the program for helping me with my Spanish, introducing me to many aspects of the Latin American community in the United States and throughout Latin America, for the entertainment, and for making us laugh and cry.  If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Sabado Gigante and Don Francisco/Mario Kreutzberger, check out the book Entre la Espada y la TV, which is nearly as entertaining as the show!  

See clips at