During a time when studies continue to show that Latinos are underrepresented in the mainstream media, the Latino Public Broadcasting is working to change that.
One of the ways they are doing so is by partnering with PBS to air “Voces,” a series of four documentaries that showcase the rich and diverse Latino culture.
The series consists of four films that feature Latino artists, athletes and performers who defy all expectations and succeed in their profession. The films are scheduled to air every Friday starting Sept. 28 up until Oct. 19.
Sandie Viquez Pedlow, the executive director of Latino Public Broadcasting, recently spoke with VOXXI about the “Voces” series and the work her group is doing to showcase Latinos in public broadcasting.
Q&A with Pedlow of Latino Public Broadcasting
Q: What is the mission of the Latino Public Broadcasting?
A: Latino Public Broadcasting’s mission is to develop, produce, acquire and distribute programs that address issues of importance to the Latino community. We work with filmmakers across the country looking for stories that are relevant, that take creative risks, that have potential to engage a national audience and that provide a lens to the history, the culture the arts of the Latino community in the U.S.
All of the programs that we fund and develop are for public broadcasting, for public media. Since our inception, we have awarded approximately $8 million in funding of Latino-themed content and have brought over 150 hours of Latino-themed programming to public broadcasting.
Q: This year, Latino Public Broadcasting is partnering with PBS to air the series “Voces.” What is the intent of the series and what do you hope people will take away from it?
A: The series started in 2006 and this is the first time it is going to air on PBS national. The intent of it was to start bringing a collection of programs that really celebrate the rich experience of the Latino culture, arts and history.
I wanted the films to all show the arts, culture and lifestyle of the Latino experience. If you look at this year’s lineup, that’s what they do. You have charras who do acrobatic ballet on horses. Then you have “Tales of Masked Men” that’s really theater and drama in wrestling. There’s also “Unfinished Spaces,” which is about beautiful architecture in Cuba that is unfinished. The last one is “Lemon,” which is about a young Puerto Rican who is a dropout, a three-time felon and yet a Tony Award winning playwright. It shows you in just those four programs the diversity of our culture in this country and how we keep the traditions even though we become American.
Q: Besides the series, what else has PBS’ Latino Public Broadcasting done to showcase Latinos?
A: This year, PBS had a summer arts festival and it included a selection of seven programs that celebrated the arts. They selected to show two of our productions. One of them is “Mariachi High” and the other one is “Tales from a Ghetto Klown.” There was another Latino production called “Havana, Havana,” which was about Cuban musicians who return to Cuba to stage a concert.
I was so impressed that out of the seven productions, three of those dealt with Latino culture and they were all very different.
Q: How do you think that the media portrays Latinos?
A: If you look at commercial television, whenever there are Latinos they always have an accent. The sitcoms are an example of that. In public broadcasting we portray people as they are, and we look to go into the issues in a way that is balanced, informative and will allow the viewer to understand that issue.
I would agree that at times there are things that I do love on commercial television, but there are also times when I do think they put Latinos in a box. But that’s not the case on PBS. PBS is totally different. It’s an education channel. It brings to the community stories that maybe they had not heard about, and it brings it to them enough information for them to make their personal decision after seeing it.
Q: Do you think there is a lack of programs in the mainstream media that are inclusive of Latinos or series that promote the diverse Latino culture?
A: I don’t work on commercial channels, but I see what’s on Telemundo and Univision. What I like about working with PBS is that the programing that you see is not only educational it’s also informative, it’s engaging and it really enlightens the viewers on issues. This is all very important to us.
But I do think that we can all do more. If you look at the Census, you see that Latinos right now are 50 million strong and represent 16 percent of the American population. By 2050, nearly one-third of the total American workforce is going to be Hispanic. We, organizations such as Latino Public Broadcasting and other Latino organizations, really need to look at that and we need to translate those numbers into the many stories that are out there and distribute them across all media platforms, so that these stories can be seen and understood by the American public.
Q: What is Latino Public Broadcasting doing to give a voice to the diverse Latino communities found across the United States?
A: What we are doing is developing and funding those stories that are most relevant to our community, that are well told and that would have national impact. We’re also working to get them on PBS. We also support these stories with community engagement, particularly in areas with high Latino populations so that people who didn’t catch them on the broadcast can see them at these screenings and have informed discussions about what they are seeing.
We are also taking segments from these programs and providing education resources around them. These segments are digitized, aligned to core curriculum standards and are put into a service called PBS Learning Media, which sends them directly into the schools in the hands of teachers and of students.
The teachers will then be given teaching kits and resources around that so that they’re able to present it in the classrooms. I want kids to grow up seeing images they can relate to and that will inspire them to say ‘I can be that, I can do that.’
Q: Does Latino Public Broadcasting have any new productions in the works?
A: Yes, we have a big project coming up. It’s coming out in fall 2013. It’s a six-part series called Latino Americans. It’s going to trace the history of Latino immigration into the U.S. from the 1800s to the present. It’s six hours long and it’s going to be a bilingual series. We’re also going to distribute it across multiplatform and we’re going to have community engagement. It’s even going to go into the schools with curriculum.