If you missed viewing the first episode of PBS’ Black In Latin America, tonight is your chance to catch up on the next episodes. Black in Latin America is the third of a trilogy that began in 1999 with the broadcast of Professor Henry Louis Gates’s first series for public television, Wonders of the African World, an exploration of the relationship between Africa and the New World, a story he continued in 2004 with America Beyond the Color Line, a report on the lives of modern-day Black Americans. Black In Latin America, which premiered nationally Tuesdays April 19, continues on April 26 and May 3, 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.

The series will showcase the following countries:  Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. If you miss tonight’s episode, not to worry. PBS will re-broadcast it for a week until the next episode airs. You can also view previous episodes by going to the PBS website.

Many of these countries have black Afro-Latin populations that many people in America are unaware of their existence. On the other hand, many countries throughout Latin America have sought to whiten their history, as well as seeking high immigration from European countries to further whiten their nations. The desire to erase much of the African influences and contributions throughout South America, Mexico, and Central America, has left those areas as an image of nations peopled by white people, or at least people who could pass for white, in the minds of many outsiders.

But, there is a profound effect that Africans have had on the countries discussed in this four-part series: 

-The first Black president in this hemisphere was not Barack Obama, but instead was Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed black and Indian blood.

-The first black (and only) black nation in this hemisphere was Haiti, with its overturning slavery and winning its independence from France.

Haiti, with its proud and troubled history, and still recovering from last year’s earthquake. Haiti, one of the only countries that did not undergo the whitening mentality that affected other Latin American/Caribbean nations, even though colorism is an issue in Haiti as it is in many countries that have a history of European domination. Haiti, the only country where French is spoken.

-Brazil, with its huge land expanse, favelas, and the voice of blacks who have pride in their African history and legacy. Brazil—the only nation in this hemisphere where Portuguese is spoken.

Brazil, with its black heroines who valiantly fought for the end of degrading slavery:  Aqualtune, the enslaved African Congo princesss,  Anastasia, Patron Saint of Brazil’s blacks, and Dandarah, one who was named after a goddess.

The many color descriptions and racial classifications for blackness: Brazil, where there are 134 descriptions; Mexico, with 16; Haiti, with 98.

-Cuba, a country that is still under a U.S. embargo that keeps many visitors from going there.

Cuba, a country where the Rebellion of Matanzas in 1843 was led by Carlotta, a Black woman who fought for the freedom of enslaved Blacks. Her name was later given to Cuba’s 1980′s operation Black Carlota in Southern Africa, which culminated in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the defeat of the South African army in pitch battle.

-Vodun is a recognized and established religion just like Catholicism, Buddhism, and Islam, not the zombie, glazed-eyed-in-a-trance fiction of Hollywood racist movies.

-Brazil, outside, of Nigeria, has the largest population of African descent people.

The first episode aired on April 19, and it explained the history, culture and people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

You can view the first full episode, “Haiti and the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided”  here. This episode explores race and identity in both countries.

(Minna Sedmakov/PBS)

A market in Haiti, a nation where enslaves overthrew their colonial masters in the 19th century. 

Tonight’s episode, is “Cuba: The Next Revolution.” It explores whether Fidel Castro’s revolution really eradicated racism in that country. You can decide for yourself with the title of the episode. 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.

Part 3 entitled “Brazil: A Racial Paradise?”, airs May 3.

Part 4 and the final episode, entitled “Mexico and Peru: A Hidden Race”, airs May 10.

It would have been nice if Prof. Gates could have done all 12 South American nations, all 7 Central America nations, and all 13 Caribbean nations, but due to lack of sponsor support, he presented us with these gems of unknown knowledge. (Okay, I know; not possible at all to do all nations, but, wow, what a series it would have been if he could have pulled off such a feat).  I realize that a four-part series can only explore so much in the limited time it has, but, I was disappointed when I saw that some countries, and some factors, were not included:

-Puerto Rico. As a commonwealth of the U.S., its importance cannot be ignored, and as a nation where Puerto Ricans can vote in the presidential elections, but are not U.S. citizens, is one of the contradictions;

-Argentina, where the cry that “There are no Black people in Argentina” reverberates throughout the land, hides the truth that there have been, and still are Afro-Argentines.

-The many Afro-Latins found throughout this hemisphere:  Afro-Bolivians, Afro-Ecuadorans, Afro-Panamanians, Afro-Columbians and others all across Latin America, of whose existence the world is still unaware.

But, this program is a start, and it holds promise to shed more light on a part of the world of which so many know so little.

So, tune in tonight and get acquainted with your neighbors, America.

It looks to be an interesting, entertaining and educational series.





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  1. Juan R. Recondo

    I am watching the series because I am very interested in race in the Caribbean. Yes, there are limitations because of its length (four-part miniseries). But I absolutely agree that it is also important to consider what is left unsaid or unexplored. You mention Puerto Rico, which is one of my criticisms that I was discussing with my wife just now when we encountered your blog. One thing that I wanted to respectfully point out. Puerto Rican living in the island cannot vote in the Presidential elections unless they are living in the continental U.S. Of course this is ironic because the U.S. government has a lot of power over the island affairs. One more thing, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, as seen by the facts that we carry a U.S. passport and we fight as part of the U.S. military in every war waged by this country.


    Thanks for your comment. This link states some of the things that make Puerto Rico a Commonwealth, especially in this excerpt here:

    “Type: Commonwealth associated with the US. The island’s inhabitants possess all the rights and obligations of United States citizens such as paying Social Security, receiving federal welfare and serving in the armed forces, except for the right to vote in presidential elections and the obligation to pay federal taxes.”

    Yes, it is a short series because of time limitations, and the major effort Professor Gates took to get financing for this series.

    I am glad that it is being aired. Too many people remain unaware of the rich history of the people of the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America.

  2. apple

    this is really interesting. im sad that i missed this, I know very little about blacks in latin america/south america. Before college i knew next to nothing, now i know a little bit more. my cousins gf is an afro-panamanian, she looks black undeniably. I find alot of people don’t understand that latin american isn’t a race, but an ethnicity and there are a wide arrays of races within the latin american definition.

    I think that people should be educated more about the diversity of the black people.

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