Black in Latin America, a new four-part series on the influence of African descent on Latin America, is the 11th and latest documentary film from renowned Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., presenter and writer of the acclaimed PBS series 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.
It is the 11th documentary from Professor Gates whose previous PBS projects include “African American Lives 1 and 2,” “Oprah’s Roots,” “Looking for Lincoln,” and “Faces of America,” among others.