Latino Americans on PBS
Latino Americans premieres tonight on PBS and it’s a thoughtful and entertaining documentary tracing Latino History in North America going back 500 years. As I was watching a screener of the show that airs tonight, I thought about my own Latino History.
My uncle chronicled that history in a family newsletter Confidencias Los Condes. The story begins in 1884 in Chamela, Jalisco, Mexico when my great grandfather Pedro was born. He was forced into work as a boy when his father, a federal judge, died. Pedro joined the Navy and quickly worked his way up the ranks. By the time he was 26, he was married and commander of military garrison in Baja California. He became Colonel under President Porfirio Diaz and was being groomed to become Governor of Baja.
That was until the Mexican Revolution pushed out Porfirio Diaz in 1911 and Pedro was arrested by the new government. He was sent to Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico to be executed. After a botched bribery attempt (Pedro’s wife, Felipa, sewed money into his jacket, but the jacket was stolen in jail before he was able to use the money) a fellow officer asked the British Ambassador to plead for his life. It worked and Pedro was freed the day before he was to face a firing squad.
Pedro and Felipa left Guaymas and moved to Sonora Mexico and quickly settled in Nogales, Arizona, which is where my dad was born. This is where one side of my family’s life began. The other is equally interesting and involves another near-execution during the Mexican Revolution.
The history of my family is so much more interesting than I had ever imagined. And so is the Latino History that I learned about in Latino Americans. Did you know thata Latino American was one of the first casualties in of World War II in Pearl Harbor? Or that until the mid-1940s, Latino immigration was mostly from Mexico? Or that the largest high school walkout was here in Los Angeles and led by Sal Castro who wanted his students to have the same rights as Anglos.
Latino history hasn’t been told in this way before and the documentary is eye opening in many ways. My boys and I watched the first episode together, which led to a lot of questions. My older son was shocked by the way people were treated especially Mariano Vallejo who lost his land and power when California became part of the United States. I love that it opened a dialogue and got him interested in the history of California that he might not learn in school.
Latino Americans airs tonight on PBS Socal at 7 p.m. I’m hoping that when we watch the rest of the show together it will start even more conversations about not only Latino History in the United States, but our own family story.