On Wednesday, September 28th I experienced a marvelous night of television with great Alternative Latino Content with HBO's back-to-back broadcast of Texas Habla and The Latino List. It was marvelous to watch.
"The Latino List" has received considerable media attention, and rightly so, for its fierce behind-the-scenes team and its incredible roster of influential Latino personalities. I was especially moved by the ferocity of Marta Moreno Vega.
The "Habla" series, directed by Alberto Ferreras and produced by Trina Bardusco of Latino Media Works, has profiled every-day Latinos since 2003 with episodes from Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and two from New York.
In 2009 and 2010, almost concurrently with the first episodes of The Black List, they created two installments of Celebrity Habla and booked interviews with: Soledad O'brien, Narciso Rodriguez, Lisa Quiroz, Lin Manuel Miranda, Franklin Chang Díaz, Denise Quiñones, Esai Morales, Dolores Huerta, Lupe Ontiveros, Cesar Millán, Willie Colón, Maria Hinojosa, Jose Antonio Tijerino, Charo, Rodrigo García, Rosie Pérez, Rita Moreno, Luis Guzman, Lorena & Lorna Feijoo, Bernie Williams, Paquito D'Rivera, Sonia Manzano, Roselyn Sanchez, Moctesuma Esparza, Wilmer Valderrama, Daisy Fuentes, Devendra Banhart, Isabel & Ruben Toledo, Ana de la Reguera, Judy Reyes, Ruben Blades, Maria Teresa Kumar, Walter Mercado, and Jimmy Smits.
Last night's "Habla" series added another city, Texas. They presented a gamut of everyday people sharing what it was for them to be Latino in this nation. A highlight anecdote from that series for me was the man who reiterated the beauty of the real significance of "The Day of The Dead," to honor the dead by keeping them alive with a day of honor.
Watching both these shows back-to-back was powerful. Seeing all these faces, colors, professions, accomplishments and the passage of time was tender, painful, inspiring. I kept thinking about this Alternative Latino Content, that is clearly out there, as a real forceful possibility that could tremendously shift so many pre-conceived notions, could up-set others even more, but ultimately could really make us, "La Quinta Raza," feel proud and inspire up-and-coming generations to see and understand that some things are worth standing up for.
Here in one night, two teams of brilliant people at the top of their game, some with more media clout than others, but nonetheless demonstrating that we are and have substance.
I've introduced a new term here with "La Quinta Raza," which as far as I know was the previous name of Bernardo Ruiz's (another classy Latino television and film director) production company. It is now Quiet Pictures and he changed the name because it was hard for some people to pronounce, which I can totally understand. Still, the name to me has always meant poetry. The idea behind it is that we're "the fifth race." Because we literally are the mixed race, a consequence of the "Conquest" or the "Discovery," you take your pick.
In both "Texas Habla" and "The Latino List" this notion came up. In my memory this stood out in "Texas Habla" with the young man from the Border who talked about how we can absorb and understand so many types of music. In "The Latino List" the great John Leguizamo talked about our mix race heritage.
There are tremendously talented and gifted people out there creating the type of programming we had last Wednesday.
Side-by-side, two different crews, similar formats and one bottom-line.
Let more of us with power and influence to make things happen, support more of what we had last Wednesday in more platforms and in more spaces. Thank you HBO.
But perhaps nothing shook me to the core more than Marta Moreno Vega's closing words in "The Latino List." I paraphrase, but basically she said...
"Don't you ever, ever not recognize yourself in someone else."
I got that.
Let's recognize ourselves! I hope others that watched did as well.