Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable
Q&A with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

First, could you talk a little bit about this project?

I conceived of this as a trilogy of documentary series that would mimic the patterns of the triangle trade. There would be a series on Africa which was called Wonders of the African World in 1999. And then there would be a series on black America called America Behind the Color Line in 2004. And then the third part of the triangle trade was, of course, South America and the Caribbean. The triangle trade was Africa, South America, and the continental United States and Europe. That’s how I conceived of it. I’ve been thinking about it since before 1999. But the first two were easier to get funding for. Everyone knows about black people from Africa, everyone knows about the black American community. But surprisingly, and this is why the series is so important, not many people realize how “black” South America is. So of all the things I’ve done it was the most difficult to get funded and it is one of the most rewarding because it is so counter-intuitive, it’s so full of surprises. And I’m very excited about it.

And why do you think there is a lack of knowledge about the black populations in Latin America?

Well, incredibly, there were 11.2 million Africans that we can count who survived the Middle Passage and landed in the New World, and of that 11.2 million, only 450,000 came to the United States. That’s amazing. All the rest went south of Miami as it were. Brazil got almost 5 million Africans. In part, this reflects our ignorance as Americans who don’t know that much about the rest of the world. But also, it is in part the responsibility of the countries in South America themselves — each of which underwent a period of whitening. In the hundred year period between 1872 and 1975, Brazil received 5,435,735 immigrants from Europe and the Middle East and this was a conscious policy after 1850 to “whiten” Brazil which was such a black country. Brazil is the second blackest nation in the world. Brazil has the second largest black population — black being defined by people of African descent in the way that we would define them in this country. It’s second only to Nigeria. But no one knows this. So it’s those two reasons, that the countries themselves went through long periods of being embarrassed about how black they were and secondly, our own ignorance. That’s why this series is so important. It’s meant to educate Americans, and people in Europe and the rest of the world, but it’s also meant to educate people in South America, too. And in each of these countries there is a political campaign against racism, for affirmative action, and for their right to exist where they don’t as census categories. For example, in Mexico and Peru, they are fighting for the right to be identified as black. As in France, many people in these countries thought that if you put that social identity in the census that it reinforces racism. But doing that also prevents people from organizing around race when they are discriminated by race. It’s a paradox. And it’s fascinating to see what is similar and dissimilar in each of these countries.

For Black in Latin America you visited Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. How did you choose to focus on these particular six countries?

Well, we had to pick a country that reflected quite dramatically the history of the slave trade. So the largest countries with the biggest black populations are Brazil and Venezuela. So that was one category. We divided all the countries into categories. We only had four hours. We couldn’t do all the Caribbean and all of South America. We had to come up with criteria. So category one is size. Brazil’s the largest country in South America and it’s Portuguese-speaking, so that was interesting. Second, we wanted to do something representative from the Caribbean.

Haiti just had the earthquake, it was very much in the news. Every night for months I would watch Anderson Cooper talking about the earthquake. But never did Anderson Cooper or anyone else talk about the history of Haiti. They’d talk about voodoo as if it was lunatic superstitions rather than one of the world’s old religions. Most journalists didn’t write anything sophisticated about the history of the revolution. And no one talked about the fact that it was at the western end of an island with another country, the Dominican Republic, and that the two of them had created their identities together and in opposition to each other. So it’s like Jacob and Esau, Yin and Yang. They’re both there on that island, separated by a river, and they’re very different countries. One is Spanish, Catholic and white, as it’s fond of saying. The other is African, black and voodoon. So we’re going to lead off the airing of the series with the Haiti & Dominican Republic program.

Cuba is a slam dunk. Everybody wants to know what’s going on in Cuba. And Fidel Castro, two years after he had his revolution in 1959, he announced that racism had been eliminated in Cuba. And Cuba got almost 800,000 slaves — far more than the United States. So there’s a fascination with Cuba: Our nearest neighbor. Miami’s twin city. How black is Cuba? Is there racism? Did the revolution, which brought health benefits and education to poor people, eliminate racism? That’s the question we ask. You can get the answer because the name of the episode is The Next Cuban Revolution.

And then finally Mexico and Peru. If Havana is the twin city of Miami, Mexico is our twin country. No one thinks of Mexico and Peru as black. But Mexico and Peru together got 700,000 Africans in the slave trade. The coast of Acapulco was a black city in the 1870s. And the Veracruz Coast on the gulf of Mexico and the Costa Chica, south of Acapulco are traditional black lands. Here’s the punchline, Barack Obama the first black president in the New World? No way. Vicente Guerrero in 1829. Mulatto, just like Barack Obama. First President of Mexico.

All these countries have curious things for this hidden history. The Dominican Republic says “We’re black behind the ears.” And in Mexico, “there’s a black grandma in the closet.” They know, they’ve just been intermarrying for a long time. But if we did the DNA of everyone in Mexico a whole lot of people would have a whole lot of black in them.

The series reveals how huge a role history can play in forming a nation’s concept of race. Although each of the countries you visited has its own distinct history, did you find any commonalities between the six countries with regard to race?

Yes, each country except for Haiti went through a period of whitening, when they wanted to obliterate or bury or blend in their black roots. Each then, had a period when they celebrated their cultural heritage but as part of a multi-cultural mix and in that multi-cultural mix, somehow the blackness got diluted, blended. So, Mexico, Brazil, they wanted their national culture to be “blackish” — really brown, a beautiful brown blend. And finally, I discovered that in each of these societies the people at the bottom are the darkest skinned with the most African features. In other words, the poverty in each of these countries has been socially constructed as black. The upper class in Brazil is virtually all white, a tiny group of black people in the upper-middle class. And that’s true in Peru, that’s true in the Dominican Republic. Haiti’s obviously an exception because it’s a country of mulatto and black people but there’s been a long tension between mulatto and black people in Haiti. So even Haiti has its racial problems.

In your opinion, if you visited other countries in Latin America you would see those commonalities coming out as well?

Yes. Again, these are representative. Typical. And I think that they typify the larger experience. I would hope we could get funding to do another series.

How do you feel the race experience differs between Latin American nations and the United States?

Whereas we have black and white or perhaps black, white, and mulatto as the three categories of race traditionally in America, Brazil has 136 kinds of blackness. Mexico, 16. Haiti, 98. Color categories are on steroids in Latin America. I find that fascinating. It’s very difficult for Americans, particularly African-Americans to understand or sympathize with. But these are very real categories. In America one drop of black ancestry makes you black. In Brazil, it’s almost as if one drop of white ancestry makes you white. Color and race are defined in strikingly different ways in each of these countries, more akin to each other than in the United States. We’re the only country to have the one-drop rule. The only one. And that’s because of the percentage of rape and sexual harassment of black women by white males during slavery and the white owners wanted to guarantee that the children of these liaisons were maintained as property.

And what’s amazing is that they can keep track. I’m thinking of the scene in Brazil where the group of men listed the different racial classifications that describe their skin color.

It’s like they had a color meter. “Oh this person is Caboclo.” I cracked up. That was a brilliant scene. I set that up, I told the crew just to follow me. And we walked through the market with me asking people what color I was and we had a lot of responses and then we picked the best one. But the best one was those guys when we put the hands in the circle. And then they all said “I’m Negro, I’m Negro” and then I said “No really, what are you?” And they go “I’m Cabocla, He’s Moreno.” It was great.

Could you discuss a few events during the making of the series that you found particularly powerful?

Well, there were many. Discovering that people in Latin America had been worshiping two black saints since the 1600s. That was astonishing. Discovering that the first Barack Obama in the New World was a Mexican, Vicente Guerrero. Learning that the Cuban Army of Independence was over 50 percent black and that two of its leaders were black generals including Antonio Maceo. But I think the most moving person I met was a Catholic Priest named Father Glyn Jemmott who works in the Costa Chica South of Acapulco on the Pacific in the blackest area of Mexico. He’s a Trinidadian. He’s been a parish priest there for 25 years. And he’s a black man. And his goal is to get people into Heaven. And to help them understand that they’re black and that’s a good thing. And he’s a humble man. He does it for the love of God and humanity. I found interacting with him a deeply spiritual experience.

Which of the countries do you most want to go back to visit and why?

I love them all. It’s like a mother and her children. I want to go back to each of them. But I was particularly fascinated by Cuba. Cuba is like going to a whole other planet. It’s so different but it’s so similar to the United States, to Miami. It’s like a doppelgänger. It’s the mirror image. And I have no doubt, that once Cuba becomes democratic, that it will be the favorite tourist destination for Americans. The people are all waiting for democracy and capitalism to come and I hope that that happens very soon. I mean I wish that Fidel Castro would wake up one day and decide he wants to be the George Washington of his country and institute one person one vote and open the country up.

  • Benno Cavatini-O’Neill, San Juan, PR

    When I saw the promos for this “documentary”, I programmed the TV/DVR to record it. I returned from my business trip to Ireland, Corsica and Mallorca, Spain, where I maintain business and family connections of over 100 years of family immigration to Puerto Rico.

    And so, after checking in with the office and unpacking, I turned on the TV to watch this program.

    WOWWWWWW, WHAT a crashing disappointment to see this ill-informed, bigoted, biased and totally naive and childish, but typically (North) American interpretation of the reality of others in OTHER social, cultural and racial contexts.

    Gates only proved what I saw repeatedly during my undergraduate, graduate and professional school years in the American Ivy League, that American Blacks have not only been duped by their white slavers but now have sunk to levels so low in their myopic “interpretation” of the experience of others “BECAUSE WE SAY SO”. How NON-intelligent, NON-aware and NOT-inspired of Gates. What a catastrophe he proved himself to be over and over again. And to think that he was “given” a PhD, which only proves the level of fake “scholarship” a clown like him has produced to get to sit on massah’s lap and now to dance in front of massah’s camera. What a DISGRACE!

    For him to continue to play his patronizing and oh-so-superior absurd American negro race games with others who do NOT embrace American institutionalized hypocrisy, HISTORIC racial delusion of the 1-drop rule (which at best is a very sadly informed perspective on which to base ANY racial identity), ONLY proves Gates’ pathetically provincial, lap-dog of the Ivy League sock-puppet perspective. The viewer could have learned more about Blacks in Latin America by watching old re-runs of “Chico and the Man” or “Miami Vice”.

    The USA and its “expert” (Gates) are in NO position to comment, criticize or even attempt the most superficial “analysis” of the racial reality of ANY culture or society outside of its borders. Really now, race stupidity in the USA has reached zenith levels and is now so entrenched that it is not even questioned. And Gates naivete could only be believed by equally inferior minds. How sad and what a missed opportunity to truly inform the world about something he knew and continues to know so little about. And no amount of Gates’ gratuititous “brotha” comments could make up for his appalling lack of insight and sensitivity to the FACT that Blacks, Whites, Asians and others around the world DO NOT buy-into the naive, ignorant and hypocritical race games that Americans embrace so hysterically without question.

    What a total disappointment to watch this program, as I hoped that the next minute might bring something more informative and inspired than just another self-indulgent snippet of Gates’ fake insight into race dynamics that he has NO possibility of understanding EVER! He was truly a sad figure to watch.

    He needs to go back on the Oprah show to celebrate his fake Whiteness. It is almost as equally offensive as his feeble attempt to embrace the “blackness” of others that he will NEVER comprehend. What a colossal waste of video-tape.

    Gates you should be ashamed of your pompous, posturing self. But then again American whites still love their house negro especially when he dances to their racist tunes and reinforces a race mythology invented by toothless, illiterate, syphilitic slave owners in the American South that are STILL the foundation of American’s racial matrix.

    And what a disgrace so many on this thread applaud this charlatan like trained seals at the zoo balancing balls on their noses. Really sad.

    Que verguenza payaso, pero nada mas se podia esperar de un negro vendido en los estados, y aun mono te quedaste cafre.

  • Medina-Olivetti, San Juan, PR

    ay Mayra,
    y tu esposo blanco ‘onde ‘sta?

  • Annika4

    As a (multi-racial) Puerto Rican, I am very disappointed that you neglected Puerto Rico your series, especially since it’s multi-racial populace is still being marginalized by the U.S. This is a great book to get you started on the history of Puerto Rico :(4th edition/ Jan 2008)

    The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History by Kal Wagenheim and Olga Jimenez de Wagenheim

    ISBN-10: 1558764763
    ISBN-13: 978-1558764767

  • Lenny Mejia Garizao

    Year 1
    Cartagena, Colombia
    Simon Bolivar
    Entry port to South America

    Need say no more 1517

    After the failed effort to found Antigua del Darién in 1506 by Alonso de Ojeda and the subsequent unsuccessful founding of San Sebastian de Urabá in 1517 by Diego de Nicuesa, the southern Caribbean coast became unattractive to colonizers, who preferred the better known Hispaniola and Cuba.[8]

    Though the Casa de Contratación gave permission to Rodrigo de Bastidas (1460–1527) to again conduct an expedition as adelantado to this area, Bastidas explored the coast and discovered the Magdalena River Delta in his first journey from Guajira to the south in 1527, a trip that ended in the Urabá Gulf, the location of the failed first settlements. De Nicuesa and De Ojeda noted the existence of a big bay on the way from Santo Domingo to Urabá and the Panama isthmus, and that encouraged Bastidas to investigate.

    Cartagena de Indias Port to South America
    Puerto Colombia la puerta de oro

    The people,music and heritage can still be traced and found today no kevin bacon 6 degrees of separation

  • CeCeMartinez

    I have meet Puerto Ricans blue eyed blond hair or people like Rick Marting embrase their Afro Latino culture, but i have yet met a Dominican acknowledge their “blackness” why such a complex.

  • Lnwyt

    For descriptive purposes, I am an African American (but I prefer the term Black) with a dark skin tone. I spent time (2+ years) living in Moca, Dominican Republic. It was the worst time of my life and I never want to set foot on its soil ever again. I wish I would have known of the hatred & discrimination there before my travel. And, I’m bilingual English/Spanish and understood every insult hurled at me.

  • manuel

    I think this documentary is amaizing but im dissapointed Puerto Rico was not include. Im a black puertorican man, born,raise and living in the island. African culture its really a STRONG part of puertorican culture as much as it is in Cuba and Dominican Republic… dont know if the relation we have with the states has something to do with our exclusion of the documentary . Puerto Rican culture its a BIG example of a multicultural country, hope to see something soon about it.

  • Enrique Gonzalez

    I don’t understand the Puerto Ricans that are disappointed because their country was not included in the series. You should be happy! You were not the object of the ignorant disparagement, the misplaced disapproval and prejudice of Dr Gates. Haven’t you see the series?

  • Colin Berlinghetti-O’Reilly

    As a Puerto Rican of Corsican, Basque and Irish background, I am very pleased Gates spared us his colossal stupidity and well-documented American race ignorance. But really now, could we have expected more from a smiling negro strolling through this “mock-u-mentary with an English walking stick? The camera crew must have been rolling on the ground hysterical laughing.

    Americans of any racial background should stay home and indulge their race hypocrisy at the KFC or Taco Bell drive-up windows. I could have learned more about blacks in Latin America from a talking Chihuahua at Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom.

    What a waste of time and PBS money. But then again PBS can point to this tangle of video-tape and brag about how much they are into “diversity” even if their house negro filled it with misinformation, brazen political agenda and Gates’ own special brand of tired and very faux Afro-Am arrogance.

    P’al carajo pendejos. Alla ustedes en sus estupideces de caserio! Que poca cosa son de verdad.

  • Sebastian Zamot-Rivera

    Manuel, you make a good point, HOWEVER, as a White Puerto Rican who has lived for a long time in the States, I have long ago stopped looking for cultural or historical connection with American Blacks.

    Their vision of themselves and their history within the western hemisphere is little more than a cheap, politically-correct version of what the White Americans have allowed them to have. Charlatans like Gates are a product of that cultural subordination of the Sub-Saharan African descendants in the States and he is VERY typically the product of this cultural abortion of American Blacks.

    He has made numerous INCREDIBLY HUGE mistakes in this “documentary” and he does not miss a chance to patronize the very blacks in Latin America that he purports to care so much about. He is the classic uncle Tom negro dancing for his white masters at PBS. And these masters don’t care if his “documentary” is based on historical fact of nonsense advance by Gates’ racist agenda and sadly in this thread there are way too many who are willing to worship at the altar of Gates regardless of what he produces as “history”.

    The result here is a total disaster of racist, afro-centric mythology and hate-Whitey diatribes disguised in $10.00 words that he has to look up in the dictionary. His “scholarship” is very suspect but in the apologist world of the academy, jerks like him go very far in their “career” because very few will question him for fear of being called “racist”.

    So, personally, I am not waiting for him to come to Puerto Rico to further insult us with his arrogance and equally offensive ignorance. And equally sad is the fact that we have our own collection of idiots who will gladly put on their FAKE peacock tail feathers EVEN THOUGH there were NEVER peacocks in Puerto Rico before the European settlers brought them as exotic pets.

  • Labrador-Amador, Javier

    Gates and his “Ph.D” American race stupidity is NOT welcome in Puerto Rico.
    EVER! Take it to Oprah and her insipid audience of constipated housewives with no brains left.

  • Theresa Albert

    Dear Doctor Gates,

    My students and I had followed your ancestry studies in the wonderful series of
    programs ,enjoying them immensely, throughout your PBS series this year.

    The series (and readings and films I pull in additionally) has led my students,
    each of them either a refugee or immigrant, both in many cases,
    learning American English in my classes, to reflect on many important and, as they
    see it “fun and relevant” discussions. Furthermore, we just enjoy the entertainment.

    So it is with enthusiastic personal and professional delight that I have just
    listened to your Fresh Air discussion with Terry Gross this evening. Great!

    The stories about your experiences, including the most infamous and unsettling one
    which, I agree, President Obama(greatly admired in my classes, inspite of the near
    impossibility of his making the kind of progress for all of us, he strives to achieve) handled
    well on behalf of all citizens, residents and visitors, here in the U.S., touched us deeply.

    I believe it touched most people deeply. I believe it was instructive, in the end,
    in a positive and useful way. You helped me believe it more so than I had dared.

    Have you read about the convergence of Native Americans “Canoe Journey”
    leading many native peoples to the Seattle area? It could be great, too.

    It may be another, hopefully positive, “teachable moment” for the students,
    especially, and all of us. Nearly all of my Latino students and families are
    uncomfortable with their native ancestry, in denial of it, and/or discriminatory in their
    own treatment of those they believe to be more native than Spanish. All except the
    proudly Purepecha, Maya and other “indio” families who embrace their ethnicity.

    Many wrestle with this painful conflict of their perception and their reality, as all
    of us do, to greater or lesser degrees. However, I hope this newly arrived youth can do
    better than we have done with the potential great advantages the influx of
    “new” peoples and cultures offers. That their arrival here portends.

    In any case, “hats off” to you, sir! I have long admired your style and your visible
    heartfelt stance with each person. And I applaud the efforts you make to help us
    see our “oneness” or great divergence as sisters and brothers
    here on the planet, here in North America, most especially.

    Thank you very much.

    Theresa Albert

    language teacher
    Glenfair School, English to Speakers of Other Languages
    University of Oregon, French
    Portland Community College, English, French and Spanish

    cultural and linguistic anthropology student

  • Vasco R. A. Pires

    Dear Dr. Gates,
    Have you done any studies of the slave trade before the 1500s? There was one comment in this forum that asked about the Islands of Cape Verde. What have you found in your “research”, about the the connections to the Diaspora of West African peoples in the “New World”, and the Islands of Cape Verde, during the 1400s. Do you not feel there is a connection? Why do you feel Cape Verde is left out of the discussions? I also do not understand why a scholar such as yourself and others still refer to “Race” as a category in describing differences between people of the human race. J. A. Rogers said in 1942: “Finally there is only one race – the human race.”
    Here we are in 2011 and still we have not changed our mindset from colonial social constructs. It is time to think outside the “Colonial Box”. There is still a lot of history to be uncovered. I thank you for your efforts, but please try harder.

    “debbie says:
    May 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm
    First of all thank you Prof. Gates. I will like you to do a piece on the Cape Verde islands. I come across a lot of Cape Verdeans in the Boston area, & I’ve never met a group of people who are very confused about who & where they come from. Second there’s & East Indian population (indentured servants) in the Caribbean, where I am from (Trinidad). Racism between the East Indians & Afro Caribbean in this region is very strong, but often kept under the rug. Now there’s a heavy migration of Chinese to all of the Caribbean. So now it’s the East Indians & Chinese vs the Afro Caribbean.”

  • troubled in paradise

    Dr. Gates:

    All you did with this video was highlight the issue of race in the DR in a negative manner. When you went to Haiti, you spoke very highly of their character, which is fine. However, were you being racist when you made this video as you subtly narrated the side of the DR? Why didn’t you higlight the accomplishments Dominicans have made throughout history even though we have been through so much adversity? Is this another propaganda scheme to put down Dominicans? If you really want to help Haitians, whom I believe deserve to be helped, why not focus on them entirely without the need of putting down the other side of the island? With all due respect,

  • Beckie Cromartie

    Thanks! However, this list is incomplete. As per my knowledge there arealmost 15-20 branches of IOB in Pune.

  • Nyasia

    With all do respect why wasn’t Puerto Rico one of the islands visited? The culture is very similar to Brazil’s in a sense of supposedly accepting our mixture but actually rejecting it. Why didn’t you touch up on why latinos tend to reject their black heritage? For the same reason African’s in America do relaxers – they were taught to hate themselves. It is an issue that is happening not only in Dominican Republic but also here in the states and all over Latin America. Also I feel as though the Dominicans were spoken about in a very negative manner but we need to realize why they think that way and that unfortunately most latinos (even when they clearly have African roots) think just like them. I am speaking from experience, I am a mulata from Puerto Rico.

    One more thing, when you spoke about the blacks in Mexico ( yes I am fully aware that there are blacks in Mexico and around all of Latin America) however when the women spoke of her father being dark he was not black, he was Indian. Too often latinos claim that all our indians are dead – which is not the case – many of them mixed with the blacks and were raped just like the blacks by the europeans.

    Please if you could touch up on these topics. What your doing is important but please don’t forget all the other important things.

  • Nya Idaly

    Thank you Enrique Gonzalez, good point.

  • Nya Idaly

    Another thing that really bothered me is that he seems very bias, especially with Brazil. Does he not realize that Puerto Rico is just as mixed as Brazil? You can have a set of parents that are both somewhat dark and come out with a very light child. Does he not realize that in the United States we are just as mixed as well? I’m sorry but Beyonce didn’t get that skin color and features by being African and only African. She looks like my latin people of Puerto Rico. Why? Because we are mixed! And yes we embrace our African roots. Listen to salsa, “Las caras negra de mi gente” Hector Lavoe or read poetry by Julia de Burgos. Our African heritage is just as rich as that of Brazil.

  • jilbab

    Steve, your very same logic could also be applied to dog fighting. Kinda makes you think.

  • Omar

    A young Caucasian girl that I work with came to me one day and told me how every Hispanic that she had met would complain about the way America treat Latinos.That was before I watched this documentary.I told her not to feel bad and to question them about how they treat the Blacks and Natives in their countries….
    I work with Latinos and every time I would complain about their off-color jokes,they would say que yo soy acomplejado.To have an idea of how blacks are treated in Latin American,just watch Univision,Telemundo and Telefuturo.See who are the newscasters,show hosts,or actors.Outside of a few reporters,you wouldn’t see an Oparah,Tyra,Tavis Smiley,to name only a few in the so called unjust America. Also watch your local news and see the difference.
    America is not perfect and has a history of brutally mistreating people especially people of African decent.However,I don’t see any country in Latin America that treat Black people better than the United States.
    Whenever the so called white Latinos would tell me about how equal their countries,I would usually ask the black ones.They always have a completely different story. I sympathize with people who get mad.It’s normal anytime time someone challenges the so called norm.But even though the truth hurts,it has to be told!!!!
    Kudos Dr Gates. Your documentary is not perfect but it’s very informative.

  • yelena demikovsky

    Hi, I would like to talk ask Mr. Gates questions but it might be too late to get to this conversation.
    Anybody can help me to find him?
    Yelena Demikovsky
    a filmmaker

  • S Robinson

    I think many people have missed the point about this documentary. I am based in the UK and the series is currently being shown now. Maybe it’s too uncomfortable for people to watch and see the truth about African people’s lives in the past and present but I have found it so far very informative and it is not a subject I have seen being given a platform.

    Not sure why Puerto Rico was missed out. Hopefully he will do it next time. Calling Gates an Uncle Tom – what a ridiculous statement.

  • Marlena

    Black in Latin America and DNA ancestry are fascinating. As a Puerto Rican, I wish you had visited Puerto Rico. I think our society is more color blind, but is it really? Maybe not as much as I thought. I would love to hear what you can find out about our unique situation.

  • Edgar

    Very good documentary indeed. Still, I wonder why Puerto Rico was not included in the documentary, since it shares a common heritage with Cuba and Dominican Republic; on top of that Puerto Ricans are the largest Afro-Latino population living in the USA… Well, maybe next time.

  • Emilio Cuesta

    I really like how he compares the six Latin American countries that the interviewer asks him about. You really learn a lot because he seems to talk about each country. I found that every country he talked about experienced a period of “whitening” except Haiti. He seems to mention that the poverty level comes from the African-Americans in the country, and is why Haiti is such a struggling country. Although I do find this a bit racist, he seems to back up his information with factual evidence to which he proves his point. I think he did a good job overall.

  • Lucy

    As a student in high school, this series was eye opening as I have only really learned about blacks in America and the African slavery in America. It is astounding to think that combined, Mexico and Peru experienced more slaves than in America. Reading this interview brings to light several facts that I didn’t know about the documentary. The decision to make the trilogy reflect the countries in the Triangle Trade is very interesting and creative. It was interesting to see how blacks in modern day Latin America view their heritage now. We watched the series in Spanish class and we are all much more informed on the subjects taught in this documentary.

  • Heather

    I found this question and answer as very interesting. I learned a lot about the triangle trade he was explaining and the issue of race. I thought Professor Gates did a great job with the film and this questions and answer documentary. He was very helpful in making me aware of the African decent in many countries. I would love to hear more from professor Gates and the work he has done.

  • J. Christian

    I never knew that Latin America felt so different towards mixed blood than American’s do. As we believed that one drop of black blood made you black, in Latin American one drop of white blood makes you white. It is also interesting that there are 136 different mixes of blood in Brazil, 16 in Mexico, and 98 in Haiti whereas America has 3.

  • chris

    i never really thought or even realized what you had said about haiti during the earthquake. with all the publicity i never once heard any mention of the rich and intersting history of the small nation and im glad i had a chance to learn about it.

  • Emily

    Doctor Gates did an excellent job with these films. He brought enthusiasm to his work and made the content really interesting to watch. It was great that he filmed himself in Latin America doing the research first hand. The various interviews he did were very personal and provided valuable insight and perspectives. This series and Q and A is a perfect blend of factual information and Gates’ entertaining travels in Latin America. I would recommend this series to anyone who is interested in learning something new and informative. The fact that the viewers and readers are learning the information at the same time as a Harvard professor is interesting in itself. This Q and A solidifies the factual content in the film series.

Support for provided by:



Produced by WNET    ©2015 WNET. All Rights Reserved.