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31 Stories for 31 Days of Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15, 2021

By Beatrice Alvarez

Today is the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month and this year, we are celebrating from today to October 15th. Yes, every single day we are going to learn something by listening to the many voices of Hispanic and Latina/e/o/x storytellers. Here is collection of stories from or about 31 different individuals who have enriched our shared American culture.

Raúl Juliá

The charismatic actor and singer is remembered for his iconic performances in Shakespearean theater as much as his interpretation of the ghoulish patriarch, Gomez Addams. Throughout his brilliant career, Juliá never diminished his Puerto Rican heritage and that paved the way for many Latina/e/o/x actors today.

Learn more about his life in American Masters' 2019 film: Raul Julia: The World's a Stage.

American Masters

Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage

Explore a versatile Puerto Rican actor whose work on stage & screen shook the world.

Maria Hinojosa

Mexican-American journalist Maria Hinojosa became ill last year, early on in the pandemic. The challenge for her was that she was also reporting on the pandemic's acute impact on Black and Latino communities. She shares her lessons learned an episode of Latinos Are Essential

Latinos Are Essential

All Around Us

Journalist Maria Hinojosa discusses her reporting on the pandemic’s effect on Latinos.

Linda Ronstadt

When she belted out the first notes of "Los Laureles" on her double-platinum album Canciones de Mi Padre, Mexican-Americans got the chills. Her rock, pop, and country success had already made her an American icon, but her decision to record a Spanish-language mariachi album in 1987 put her Mexican musical heritage front and center. Fans and artists continue to be inspired by her work and how she decided to bring her cultural upbringing to her artistry.

Singers La Marisoul and Aída Cuevas sing some of Ronstadt's hit records and share a bonding conversation about heritage and music in Southland Sessions' Tribute to Linda Ronstadt.

Southland Sessions

A Tribute to Linda Ronstadt at The Soraya

A Tribute to Linda Ronstadt at San Fernando Valley’s performing arts center The Soraya.

Maria Cruz

Maria Cruz and her sister Mar teach dance in their native Puerto Rico. One dance, in particular, is key to their work and that is because it connects them to their ancestral past. The bomba style dance is a rhythmic movement that comes from African diaspora in Puerto Rico.

Watch and learn how they see teaching bomba as a way to preserve the legacy of this dance and of their Afro Latino culture in this episode of If Cities Could Dance.

If Cities Could Dance

Puerto Rico's Bomba, A Dance of The African Diaspora

Sisters Mar and Maria Cruz are preserving the legacy of this dance of resistance.

Vincent Valdez

San Antonio, Texas-based artist Vincent Valdez explores his place in American history through his art. He emphasizes themes of social justice and memory in his work while often centering traditional marginalized or ignored figures in society.

This episode of American Masters' In The Making series explores Valdez's work and his motivation to make art in service of others.

American Masters

Vincent Valdez: The Beginning is Near

Artist Vincent Valdez emphasizes under-examined historical narratives in his work.

Juan Seguín

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Juan Seguín took up arms to defend Texas against all enemies. He was a Tejano, after all. Seguín felt so strongly about Texas being an independent state that when it was still a part of Mexico, he sided with a local militia to fight Mexico's army led by General Santa Anna as they tried to secure the Alamo. Later, as mayor of San Antonio, Seguín was targeted by racist, white settlers simply because they considered him Mexican and therefore second-class and they forced the state's staunchest defender into exile.

Learn more about Seguín in the first episode of Latino Americans.

Latino Americans

Juan Seguin

Juan Seguin was a Capitan during the Texas Revolution.

Julia Mendoza Friedman

Filmmaker Julia Mendoza Friedman enjoys the anthropological aspect of filmmaking and notes Jane Goodall as a childhood influence. Her documentaries aim to listen more than opine. Friedman contributed the film Mi Fango, Mi Cerro to The Latino Experience, it is available to stream this month.

The Latino Experience

Julia Mendoza Friedman | Filmmaker Q&A

Julia Mendoza Friedman made the film Mi Fango, Mi Cerro for The Latino Experience.

Jovita Idar

She was an outspoken activist, using her journalistic skills to shed light on civil rights abuses and injustice against Mexican Americans. Born in 1885, she organized a civil rights conference in 1911 to address racism, lynching, and educational inequalities targeting Mexican Americans.

Watch her profile, part of American Masters' Unladylike 2020 series.

American Masters

Jovita Idar: Mexican American Activist and Journalist

Jovita Idar was a Latina journalist who worked for an end to segregation and racism.

Maria Moreno

Maria Moreno was a tireless advocate for migrant workers until one day she disappeared. She was unafraid to take on the powerful forces that saw farmworkers, a largely immigrant community, as second-class citizens. She inspired workers to come together, to find their voice.

Learn more about her in the VOCES documentary Adios Amor - The Search for Maria Moreno, available to stream on Sep. 23. 

VOCES

Trailer | Adios Amor - The Search for Maria Moreno

Follow the search for a hero that history forgot: Maria Moreno.

Dr. Victor Rios

The school-to-prison pipeline damages whole communities and disproportionately affects Black and Latino youth. Dr. Victor Rios is a former gang member and high school dropout who knows the school to prison pipeline all too well. Today, he dedicates his life's work to helping those very youth who are being pushed out of school.

He is featured in The Pushouts, a documentary from the VOCES series that is available to stream starting Sep. 23

VOCES

Trailer | The Pushouts

Meet Dr. Victor Rios a former gang member working with youth being “pushed out” of school.

Chelsea Hernandez

The economic and housing booms across Texas would not be possible without the exploitation of Latino immigrants. Filmmaker Chelsea Hernandez made an insightful documentary that shows how immigrant communities are acutely impacted by an industry filled with abuse and how they seek justice against all odds.

Building the American Dream has been nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy award and is available to stream for the next month.

VOCES

Building the American Dream

Follow immigrant families rising up to seek justice in an industry rife with exploitation.

Jose Sarria

Jose Sarria put his identity as gay and Latino front and center in his advocacy for queer rights. A San Francisco drag queen legend and military veteran, Sarria was the first openly gay candidate to run for public office. He later founded a charity that continues to hold gala events in support of queer causes.

Learn about Jose Sarria in this episode of American Masters' Masters of Drag.

American Masters

Jose Sarria: Legendary Drag Queen and Queer Activist

Sarria was a legend of the San Francisco drag scene.

Loira Limbal

Filmmaker Loira Limbal is a filmmaker and dj who describes herself as seeking to create art that is nuanced and revelatory. Her film Through the Night is just that, a nuanced and touching portrait of a 24-hour daycare in New York. And it is available to stream for Passport members.

POV

Through the Night, Spanish Subtitles

Close bonds are forged between parents, children, and caregivers at a 24-hour daycare.

Mario Molina

Nobel Prize-winning scientist Mario Molina helps explain climate change and holes in the ozone layer in this interview with Living St. Louis.

Living St. Louis

Mario Molina

Nobel Prize winner Mario Molina on the global effort to tackle climate change.

Maria Teresa Rodriguez

Maria Teresa Rodriguez made the film Cuban American Gothic for The Latino  Experience. She hopes her films inspire hope in her audiences, as well as promote dialogue and reflection.

The Latino Experience

Maria Teresa Rodriguez | Filmmaker Q&A

Filmmaker Maria Teresa Rodriguez made Cuban American Gothic for The Latino Experience.

Isnay Rodriguez Agramonte (DJ Jigüe)

Meet DJ Jigüe, who is transforming the global phenomenon of Afrobeats into a new sound in Cuba: Bakosó in this film from AfroPop titled Bakosó: the Afrobeats of Cuba .

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange

Bakosó: Afrobeats of Cuba

DJ Jigüe finds AfroBeats has helped create a new genre called Bakosó

Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez has written beloved novels that reflect her Dominican heritage and the complexities of being Latino in the United States, of wanting to bridge cultures and languages. In this interview, she talks about her childhood and her craft.

Profile

Julia Alvarez

Fran Stoddard interviews author Julia Alvarez.

Jose Hernandez

Jose Hernandez' remarkable life story is truly an American one. He came from a family of farmworkers and set his sights on the skies. The stars, in fact, because he focused on becoming an astronaut. In 2009 he launched into space for a 14-day mission.

Learn more about his story in the Valley PBS documentary Reaching For The Stars: The Jose Hernandez Story.

Valley PBS Original Documentaries

Reaching for the Stars: The Jose Hernandez Story

An inspiring story of Central Valley Astronaut, Jose Hernandez.

 Johnny Colón

Percussionist Johnny Colón helped pioneer a new sound called the Bugaloo in 1960s New York City. This new blend of Caribbean-influenced beats and rhythms reflected the new generation of Latinos and Afro Latinos in urban areas at the time.

Enjoy a bit of music history in the America ReFramed documentary: We Like it Like That.

America ReFramed

We Like It Like That

Exploring 1960s music history when Bugaloo defined a new generation of urban Latinos.

Alejandra López

Alejandra López is a filmmaker who draws upon her journalism background to tell stories that magnify a reality for audiences. She contributed a moving film called The Blue Cape to The Latino Experience and it is streaming during Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Latino Experience

Alejandra Lopez | Filmmaker Q&A

Filmmaker Alejandra Lopez made the film The Blue Cape for The Latino Experience.

Ashley Solis

Ashley Solis is a writer and student in California. She is also the subject of a documentary called Fruits of Labor. Solis is the child of undocumented immigrants and the documentary shows the realities of so many working families in the United States.

You can watch her story in POV's Fruits of Labor.

POV

Trailer | Fruits of Labor

In California, a Mexican-American teen goes to work when ICE raids threaten her family.

Rita Moreno

You have to be a special talent to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony in your lifetime. Rita Moreno made it look easy, even though the first Latina to have an EGOT overcame obstacles like discrimination in an industry that often saw Latinas as single-note stereotypes.

Learn about her remarkable career that began shortly after arriving in New York City from her native Puerto Rico in American Masters' Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It.

American Masters

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It

Explore the life and 70-year career of the iconic Latina actor, performer and activist.

Ben DeJesus

Ben DeJesus understands that the content available in media often shapes how other people are seen and understood. His dedication to uplifting Latino stories is evidenced by his body of work. He directed the Raúl Juliá documentary and a films that specifically looks at Latino representation in film and television. Lights, Camera, Acción on American Masters highlights just how important Ben DeJesus' storytelling is in today's media landscape.

American Masters

Ben DeJesus Sheds Light on Latino Stories

Director Ben DeJesus discusses the importance of Raúl Juliá's story and cultural impact.

Arleen Cruz-Alicea

Filmmaker Arleen Cruz-Alicea is a Puerto Rican documentary filmmaker who wants to share the reality of life on Puerto Rico beyond tourist beaches and reggaeton videos. Her latest project, for the series Hindsight is called Comida Pa' Los Pobres. The film highlights the access to food and how communities help one another be nourished.

REEL SOUTH

Comida Pa' Los Pobres (Food for the Poor)

A Puerto Rican activist builds a solidarity movement to confront the island’s food crisis.

Carlos Santana

This year, guitar legend Carlos Santana will be honored at the 34th Hispanic Heritage Awards. The show airs Oct. 8 but until then, please enjoy this music video for Santana and Maná's "Corazon Espinado."

SantanaVEVO

Santana - Corazon Espinado ft. Mana (Official Video)

Dominique Nieves

Filmmaker Dominique Nieves believes that film and television have the power to increase empathy for others.

You can watch her film Our Lady of Lupe as part of The Latino Experience, it is streaming throughout Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Latino Experience

Dominique Nieves | FIlmmaker Q&A

Dominique Nieves contributed the film Our Lady Lupe to The Latino Experience.

Adriana Bosch

Longtime filmmaker and Peabody Award-winner Adriana Bosch is premiering a new film this Hispanic Heritage Month, called Letters to Eloisa. The spark for this film came from a stack of papers that fell out of a book she had as part of research for her 2004 American Experience film Fidel Castro. Bosch dove into the research and recreated a Cuba that writer Jose Lezama Lima flourished before being silences by the new regime.

Until the premiere on Oct. 8 enjoy Bosch's earlier (and Peabody Award-winning) work on Latino Americans.

Latino Americans

Episode 2: Empire of Dreams

Documents how the American population begins to be reshaped by the influx of immigrants

Herman Badillo

Herman Badillo was the first Puerto Rican to be elected to U.S. Representative. Badillo knew the power of the vote meant representation and a voice in decisions that affected all people. He waged legal battles to ensure voting rights for Latinos in New York before running for office.

Learn about Herman Badillo in the series Latino Americans.

Latino Americans

Herman Badillo

Herman Badillo was the first Puerto Rican to be elected to U.S. Representative.

Ivy Queen

The queen of reggaeton, Ivy Queen, will be honored at this years Hispanic Heritage Awards. We have to give her so much credit for her pioneering sound and for thriving in a male-dominated genre. The awards premiere Oct. 8.

IvyQueenVEVO

Ivy Queen - La Vida Es Así (Video Oficial)

Pati Jinich

Award-winning chef and author Pati Jinich takes audiences to the U.S.-Mexico border on a culinary and cultural journey in the upcoming special: La Frontera with Pati Jinich. Jinich's adventurous spirit is a breath of fresh air as we go from Laredo to Brownsville .

You can enjoy the preview of the show, but mark your calendars for the premierie on Oct. 15.

La Frontera with Pati Jinich

First Look

Get an early look at this new program featuring Pati Jinich. Coming in October.

 Jose Lezama Lima 

Jose Lezama Lima was a world-renowned author from Cuba before his world closed in and the Castro regime deemed Lima a problem. The collection of letters he wrote to his exiled sister show the arc of his life and how he struggled as he was increasingly silenced.

Watch the preview ahead of the film's premiere on Oct. 15.

VOCES

Trailer | Letters to Eloisa

"Letters to Eloisa" depicts the life of Author José Lezama Lima.

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