Viva 'Voces'! New Latino Series Premieres on PBS
Old timers dance at PS 52 reunion concert in the South Bronx, New Yorl. From Henry Chalfant's From Mambo to Hip Hop. Photo: Martha Cooper
If you're looking for a little spice in your fall public television line-up, check out Voces, a new 13-part series showcasing Latino culture that premieres September 2. Curated by Luca Bentivoglio, executive director of Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), and distributed by American Public Television (APT), the series covers everything from music to portraits of Latino and Chicano icons to suburban ethnicity.
Says Bentivoglio, "One of the reasons I came up with Voces is because I think that even though PBS and public television in general do a very good job at broadcasting Latino films across the United States, there's a need to find continuity. There are not enough hours out there and there's not a regular schedule to find these programs."
The seed for Voces was planted while Bentivoglio was working at commercial television outlets Univision and Telemundo. Stations across the country, especially in markets with large Latino populations such as California, Texas, Chicago, North Carolina, Miami and New York, were constantly asking him for more programming.
When he came to LPB in 2001, Bentivoglio found that there was a need for Latino-oriented programming in the public television arena as well. He met several times with representatives from every California station, and they indicated that they would welcome a series such as Voces. He also took notice of individual stations attempting to do their own programming, such as a magazine show produced by a Colorado station and programs with Latino hosts in Miami.
"What we're doing is great," Bentivoglio remarks. "I'm very happy and I think that we have accomplished a lot. But there's always that human drive to do more. We have an opportunity here and we have great companies like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting who believe in diversity and think that this is a good idea. So why don't we go out there and do more?"
With this in mind, he started researching and packaging Voces in 2003, seeking pieces that would be right for the series and talking to stations who might potentially carry it. Another element fell into place when Edward James Olmos, the chairman of LPB, agreed to be the host.
Approximately half of the pieces in Voces have were acquired specifically for the series, while half received some sort of funding from LPB, including Oriana Zill de Granado's Nuestra Familia/Our Family, a personal look at the Nuestra Familia prison gang, and Henry Chalfant's From Mambo to Hip Hop, a panoramic view of the music that blossomed in the Latin community of the South Bronx. Bentivoglio hopes that if this first installment of Voces is successful, LPB will be able to commission pieces for the series in the future. A full guide to the series can be found at www.voces.tv.
Tamara Krinsky is associate editor of Documentary magazine.