In 2015, the SCF Libraries hosted public screenings of two episodes of the PBS series "Latino Americans," followed by an open conversation on the themes explored in the documentary
and their relationship to our Manatee and Sarasota communities.
Dr. Harry Coverston, a Florida Humanities Scholar and Professor of Humanities from the University of Central Florida, led the open-ended discussions that allowed us to explore the topics portrayed in the films and share our knowledge and experiences on the subject.
Thank you, Dr. Coverston, and everyone who joined us!
These are some of the pictures from the events on:
September 17, 2015 and September 24, 2015
Until World War II, Latino immigration to the United States was overwhelmingly Mexican-American. Now three new waves bring large-scale immigration from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. As the Puerto Rican government implements a historic overhaul over a million Puerto Ricans are encouraged to leave for the US mainland, to alleviate the economic pressure. A young Juanita Sanabria arrives in New York, works hard in the garment district, but encounters hostility and discrimination. Ethnic tensions explode in youth gang warfare depicted in films like West Side Story, etching the stereotype of the knife wielding Puerto Rican in the American consciousness.
In the film, Rita Moreno plays the role of Anita and wins an Oscar. But for most Puerto Ricans empowerment remains elusive. A young Puerto Rican lawyer, Herman Badillo, takes on the political establishment, opening the door for unprecedented Puerto Rican participation in electoral politics. In the early 60s, the first Cubans flee the left-wing Castro regime, a relatively white, middle-class flight that soon forms a refugee enclave in Miami. A child of 11 at the time, Gustavo Perez Firmat believes like most refugees, that it is only a matter of weeks before the American government will wrest Cuba from the Communist regime. But Castro survives. Maria de los Angeles Torres is only six years old when she leaves Havana without her parents, one of 14,000 children are smuggled out through an underground network. Unable to leave legally, Manuel Capo and his two military age sons – make a dramatic journey to the US. With skills honed in the family furniture business in Cuba and support from the federal government, the Capos build thriving business marketing to the growing Cuban population.
In 1965, fearing another Communist takeover in the Caribbean, President Johnson sends Marines to the Dominican Republic, triggering a third wave of immigration. With a US visa in hand, 20 year-old university student, Eligio Peña, flees to New York. Eventually he brings his family to New York as Dominicans build a new home in Washington Heights. Julia Alvarez would take the immigrant experience – her own and that of her fellow Dominicans – to unprecedented literary heights in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. In her work, she explores the hybrid identity taking shape in a new generation of Latinos, who are now demanding their place in America.
In the 80s the nature of the Latino Diaspora changes again. From Cuba a second wave of refugees to United States – the Mariel exodus – floods Miami . The same decade sees the sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans (Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans) fleeing death squads and mass murders at home like activist, Carlos Vaquerano. By the early 1990s, a political debate over illegal immigration – has begun. Globalization, empowered by NAFTA, means that as U.S. manufacturers move south, Mexican workers head north in record numbers. A backlash ensues: tightened borders, anti-bilingualism, state laws to declare all illegal immigrants felons. But a sea change is underway: the coalescence of a new phenomenon called Latino American culture-as Latinos spread geographically and make their mark in music, sports, politics, business, and education. Gloria Estefan leads the Miami Sound Machine creating cross over hits in Spanish and English. Oscar de la Hoya, a Mexican-American boxer from L.A., becomes an Olympic gold medalist and the nation's Golden Boy. Is a new Latino world being created here as the Latino population and influence continues to grow? Alternatively, will Latinos in America eventually assimilate into invisibility, as other groups have done so many times? Latinos present a challenge and an opportunity for the United States. America's largest and youngest growing sector of the population presents what project advisor Professor Marta Tienda calls, The Hispanic Moment.Their success could determine the growth of the United States in the twenty-first century; however their failure, contributing to an underclass, could also pull this country down. The key, according to Tienda and Eduardo J. Padron, Ph.D., President of Miami Dade Community College, is education.