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Burns documentary angers Latino veterans
Associated Press ^ | April 8. 2007 | By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

Posted on 04/08/2007 1:00:19 PM PDT by CharentonChina

NEW YORK - Activists who believe Latinos deserve more recognition for their contributions during World War II have created an agonizing political problem for PBS and filmmaking star Ken Burns.

Several Latino leaders and military veterans, angry that Burns' high-profile documentary series "The War" includes no conversations with Latinos who fought, are demanding changes. PBS and Burns want to satisfy an important constituency, without the precedent of a filmmaker forced to change his vision due to a protest.

PBS chief executive Paula Kerger, after meetings with leaders including Congress' Hispanic caucus, has promised suggested solutions as early as this week.

Burns' 14-hour documentary is scheduled to premiere in September. PBS hopes it becomes as definitive a record of the World War II experience as Burns' "The Civil War" was for that conflict, and as popular. Kerger has already described it as Burns' greatest work.

Even though the film hasn't been seen publicly, its lack of Latino representation was sniffed out by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, a former newspaper reporter who runs an oral history project about Latino World War II veterans at the University of Texas.

Rivas-Rodriguez and her staff police projects about World War II all over the country — books, films, conferences and the like — to make sure Latinos are represented. Last November, when Burns previewed his film at a museum, her project manager asked whether Latino veterans were interviewed in the documentary. She was told no, and immediately set about trying to raise awareness.

Anger over "The War" has deep roots.

Rivas-Rodriguez has stories from Latino Medal of Honor winners who came home to Texas only to be denied service at restaurants. She thinks few Americans are aware of the experiences, and the lack of attention it received in Tom Brokaw's best-selling book "The Greatest Generation" didn't help.

"It's a real sore spot to say to someone that your experience wasn't unique in this country," she said. "Our people weren't valued. Not only were they not valued then, they are not being valued today."

The large Latino presence among the armed forces fighting the Iraq War deepens the sensitivity toward this issue, said Marta Garcia, head of the New York chapter of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

Burns' film focuses on the wartime experiences of people from four communities across the country — Waterbury, Conn.; Mobile, Ala.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Luverne, Minn. He weaves their individual stories about combat together to tell how the war changed lives, and changed the world.

Since he's spent his career trying to tell overlooked stories in American history, Burns said he can appreciate the Latino community's concerns.

"We did not set out to exclude Latinos, or any other group for that matter," he told The Associated Press. "In fact, thousands of stories have not been included. We set out to explore the human experience of war and combat based on a handful of stories told by individuals in only four American towns."

Still, it hasn't escaped the Latino groups' notice that blacks are talked to in the film about segregated forces, and Japanese-Americans about their internment.

Burns' stature makes the issue so crucial. "A lot of people regard Ken Burns as the country's documentarian," Rivas-Rodriguez said.

She would like to see the project expanded to include the Latino experience, perhaps even by a couple of hours. A separate film has little appeal, because few beyond those directly involved would care, she said.

"It has to be something substantive," she said. "It can't be simply inserting someone with a (Latin) last name and saying, `Oh, yeah, he was there, too.'"

To Burns, the film is done. He's already traveling to promote it, and showed a segment to cadets at West Point two weeks ago. PBS wanted to finish early to allow for ancillary products, including a book. PBS affiliates are making films about local wartime experiences.

Even if they were to entertain the idea, Burns' representatives argue that substantial changes would be difficult. To fit the narrative, Burns would have to find Latino veterans from one of the four communities, and seek out footage from the specific battles they talk about. The time-consuming process is why it took six years to make the film.

Imagine PBS' predicament. Its executives are loath to impose upon someone's creative vision, particularly the system's biggest star. If PBS changes a film because of one group's complaint, what happens the next time?

Yet PBS, of course, gets a big chunk of its funding from the federal government. The Hispanic caucus is much more important than it was five months ago, when the election put Congress under Democratic control. The National Hispanic Media Coalition is also well known to PBS for its challenges to TV station license renewals, and has criticized PBS for not hiring enough Latinos.

"PBS takes this situation very seriously," said PBS spokeswoman Lea Sloan. "The stories of all the diverse communities in this country, including the Latinos, are of critical importance and while PBS has been a leading forum for these voices to be heard, there is more that needs to be done."

Michael Getler, PBS' ombudsman, has looked into the issue. He wondered whether anyone had even thought about Latino veterans during the film's six-year gestation. If nothing else, it shows how new thinking is always necessary in a diverse country, he said.

He did not, however, offer ideas to satisfy the protesters. ___

On the Net:

http://www.pbs.org

http://www.defendthehonor.org


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: kenburns; latinos; pbs; wwii
I suspect there's a bit of schadenfreude in Freeperland over this agonizing political problem.
1 posted on 04/08/2007 1:00:21 PM PDT by CharentonChina
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To: CharentonChina
Hell yeah, they fought! Those were the dudes in peg-pants fighting the cops in LA, right? It was this long series of riots, and those dudes had some gang name, I think.

Anyone remember that term? They fought the cops during WW2 in LA.

2 posted on 04/08/2007 1:02:37 PM PDT by gaijin
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To: CharentonChina
Yeah..! The Zoot-Suit Riots..!

The Zoot Suit Riots

3 posted on 04/08/2007 1:03:57 PM PDT by gaijin
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To: CharentonChina
On the night of June 3, 1943, eleven sailors on shore leave stated that they were attacked by a group of Mexican pachucos. In response to this, a group of over 200 uniformed sailors chartered 20 cabs and charged into the heart of the Mexican American community in East Los Angeles. Any zoot suiter was fair game. On this and the following nights, many a zoot suiter was beaten by this mob and stripped of their clothes, their zoot suits, on the spot. Nine sailors were arrested during these disturbances, not one was charged with any crime. On the following nights of June 4th and 5th, the uniformed servicemen (by this time the sailors had been joined by soldiers) again invaded East Los Angeles, marching abreast down the streets, breaking into bars and theaters, and assaulting anyone in their way. Not one was arrested by the Police or the Sheriff. In fact, the servicemen were portrayed in the local press as heroes stemming the tide of the "Mexican Crime Wave." During the nights of June 6th and 7th, these scenes were again repeated. Time Magazine later reported that, "The police practice was to accompany the caravans of soldiers and sailors in police cars, watch the beatings and jail the victims." According to Rudolpho Acuña in Occupied America, "Seventeen-year-old Enrico Herrera, after he was beaten and arrested, spent three hours at a police station, where he was found by his mother, still naked and bleeding. A 12-year-old boy's jaw was broken. Police arrested over 600 Chicano youths without cause and labeled the arrests 'preventive' action. Angelenos cheered on the servicemen and their civilian allies."3

Finally, at midnight on June 7th, because the navy believed it had on actual mutiny on hand, the military authorities did what the city of Los Angeles would not, they moved to stop the rioting of their personnel. Los Angeles was declared off limits for all military personnel. Though there were little consequences for the rioters (servicemen and local law enforcement authorities alike), there was some public outcry. On June 16th, 1943, Eleanor Roosevelt commented in her column that, "The question goes deeper than just suits. It is a racial protest. I have been worried for a long time about the Mexican racial situation. It is a problem with roots going a long way back, and we do not always face these problems as we should." Los Angeles' response was typified by the June 18th headlines of the Los Angeles Times, "Mrs. Roosevelt Blindly Stirs Race Discord," and she was accused of communist leanings in the accompanying editorial. Governor Earl Warren (later Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court during their landmark desegregation cases) convened a committee to investigate the riots and recommended punishment for all involved in the riots, servicemen and civilians. Other than the charges filed against the Mexican American victims, no punishment was ever meted out.

4 posted on 04/08/2007 1:07:43 PM PDT by gaijin
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To: CharentonChina
"It's a real sore spot to say to someone that your experience wasn't unique in this country," she said. "Our people weren't valued. Not only were they not valued then, they are not being valued today."

So quit complaning and publish your own book and call it "Latino heroes of WWII".

5 posted on 04/08/2007 1:15:48 PM PDT by Isabel C.
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To: CharentonChina

I’m half-Finnish and am OUTRAGED that PBS allowed NO interviews from the proud Semi-Finnish-American community. At least 263 members of my proud ethic identity fought in WWII yet Ken Burns again IGNORED us. He did the same thing in his Jazz documentary! This is no coincidence — IT’S A HATE CRIME!


6 posted on 04/08/2007 1:20:41 PM PDT by inkling (exurbanleague.com)
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To: Isabel C.

That would be the best thing to do.

Heck, how long was Band of Brothers and that was only one unit over a year and a half of fighting. I’m sure they still left out lots of the story that we would have found interesting enough to watch more.


7 posted on 04/08/2007 1:21:28 PM PDT by art_rocks
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To: Isabel C.
"It's a real sore spot to say to someone that your experience wasn't unique in this country," she said.

Why, oh, why isn't just being an American enough for them?

8 posted on 04/08/2007 1:23:08 PM PDT by Howlin (Honk if you like Fred Thompson!!!)
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To: gaijin

Those were the good old days.


9 posted on 04/08/2007 1:25:45 PM PDT by Zechariah11
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To: Howlin
"Why, oh, why isn't just being an American enough for them?

Being just a human being doesn't seem to be enough for a lot of Americans.

The fruitless external search for self-identity leads to many human ills.... I am my money. I am my job. I am my car!

10 posted on 04/08/2007 1:41:18 PM PDT by EEDUDE
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To: EEDUDE

I thought My Mother was the car? ;-)


11 posted on 04/08/2007 1:43:07 PM PDT by Howlin (Honk if you like Fred Thompson!!!)
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To: CharentonChina
"stories from Latino Medal of Honor winners who came home to Texas only to be denied service at restaurants"

With only about 200 living recipients from WWII, some may have been from Texas. I would like to hear the stories and see the names.

12 posted on 04/08/2007 1:52:11 PM PDT by DUMBGRUNT (islam is a mutant meme)
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To: CharentonChina

The constant racism of the “latino’s” if getting old. Who cares! My mother was getting bombed on in London in WWII. I’ll ask her how many Latino soldiers she ran into. Have a feelling the answer will be zero. I seem to remember that Mexico wanted to originally side with the Germans, but changed their mind because of the obvious problem they would have with the US.


13 posted on 04/08/2007 2:23:39 PM PDT by ca centered
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To: CharentonChina

Ken Burns, the Donald Trump of PBS, strikes again!

It’s amazing this guy can show his face after how bad ‘Baseball’ was, and how overambitious his ‘Jazz’ was.

He does serve an important purpose - intellectual phonies can gather around the water cooler the next day and talk about it. This is the same crew that keept ‘Cliff Notes’ in business when they were in high school and college!


14 posted on 04/08/2007 2:27:59 PM PDT by HitmanLV ("If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking until you do suck seed." - Jerry 'Curly' Howard)
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To: Howlin

I think you just demonstrated that you’re the same age as my mother ;-).


15 posted on 04/08/2007 2:35:33 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever He tells you.' ")
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To: Tax-chick

Probably am. She’s not OLD, is she?


16 posted on 04/08/2007 2:36:18 PM PDT by Howlin (Honk if you like Fred Thompson!!!)
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To: Howlin

Getting well along in middle age, but vigorous and well-preserved!


17 posted on 04/08/2007 2:47:34 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever He tells you.' ")
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To: HitmanLV
I will give Ken Burns his due for The Civil War.

It was the best documentary I ever saw of the American Civil War. I just fell in love with Shelby Foote.

18 posted on 04/08/2007 2:51:49 PM PDT by mware (By all that you hold dear..Doing real on this good earth... I bid you stand! Men of the West!)
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To: CharentonChina
PBS hopes it becomes as definitive a record of the World War II experience as Burns' "The Civil War" was for that conflict, and as popular.

Fat chance! "The Civil War" is not "a definitive record" of the Civil War. It's a movie made about the Civil War 150 years after it ended. The definative record has to be something much closer in time.

WW2 has been covered in many more movies, documentary films, the entire History Channel and the Military Channel are full of definative history of WW2, including on camera interviews with key players.

19 posted on 04/08/2007 2:54:04 PM PDT by Jack Black
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To: mware; HitmanLV
I just fell in love with Shelby Foote.

I think that's the benefit of Ken Burns's documentaries. They give people who are interested in the subject ideas on where to go for serious study. They might even catch people by surprise and inspire an interest where there wasn't one before.

Shelby Foote was such a dear man. I'm looking forward to meeting him.

20 posted on 04/08/2007 2:56:33 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever He tells you.' ")
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To: HitmanLV

“He does serve an important purpose - intellectual phonies can gather around the water cooler the next day and talk about it.”

Say what what you will; but I would guess that more Americans learned more history in a shorter time through the Civil War series than from most other means previously.


21 posted on 04/08/2007 2:57:45 PM PDT by HereInTheHeartland (Never bring a knife to a gun fight, or a Democrat to do serious work...)
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To: Jack Black
Burns used documents, diaries, letters and photographs from the Civil War to tell the story, add on the sound track and I think there was no better telling of the Civil War, at least to date.
22 posted on 04/08/2007 3:04:01 PM PDT by mware (By all that you hold dear..Doing real on this good earth... I bid you stand! Men of the West!)
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To: inkling
"I’m half-Finnish and am OUTRAGED that PBS allowed NO interviews from the proud Semi-Finnish-American community."

Right on! I'm half-Norwegian and my Norwegian born dad fought valiantly in WWII in the South Pacific and his best friend was a Finnish-American who was mortally wounded and died in my father’s arms.

I demand that story be told! (sarcasm)

Seriously, Dad left this mortal earth to enter “Valhalla” in ’97 and I regret my bother and I didn’t get him to sit in front of a tape recorder and recount his very interesting life so his grand children and great grandchildren would understand what an amazing person he was. Perhaps I should start documenting everything my brother and I remember, it might make a good read for others as well - but then that’s not Ken Burns job now is it?

BTW – Dad hated hyphens and while proud of his heritage, he insisted on being called an American – period. He was a “America – Love or Leave” sort of guy.
23 posted on 04/08/2007 3:07:47 PM PDT by Caramelgal (I am Zelda - Queen of the Viking Kitties!)
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To: gaijin

Didn’t the same thing happen in Detroit? Or was it Chicago with Black Zoot sooters.

Anyone remember Zoot Suit Yokum from the Lil Abner cartoon strip?


24 posted on 04/08/2007 4:01:58 PM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar
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To: Tax-chick

*Sneer*


25 posted on 04/08/2007 4:02:52 PM PDT by Howlin (Honk if you like Fred Thompson!!!)
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To: HitmanLV

***Ken Burns, the Donald Trump of PBS, strikes again!
It’s amazing this guy can show his face after how bad ‘Baseball’ was, ****

In his Civil War series....
Did he even mention the Chinese-Americans who fought for the Union? How bout the American Indian troops who fought on both sides!


26 posted on 04/08/2007 4:06:28 PM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar
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To: Howlin

Okay ... the *sneer* suggests that you’re under 60 ...


27 posted on 04/08/2007 4:07:48 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever He tells you.' ")
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To: Ruy Dias de Bivar

I don’t recall for sure, but I don’t think the Garibaldi Guard made the cut, either.


28 posted on 04/08/2007 4:08:55 PM PDT by HitmanLV ("If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking until you do suck seed." - Jerry 'Curly' Howard)
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To: HitmanLV

One of the U.S. officers who died at the Little Bighorn was a decorated veteran (medal from Pope Piux IX) of the Italian unification wars.


29 posted on 04/08/2007 4:19:42 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever He tells you.' ")
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To: CharentonChina

The problem with getting involved with PBS is the P. Public. They feel they should have control of the content since public money goes to it. Makes sense, in a way. Stay away from public funding of the arts.


30 posted on 04/08/2007 4:21:04 PM PDT by Right Wing Assault ("..this administration is planning a 'Right Wing Assault' on values and ideals.." - John Kerry)
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To: Tax-chick

Fascinating!


31 posted on 04/08/2007 4:35:54 PM PDT by HitmanLV ("If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking until you do suck seed." - Jerry 'Curly' Howard)
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To: HitmanLV

I’m series. It was an Irishman; there was an article in “Civil War Times Illustrated.” The gentleman had been a soldier of fortune in the European wars, and was awarded a medal by Pope Pius IX.

The cool part is that the Sioux didn’t mutilate this officer’s body after the Little Bighorn defeat, because he was wearing the large oval medallion with the Pope’s picture, and the Sious figured it was a powerful magic charm.


32 posted on 04/08/2007 5:09:56 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever He tells you.' ")
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To: ca centered

Big problem is would she even know what a Latino was back then.

If you read stories of when the Americans freed the Jews from the concentration camps, most European Jews had never seen a black man, or Japanese soldier.

Heck, on DDay, some Americans found a few Korean soldiers fighting for the Germans. They had no clue at the time where these soldiers were from.

As to bring the country of Mexico into the discussion was insulting. Those Americans we will call Latinos who fought during WWII DIDN’T FIGHT FOR Mexico, THEY FOUGHT FOR AMERICA.

I know one soldier who won the MOH was an illegal from Mexico and got his citizenship after the war. This soldier parents died when he was young, and he came to the US to live with relatives. Their was a show on the History channel that discussed Americans of Mexican descent who had won the MOH. They talked to the winners and their families. I didn’t hear one who talked about fighting for Mexico.


33 posted on 04/08/2007 5:40:13 PM PDT by art_rocks
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To: art_rocks

Why is mentioning that Mexico originally wanted to side with Germany insulting? Did I say that any Latino’s were fighting for Mexico? Don’t believe I did. If they were fighting for the US who cares what there original nationality is. It isn’t important is the overall picture. Both my parents and all my uncles fought in WWII. Should they get special mention because of their original heritage?


34 posted on 04/08/2007 6:10:06 PM PDT by ca centered
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To: CharentonChina

It’s the “Diversity Dilemma.” As we divide into a balkanized country according to group identity, each group will feel entitled to a quota of face time on TV. It used to be relatively simple: have the local news delivered by a white woman and a black man. I foresee the time when the anchors become a panel. Commercials, documentaries, quiz shows will all require appropriate quotas.


35 posted on 04/08/2007 8:22:52 PM PDT by Malesherbes
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