National Press Club

Suarez introduces TV series, book about Latino Americans at National Press Club event

September 16, 2013 | By Aileen R. Schlef | creativealliance@msn.com

Ray Suarez, chief national correspondent for "PBS NewsHour," discusses his book, "Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation," before a screening of the companion TV series, "Latino Americans," at the National Press Club, Sept. 11, 2013.

Ray Suarez, chief national correspondent for "PBS NewsHour," discusses his book, "Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation," before a screening of the companion TV series, "Latino Americans," at the National Press Club, Sept. 11, 2013.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The National Press Club drew a capacity crowd in its ballroom as the Book & Author and Events committees co-hosted a preview of a documentary produced by Public Broadcasting for Greater Washington, also known as WETA, on Latino America, which is slated to premier on Sept. 17 at 8 p.m.

The program was followed by a book signing with Ray Suarez, chief national correspondent for "PBS NewsHour," and author of the companion book Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation. Suarez has been with the NewsHour since 1999.

WETA President and Chief Executive Officer Sharon Percy Rockefeller described the network's role in producing the series and its commitment to present the first complete history of Latinos in the United States.

Noting that WETA had been working on this series for more than five years, Percy Rockefeller added that, “we are proud of the result ... for many years to come” demonstrating the “timeliness and relevance of public broadcasting.” She emphasized that “every contemporary issue regarding Latinos today is rooted in a long and complicated past."

"We are thrilled to present for the first time on television a comprehensive look at the Latino-American experience through American history. This really is a major part of American history,” she said.

The screening was introduced by Suarez who joined a post-viewing question and answer session with Jeff Bieber, vice president of national programming for WETA and the series' executive producer, and Sandie Viquez Pedlow, executive director for Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and another series executive producer.

Suarez described realizing that this project was “both tantalizing and audacious. Tantalizing in that we were going to get a chance on a very broad canvas to tell this amazing story of half a millennium. ... Audacious because there was so much to tell that we had as hard a time figuring out what we were going to leave out as what we were going to put in."

"A shelf-full of books on these vast topics would still not tell every story," Suarez said. He described the story line process as putting “15 pounds of content into a 10-pound bag.”

Calling this a historic step forward, Suarez said, "this is only the first program of its kind" and that he hoped that Latinos would see that “there is more to this history that you never knew and that the mainstream audience would become aware of the “history you were never taught, all contemplating, ‘I did not know that! How come I did not know that?!’”

More stories will be told and the 500-year history will continue to be told in different ways, Suarez said. Our historic understanding of the meaning of this history will evolve and sharpen with time, he added.

Percy Rockefeller and Suarez shared a message that this series, the book and companion educational program are but a down payment on the national understanding “that Latino history is American history -- Latinos are Americans.”

The series is narrated by Benjamin Bratt. The book and educational materials were produced in English and Spanish.