Wednesday, March 28, 2007


PBS President Kreger Defends Ken Burn’s Exclusion of Latinos from WWII Documentary

In a March 13th letter to Latino community representatives, Paula Kerger, President and CEO of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), rejected the demand that PBS delay the release of Ken Burns’ 7-part WWII documentary, until it is re-edited to include the Latino experience. “This is unacceptable and an insult to the hundreds of thousands of Latino veterans who served in World War II,” responded Professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez of the University of Texas at Austin and one of the leaders of the Defend the Honor Campaign that met with Kerger last week to discuss the issue.
The Ken Burns documentary, which is scheduled to air in late September, has been the target of mounting criticism in the Latino community because of its exclusion of the experience of Latinos. The 14-hour series was six years in the making.
“How is it possible, that in the six years it took to make this film, no one involved thought to ask where are the Latino stories?” asked Gus Chavez, another founder of the Defend the Honor Campaign.
In her reply to the group, Kerger noted that PBS is supporting community outreach and educational initiatives attached to the Burns documentary. That local programming is intended to “bring forth the many stories that are not part of the Ken Burns series.” PBS will consider programs produced by local stations by possible national airing, she said.
But the local programming isn’t enough, the Defend the Honor Campaign organizers said.
“Once again they want to relegate us to being the side attraction, keeping us out of the main act,” explained Marta Garcia, a New York-based founder of the Hispanic group.
Angelo Falcon, another founding member of the Defend The Honor Campaign, noted that the timing of the Burns documentary was particularly troublesome.
“Our demand for inclusion comes at a time when the Latino community is too often under attack as being ‘unwelcomed foreigners,’ despite the fact that the majority of us are U.S. citizens and, in the case of WWII, close to half a million of us served this country,” said Falcon.
Rivas-Rodriguez, who established the U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin eight years ago, said that the community response to news of the Burns documentary has been visceral.
“All Americans feel a deep, personal, connection to WWII,” she said. “These are our parents, our grandparents, aunts and uncles. We know their contributions and sacrifices. And we are painfully aware of how the have not had the recognition they deserve. It is our duty to right this wrong.”
Various Latino groups and individuals are calling for a boycott of PBS, while others plan to pressure the corporate, foundation and government sponsors of PBS and Ken Burns, said Chavez, a Defend the Honor Campaign organizer out of San Diego, CA.
“We are disappointed that PBS, being a public television network, was not more responsive to our community’s concerns,” said Chavez. “They have not heard the last from us.”

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project (

Gus Chavez is a Latino community development and education advocate based in San Diego.

Marta Garcia is founder and co-chair of the New York Chapter of the National Hispanic Media Coalition

Angelo Falcon is president and founder of the National Institute for Latino Policy, based in New York City

source: press release
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