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Tuesday, April 19 at 8 p.m. – Black in Latin America

(Rochester, NY) – WXXI invites you to explore Latin America’s African roots in a new four-part series by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Black in Latin America premieres Tuesday, April 19 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11), and runs every Tuesday through May 10. Black in Latin America is the third of a trilogy that began in 1999 with the broadcast of Professor Gates first series for public television, Wonders of the African World, an exploration of the relationship between Africa and the New World, a story he continued in 2004 with America Beyond the Color Line, a report on the lives of modern-day African Americans. 

Black in Latin America examines how Africa and Europe came together to create the rich cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean. On his journey, Professor Gates discovers, behind a shared legacy of colonialism and slavery, vivid stories and people marked by African roots. 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World during the Middle Passage. While just over 11.0 million survived the arduous journey, only about 450,000 of them arrived in the United States. The rest—over ten and a half million—were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America and kept in bondage far longer than the slaves in the United States. This astonishing fact changes the entire picture of the history of slavery in the Western hemisphere, and of its lasting cultural impact.  These millions of Africans created new and vibrant cultures, magnificently compelling syntheses of various African, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish influences. Despite their great numbers, the cultural and social worlds that they created remain largely unknown to most Americans, except for certain popular, cross-over musical forms.  In his new series,  Professor Gates  sets out on a quest to discover how Latin Americans of African descent live now, and how the countries of their acknowledge—or deny--their African past; how the fact of race and African ancestry play themselves out in the multicultural worlds of the Caribbean and Latin America. 

Starting with the slave experience and extending to the present, Professor Gates unveils the history of the African presence in six Latin American countries through art, music, cuisine, dance, politics, and religion, but also the very palpable presence of anti-black racism that has sometimes sought to keep the black cultural presence from view.  

Episodes and air dates:

Haiti & the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided airs Tuesday, April 19 at 8 p.m. In the Dominican Republic, Professor Gates explores how race has been socially constructed in a society whose people reflect centuries of inter-marriage, and how the country's troubled history with Haiti informs notions about racial classification. In Haiti, Professor Gates tells the story of the birth of the first-ever black republic, and finds out how the slaves's hard fought liberation over Napoleon Bonaparte's French Empire became a double-edged sword.

Cuba: The Next Revolution airs Tuesday, April 26 at 8 p.m. In Cuba, Professor Gates finds out how the culture, religion, politics and music of this island are inextricably linked to the huge amount of slave labor imported to produce its enormously profitable 19th century sugar industry, and how race and racism have fared since Fidel Castro's Communist revolution in 1959.

Brazil: A Racial Paradise? airs Tuesday, May 3 at 8 p.m. In Brazil, Professor Gates delves behind the façade of Carnival to discover how this ‘rainbow nation’ is waking up to its legacy as the world’s largest slave economy.

Mexico & Peru: A Hidden Race airs Tuesday, May 10 at 8 p.m.
In Mexico and Peru, Professor Gates explores the almost unknown history of the significant numbers of black people — the two countries together received far more slaves than did the United States —brought to these countries as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, and the worlds of culture that their descendants have created in Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico, the Costa Chica region on the Pacific and in and around Lima, Peru.

Pictured: Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr. and the Merengue singers in the Dominican Republic in BLACK IN LATIN AMERICA.
Credit: Courtesy of Jemila Twinch

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