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Monday, September 27 at 9 p.m. When Worlds Collide

(Rochester, NY) – WXXI honors Hispanic Heritage Month when it presents When Worlds Collide, premiering on Monday, September 27 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11). The film provides a vivid exploration of the first century after the “Old World” encountered the “New World.” Host Rubén Martínez, Emmy® Award-winning journalist, author of the acclaimed Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail (Picador) and a leading voice in the highly charged immigration debate, takes a new look at the origins of today’s Latino culture through the largely untold story of what happened in the Americas after Columbus.

The story begins on the streets of Los Angeles in 2010 and travels to Spain and Latin America, where contact first occurred between Spanish conquistadors and native peoples. By the time the Spanish arrived, Indigenous civilization had developed a sophisticated society, including advanced architectural, agricultural and textile practices that in many ways surpassed those of the invaders. This epic odyssey traces the impact that these and many other “New World” innovations had on the “Old World” during an era almost always described as “the conquest.” In reality, the most important consequence of the era was the radical change that both worlds experienced, resulting in an entirely new “mestizo” or mixed culture, an important part of the heritage of more than 30 million Latinos in the U.S. today.

“This film is a modern journey through the centuries that traces the roots of Latino culture,” says Martínez. “Although the term ‘Latino’ is used almost exclusively in the United States, we discover how combined elements of the Old World and New World, two civilizations that developed completely independent of one another, merged into a richly complex ‘mestizo’ or mixed culture. Many fundamental aspects of our daily lives are the result of the enormous impact these two cultures had on each other – from religious traditions to culinary techniques to questions of identity.”

Directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Carl Byker and co-written by Martínez and Byker, this 90-minute documentary traces milestone events during the 16th century and illustrates how the New World radically transformed the Old. The transatlantic exchange of ideas, religious beliefs and people led to innovations that remain with us to this day. When Worlds Collide visits trendy restaurants in Madrid to learn how Indigenous Americans genetically engineered corn and how New World tomatoes and potatoes made their way to European kitchens. In Oaxaca, Mexico, we discover how inventors in the New World revolutionized the Old World textile industry by mass-producing a true red dye. From the architectural splendor of Toledo, Spain, we learn how New World gold and silver helped to establish the concept of modern capitalism with the invention of the “juro,” the first interest-paying government bond. An ancestor of today’s treasury bill, the juro attracted investors because it was secured by riches mined in the New World.

The film also travels from the city of Granada in Spain, which was conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella, to the spiritual retreat of Machu Picchu, built by the Incas in Peru; from the Cerro del Tepeyac of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico to the Escorial, the breathtaking palace built by Philip II outside Madrid. When Worlds Collide weaves an extraordinary and unexpected story of the foundation of modern Latino culture.  In a convent in Cuzco, Peru, historians discuss the first sons and daughters of Spanish men and Inca women.  High in the mountains of eastern Mexico, the descendants of African slaves reveal a presence of not only two worlds, but three in the Americas.  In Potosi, Bolivia, art scholars consider 16th and 17th century artists of mixed ancestry to be among the greatest pluralistic achievements in human history.

When Worlds Collide will be supported by a comprehensive Web site that includes in-depth information about the history of the mestizo culture. The Web site (pbs.org/when-worlds-collide) will launch in September, with a preview available beginning August 4. In addition to chronicling the film’s seven chapters – from an overview of Indigenous American life to the fall of the Spanish Empire – the site also will feature narrative explanations, film clips, image galleries, maps and an interactive timeline.

Caption: When Worlds Collide reveals how the combined elements of two worlds—civilizations that developed completely independent of one another—led to the creation of an entirely new “mestizo,” or mixed culture.
Credit: Courtesy of Mitch Wilson

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