« Mi Familia [6] - El Niño Perdido | Main | Adios to Wampum »

21 de Marzo, 2007

Cooking The History Book [Ken Burns' Anti-Latino Agenda]

Categorized under Acción , Guerra , Hipnotismo , Historia , Raza | Tags: , , , , ,

WHEN I SPEAK OF THE LONG WAR on Mexico, I imagine there is a faction of people who sigh and chalk it up to the fiery and verbose drama of a Xicano activist or some such thing. But what I speak of, specifically, is a long and concerted effort (though those on the other side of the Lens might say it's all happenstance and chance or even wholly justified) to exclude, exploit, harm, and ultimately, destroy the Mexican presence, history, health, and legacy within this conceptual and physical sphere that we call "America."

This war has many fronts, strategies and participants (sometimes Mexican Americans themselves), and cumulatively, they are devastating to the minds and hearts and lives of Mexico, Mexicans, and Mexican Americans. From the multiple invasions of Mexico by the Spanish and the French; to the manufactured casus belli that "justified" America's invasion and subsequent cheaply-bought theft of half of Mexico's land (which included the gold-rich Califas); to the stranglehold of NAFTA and the introduction of GMO "Frankenfood" corn into the birthplace of Maize; to the denial of true recognition of Native American status (instead named in media and public discourse as "Greasers" along with other such denigrating labels); to the endless memes in our current culture and cinema and literature that paint us as lazy, criminal, stupid people; to the shameful exploitation of Mexican labor and subsequent denial of such benefit; to the fear Murkans have of those conquered Indian-mutts jumping the fence and reminding Gringolandia that Murkans didn't "work hard" to make Murka by themselves or "discover" this mysterious continent after all, which leads to heartless and aggressive measures and laws designed to clear the land of Mexicanos or stick them in cages, to the whitewashing of history to erase, misrepresent, or negate the Mexican American contribution to our society. Together—and this is, believe it or not, hardly a comprehensive list—it adds up to an unspoken and undeclared (but very effective) war on the indigenous of this continent and all their descendants and kin.

Now, Ken Burns, famous "documentary" filmmaker is doing his part as a good American soldier of media, to insure that the future thinks even less of us.

KEN BURNS is a documentary filmmaker who has a lot of cred, and chances are good that you've seen his work. If you use Macintosh's iMovie (or if you've seen any documentary these days that uses still shots as part of its presentation), you are familiar with what is named the "Ken Burns Effect," an editing technique made ubiquitous by his documentaries.

When it comes to American documentary filmmaking, Ken Burns is an institution, frequently hailed as “the most accomplished documentary filmmaker of his generation,” or some other such thing. And I am not denying his chops. (Nor his very disarming and Opie-like aura of amiability!) The man can wield a mean editing decision, script, and shotlist. Ultimately, his presentations are engaging and very well-received, mainstreamed, and most important to this essay—considered fact.

The PBS site tells us that "for over 25 years, Ken Burns has been producing films that are unafraid of controversy and tragedy." And I would have to agree. Because his latest seven-part, fourteen hour film The War, an epic undertaking that took six years to make and that covers the second world war by interviewing forty veterans from four towns—one of them Sacramento, California—and does not include even one Mexican (or Puerto Rican, or Native American, or Latino at all) is a tragedy, when it comes to respecting an accurate history, or the contributions of the descendants of the Indigenous of these Americas.

Since Tom Brokaw announced that the World War II generation was to be known as the "greatest generation," Mexican Americans have struggled to ensure that their contributions be included. The efforts of professor Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez at the University of Texas, Austin, have led to an incredibly rich archive of materials known as the U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project.

Now we learn that next September PBS will premier "The War," Ken Burns' seven-part documentary on World War II. According to all reports, Mr. Burns' film completely erases the Mexican-American experience in that worldwide conflict from our national consciousness.

—New America Media

In The War, there are Blacks included (awarded 7 Medals of Honor finally after much protest, in 1997); and there are Japanese Americans (awarded 1 medal of honor in WWII, but later bumped to 20 in 2000) included. And that is good, and that is as it should be. But Mexican Americans won 11 medals of honor, and Puerto Ricans won 2 Medals of Honor in WWII, distinguishing themselves in combat with their service, as well as with the record of these medals. When you have people risking their lives in the line of fire for your country's cause, and who are even recognized by the government in such a way, and after so much minimalization and abuse; to purposefully omit their presence on what is sure to be a much-respected historical film—this is utter disrespect.

To set the original release date for Diez y Seis de Septiembre—September 16—Mexico's Independence Day, felt like a calculated slap to some, once it was discovered that their hopes this was a sign of recognition to Mexican Americans was unfounded. And this "slap" was felt by many in the Latino Community. The date was changed to September 23 later (with no explanation), but this farce of a documentary remains, still, three quarters of the way into Hispanic Heritage month, and makes a mockery of the entire idea with such a release date.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists and a loose-knit coalition of other organizations last month sent letters of protest to Paula Kreger, president and CEO of PBS. NAHJ leaders wrote, 'It is estimated that as many as half a million Latinos - U.S. born as well as immigrants - fought in World War II. Eleven Mexican-Americans and two Puerto Ricans earned Medals of Honor. So it escapes us how Ken Burns could have made a seven-part series that doesn't mention the contributions of Latinos.'


Now, as those of us who make issues of privilege and anti-racism, or anti-oppression, or anti-White-Supremacy our daily business to study and think on, we know that one doesn't necessarily have to be aware of their own racism or internalized White Supremacist worldview or privilege to wield it, and that needs to be understood implicitly. In fact, the discussion of "intention" derails more progress on understanding these dynamics than almost any other tangent that I've come across. In fact, one might argue me (or the Latino Community, more accurately) that Burns never intended to make a statement by skimming over any Latino part in the WWII effort. One might say that he completely overlooked Mexican Americans but that he didn't see it as an exclusion at all. Some (Burns himself) would tell us that you can spend SIX YEARS in pre-production, production and post-production on such an in-depth study of vets and never once consider how certain groups who bled and died in the war you are covering would feel about being left out. But ideas of intention aside, in retrospect, Burns himself acknowledges the depth of the insult.

I think the way we constructed it sort of renders a little bit of the protest mood. I mean I can understand, particularly in the Hispanic community, after 500 years of having so much of their history marginalized (on) this continent, how important it is to be told."

—Ken Burns, PBS.org/ombudsman

Sounds reasonable and kind and intelligent...so we feel good about his "intention." But what about the reality? What about the product and the effects of the product—which may not be augmented by any intention of the maker? After all, despite the words, Burns clearly didn't feel it was "important" enough to make any edits. And his understanding quickly becomes rationalization if you travel his statement beyond that one sentence—

In this latest project, we have attempted to show the universal human experience of war by focusing on the testimonies of just a handful of people — mostly from four American towns. As a result, millions of stories are not explored in our film. [...]

We were looking for universal human experience of battle, of what was it like to be in that war and not try to cover every group. We left out lots of people in many, many different kinds of groups because we weren’t looking at it in that way.'


—and with the addition of the words of Joe DePlasco, Burns’ publicist and spokesperson for “The War", the smooth rationalization becomes outright insult:

Ken Burns has been one of the greatest story tellers of Americans. What one group experienced in World War II is not our issue."

—Laredo Morning Times Online

Yesterday I wrote about my own family's history with the United States Military. I am a second-generation American of Mexican descent, my nanita (my grandmother) was not born here. My father was. I was. Now, despite my own feelings about the US war machine, if it were not for my father's Uncles Geno, Beto, and Vicente joining the U.S. Army in 1920, and in that way winning thier mamá's and their own citizenship and moving la familia to El Paso, Tejas—well, I wouldn't be here! So I do value their decision in that light. But that is a small and personal thought. And I personally no longer care so much for the validations and awards given by this government, to tell you the truth. (I hear Presidential Medals of Freedom are up on eBay?) But this is not about my personal feelings about my birthplace, the hypocrisy of my government, or anything else. This is about historical accounts, and a long pattern of disrespect (to be extremely generous with my word choices).

And so the outrage of so many Latinos. Because you must view this omission and disrespect not in a vacuum, but along with all the other actions in this long, unannounced effort to minimalize and exploit Mexico, Mexicans, and Mexican Americans.

Neither does this look so incidental, as Burns claims it is, next to the celebrated filmmaker's earlier obvious exclusions of Latino contributions.

This is not the first time Ken Burns does a disservice to the Latino community,' Maggie Rivas Rodriguez said last week, referring to two of his epic PBS documentaries, Jazz and Baseball.

'For example, we did a quick content analysis of the Jazz documentary he did and in it, the same thing. A 14-hour production and only three minutes on Latinos, despite the huge contribution of Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans.'

Rivas Rodriguez noted that Burns is 'a man who gets paid millions of dollars for his work and that PBS supports him using 'partly our taxpayer money.'

—New America Media

The Latino community is not just a little angered by this. As Dan Arellano, from the Latinos in WWII Yahoo listserve group puts it, in a letter to Senator Lloyd Doggett of Texas' 21st Congressional District:

How much more blood do our Hispanic Veterans need to spill before we are accepted into a society in a land in which we are the descendents of the original inhabitants?

If we allow this current trend of historical exclusion to continue we may eventually have no history at all! As the Historian David J. Weber says we will continue to be 'Foreigners in Our Native Land.'

But this cannot go on, this "Trend of Historical Exclusion." Because despite the too-often perpetrated memes in our culture, Latinos are not just gardeners and illiterate day-job seekers who would rather engage in knife fights or run from la migra than stand up and engage the system for their rights. Not anymore. No, as much as Pat Buchanan and others hate to admit it, times have changed. And they will not go back to what they were.

There is a Latino, it seems, who is behind Ken Burns 100%, though. That Latino is Lionel Sosa. Sosa is not just the founder of Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates (now Bromley Communications, the largest Hispanic advertising agency in the U.S.) but also a member of PBS’ board of directors. Sosa seems to think of of Mister Burns as Da Vinci, apparently, who was genetically incapable of making mistakes.

Asking Burns to change his documentary is like asking Leonardo da Vinci to add another apostle to ‘The Last Supper’ because somebody else was left out. This is artistic. This is a film. It’s not journalism.

—Lionel Sosa, Laredo Morning Times

Someone needs to discuss with Señor Sosa exactly how the public reads American Documentary films in the Ken Burns milieu, because I think he imagines that Burns is some type of mystical Renaissance animator from Disneyland who offers up peripheral and fictional narrative on minor American events.

He is a Latino, but perhaps Sosa should speak to some Latino vets about their feelings.

'This is infuriating,' said Gil Treviño, a decorated Marine who fought on the island of Iwo Jima and later became the first military veterinary officer and first Mexican-American to receive a Ph.D. in veterinary pathology.

'Anybody who omits Hispanics from World War II doesn’t know what he’s talking about and hasn’t researched the subject enough,'.

“It’s a big insult,” said Navy veteran Luis Diaz DeLeon. “I’m glad these people are challenging PBS and Mr. Ken Burns. Unfortunately, nuestra gente (our people) don’t get involved to defend themselves. They just roll with the punches.”—Lionel Sosa, Laredo Morning Times

Maggie Rivas Rodriguez is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and held a meeting with PBS’ "top corporate officials" earlier this month.

'To leave out the Latino experience from this big national narrative is simply not acceptable, and tells me that Latinos do not have a meaningful voice at PBS.

World War II was a watershed for Latinos across the board; it was when they started to feel like this was their country,' said Rivas Rodriguez, who eight years ago founded the U.S. Latino and Latina World War II Oral History Project.

—Maggie Rivas Rodriguez, LMT online

Rodriguez' meeting was the culmination of a concerted effort to have PBS hold off on the release of the film until Latinos were included. But PBS and Burns rejected that idea outright, referring the Latino community, instead, to the consolation that there would be many related discussions hosted by PBS that could include Latinos.

In response, the American GI Forum has called for a boycott of PBS and its local affiliates.

“They have underestimated the Latino community,” Rivas Rodriguez said of PBS and Burns. “We’re not just busboys. We’re journalists and professors. And we can do something and not be treated like crap anymore. They are going to find out how angry we can get.”

—Maggie Rivas Rodriguez, LMT online

AND SO WHAT CAN BE DONE about this? Where do we go with the anger, with the sense of unfairness? What do we do to correct what we feel is a historical injustice and inaccuracy? Because there are things to do about this, and I will list those soon. But first I would briefly refer you back to the content I explore many, many times in this blog; content that is integral to the genesis, spine, and purpose of this blog.

I have written, often, of my own perceptions in this country of Mexicans. I know very well how White America (at least the parts I was exposed to and in the years I was) sees and thinks about Mexicans. Granted, many individuals (and I'm sure if you're still reading you are definitely one) understand that I and my people are just like you. Human beings who are no different, save perhaps for our histories, historical memory, some minor physical feature differences, and the foods or languages of our ancestors. But the heart? The mind? The hands? We are no different. You cannot tell me I am lazier than you because of my ethnicity, nor can you assert you are smarter, or superior in some way because you lack the (prized) Mexican bloodline.

But that's not what I learned growing up, and it certainly is not what I felt. Nor is that how many people see and feel about Mexicanos and all related issues. And you and I know that very well.

How do we combat this? How do we include such a HUGE portion of our country's makeup into the actual goodwill and positive functioning of our society? How, exactly, do we counter these White Supremacist tendencies to minimalize, hurt, hate, and denigrate the non-White® races?

Well, I'll tell you: you help them feel included. Proud of what they have done here. Proud of their national image. You begin with the children, always with the children. You give them strong, easily-found, proud, revered role models who are of Mexican descent (in this particular ejemplo). You do NOT just give them aggressive drug dealers and sleazy drug kingpins and natural knife fighters and shadowy thieves and barrio killers and border smugglers and Hot Dirty Maids® and pregnant addicted teens and every other hated and despised image you can think of. You remind them that they are just like other celebrated (White) Americans: able, memorable, admirable. Important. Not just in word, but demonstrably important. Visibly so.

We begin by ditching the pathetic excuses for omitting the contributions of Mexican Americans—and all Latinos—from our historical accounts. And instead, include the truth.

From defendthehonor.org:

If you would really like to make an impact in this effort to make sure that the Hispanic contribution to World War II is recognized and remembered, we hope you will consider expressing your opinion. Below are letter templates which you can download, insert your information, and mail to PBS, the documentary's sponsors, your elected representatives, and your local PBS station.

Letter Templates

Campaign Flyer

The Defend the Honor informational flyer may be downloaded and disseminated as widely as possible at public events, meetings, etc. Feel free to borrow the language and make up your own flyer, for your organization.

To Share Your Concerns

If you would like to send a letter to PBS, Ken Burns, the documentary's sponsors, or your local PBS affiliate, here is contact information.

Click here for PBS Corporate contact information and their sponsors.

Click here for PBS Station contact information and their sponsors.

Please see the Defend the Honor site for much more information, letters already written, cartoons, News/Press releases, e-mail list sub form, and related projects and literature.

digg | | delish

Comentarios (44)

Yolanda Carrington dijo:

We were looking for universal human experience of battle, of what was it like to be in that war and not try to cover every group. We left out lots of people in many, many different kinds of groups because we weren’t looking at it in that way.

Of course you weren't, dear PBS. As always, "universal" means white, notwithstanding the supreme irony that whiteness is the exact opposite of universal. Besides this assumption, what pisses me off is the idea that including Chicano/Latino history would have disrupted the "universal" focus of the film. Uh, excuse me---are we not talking about the United States in World War II? The Mexican American experience is a major part of that era, not just on the battlefield but on the homefront as well. I mean, look---labor struggles? Zoot Suit Riots? Hello?

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


jeje...yeah. that word 'universal.' i guess the biggest slap is that he honestly thinks that way, eh?

I mean, look---labor struggles?

exactamente. and further,

But World War II ushered in other changes too, Rivas-Rodríguez says. The huge void left in America's labor market was filled with Mexican braceros, she says, the guest workers who toiled on farms to put food on American tables during the fight against totalitarianism."

Kevin dijo:

Asking Burns to change his documentary is like asking Leonardo da Vinci to add another apostle to ‘The Last Supper’ because somebody else was left out. This is artistic. This is a film. It’s not journalism.

I can't think of a worse analogy. No one would have ever asked Da Vinci to add another apostle because he included EVERYONE involved, something Burns has failed to do. Had "The Last Supper" only portrayed 11 apostles it would have bombed. Art based on historical occurrences has an obligation to be accurate.

Richard at Mexfiles dijo:



Besides dissing the Mexican-Americans (and living on the border, even a clueless pinche gringo like yours truly can't help but notice the huge number of veterans around here... our American Legion Post holds its meeting in Spanish -- or that every local military recruit has a name like Perez, or Lopez or de la O), the U.S. war effort would have been impossible without that large Republic to the South.

Besides the braceros, Mexico provided 40% of the U.S. War Materiale, AND... at least in Pedro Infante movies, won the war in the Pacific, just as John Wayne did in Europe. It would be nice to see my specialty at least acknowledged (and, damn... it was really annoying when I met a gringo in DF who thought Mexico was on the other side. Luckily, one of the descendants of the Jews who were saved from the Nazis -- Mexico accepted more Jewish refugees than the other allied nations COMBINED -- set him straight).

Blackamazon dijo:


so if its artistic... IT"S NOT A DOCUMENTARY

if peter wasn't in the last supper.


Still a pretty painting but Ahistorical


just WRONG

And you know what if you didn't go about puffing up your vest saying it was universal you'd be left alone but you can't be BOTH powerless against history AND try to define it.

and the cute * pat you on the head language*

* lies down*


Kai dijo:


Really nice thorough rundown of the situation, Nezua. Needless to say it's outrageous. I'm a PBS fan, send them money every year, so you can be sure I'll be using those links you provided, thanks.

RickB dijo:


As someone who has made some docos (albeit small scale ones) the 'this is a film, this isn't journalism' dodge is bullshit.
Well ok then, let's have a big car chase in act two and a huge alien invasion instead of the battle of Stalingrad (who wants to learn the commies turned the tide of WW2 anyway?) kids love alien invasions and Hitler? Blonde chick (as ever) with huge...ambitions. Gotta get the dads watching.
I'm sure someone could figure out a way to hack imovie and change the name of the 'ken burns effect', 'Nezua's revenge' maybe?

tizoc dijo:


done deal! sent a letter PBS' secretary, defending 'los sacrificios de mi abuelo's' service in WWII / thanks for this article, it gives me 'room to breathe in'

Rafael dijo:


Well since this is both about movies and war and having lost an uncle in Korea (whose regiment, the 65th Infantry was disparaged and forgotten by the U.S. Army, even though their record was exemplary), I give you a series of links here as a way of comment from my neck of the Woods of the Americas:




Zaecus dijo:


"it was really annoying when I met a gringo in DF who thought Mexico was on the other side."

The hell? It takes a lot of arrogance to think that Mexico could have joined the Axis and the world would look the way it does today.

I'm having a very difficult time believing that a documentary about World War II soldiers could exclude Latinos without those making it putting in a lot of effort to deliberately do so.

Sylvia dijo:


The only intelligent thing going through my head after reading this is motherfuckers. So I have a wealth of letters to mail.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


gracias to all (esp non-Latinos) for your words and care on this, and any action taken does my heart good to know.

Ioanna dijo:


the universal argument got to me - if he was going for universal, why couldn't all of the people used have been Mexican? huh, Ken? answer me that Mr. Fancy Fade Technique guy. ("Opie-like aura of amiability" - brilliant!)

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


jaja! good point, Ioanna.

and thank you.

kevin dijo:


Rafael - Thanks for those links.

Kevin dijo:


the universal argument got to me

Don't get me started. I can go on for days about shit like this.

Armando Rendon dijo:


The short of it is that The War is a failed documentary, and from what I saw at a screening in San Francisco a couple weeks ago, mostly a success at sucking up thousands of public monies to crank out the same rehash of WWII film footage with a maudlin premise that consciously, purposefully and ruthlessly deletes any reference to the contribution by Mexican Americans and Latinos to the war effort.

Note carefully: I strongly suspect that Burns must have decided at some point to exclude Latinos from the "documentary." At some point, he and his sidekick, Lynn Novick, must have come across information about the Latino impact on the war. Otherwise, they are the worst researchers in the world!!! How could anyone with so much time, and so much money, not discover over six years that Latinos not only served above and beyond the call of duty, but that our communities were tragically disrupted (we all know the events that resulted in the so-called "zoot suit riots" in Los Angeles) and altered and that Chicanos and Latinos came back unwilling just to be second-class citizens.

Burns and his partner either clumsily bungled this so-called documentary and historical travesty or they consciously left out a major element, the Latino warriors, at home and on the battlefield. Either way, his latest work is a travesty.

Lionel Sosa is right on one point: "It’s not journalism." Burns et al. didn't check the facts, and worse it looks as if they doctored them.

Finally, keep reminding everybody that this "documentary" is NOT a film. It's video, and lends itself to editing much more readily than film; it may take a few more bucks, but doable. A case in point, at the San Francisco pony show I attended, Burns trotted out a five-minute edit of various sections of the series which featured a tune called American Anthem, which he lauded as one of the greatest pieces of music ever written (keep the source in mind)and then ran the piece. Right as it ended, he and his cohorts picked up their chairs and exited stage left, ala the Marx Brothers.

I spoke to Burns as he was basking in the klieg lights from up above the stage and from the look in his eyes, I must have been the first Chicano to lay the news on him, that this travesty of a "documentary" was not to be tolerated and he would be hearing more from Latinos all over the country.

Let's keep up the pressure.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


right on armando. i'm so glad you got to put it to him in person. and as a filmmaker myself, having learned to cut on Avid®, originally, i agree with your statementa bout how cheap and easy it would be for him to alter that cut as compared to film. good points.

it is a travesty as it stands. and a grave insult.

Postmodern Sexgeek dijo:


I somehow missed this brouhaha but I'm glad I found it here. It hurts me to see that this supposed Universal film on the war ignores the experiences of people like my grandfather who was a decorated WWII vet who sustained injuries from shrapnel fire that plagued him the rest of his life. He was very proud of having defended his country as am I and this film is an insult to my entire family. I am the granddaughter, niece and daughter of American vets. My family has a long history of serving its country and yet everyday I see people trying to deny me my claim to belonging here. Fuck them all. They are ignorant, uneducated, idiots and they will eventually reap what they sow.

Postmodern Sexgeek dijo:


Incidentally, I am also from EL Paso. Nice to meet a fellow web denizen from the hometown.

sly civilian dijo:


fucking a. 13th apostle, my ass. They were disciples anyways, but i don't even want to start.

thanks for the heads up on this.

Kent dijo:


This is ridiculous.

It is yet another example of a hyphenated-American lobby trying to hijack history in the name of their special interest.

Of course the Latino community sacrificed dearly during the war (and every other war our nation has fought). Of course their sacrifice was largely ignored...a regrettable and all-too-common refrain in our history.

However, how is the Latino experience somehow different than the German-American experience? Japanese-American? African-American? Czechk-American? C'mon guys...can't anyone take a larger view and realize that the whole story of WWII is how these disparate & individual groups of citizens came together to fight as Americans against world tyranny? That's the story Ken Burns is trying to tell, and he can't do it by focusing on every possible hyphenated group that contributed to the effort.

My point is this: The Latinos who fought on WWII's battlefields didn't care whether the guy guarding their backs. They cared only that they were Americans. It's a shame that we can't seem to understand that now, 60 years later.

This is a well-intentioned but misguided squabble started by people who can't seem to get their minds around the big picture of history. WWII was not an ethnic or class struggle, it was a global struggle against fascism, and the Allies prevailed only because we pulled together to get the job done. How about letting Mr. Burns tell the story as only he can do?

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


Thanks for clearing that up, Kent. Maybe if you keep stopping by and injecting your wisdom, us well-intentioned brownies can begin to learn how to "get our minds around the big picture."

We'll all be quiet now and let the Great White Historian tell it like only he knows how.

Ben dijo:


Kent, to quote Shakespeare's famous St.Crispín day speech from Henry V "Porque quien vierta hoy su sangre conmigo será mi hermano." They fought for us, they died for us, they deserve recognition. They are the ne plus ultra of pro Americanism with their actions, no matter what they think of this country or how they hyphenate their identity. This is America where people are free to do with their identity whatever they damn well choose.

You say these groups didn't care who were at their backs? You're right, and it's irrelevant. They sure as hell cared about their identities when they got home, and so did their kids. Hence the American GI Forum. Hence sites like this.

By insisting that this ethnic group melts into the greater (read white) America you're basically telling them that their sacrifices will be forgotten. THIS IS HOW THEY SELF IDENTIFY. A refusal to acknowledge the service of their community will actually hurt military recruitment. Who wants to fight and die for a country that forgets you and tells your children to erase their native culture and language because, after all, it's all about coming togehter.

You want them to "integrate?" recognize their service. Anyone who will take a bullet for my freedom is sufficiently integrated.

Conclusion? Ken Burns must be stopped or the terrorists will have one.

Kai dijo:



The phrase "yet another example of a hyphenated-American lobby" kinda says all we need to know about where you're coming from.

You wanna talk about disparate groups coming together? Here's an idea: try listening to some of those disparate groups instead of this embarrassingly smarmy stick-waving you're engaged in here. You might learn a thing or two about something we call "broader humanity". You might learn that for an angry white man to lecture people of color on how soldiers of color feel about WWII is the height of arrogant ignorance. You might learn that your stubborn little worldview is one tiny drop in a vast ocean of perspective full of variation and motion perhaps too dynamic for the rigidly crumbling walls of your privileged identify politics. You might learn that much of what you think you know about the world is a lie.

Not that I expect folks like you, who introduce themselves to communities of color with squeaky-voiced brow-beating on the superior normative universality of the White Lens, to undertake any such thing as "listening" or "learning". I get the impression that you wouldn't recognize the big picture of history if it joined your head up your ass.


Kent dijo:


Kai, you purport to know an awful lot about me based only on a short post! :) Since you're so insightful, you probably already realize that I do listen, and I'll be the first to admit that I can't possibly completely understand the experience of Latino (or any other) veterans from the war. Nor, I suspect, can you. Nonetheless, I appreciate your comments, however vitriolic & crudely expressed. I will agree with you that we all need to truly listen to each other and try to understand each other's perspectives. And forgive me, but I thought this was a forum for intelligent debate, not soapbox for veiled racist accusations like yours. I'm just sharing my perspective, and I appreciate those who differ from mine...even yours. I don't know you, so maybe your worldview is, indeed, vastly greater than mine. All I know is that from your post I have to conclude that the opposite is most likely true and, at best, we both have our heads in the same position. At least I recognize where mine might be.

Jason dijo:


As a Caucasian male whose input on this matter may or may not be welcome, I was unaware of the Mexican Americans' contribution to America's victory in World War 2. I believe that "The War" should reflect it accordingly.

Ken Burns films are long and drawn out, with hours of interviews. The absence of at least a sprinkling of reviews--token, you might call it--is in poor taste, at best (and inexcuseable). The revelation that Mexican Americans fought hard alongside everyone else doesn't have the impact on me personally that some of those who administer this site might hope (I believe that we should treat the people around us according to their actions in the present, not the shortcomings or successes of their ancestors), but it helps me to more deeply appreciate the presence of those of Hispanic origin who fought and died for our country more than 60 years ago.

History shouldn't be censored to suit the tastes of those behind the camera or pen, not when history so often serves as a lens that shapes the future. I hope Burns will consider the striking omission and do what it takes to set things right.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


I appreciate that, Jason.

I think true history is important for all of us, myself.


Karen dijo:


What really bothers me is the notion that to include Latino vets it to pander to an insignificant, but vocal minority group at the expense of artistic freedom.

The issue here isn't race or ethnicity, but accuracy. If Burns is going to call his work a documentary, then he needs to get the history right. Until recently, PBS was advertising this documentary as the definitive history of WWII.

Thirteen Latinos (eleven Americans of Mexican descent and two Puerto Ricans) received the Congressional Medal of Honor from FDR and Truman for their service in WWII, yet the experiences of Latino vets are are not good enough for history books, documentaries, or Hollywood movies? I don't think so. The history of Latino vets in WWII, is part of the AMERICAN experience.

If Burns cannot see how egregious his omission is, then he shold stop presenting his work as non-fiction and move to Hollywood.

And I don't want my tax dollars funding his lies.

Blair dijo:


I think Ken Burns's decision to include Hispanic Americans among those interviewed while leaving the documentary untouched is a good one. The documentary does not exclude Hispanic American soldiers. Latino soldiers do appear in the documentary along soldiers from other ethnic groups, such as Jewish Americans, Irish Americans or Italian Americans, are included. Japanese American and African American soldiers are treated separately because they fought in segregated units. However, latino soldiers fought in integrated units where they served both as officers and enlisted soldiers.

The number of latinos who served in WWII is generally estimated as beging between 250,000 and 500,000. If the high end figure is correct, latinos would have accounted for about 0.025 percent of the 20 million Americans who served during WWII. I don't know how many interviews there will be in the documentary, but to be porportionally correct, there should be 2.5 latinos for every 100 interviews. My guess is that there will be fewer than 100 interviews and that more than three of those interviewed will be latinos; so they will end up being overrepresented rather than underepresented.

Ernie Mendoza dijo:


When my father asked me to come to his home to help him one day, I went over to see him wearing my old work clothes, ready to move heavy objects or engage in yet another remodeling project I assumed he had in mind for us to do. To my surprise, he asked me to use my computer skills to write a record of his World War II experience that included extended periods of heavy combat, participation in the Liberation of France (including marching in formation under/through the Arch of Triumph), the tragic capture of his platoon and gristly execution of his platoon commander by the German military, a forced march as a prisoner of war in Germany, placement in German prisoner of war concentration camps where he witnessed the cruel treatment of Russian and Allied prisoners of war by German military officers, being a POW forced to perform hard labor for six months for the German soldiers in violation of the Geneva Agreement for military soldiers, his own near death from bad physical treatment and near starvation, to his miraculous release at the end of the war by a German soldier who told him to run away and save himself, his finding a Russian unit that saved his life but told him that he was in such poor physical condition that they could only make him comfortable while he would surely die, recuperating in a Military Hospital (Camp Lucky Strike), being shipped to the U.S. for a 90 day rehab in Los Angeles, his homecoming to meet his mother and his wife Frances Mendoza, my mother, who had received a letter stating that my father had been killed in heavy combat and for them to file for death benefits when my father was first captured (about nine months before) and who prayed that he was not dead and might be alive "somewhere". When my father went to seek medical care for his severe wounds in the U.S., he was told that his military records were lost in a fire and that there was no record of his military service. When he went to join the local Veterans Group here he was told that they did not want any "mexicans" in their group. I never knew about my fathers awful and couragous military experiences until he asked me to write his story as a history biography for his fraternal group of military survivors that had asked him to write this biography. It gives me great inner strenght to know that my father was a hero who endured adversity never asking for favoritism or recognition. I realize that as a culture it is important, if not vital, that recognition be given to true heroes. I compliment your efforts in this regard. The poor treatment that many returning veterans of minority decent received from the U.S. military support groups, such as the local V.A.'s and Veterans of Foreign Wars, should be another documentary topic that merits being exposed.





nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:


Adrianna, I invite you to not use CAPITAL LETTERS WHEN INTRODUCING YOURSELF, because most of us online perceive this as textual screaming, and you and I haven't even had coffee yet, my gosh. Seriously, it raises the hackles on my virtual neck.

Please write to me at nlxj=AT=theunapologeticmexican=DOT=org and if you would, include a synopsis/treatment/mission statement re: your project, as well as any inspirational sources or any other notes that might give me a picture of how to present you to my readers. In other words before I place my own reader's trust into play, I'd like to know where you are coming from with your story, what your angle is on it.

Thank you, Nezua.

rodolfo acuna dijo:


EVENT: Protest Ken Burn Documentary on World War II

WHERE: KCET Studios at 4401 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90027
tel: (323) 666-6500

WHEN: THIS Sunday, September 23, 2007

Demonstration from 3:00 - 4:30 P.M.
Press Conference at 3:30

Bring your anti-Ken Burns Protest Sign

NARRATIVE: KCET despite numerous complaints has refused to integrate Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, other Latinos and Native Americans into the story line of Ken Burns’ documentary on World War II, evidently attempting to return to the days of “separate but equal.” Previously Burn made two other documents – one on baseball and the other on jazz – which excluded Latino contributions. Incredibly, although Burns shot the documentary in Sacramento, California, he could not find Mexican American, Latino or Native American veterans. In a scenario reminiscent of Indian agents buying out one Indian and then taking the land of the tribe – PBS (Public Broadcasting System) signed waivers with /individuals/ in Latino organizations that sanctioned its racism. /Individuals/ in these same organizations some years back called off a boycott of Coors Beer after the beer company signed a contract that gave the organizations over a hundred million dollars depending on how much beer Mexicans drank. We believe that KCET has disrespected the sacrifice of Mexican American, Latino and Native American veterans and the sacrifices they made to further equality for out people. History is at the essence of our memory and we will not tolerate a distortion of the truth.

CONTACTS: Sal Castro (213) 482-4003

David Sandoval (323) 445-1765

Rodolfo Acuña (818) 831-0453

------ End of Forwarded Message

Dee dijo:


I do understand that you are hurt by not being a part of this documentary. My Grandfather was in Italy during the war he was an Italian American but he lived there with his family. Since he spoke both English and Italian he was forced to leave his family in a town occupied by Germands and work for the Italian underground. My Father was left with my Grandmother and my Aunt. During the war the Germans seized their home and sent them to live in a barn. My father has told me that when the Americans came to his town and liberated them it was the greatest feeling in the world. After reading this web site I asked him how many Mexican Americans or Latinos were there. He just looked at me for a moment like he didn't understand and said "I don't know, I just saw Americans and I cried I was so happy."

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:


And well should he have. I'm glad he was rescued. Who would be thinking of anyone's ethnicity at that moment? If he even could recognize what a Latino would look like at such a time, eh? No, one would just be happy to be alive.

I do hope you can understand I don't personally care if I was included...I'd have no reason to be included. But many soldiers who sacrificed so much, in rescues and raids like the type that saved your family, do not want to see their contributinos minimized or lost by the white mainstream history tellers. Those omissions and negations hurt us all.

Gregorio dijo:


How dramatic was the hispanic presence? 500,000 out of 16 million? 3%?

"The Second World War was fought in thousands of places, too many for any one accounting. This is the story of four American towns and how their citizens experienced that war. "

Break that down even more to Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; and Luverne, Minnesota. How many hispanics now?

If people want to be offended by a lack of representation in a documentary where racial representaion made up 3% 60 years ago, then they've got a real problem. The facts can't be changed. Men and women died because they represented a country, not a race. Nazis didn't care if they were killing white men, black men, hispanics, or whatever. If you were an American, you were the enemy.
The Hispanic lobbies that take issue with the documentary choose to divide and segregate based on a fabricated injustice. These Hispanic lobbies continue to place themselves in opposition to that which they claim to represent by empowering themselves with misinformation passed down to the "constituents" they represent in an effort to empower themselves. If there is an injustice and disrespect here, it is that the agenda being pursued here infringes upon the freedom that the Hispanic lobbies purport to uphold. Is it better to threaten people to do what you want or to do for yourself what you need?
If you continue to view yourself the way others view you, then you will always be what others perceive you to be. If you choose to feel disrespected, they you will be disrespected. If you choose to feel angry, then you will be angry. But, if you choose not to feel disrepected, then you are not. If you choose not to be angered, then you are not. The choice is always your own to make. Don't let someone turn race into an issue when the truth is far from it.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:


thanks for the advice, pop.

Peter Kennett dijo:


I just received the DVD series of The War and Mr. Burns has added in additional interviews and footage that covers a couple of events experienced by Latinos and Native Americans. He added the additional footage at the very end, rather than re-editing the series. The effect, while certainly an effort to correct this problem, feels poorly done, as it is evident that the extra material was added in after the series was complete - much like an afterthought which I'm sure it was. When you watch the DVD, you almost think the show is over, when suddenly the new footage appears. The good news is that the material is VERY GOOD and tells some incredible stories. I had tears after the first such extra footage, in which a hispanic American describes the death of his best friend.


yea dijo:


I Would like to interview WW2 Veteran of Latinos and Latinas that was not regonized for their heroric adventure. Please write

Yolanda dijo:


I'm filming a documentary, need to interview hispanic of WW2. Please e-mail me back.

RC dijo:


As often happens, since I am not a long time reader of the Nez Files, I just got to see this post and the comments now. Perhaps Yolanda might also publish her interest on some blogs that are directed at Puerto Rican vets.
I live in PR {since 1979} and almost all the WW2 vets I now talk to are of course, latinos. And there are plenty of them and most, I believe, speak English, if that is necessary. I think most of our conversations have been in Spanish, but that generation was forced to learn English in colonial era {early US colonial era-- the era is now late US colonial era, to distinguish it from Spanish Colonial era or future US colonial eras} schools.
So try to find your interviewees on Veteran's sites. Most of the vets would be over 85 now like my father. But he's Irish-English-Scots-American and wouldn't fit the bill for you, even though he has a quite a tale to tell.
No veteran's organizations in your town?

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:


i am having email conversation with yolanda now, RC, i will ask her about the PR blogs. i'm sure tho, that she is checking many different ones. thanks for the comentario bro.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:


and i love "the Nez Files"! new one.