More than 60 percent of students attending Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) are Hispanic. Years ago however, before the civil rights movement, that figure would have been a number that could only be seen in dreams.
The struggle Hispanics went through to get to where they are now is specifically what John Valadez and Daniel McCabe aimed to capture in their PBS documentary, “Prejudice and Pride,” which Valadez screened for students at the Peacock Auditorium Oct. 8.
The documentary comprehensively shed light on prominent Hispanic activists who helped advance the rights and living conditions of the Latino population in America. The film is the first of its kind, Valadez said.
“There has never been a primetime national program that told the story of Latinos and their participation in the American story,” Valadez said. “I think it’s a landmark moment. It’s a shift in Latino participation in the media.”
While the documentary covered well-known figures like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, it also mentioned activists like Sal Castro, a high school teacher who organized walkouts in California for Hispanic students.
Valadez has been screening Prejudice and Pride at universities in the region since the beginning of the fall.
“Since September, I’ve been doing screenings at colleges and universities across the Southwest. I do that because I think it’s important,” Valadez said. “People who are going to college are going to be the opinion leaders in just a few years. I think it’s really critical to introduce them to films like this and plant the seeds of this kind of knowledge as they move forward.”
Prejudice and Pride is one of six films under PBS’ “Latino Americans” series.
“It’s not just about Chicanos, it’s about all Latinos,” Valadez said. “Cuban-Americans, Dominican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, etc.”
Valadez said he does not view the series as a divulging account of minorities, but rather a chapter in America’s history.
“I believe that Latino history is American history. It belongs to all of us,” he said. “It’s our common legacy and our common heritage.”
Valadez said it took him approximately a year and a half to compile all of the information for two hours of content for PBS.
If there’s one lesson students should take away from the documentary, Valadez said it’s that they have the power to impact the course of American history.
“This country is whatever we make it. Events that shape our world don’t just happen. Things happen because people make them happen. We make decisions based on our values,” he said. “We either choose to participate and choose to be engaged in the civic discourse of the country, or choose to let others define the future and our world for us.”