About halfway through the first two-hours of the four-hour “Latino in America” by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien I began to wish I had kept a running tab on how many times she mentioned the word “Latino” to the complete exclusion of the word “Hispanic.” If I swore, I would say she said Latino maybe 50 million times but I digress.
In addition to noting how obsessed Soledad was about the word “Latino” I do have a couple of observations I would like to share. My first thought is that the first half of this documentary offered no surprises for those of us who closely track Hispanic culture. The best part about that is that I don’t believe this report is really for us though it’s all about us. If you’ve ever struggled to help your non-Latino friends understand what our reality in this country is consider this documentary a favor. Long after this has aired I can see this documentary playing in scores of schools and universities as a cultural primer on who Latinos are. If I had to pick a favorite part about tonight’s show it was the section where Soledad talks about a Midwest Catholic Church parish that is struggling along white and Latino ethnic lines. In the show we see that the issue over language and culture is so painful for this parish that the Catholic Church divides the congregation into an English speaking-one and a Spanish-speaking one. For this parish it was not just because the church was being sensitive to Latinos but also because it was smart from a practical point of view. Latino believers is what has helped the church survive and thrive. In one scene Soledad is speaking to the elders of the English-speaking congregation and they tell her that one of the things they most resent is that the Hispanics want to speak Spanish. They believe Latinos should only speak English. In the midst of the language discussion, Soledad tells turns to one lady and reminds her that for years the Catholic Church spoke Latin, a language NOBODY understood. Is that what she was suggesting should be done again in order to end the language dispute? When the lady said “yes” I turned to my wife and said, “Imagine that. Some people hate Spanish so much they would rather be mutually blind to God’s Word than know that someone is speaking Spanish.” That part alone made the two-hour journey worthwhile tonight.