What does it mean to be Latino? On May 19, 2012, the season finale of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the PBS TV series aired. It explored race and identity through the genealogy of some of America’s best-known personalities, and sought to answer that question. Through the family histories of actors Michelle Rodriguez and Adrian Grenier, and Linda Chavez, an author, syndicated newspaper columnist and political analyst for FOX News, viewers will discovered that Latino identity emerged from the tangled histories of European, Native-American and African peoples. (The episode is also available free to watch online at the Find Your Roots / PBS website.)
The three subjects of the episode all share Spanish colonial roots, yet each views their identity very differently: as Native American, Puerto Rican, Dominican or simply Latino.
At the helm of this series is Henry Louis Gates Jr. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature, and is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, as well as the director of the W.E.B Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. He’s best known for PBS productions like African American Lives, Oprah’s Roots, and African American Lives 2.
In episode #133 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast I was fortunate to grab some time with this very busy man to talk about the final episode of this newest series, Finding Your Roots.