From the of PBS Series Latino Americans (2013), Episode 2: Empire of Dreams, what are some examples of power inequality and human rights issues to both Hispanics and other marginalized groups...

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The PBS series about Latino Americans stresses an understanding of identity which embraces approaches such as Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory, and Feminist Theory.  The premise of the episode is rooted in the exploration of Latino American identity as an integral part of what it means to be "America." In linking the Latino American predicament to the immigration narrative embedded in American history, it is a reflection of the desire to change what it means to be "American."  The reality of America as a nation that seized or controlled territories through conquest and/ or dollar diplomacy forms a nexus between American history and Latino American identity:  "The Latino's presence in the United States is the result of our own [American] territorial expansion."  These examples of the documentary's ideas are rooted in Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory, approaches that suggest there is a bifurcation between race, class, politics, and history.  Such a theoretical perspective is one that insists upon change and alteration of the existing narrative.  It is also insistent on the idea that power inequality and human rights issues lie at the forefront of this convergence.  In other words, in order to better understand the relationship between Latinos and America, one has be ready to look at inequality in power and human rights violations.

The inequity in power and the resultant violations of individual rights are elements that the documentary suggests is a part of the Latino- American predicament.  The documentary suggests that the Latino presence in America is a direct result of economic growth.  At the time of World War I, it is suggested that America was in need of cheap labor because the original source of such labor was immersed in war.  As a result, American industry encouraged Latino immigration, as seen in the narrative of Juan Salvador, who crosses the Rio Grande and takes a job at the Queen Mine Company in Arizona.  Salvador takes this job at the encouragement of company recruiters who understood the potential of enabling Latino immigration as a part of economic growth. As a result, one sees how approaches like Critical Theory and Feminist Theory begin to take hold.  

The transformation of issues such as race and gender through the reality of class is a part of the documentary's construction.  When the documentary pivots into violations of human rights issues, such as with the discrimination faced by Mexican- Americans in California of the 1930s, it does so with the understanding that prejudice became an unfair byproduct of capitalist growth.  When economic contraction no longer deemed it necessary for cheap labor, the primary rationale for industry to encourage Latino immigration, one sees how power inequality and human rights violations become a part of American history.  It is in this regard where the documentary displays another example of critical theory, reflecting what was in the hopes of what can be.

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