Latino In America goes out with a whine

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

For a review of Part 1, click here

marta1No way around it: Latino In America was a failure.

At the very least, Thursday’s conclusion, “Chasing The Dream,” seemed equal parts melodrama and bait-and-switch, with the broadcast component weakened by a lack of questions that undercut even its’ more compelling segments.

For instance, in the report on the murder of Luis Mendoza, we got an overview of events in Shenandoah, Penn., leading up to the crime, and of the area’s history with several immigrant populations, but when one individual reported he felt he was being intimidated because of his speaking to CNN, we got no follow-up with local authorities. When it was mentioned that one of the four defendants – who were acquitted of hate-crime accusations – testified the cops told them to get their stories straight, we got no follow-up.

In another major mis-step, the incident was not placed in any sort of context – at least on-air. You had to venture to the series’ website (or look it up yourself) to get this kind of information:

FBI statistics show that anti-Latino crimes are on the rise. There were 595 anti-Latino crimes in 2007, up almost 40 percent from the 426 crimes in 2003; the Latino population in America grew only 14 percent during that time.
In December, Ecuadorean Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhañay died after he was beaten with a baseball bat in Brooklyn, New York.
One month earlier, a group of seven teenagers with a history of harassing Latinos went out looking for “Mexicans to f— up” and fatally stabbed Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, New York.
FBI figures from 2007 show that anti-Latino attacks account for about 8 percent of all hate crimes. About 35 percent of hate crimes were directed at blacks, 16 percent at homosexuals and 13 percent at Jews.
But experts say hate crimes in general are underreported. States are not required to report those figures to the FBI.

Surely including at least some of this information would have been a better use of our viewing time than Soledad O’Brien amiably chatting up the guy starting up his own “Save Shenandoah” group.

A similar lack of layering plagued the story of “Marta,” the undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. To find her mother, only to find herself having to accuse her mom of neglect in order to stay in America. Marta’s story is woven with that of the Cuban “Pedro Pans,” which include Sen. Mel Martínez (R-FL). Never mind that Marta (pictured above) isn’t even Cuban. But, again, you had to go to the website to get more relevant information:

[Marta's] case is typical of the 7,211 children known to have entered the United States illegally in 2008 by themselves, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which runs the shelters where the children are detained. Children come searching for family members or a way out of poverty with little understanding of the legal ramifications they face.

And how does Martínez feel about a system that forces children to seek their own legal representation in these matters? Well, you had to watch Anderson Cooper to figure it out, I guess, because O’Brien seemingly never asked.

Other segments just seemed disjointed: the segment on Pico Rivera veered from covering its’ evolution into a “Latino Mayberry” (a rather condescending term) to a law enforcement crackdown against gang and tagging activity to the city’s Scared Straight-esque P.R.I.D.E program to following yet another at-risk teen trying to navigate through it. And in the middle of all this, seemingly staple-gunned onto the narrative, was a visit with a local car club. And all this was before we learned that the city’s otherwise sympathetic mayor, Gracie Gallegos, had to resign for allegedly cashing bad checks. What, exactly, was the lesson to be learned from this? There wasn’t even an online companion to this story to look to for an overall point.

The series’ final segment seemed to focus on the financial disadvantage of a naturalized immigrant who doesn’t speak English; not only would his story have fit in more tightly among those featured in “The Garcías,” but it was shoe-horned against an Anglo baseball instructor who successfully boosts his camp’s enrollments by hiring and recruiting Latino staff and students; and a very successful immigrant couple. In the end we learn that the guy’s girlfriend is pregnant and he failed his Sheriff Department entrance exam again.

And that’s where the series wraps up. Is this how the network wants to attract more Latino viewership? Based on these utterly depressing four hours, I can just imagine the slogan: CNN: ¡No se puede!