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Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

So, cartoons are clearly op-eds, as we've said before. And today, our op-ed is courtesy of Hector Cantu — no thanks to Ken Burns. Burns' new World War II series The War has drawn complaints because it doesn't tell the stories of Latinos in the war — Cantu decided that if Burns wasn't going to do it, he'd tell them in his comic strip Baldo. He's added a character — a World War II vet — named Benito "Benny" Ramirez, who's telling his stories of the war. Benny started his story on Monday, and he's continued it throughout last week and this one. Today, we'll talk to Hector Cantu about Benny, and hope that you'll post your stories here as well.



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I watched this last night and there were two Latino Marines giving their moving and eloquent accounts at Guadalcanal. Was I mistaken in their origin? Why all the whining? Heck, I'm French-Canadian and I'm not crying scandalous b/c I'll get no cultural acknowledgment from Ken. Relax yourselves or make your own film.

Sent by hair-splitting is lame | 2:28 PM | 9-24-2007

I believe you're referring to the segment that was created by Burns after the controversy erupted. Originally Part 1 was supposed to be two hours but they added extra time to it. The musical interlude at the 2-hour mark is where it segued into the new content with the Latino profiles.

Sent by andy carvin | 2:35 PM | 9-24-2007

Thank you for being willing to address this issue. I feel moved that despite all the sacrifices latinos have made in the past that were ignored regarding our military contributions is finally being addressed, acknowledged and celebrated!

Sent by Tony Didato | 2:53 PM | 9-24-2007

Am I missing something here? Wasn't there a fellow on The War last night who was latino? I thought I remembered a guy who spoke only Spanish until 14 who was interviewed.

Obviously they can't include every story, but they did include at least one Latino in the first episode. I didn't notice any Polish-Americans profiled in the program.

Did I watch a different program than everyone else?

Sent by Tim | 2:53 PM | 9-24-2007

We also heard that Native Americans also were ignored in this movie so why is it Latinos are the ones bitching? It seems that they are always bitching about everything from illegal immigration to this movie ; etc.

They are not the only ones discriminated against in this country!!! There are women; blacks, native americans; disabled and the list goes on so why is it we have this segment on NPR? We dont know but we are fed up with the Poor Me attitude of the Latino commnity.

This country needs to stop discrimination; period!!!

Sent by jm fay | 2:56 PM | 9-24-2007

Mr. Cantu did a nice job of acting rather than complaining. I'm not sure what the original content of the show was, but certainly there was at least one Latino in the portion of the show I saw last night.

I think hair-splitting is lame got it right in his comment.

Sent by Tim | 3:01 PM | 9-24-2007

To hair-splitting is lame.

Yes the veterans are Latino. Also their stories are not in the book version that just came out. As Burns stated, the story was locked a year ago, and Latinos were 'locked out' of the documentary until the criticism grew too much that he had to tack on 9 minutes apiece to these veterans at the end of the show. They are not in the DVD version given out to reviewers. So this was strictly to placate the critics.

Sent by David O. Garcia | 3:08 PM | 9-24-2007

It's nice to address the Spanish speaking Latinos, but don't forget the Portuguese speaking Latinos. Some of our surnames end in an "s" rather than a "z" but we are still Latinos. Thank you.

Sent by vern gomes | 3:14 PM | 9-24-2007

Hair splitting is definitely correct. Not everyone was acknowledged in this movie so why is it just the Latinos bitching?

Did female soldiers get an acknowledgement? We didnt see the movie so we dont know.

When did they add females to the WWII monument? (another monumnet) took alot longer then the group encased in bronze that put the flag up (and they were of different races too) and being a female; that is a true shame and we might add more females of all races served in WWII then Latinos!!!

Sent by jm fay | 3:19 PM | 9-24-2007

David is correct. It was an add-on. The issue has been discussed for months. I am surprised that hair-splitting is lame, Tim and jm fay had not heard of it.


Sent by miguel cortez | 3:22 PM | 9-24-2007

I find it amazing that people cannot read up to the endpoint of a conversation before sending a comment. Please read enough of the conversation to evade redundancy. Better yet, read David's entry until you understand the effect of being "locked out." In addition, Sunday Weekend Edition had a good segment about this issue as well.

Sent by chacal | 3:31 PM | 9-24-2007

Miguel you are wrong; we did hear of it since we listen to many hours of NPR daily. You however also missed the point of hairsplitting; Tim and ourself in that not everyone was acknowledged so you and David should be happy you got placated. Not everyone else was though and there were alot of other races and females who also served in WWII so where are their stories? Who is telling their stories? There was one movie made if we recall on the Navajo codetalkers but that is about it on the other races unless someone wants to correct us?
Everyone contributed to the victory in WWII so everyone should be acknowledged; period!!! Why not add in the other countries who helped the US as well?

Sent by jm fay | 3:42 PM | 9-24-2007

Clearly, his attempt to make a permanent monument regarding our human condition is worth nothing to those intent on taking this petty warpath.

HUMAN stories of the pain, suffering, relentlessness and sacrifice of war is what this documentary is all about. I wouldn't be surprised if KB hangs up his hat on us ungrateful Americans who can no longer see the big picture.

hah, BTW I'm a woman, Tim.

Sent by hair-splitting is lame | 3:43 PM | 9-24-2007

Chacal said:

I find it amazing that people cannot read up to the endpoint of a conversation before sending a comment.

Just wanted to point something out: Since the discussion comments are moderated, they're posted in batches. So depending on when you post your comment, there may be other commenters who have already addressed an issue in a particular way but their comments are still in the queue, waiting to post it. That accounts for some of the instances when commenters repeat what's already been said or other miscommunications.

Sent by andy carvin | 4:37 PM | 9-24-2007

to hair-splitting is lame,

You wrote, "I wouldn't be surprised if KB hangs up his hat on us ungrateful Americans who can no longer see the big picture."

Americans have never seen the big picture, only the white/black American version. Women's efforts during WWII have been celebrated for their service as ferry pilots, nurses, WAVES, and in the manufacturing. Ever heard of Rosie the Riveter? Songs, movies, stamps and many many other events commemorate their service. Jackie Cockran was one famous woman pilot of the era, then and now.

Apparently your knowledge of this history could need improvement by further research.

Brown people living in the U.S., i.e. Hispanics were not treated the same. The signs prevelant in the South of "White Only" applied to Hispanics as well. Racism was, and apparently still is, prevalent in the Southwest and many of the same disgraceful things that happened to African Americans also happened to Hispanics.

That is why we are angry. Burns and PBS simply blew it. Big time.

Sent by David O. Garcia | 4:57 PM | 9-24-2007

Not pertinent to this particular story but relevant to both topics today is what gets left out of history education in public schools. I subbed in a high school world history class and discovered the teacher was skipping chapters here and there. Not unusual, but the one he skipped was on.... ready? Islam.

Sent by Patrick Barrett | 4:57 PM | 9-24-2007

Thanks, Andy. I realize I neglected the effect of asynchronous commentary. On topic, I would encourage all to listen to the Sunday WE to understand a bit on how Latinos were respected and honored while fighting for our country, yet returned to racism they faced before they served. And yes, this did affect many other groups as well. However, the fact remains that Mr. Burns has a track record of not grasping the role Latinos have played within the scope of his recent historical documentaries, and this newest is no exception. As the nation's presumptive historian I argue he has yet to acquire the critical aspect required for producing large-scale, recent historical multi-media documentation. For me, it will be interesting to follow to see how Mr. Burns deals with these issues in future projects.

Sent by chacal | 5:49 PM | 9-24-2007

To vern gomes:

In this context Latinos, and Hispanics during WWII mean Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans and other brown people who lived in the U.S.,including Native Americans, and not white European Latinos.

The majority of the Hispanics are of Mexican descent living in the South West United States. And it is not just a matter of having our stories heard, but having them told in the context of how they lived at home during the depression era, how they served and how they were treated once back home.

To ignore the contribution and sacrifice of these people is a complete FUBAR, to use a military term, and a tacked on effort at the end of each show is not going to suffice.

Sent by David O. Garcia | 7:35 PM | 9-24-2007

I suppose the difference between Latino veterans and non-Latino veterans is that one was discriminated against (as, but to a lesser extent, than African Americans). Polish Americans, Irish Americans, etc., while certainly identified as being different than the mainstream, were not in the same discrimination category as "brown" people. The result (and why it would help that historians, documentary directors/producers, note the contributions of Latinos) is that most Americans think of Latinos as illegal aliens or, at best, newcomers having contributed little but cheap labor (disputable, both with respect to legal and illegal immigrants). The history of Latinos in this country goes back to a time before the 50 states existed, and the desire to be known for the contributions during World War II stem in large part from the contrary image prevailing today. In effect, the image prevailing today is not only incorrect, but an insult which is prepetuated with a failure to set the record straight.

Sent by Look who's complaining | 9:09 PM | 9-24-2007

I think that Ken Burns series on World War 11 is excellant. My husband served four years in the war and flew 24 missions over Berlin and occupied contries, he is no long with me, I wish he was here to watch this series with me.

Sent by Betty | 10:03 PM | 9-24-2007

I hate to be the one who bursts the bubble on this issue, but very little has been made of the fact that Ken Burns has been forced to change his vision. Yes, forced. This is censorship people. He is an artist and his vision was just that, his vision. The War is a documentary, but it is still his vision. Since when does public opinion count more than one artists view? What if this were a painting? Would everyone approve of the artist being forced to add a figure that wasn't originally included? I highly doubt it.

Everyone is free to interpret and present - if you did not think Ken Burn's documentary was accurate - you are free to go and make your own documentary. But, forcing him to change his? That is nothing but censorship. Since when it that an acceptable response to any kind of artistic vision?

Perhaps I'm too Pollyanna about the arts in general, but to me - requiring, forcing a filmmaker to add things to a documentary, because we slighted? That shouldn't be accepted or tolerated.

If I were Ken Burns, my response would have been simple and to the point and I'd not have changed a single frame. I'd have replied "This is my film. Feel free to make your own."

Sent by Mariam Blaylock | 10:46 AM | 9-25-2007

I watched The War on Channel 2 with interest on Sunday evening having been born in 1945 and lived for over 18 years in Germany in the '70s-'90s. When my sister called me to urge me to listen to the program on MPR yesterday ~ ironically ~ I was attending the funeral of Charles (Chuck) Aguirre, a 73-year-old veteran of the Korean War. He was one of 10 siblings who have served in the military from 1943 through 1987. Chuck also has numerous cousins and nephews serving in the war in Irak. This East Side St. Paul Hispanic family has shown their love of this country for over 60 years through military service. It made Chuck proud to fly the Stars & Stripes on his skooter. Chuck will not be forgotten. Sept. 24th has been forever named 'Charles Aguirre Day' by Mayor Chris Coleman and it is hoped that before year's end, there will be a street named Aguirre on the East Side of St. Paul.

Sent by Barbara La Valleur | 1:08 PM | 9-25-2007

I found it odd that the premier historical/documentarian like Ken Burns would over look the one ethinicity that holds the most medal of honors giving during WWII. Latinos are the largest recipients of the medal. Also it's another story about race, whereas mr Burns and others have pointed out that the latinos were categorized as caucasions for record keeping purposes. It's really telling how our grandfathers fought for that designation. Yet another story overlooked by mr Burns.

Sent by Tony | 5:25 PM | 9-26-2007