What does it mean to be Latino? This Sunday, the season finale of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the PBS TV series that explores race and identity through the genealogy of some of America’s best-known personalities, seeks 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 discover that Latino identity emerged from the tangled histories of European, Native-American and African peoples.
The three subjects of Sunday’s episode all share Spanish colonial roots, yet each views their identity very differently: as Native American, Puerto Rican, Dominican or simply Latino.
For instance, the Finding Your Roots research teams trace Chavez’s family all the way back to Spain in the 1500s. Chavez, who is also chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a non-profit public policy research organization, learns that her roots crisscross the world. Her American experience was forged by people who arrived in the New World long before the Mayflower. One ancestor was the last Mexican governor of New Mexico, and another was a Pueblo Indian. Perhaps most surprising of all, her family tree links her to “Crypto-Jews” – Spanish Jews who converted to Catholicism to survive the Inquisition, yet continued to practice their religion in secret.
Filmed on location across the United States, the series airs nationally Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on PBS through May 20 (check local listings).
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