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CNN Plans Latino Documentary

5/23/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Following last year’s successful Black In America documentary series, CNN will turn its cameras on America’s Latino community with the two-part documentary series Latino In America premiering in October.

CNN, which will also revisit the African-American community in July with Black In America 2, hopes to use the In America franchise to draw more attention to the struggles and triumphs of diverse communities, according to Mark Nelson, vice president and senior executive producer for CNN Productions.

“The In America brand strand gives us the opportunity to look at groups of people in America that have been misreported or in some cases neglected [by the media],” Nelson said.

Latino In America, hosted by CNN personality and Black In America host Soledad O’Brien, will focus on the growing U.S. Hispanic population and the pertinent issues that face the community.

“We found out with Black In America that many people who watched were not only black but Hispanic as well,” Nelson said. “This is the fastest-growing minority group in America today, but we don’t understand how really diverse this group is. The show focuses on how Latinos are changing America and how America is changing Latinos.”

The first part of the series will explore the lives of people across the country who share the surname “Garcia,” the eighth most popular family name in America. The second part focuses on how four different communities are meeting the challenges of disparities, immigration and discrimination in terms of language, education, citizenship, and cultural identity.

Celebrities such as Edward James Olmos, Eva Longoria Parker, Jesse Garcia and Lupe Ontiveros will also be featured in the documentary.

Nelson said CNN will create a Spanish-language version of Latino In America, although it’s unclear when and where that version will be aired.

On the Black In America 2 front, Nelson said the network will look to continue the dialogue started with last year’s inaugural Black In America series, which drew 13 million viewers. The first Black In America 2 segment, “Today’s Pioneers,” will debut July 22, with the second part, “Tomorrow’s Leaders,” airing the following evening.

“What we heard was that viewers wanted more solutions,” Nelson said. “We’ve got an economy that is sick, and it usually affects the have-nots more than the haves. But in spite of the economy, there are remarkable things that are happening out there; there are people who are taking it upon themselves to make changes, and we want to show how that’s happening.”

A third special, CNN & Essence: Reclaiming the Dream, will be tied to the African-American women’s magazine’s July Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.

As part of the Black In America 2 rollout, Nelson said CNN will launch a dedicated Web site (www.cnn.com/blackinamerica) for the franchise in June.

Nelson added that the In America franchise may also be expanded in the future to focus on other multicultural communities.

“We’re in the business of weighing the important issues of our time and the fascinating people and stories that impact those issues — that includes other cultural and ethnic groups,” said Nelson.

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