Through her new PBS travel show on Latin America, Kim Haas wants to show viewers how Afro-Latino heritage has left a lasting imprint within this corner of the world.
The new series, “Afro-Latino Travels With Kim Haas,” will make its premiere on Saturday, Sept. 12, with a two-part special showcasing the historical, epicurean and artistic influences of this heritage in Costa Rica.
“It’s an integral part of Latin America,” said Haas, who is the show’s host, executive producer and creator, “and the legacy is so deep that it’s profound.”
In providing a definition for Afro-Latino, Haas said that the term overall refers to someone who is from Latin America but also identifies himself or herself as having African ancestry. This affinity is traced back to the 16th century, where millions of enslaved Africans were brought on ships to Latin America via The Middle Passage up through the 18th century. In the present day, genetic research findings estimate that at least one in three Latin Americans have African ancestry.
Having majored in Spanish during her undergrad and graduate years, Haas first learned about Afro-Latino heritage while living in Philadelphia and having friends of this ancestry. Then Haas grew more aware of this heritage through her travels to Peru, Columbia and Cuba and meeting and interacting with Afro-Latino locals.
Haas, who also speaks Italian and Portuguese fluently, is additionally the founder of losafrolatinos.com, a blog celebrating Afro-Latino culture.
Haas would develop the concept for what would become her PBS show by also drawing upon her background in television. Having worked for Philadelphia’s WWSI TV Telemundo, as director of marketing, Haas noticed that Spanish language television programming shown in the U.S. did not feature this population often.
“Here [was] a real lack of representation, a real lack of showing how much people of African descent have contributed Latin American culture,” said Hass. “They’ve had a [longtime] presence in Latin America, and so they’ve been there since before these countries were countries.”
“And so, I decided I came up with this idea about a travel show to really honor these people and show the contributions that they’ve made,” explained Hass.
Haas, who now runs a media company, started with the idea for this show a decade ago, working on finding support and funding for the show’s concept. Yet the show has been her dream project.
For Hass, having her program air on PBS was the right channel for many reasons, in particular due to “its record of having well-developed travel shows” and for incorporating programming on related subjects such as the African Diaspora.
Also, as a Black female travel show host, Haas acknowledged that having the ability to produce and present her show as she envisioned it was really important to her.
“When I pitched it to a PBS station, they immediately got it; they understood it,” remembered Haas. “So, I think the fit was really great.”
In being the first Latin American destination featured on “Afro-Latino Travels with Kim Haas,” the Costa Rican episode will showcase the country’s Afro-Caribbean culture, which traces back to the early 20th century. While filming there, Haas also was surprised to discover some interesting facets of this legacy.
“I’m always fascinated by the fact that Jamaicans immigrated to Costa Rica, looking for work, and they built the [country’s] railroad,” said Haas.
Other episode highlights include interviews by Haas with:
– Quince Duncan, a Afro-Costa Rican author who is credited with introducing Afro-Costa Rican identity in Costa Rican literature;
– Tarik Soto, a gymnast and an Olympic hopeful;
– Doris and Sasha Campbell, who are the sisters of Epsy Campbell, Latin America’s first black vice president.
In bringing Afro-Latino culture to television, Haas encourages travelers to embrace and support different communities and their traditions “because I think you’ll be greatly rewarded when you do.”
For more information and a viewing schedule for “Afro-Latino Travels With Kim Haas,” visit this website. Check your local PBS station for show dates and times.
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