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Latino are essential hace visible el sentido de comunidad de los hispanos, muchos de ellos trabajadores esenciales. Photo: PBS
Latinos are Essential shows the sense of community among Hispanics, many of them essential workers. Photo: PBS

New PBS Series Shows How the Latino Community Fights COVID-19

Latinos Are Essential premiered on Nov.17 and features 11 stories from emerging Latino filmmakers shot across the country.

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According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from March 1 to Nov. 7, there were more than 70,820 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States. Among them, Hispanics and other non-white minorities were four times more affected than whites. Not only has death and disease hit these families harder and continues to have an impact, but the subsequent economic recession has also impacted the Latino and African American communities hardest. 

That is what Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted in her victory speech — the huge disparity between how the pandemic has impacted the lives and pockets of non-white people in relation to their white counterparts.

"Their stories have been with us, and that the President-elect and I are focused on building our country better for them and for all Americans," said Harris.

In the meantime, Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and PBS released a new short documentary series on Nov. 17 called Latinos are essential. The project sheds light on the disparity in the lives of Latinos through 11 stories of struggle during the pandemic. 

The short films were shot across the country by Latino filmmakers and reveal how in the absence of greater economic, health and social structures, communities and individuals have had to organize themselves to fight the virus.

"We wanted to show a visual tapestry of Latinos across the country serving their communities at the crossroads of the pandemic," Sandie Viquez Pedlow, executive producer of the series and executive director of LPB, told TIME. "In every situation you see there is fear, but they go and do the work."

In the Spotlight

Many Latinos have been on the front lines as essential workers that have suffered the most, but also fought the pandemic. Undocumented migrants have also suffered from the lack of access to health care even though they pay their taxes. Many multi-generational families are exposed daily by taking public transportation and working on the streets to make ends meet.

Their stories, such as the short film, Testing Community, by emerging filmmaker Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, focus on the collective effort to overcome the virus. In Testing Community, for example, we are told about the courage of the Latino Task Force of the San Francisco Mission District, that mobilized to do free testing in the majority Latino area and where most tested positive. 

"We know that the government will never be able to do exactly what the community needs it to do," said Jon Jacobo, president of the organization's health committee. "But the community can do it."

Also in Todos Unidos y Yo, by Esau Melendez, the work of the Mexican Immigrant Coalition with local pantries and the consulate to support those most in need is highlighted. In the video, Alfonso Seiva, president of the coalition, recounts how they distributed thousands of tamales and supported the payment of rent during COVID-19.

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