Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes once described the U.S.-Mexico border as a 2,000-mile-long scar. The frontier, drawn at the end of the U.S-Mexico war, is a permanent reminder to Mexicans of their country's humiliating defeat in a war that resulted in America's claiming half of Mexico's territory as its "manifest destiny."
Although Mexicans are not likely to forget this war, the American memory might need a little jogging. So KERA-Channel 13 developed The U.S.-Mexico War (1846-1848), a four-hour documentary on the conflict, which will air in Dallas on September 13 and 14.
This year marks the war's 150th anniversary, but its controversial legacy is very much alive today: Mexican schoolchildren study it as the "The U.S. Invasion" and learn that as a result of the conflict, more than 75,000 Mexicans were caught between two cultures and forced to choose between land and nation. Today, their descendants continue to deal with the centuries-old question of identity, born from the fact that, as project advisor Deena Gonzalez puts it, "We did not come to the U.S.; it came to us."
With so many different angles to be explored, the PBS team knew that a fair account of the war would require a careful blending of perspectives. To accomplish this, PBS embarked on an ambitious approach that it hoped would give a bi-national balance to the conflict, relying on experts from both sides of the border.
The extensive collaboration promised by The U.S.-Mexican War does not end with the exchange of American and Mexican academics. A Spanish-language version of the documentary will be aired in Mexico, and a bilingual Web site has been built to provide more information. After its Dallas showing, viewers will have the option of choosing to view it in Spanish by selecting the Second Audio Program (SAP) on their remotes. The film will be repeated on September 20 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. on KERA, with a Spanish version running simultaneously on KDTN Channel 2. On September 17 at 8:00 p.m., a live follow-up program will feature a discussion between an invited audience and the project's advisors and producers concerning the issues raised by the documentary. Producer Sylvia Komatsu hopes these efforts will spark a debate among Americans, Mexicans, and Mexican-Americans and begin "the healing process."
Maybe now Carlos Fuentes' scar will finally be allowed to fade away.