HOLA shows film revealing different attitudes to same background

By Rachel Miller
On February 15, 2012

Hofstra Organization for Latin Americans (HOLA) screened the first installment of the PBS documentary series Black in Latin America on Feb. 9 as part of Black History Month 2012 at the University. 


The documentary by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. examines how African and European influences shaped the cultures in Latin America and the Caribbean. The first installment of the documentary focuses on the tense relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which are both located on the island of Hispaniola


On the west side of Hispaniola, the Dominicans shun their African roots and embrace their European ancestors.


"Unfortunately, many people of the nation neglect their African ancestry," said Jasmin Fortunato, the current president of HOLA. According to the documentary, about 90 percent of Dominicans have some African ancestry, but this heritage is not always acknowledged.


On Hispaniola's east side, the Haitians accept and respect their African heritage, which has led to racial conflicts between Dominicans and Haitians.


"I read the book by the documentarist himself, and I was shocked by the racial attitudes of the Dominicans," said Vanessa Smith, an Elmont resident, who has been attending Hofstra events for years.


Furtunato came across the documentary when her friend posted a link to the first episode of the series on Facebook. She shared the film with her grandfather because he does not embrace his African ancestry, and decided she wanted to share the series with the Hofstra community in order to educate them.


"I want Hofstra students to learn more about possibly their own historical roots and that of others and also share their knowledge and show the documentary to their family members as I did with my grandfather," said Furtunato about her reason for screening the documentary at Hofstra.


"I hope people take away that they can accept their African roots and that they do celebrate Black History Month because it is part of their history," said Joel Abreu, secretary of HOLA.


According to Abreu, the next three installments of the documentary series will screen every remaining Thursday in February in the Student Center Theater from 8 to 9 p.m.


A calendar of Hofstra's Black History Month 2012 events can be found on the University's website.

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