Tending to your physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being is key right, but learning something new and cool about your culture is always a plus. We have time on our hands these days, and whenever we can add to our knowledge we’re on board with it!
Learning doesn’t always mean burying your nose in books (although there are so many great reads to dive into right now). There are a plethora of fabulous podcasts, documentaries, and more that allow you to get your education on in an audio and/or visual way. This includes the seemingly endless supply of educational videos on YouTube. In fact, here are 15 cool videos, from short episodes and one-off posts to full-on documentaries, that will teach you about Latinx culture and/or history. Especially in this moment of time it’s important to know the true history of our homelands. We suggest watching the ENTIRE Black in Latin America series that Henry Louis Gates Jr. produced for PBS but the very first episode is included below. What better time than now to expand what you know about yourself and your community?
Black in Latin America
Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. made a four-episode documentary television series based off of his book Black in Latin America. The must-watch program (currently airing on Amazon and on YouTube) takes a closer look at the Afro-Latinx cultures of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru.
You may associate the word “cholo” with a Chicanx subculture with ties to the Southern U.S., including the L.A. area, the Southwest, and Texas. But the word has a history that goes back to the Aztec times, and has ties to the Spanish casta system. MTV Decoded breaks down the history of “cholo” in an informative and educational almost five-minute video.
Selena’s Education Video on Tejano Music
Selena was a successful, busy star, who was involved in several business ventures and projects, including two boutiques, and creating a makeup and perfume line. But she always had time to give back and help others. Just check out this almost 15-minute educational video she narrated on Chicanx music. She teaches kids about Mexican American music history, genres like Tejano music, and speaks about specific artists including Lucha Villa and a Lighter Shade of Brown.
We have to expand what we consider to be Latinx. Latino is not a race, but rather made up of many races, including Asian. In fact, there are Chinese-Mexicans, with their own culture and history in Mexico. This two-part special looks at the history of the Chinese in Mexicali and Mexico, looking at how a wave of immigration led to generations of those honoring both their Chinese and Mexican cultures, languages, food, and customs.
The great thing about YouTube is that it fits into our shorter attention spans these days. You can learn something totally new in just minutes, instead of sitting through hours of a documentary or reading pages of a thick history book. In this video, CrashCourse teaches you about 19th-century Latin American revolutions–in less than 15 minutes.
It wouldn’t be Latino culture without the music. It’s intertwined in our history, and essential to our identity. Our Latin Thing takes viewers into the birth of salsa music in New York City during the 1970s. Not only do you get to learn about the history of the genre, but you also get to see some legendary performances by the likes of the Fania All Stars, Cheo Feliciano, and Hector Lavoe.
Before cholos and cholas, there were pachucos and pachucas. The subculture emerged in the 1940s in El Paso (a.k.a. El Chuco) and neighboring city Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Pachucos: A Culture of Unity takes viewers to El Paso to talk to descendants of pachucos who are currently keeping the culture, fashion, and traditions alive.
Afro-Latinx history is Latinx history, and we should all know about it. This YouTube video, by HomeTeam History, delves into the history and culture of Afro-Puerto Ricans, including religion and music.
We are all searching for the fountain of youth, and it appears to partially be in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. There, many people live into their hundreds; in fact, the Nicoya Peninsula has one of the world’s biggest concentrations of centenarians. This CGTV short documentary shares their secrets to longevity.
Latino teens in South Central, Boyle Heights, Watts and East L.A. have found a sense of community through punk rock music. Los Punks: We Are All We Have, documents this underground scene, taking viewers into backyard concerts and newly-formed families.
The Chicanx experience is a mash-up of Mexican and American identities, and this has been reflected in the culture’s music. Latin Music USA: The Chicano Wave looks at this unique sound; made up of several parts, the first one focuses on the work of Ritchie Valens, “Masking Mexican-American Identities,” and the story of Little Joe and La Familia.
As John Leguizamo as reminded us in his one-man show, Latin History for Morons, our history goes back to our Indigenous identities, where we had kingdoms of gold and silver, and so many achievements and accomplishments. This almost 13 minute video shares the history of the Toltec, Maya, Aztec, Olmec, and Zapotec in Mexico and Mesoamerica.
Latinx culture has had its share of amazing dance moves and crazes. How many times have you danced to cumbia, bachata, or dembow, or have seen vintage videos of Latinos getting down rumba or cha-cha style? This video by FLAMA shows us a visual of Latin dance history, all in about five minutes.