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On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam

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Watch Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 10pm on WMHT-TV

Filmed in the Southwest and in Vietnam, ON TWO FRONTS: LATINOS & VIETNAM includes firsthand accounts from dozens of Latino veterans and their families and commentary from historians, social activists and other experts. To evoke the dramatic events unfolding at home and overseas, the documentary combines lush photography with home movies, archival footage, graphic newsreels and personal photographs.

Latinos began questioning the cost of war and the price of citizenship for the first time during the Vietnam conflict. In communities where there were few alternatives to service, the war exacted a heavy toll among Latinos.

“With this film, we wanted to look back, five decades later, with the benefit of hindsight, at the Vietnam War — at its costs and consequences — and ask some difficult questions about the price of war and citizenship,” said producer Moreno of Souvenir Pictures, Inc.

At home, the Latino anti-Vietnam war movement gained momentum —a radical departure from past wars, when Latino civil rights activists used high rates of military participation to prove their worth as good citizens. This time, activists pointed to similarly high rates of participation — and mortality — and argued that Latinos were being exploited. Latinos organized antiwar events to address both the war and conditions at home, culminating in unprecedented protest rallies for Chicanos.

Overseas, Latino soldiers were presented with both opportunities and challenges. Alongside Anglo-American and African-American soldiers, many discovered their differences faded away during combat. Others describe racial tensions and stereotypes that persisted in Vietnam or upon returning home.

For many, the price of service was too high. Latino veterans still suffer post-traumatic stress disorder in higher percentages than black and white American veterans. Many of the Latinos who went to war returned ill prepared for college and to the same limited career options they had before leaving home. If one reason Latinos fought for their country was to trade service for career benefits, then Vietnam’s legacy did not always fulfill that promise.