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Networks Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month, a government-sponsored celebration that began in 1968 to celebrate the contributions of U.S. Hispanics, kicked off Sept. 15 along with a cascade of special programs, promotions, series, events and documentaries on cable and broadcast TV.

The specials range from the colorful and cute (offerings on Disney Junior, Sesame Street) to the tough and serious (Discovery Channel’s heart-wrenching series about deportation centers). But they all promise to highlight the contributions of Hispanics in America at a time when Congress is still debating immigration reform.

“It’s important that Americans learn of the great contributions of Hispanics in America and the world,” Hispanic Heritage Foundation CEO Jose Antonio Tijerino said. His group presented its 26th Hispanic Heritage Awards, televised by MundoFox, on Sept. 15.

Also on Sept. 15, 24-hour Disney Junior began airing a series of original interstitials running throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, which ends Oct. 15. The “This is me” series features young children sharing their favorite traditions. In one of the interstitials a young girl named Martita talks — in English — about her grandfather living in Guatemala, sharing bits and pieces of a song on her iPad.

PBS on Sept. 17 premiered Latino Americans, a six-part series narrated by actor Benjamin Bratt and chronicling the story of Latinos in the U.S. The series features interviews with Latinos in politics, the arts and journalism, including entertainer Rita Moreno, labor leader Dolores Huerta, singer Gloria Estefan and journalist María Elena Salinas, this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Achievement in Hispanic Television Award by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.

Latino Americans is a bilingual project that includes a companion book by Ray Suarez, chief national correspondent for the PBS News Hour; a nationwide public-engagement initiative, and a digital-engagement campaign encouraging the use of Social Media. Episodes will air Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on PBS stations and be broadcast nationally in Spanish on digital multicast channel Vme starting Sept. 20.

ESPN and ESPN Deportes kicked off the month-long celebration with One Nación, a one-hour special show centered around the countdown of the top 10 most influential Hispanic athletes of all time, including Oscar de la Hoya, Roberto Clemente and Lionel Messi. One Nación aired on both networks on Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. ET. and was presented by Jack Daniels and Gillette, which integrated its brand into the special show.

But honoring Latinos isn’t just a cheerful affair.v Discovery en Español will focus on the challenges faced by Hispanic immigrants with a series of documentaries detailing the darkest side of immigration, from the treacherous border crossing to the detention centers where thousands wait to be deported.

The first documentary, La ruta de la muerte (The Route of Death) premiered Sept. 15 at 10 p.m. The series will continue on Sunday nights through Oct. 6, concluding with Viviendo en las sombras (Living in the Shadows), profiling the lives of undocumented immigrants who live clandestinely in fear of deportation.