March 5, 1999

The Puerto Ricans: Our American Story

PBS takes the media's portrayal of the Puerto Rican American experience beyond "West Side Story" with the premiere of The Puerto Ricans: Our American Story, March 13, 1999.

The Puerto Ricans: Our American Story tells the unique story of immigrants who were American citizens before they ever set foot in the United States, yet found assimilation more difficult than their European predecessors because migration between the island and the mainland meant the adjustment between the two worlds would never be complete.

"The Puerto Ricans" embodies the honor and passion of a rich heritage caressed by warm island breezes and set to an irresistible rhythm. The program explores lives lived in two worlds —a bicultural existence that as many in the program describe it, can be equally enriching and unsettling.

Entertainer Rita Moreno, musician Tito Puente, actors Jimmy Smits and Miriam Colón, singers Justino Díaz and Ednita Nazario, author Esmeralda Santiago, tennis player Gigi Fernández, Governor Pedro J. Rosselló (NPP-Puerto Rico) and many others share their personal stories in a dynamic celebration of Puerto Rican life in America.

Filmed on both the United States mainland and the island of Puerto Rico, the program explores the customs and traditions that have bonded Puerto Rican families for generations. And just as the mix of spices, sofritos, is essential in any Puerto Rican kitchen because it not only colors the food but gives it flavor, The Puerto Ricans: Our American Story illustrated how the customs, traditions, dances, and, of course the music that is the pulse of the Puerto Rican culture, are the unique identity of a thriving American community. As Roberto Clemente, Jr., son of the late baseball legend, asserts in the program, "It's a very good thing to be Puerto Rican right now."

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