Hispanic WWII vets speak in cartoon

first_imgWASHINGTON – Cartoonist Hector Cantu decided if the stories of Latino soldiers were going to go untold in Ken Burns’ upcoming World War II documentary, he’d have “Baldo” tell them. This week, Cantu and co-creator Carlos Castellanos unveiled Benito “Benny” Ramirez in their syndicated comic strip “Baldo,” which appears in 200 newspapers. Benito is a composite character based on the actual stories of several Hispanic World War II veterans. Their experiences are featured in a book by University of Texas journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez. “We are telling a little story about a Latino serving in World War II and there will be millions of people exposed to that,” said Cantu, whose two uncles were veterans of the war. “Will we reach as many as Ken Burns? Probably not. But there will be more people out there who know about Latinos serving in the U.S. military.” Ken Burns, speaking at the National Press Club Wednesday, said he and his crew announced their presence in the four towns the film focuses on, Waterbury, Conn.; Mobile, Ala.; Sacramento; and Luverne, Minn. He said they reached out to historical societies and veterans groups and no Hispanic groups or Hispanic veterans came forward; neither did Filipinos or women who served in Army and Navy units known as WACS or WAVES, he said. “We could not have told the story of the Second World War if we burdened ourselves with seeking every single group,” Burns said. After Hispanic groups initially complained about the documentary, Burns and PBS agreed to hire Hector Galan to add Hispanic voices. They then struck an agreement with the American GI Forum, a Hispanic veterans group, to include those in the film voices before the credits rolled. That did not satisfy some, including Rivas-Rodriguez. “He continues to say things like he rose above the politics,” Rivas-Rodriguez said. “I’m still not convinced he understands what this is about.” Two Hispanics were added to the first episode’s discussion of the Battle of Guadalcanal, the first major Allied offensive attack on a Japanese-held island, Galan said. Galan said Burns’ archival footage had many Latinos, but none were interviewed. “What we can say now is the series `The War’ does have a Latino voice. Before we couldn’t say that. A lot of people are going to be disappointed there wasn’t more.” Galan said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! In Monday’s installment, Benito began his war story by removing his artificial leg. In Tuesday’s, he’s shown in front of a men’s restroom that bears a “Whites Only” sign. The “Baldo” strips, running through Sept. 27, are among several activities planned around the Sunday start of Burns’ 15-hour series, “The War,” which Hispanic groups have criticized for inadequately representing their role in the conflict. Four protests of the documentary are planned at local PBS stations Sunday in California; a Capitol rally is to be held in Austin, Texas; others will hold exhibits, commemoration days and panel discussions in their cities. Some events have already been held and others will continue through the month. Organizers said they want to inform people that Hispanics who fought discrimination and racism at home served valiantly in the war and on the homefront. “This is not just going to be about people being angry,” said Rivas-Rodriguez. “We need to walk away from this feeling empowered and feeling we stood up and said we are not going to take this anymore.” last_img