The Longoria Affair (El caso Longoria) — which aired this past November on Independent Lens — has been nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Historical Programming Long Form category. The film examines the refusal of a Texas funeral home to care for the body of WWII Mexican American soldier. Filmmaker John Valadez spoke with Independent Lens about the film and its impact through a series of community screenings.
When you set out to tell this story through film, was there a particular audience you wanted to reach, and if so, did you succeed?
I remember when I first started college, I came across a really stunning and disheartening statistic: the high school drop out rate for Xicanos hovers was around 50 percent and it has been that way for at least half a century. That fact has always troubled me. For Mexican American kids who do get into college they find a world largely devoid of educational materials about how Xicanos have helped shape the destiny of this country. The same absence in history that is so devastating to Mexican Americans is something that ultimately hurts non-Xicano students as well. You can look to the ethnic studies wars taking place in Arizona to see just how determined many policy makers are to maintain this absence of self-knowledge.