Spoiler Alert! Our Favorite Moments from the HBO Documentary 'The Latino List'

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

An astronaut, an actress and an activist—what do they have in common? They all made The Latino List, a new documentary film premiering September 28 on HBO Latino and September 29 on HBO.  Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, the film explores what it means to be a modern Latino and features interviews with a cross-section of figures from a myriad of disciplines.

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A special screening was held this summer as part of the New York International Latino Film Festival, which ran through August 21.  The Latino List may be familiar to those who have watched The Black List, a 2008 exhibit spearheaded by Greenfield-Sanders, which turned into a three-volume film series on HBO.

We were there. Below are some highlights:

Pitbull (whose real name is Armando Christian Pérez) invited us back in time to share one of his favorite childhood memories.  The 30-year-old Cuban American rapper, who was raised in Miami, Florida, spoke about the times his father would plant him on top of bar counters to recite poetry written by Cuban national hero José Martí.  Pitbull was about 5 years old at the time.  “People would lose it,” the rapper said of the adults in the bar.  “To them, I was their 35, 40 seconds of escape.” 

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Without a doubt, one of the most heartfelt parts of the film is the one shared by Cuban power couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan.  The couple, married for 32 years, gave separate interviews but each spoke about Gloria’s 1990 car accident, which doctors said would leave her unable to walk or have children.  The 53-year-old Estefan, who has a new album titled Miss Little Havana slated to release this fall, spoke about the overwhelming volume of support she received – millions of cards and “beautiful thoughts” from her fans.  She also said her husband didn’t leave her side for three months.  Of his wife, Emilio had only love to express.  “She’s a great mom, a great wife, a great daughter,” the 58-year-old musician/producer said.  “And a great Latina.”

Sandra Cisneros, author of critically acclaimed novel The House on Mango Street, provided hilarious insight into being a chingona – slang for a kick-ass girl.  The 56-year-old writer spoke about her childhood and how she became a writer.  Cisneros said she was a timid girl in an overcrowded Catholic school.  She never raised her hand or talked much, but she met books.  As the only daughter in a family of six brothers, the Mexican American writer recalled being taunted by them.  Cisneros said her brothers called her a traitor because she would have to give up their surname should she get married.  Cisneros would grow up to see her name on the binds of books, which was like payback.

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