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In their own words

  • Story Highlights
  • Latinos share their personal experiences for CNN's "Latino in America"
  • They touch on family values, traditions, discrimination and the American dream
  • CNN's documentary "Latino in America" airs Wednesday & Thursday, 9 p.m. ET
By Dana Rosenblatt
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(CNN) -- Concepcion Saravia, originally from Nicaragua, says she's always been surrounded by a large family.

"I guess it's a Hispanic thing," says Saravia. "You grow up with a lot of people around you and you always have someone there for you."

Robert Garcia thinks Latinos such as himself live a life that straddles multiple worlds.

"I think that you have the world that you live in as an American that you see in everyday life and you have the world that you come home to that's a Spanish-speaking family, eats Peruvian food," he says.

Josefina Lopez describes her "American dream" as "becoming the type of person that transcends class, gender and all the other limitations."

These are just a few of the countless stories unfolding among the fastest-growing population in the United States: Latinos. While their backgrounds are vastly different, they all share a common thread: They are all Latinos living in America. Video Listen to the stories of Latinos in the U.S. »

"Voices from the Latino Community," a series of short unscripted first-person narratives, is a featured in CNN's new documentary "Latino in America," reported by Soledad O'Brien.

'Latino in America'
The Latino population is set to nearly triple by 2050. CNN's Soledad O'Brien journeys into the homes and hearts of a group destined to change the U.S.
Tonight, 9 p.m. ET

"We wanted to include a diverse group of Latinos whose stories and experiences enhance the documentary in a way that's candid and insightful," says Jody Gottlieb, executive director of CNN Productions.

"It is important that we show the scope and breadth of Latino contribution to the American experience," Gottlieb said.

Interviewees tackle subjects such as family values and traditions, identity issues, discrimination and their American dreams.

The segments were created by Gottlieb and Latino Media Works, an independent media company based in New York, started by Alberto Ferreras and Trina Bardusco in 2005.

O'Brien became acquainted with Ferreras when a friend recommended she read the book "B as in Beauty," a fiction novel written by Ferreras about a young Latina woman who struggles with self-esteem issues.

Ferreras and Bardusco are also the creative minds behind the HBO Latino series "Habla," which features unscripted first-person accounts of Latinos from various backgrounds, some speaking in Spanish, some in English and others in Spanglish, a mixture of both.

O'Brien was taken by the HBO series and soon realized that Ferreras was the person behind both the series and the book.

"It was serendipitous," says O'Brien of their meeting. "I had read his book and asked my assistant to reach Ferreras. At the same time he was trying to reach me to tell me about the book. It was destiny."

Soon after that meeting, CNN Productions teamed up with Latino Media Works to create "Voices of the Latino Community" for the documentary series "Latino in America."

"We want these talking portraits to show the nuances of a culture that is often misunderstood" says Bardusco.

Ferreras adds that the interviews may also help dispel media-driven stereotypes of Latinos as mostly "maids and gardeners."

"There is such a strong stereotype... that all Latinos are Mexican and Catholic and that we all look alike," says Ferreras.

"But here in just 30 seconds we can say, 'Hey there is a Latino that doesn't look like other Latinos, he's Jewish, or he's half-Latino, half something else.' Here are Latinos that are professors, Realtors, even a magician," Ferreras says.


He hopes the first-person accounts will give viewers an opportunity to share a "meaningful exchange" with someone they may not normally have a conversation with.

"Latinos are underrepresented in the community. We are working on changing that so they can have a real voice, because Latinos are a real asset to society," says Ferreras.

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