After years of serving as a communication specialist for corporations, government agencies and small businesses, Kim Haas stars in a new TV series on PBS titled Afro Latino Travels With Kim Haas about the Afro-Latino community in South America.
The media specialist and Afro-Latino appassionata wants America to discover the African culture of countries like Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, and many others.
“There is a void for this representation about blacks in South America” said Haas, who grew up in Philadelphia and now lives in Jersey City with her husband and daughter.
From a very early age, Haas was bitten by the travel bug. As a young girl on a trip with her grandmother to Acapulco, Mexico, she learned how to count to 20 in Spanish. The possibility of speaking other languages was appealing and sparked her interest.
As a junior in college, she spent the year abroad studying in Seville, Spain, and stayed in a family’s house in which the mother spoke Spanish what sounded like a million words per minute. Challenged by the situation, in college Haas majored in Spanish and minored in communications.
As Haas continued to travel to places like Brazil and Colombia, she started to notice that a lot of people looked just like her. “I felt at home in Salvador, Bahia”, she said. She decided to delve a little deeper and explore that sense of connection.
Haas’s parents are African Americans and do not speak Spanish; her father is from the state of Georgia; her mother, born in South Carolina. “The language most black people speak in America is English, but when traveling to countries in South America, that is not the case” Haas said. The desire to shine a light on and celebrate the cultural contributions of Latin Americans of African descendance is what this TV series is all about.
Beginning in the 1500s and crossing the centuries, millions of enslaved Africans were brought to Latin America through the Middle Passage. Researchers estimate at least one in three Latin Americans have African ancestry, and Africans and their descendants were involved in every aspect of Latin American society: colonialism, the fight for independence, the building of transportation and infrastructure (forts, railroads, etc.) and more.
“I’ve wanted to produce a series featuring the impact that the five centuries of African presence in Latin America has had for so long, and this two-part special is just the start of that journey,” shares Haas.
Starting out in Costa Rica, the country was the first to see the potential of the show and come on board. Turns out, Costa Rica has a large population with African descendence and it’s where the first episodes take place; one in San Jose (the capital), and another in the coastal city of Puerto Limon.
Covid and uncertain times are not stopping Haas to celebrate the beginning of a promising series that features:
Mr. Quince Duncan, an Afro-Costa Rican author with 50 years of writing, credited with introducing Afro-Costa Rican in Costa Rican literature.
Another segment includes Tarik Soto, an Olympic hopeful gymnast. Doris & Sasha Campbell are also featured as dancers and singers, respectively (they are the sisters of Latin America’s first black vice president, Ms. Epsy Campbell).
Covid-19 hit as Haas was beginning to film the show. “We were looking to make a 10 to 12-episode series, including Mexico, Honduras, Brazil and other countries, but the pandemic made it impossible to continue filming”, explained Haas who is among the thousands of producers who had to interrupt shooting due to the pandemic.
On the bright side, there is no better time to launch the series other than now and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which goes from September 15th to October 15th.
“This project has been in the works for years, but with the lack of diversity in travel media and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement more recently, now is the perfect time to celebrate this heritage even more! Black Lives Matter in America, but Black Lives Matter in the Latin America Too!” Haas celebrates.
The deep process between making the show and hosting the show is a true labor of love. Haas is involved in every step of the way, from writing the initial proposal to production, hosting, and bringing in sponsors. “I cannot even tell you how many doors I have knocked on that didn’t open”, said Haas. Didn’t matter. Haas never gave up. “There is one reason I was put on this planet: to do this show”.
The passion she feels for the subject and the happiness to bring this project to life is contagious and glows around Haas. “Our culture is too great, too profound, and too deep to be ignored”, she shares.
No other travel series showcases solely the Afro-Latino communities throughout Latin America and their rich and diverse legacy of creating vibrant cultures in the Americas. Their imprint greatly influences mainstream Latino culture from Andean Peru to tropical Cuba, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
The Afro-Latino Travels with Kim Haas’ two-part special featuring Costa Rica will be available on Public Television Stations across the United States starting September 12, 2020. Check local listings for time and channel. Underwriting for the program has been provided in part by The Ford Foundation and in-kind support provided by the Costa Rica Tourism Board. Afro-Latino Travels with Kim Haas is presented by Northern California Public Media (KRCB) and distributed by NETA.