A Mexican series finds overlooked stories of immigrants in America — including one from The World

The World
An advertisement for "Los Otros Mexicanos" featuring Betto Arcos is plastered on a bus.

Journalists love to tell stories, but they're not always fond of being the subject. But that's exactly what happened to radio producer Betto Arcos, who frequently covers music from Latin America for PRI's The World.

Arcos is featured in a 15-part Mexican documentary series called "Los Otros Mexicanos," which shows average Mexican immigrants who have made a big impact on American society.

"When they first approached me about it, I kind of just sort of laughed," says the 52-year-old. "I've always been the one always asking the questions … [but] they said they really liked the aspect about music and how I'm in the position of being a 'tastemaker,' influencing the taste of Americans."

Arcos just curated a music festival in Los Angeles that showcased four bands playing cumbia, a popular Afro-Latino style. "I think cumbia is the hippest music on the planet," he says.

"He's very involved in taking the roots of lots of Mexican music and letting the United States know and learn about the music, so I thought it would be a great show to use Betto," says Carlos Gonzalez Sarinana, the series' director.

Arcos is originally from Xalapa, the state capital of Veracruz. He's lived in Los Angeles since 1995, where he works as independent radio producer and hosts a music show called "Global Village" on station KPFK.

He's proud of the way he was portrayed in the documentary. "I like to wear tropical shirts from Mexico and a hat … I'm just myself," Arcos says. "I don't like to put on a role. It's just Betto in action." ​The series also focuses on an events producer in New York, a playwright in northern California, a food vendor in Chicago, a doctor in San Diego and an activist in Phoenix.

Arcos also enjoys how those stories find a middle ground between the standard portrayals of Mexican immigrants. "There is a sense that you’re either an undocumented worker who toils in the fields — which there's nothing wrong with that, as I come from humble origins, too — or you're … the big director who wins an Oscar," he says.

"But the truth is there's a lot of room in between those two stereotypes. There are a lot of people who come to this country who have an education who contribute positively to the enrichment of the US — and I'm just one of them, among hundreds, thousands, if not millions."

"Los Otros Mexicanos" premieres on March 5 on Mexico's Canal 11.

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