At the age of 7, Philadelphia native Kim Haas took her first trip out of the country. She traveled to Acapulco, Mexico with her grandmother and the experience changed her life forever.
It was during that trip that her ears were opened to her newfound love of the Spanish language. From that point on, she studied the language extensively and earned both her undergraduate and graduate degree in Spanish–which included a year studying abroad in Seville, Spain.
“During that trip with my grandmother, someone taught me how to count up to 20 in Spanish, while sitting in my hotel lobby,” Kim Haas told Travel Noire. “It really inspired me to go on to study the language even more.”
After completing her studies, she began traveling to Spanish-speaking countries extensively. What she came across in these places, didn’t match up to what was being portrayed by the media on Spanish television shows and networks.
“I started learning more about the middle passage and the number of African people that were taken to the Caribbean, Latin and South America. When I would travel, I would take notice of the Black Spanish-speaking people in these countries and the contributions they made to their countries. But, none of this was reflected on Spanish TV in the United States.”
The lack of representation in media coupled with Kim’s personal interactions and meetings with Afro Spanish-speaking people in her travels, inspired her to create a television series that would highlight and celebrate the rich history and culture that Black people contributed to these nations.
Kim has been able to meet Black people in Venezuela, Cuba, Peru, and even Mexico to name a few. She has heard their stories, seen their art, and sampled the cuisines.
Her show, Afro Latino Travels With Kim Haas, will honor and celebrate the contributions of African descendants of Latin and Caribbean culture.
“Their stories deserve to be heard,” Kim said. “They need to be seen by television audiences and allowed to express themselves through their art and cuisine.”
Kim personally reached out to her local PBS affiliate in Jersey City, where she now resides, to pitch the idea for the show. The network loved it and decided to pick it up.
She connected with the tourism board in Costa Rica and they were very supportive and welcoming of the idea as well. The show will premiere with two-episodes highlighting Afro-Costa Rican culture in San Jose as well as Limon.
Kim points out that in the Costa Rica episodes, you will see how Jamaican people immigrated to Costa Rica for work, and were the main people responsible for building the country’s railroad system. They remained in the area, and now Jamaican culture has heavily influenced the cuisine and music of Costa Rica.
The first episode will officially air on September 12th, on New York City’s local PBS channel. All other cities will need to check their local listings for air date and time.
“We must start including the Afro-Latin experience as an integral part of Latin America and the Caribbean. They literally helped to build the infrastructure of these places.”
Kim and her crew were slated for additional shooting in Salvador, Brazil, but the pandemic has postponed that. However, they plan to travel through and cover all of Latin America starting next year.
“It will take some time to really open people’s awareness to Afro Latin contributions to these places, but it is definitely happening and for that I am hopeful,” Kim said.