Documentary When Worlds Collide

When Worlds Collide is a vivid exploration of the first century after the Old World encountered the New World. This 90-minute PBS documentary, written by Rubén Martínez and Carl Byker, illuminates the origins of today’s Latino culture through the largely untold story of the Americas after Columbus.

Watch the full documentary online on PBS

The story begins on the streets of Los Angeles in 2010 and travels to Spain and Latin America, where contact first occurred between Spanish conquistadors and native peoples. By the time the Spanish arrived, Indigenous civilization had developed a sophisticated society, including advanced architectural, agricultural and textile practices that in many ways surpassed those of the invaders. This epic odyssey traces the impact that these and many other New World innovations had on the Old World during an era almost always described as “the conquest.” In reality, the most important consequence of the era was the radical change that both worlds experienced, resulting in an entirely new “mestizo” or mixed culture, an important part of the heritage of more than 30 million Latinos in the U.S. today.

The 90-minute documentary traces milestone events during the 16th century and illustrates how the New World radically transformed the Old. The transatlantic exchange of ideas, religious beliefs and people led to innovations that remain with us to this day. When Worlds Collide visits trendy restaurants in Madrid to learn how Indigenous Americans genetically engineered corn and how New World tomatoes and potatoes made their way to European kitchens. In Oaxaca, Mexico, we discover how inventors in the New World revolutionized the Old World textile industry by mass-producing a true red dye. From the architectural splendor of Toledo, Spain, we learn how New World gold and silver helped to establish the concept of modern capitalism with the invention of the “juro,” the first interest-paying government bond. An ancestor of today’s treasury bill, the juro attracted investors because it was secured by riches mined in the New World.

The film also travels from the city of Granada in Spain, which was conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella, to the spiritual retreat of Machu Picchu, built by the Incas in Peru; from the Cerro del Tepeyac of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico to the Escorial, the breathtaking palace built by Philip II outside Madrid. When Worlds Collide weaves an extraordinary and unexpected story of the foundation of modern Latino culture.