English and Spanish-language versions are being produced for the project, which will air across three days. The supervising producer is Adriana Bosch, a Cuban-American who recently did a documentary for PBS on Latin music.
Bosch said she began meeting with officials at WETA, the PBS station in Washington, in 2008 about the project. They spent nearly three years putting funding together before starting with the filming.
It was in 2007 that Hispanic organizations criticized PBS and filmmaker Ken Burns for inadequately representing the contributions of Latinos in his 15-hour documentary on World War II.
"I thought this was a story whose time had come, had come a long time ago. I was surprised that it hadn't been done," said Bosch, who recalled similar series on the experiences of African-Americans, Jews and the Irish in the U.S.
A large part of the documentary will focus on the experiences of Mexican-Americans, but it will also include stories about Latinos from other countries who made contributions to the U.S., she said.
"Latinos have been part of American history since before there were 13 colonies," she said.
The sprawling project includes an advisory panel of academics from across the country and 15 other producers and assistants.
Bosch said she hoped both non-Latinos and Latinos seeking to learn about their heritage will tune in. The project will have a companion book, a bilingual website and a school curriculum tied to its findings. "We don't want this to end with the broadcast," she said.