Kiger hour features Latino voices
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 14:02
Sixty people crowded into a small room in Cafe Sabor Thursday for the Latino Voices Project.
Randy Williams, Maria Luisa Spicer-Escalante and Eduardo Ortiz presented their project during one of USU’s Kiger Hours to colleagues and project participants.
They are in the phase of the project where they collect youth’s voices for the archives.
They found eight students at Mountain Crest High School who were eager to share their stories and experiences as a part of the Latino minority group.
“I did to preserve history,” said Alejandro Pineda, a sophomore at Mountain Crest High School. “A lot people had done and I wanted to be part of it.”
He expressed his wish to go on to college after high school and wants to be an Aggie.
His parents were not fluent in English, but they expressed they were proud of him.
The Latino Voices Project mostly consists of oral histories of individuals with a Latin ancestry. They will be housed in Special Collections in the Merrill-Cazier Library as transcriptions in both English and Spanish.
Randy Williams is the folklore curator in the library. She noticed a Latin voice was missing in Special Collections when she was moving it to its current location and said it is important because Latinos make up the largest minority group in Cache Valley.
Eduardo Ortiz is a researcher at the Center for Persons with Disabilities on the USU campus. He gave a quick overview of the Latino population growth over the last few decades.
“Nearly one in three individuals in the U.S. are of Latin descent,” Ortiz said.
This is about 53 million people. Ortiz said this number will double by 2060, but said it doesn’t reflect the number of immigrants who do not have a green card or are not U.S. citizens.
Cache Valley’s Latino population has grown considerably over the last several years. Ortiz said there were about 700 Latinos in the valley in the 1980 census.
He said the number had risen to about 5,000 by 2000, with a large percentage of coming from Mexico.
“About 20 percent of the babies born in Cache Valley are Hispanic,” Ortiz said.
Williams’s project was approved and funded by the library. She began to advertise and seek out contributors in 2007. She solicited the help of Ortiz and Maria Luisa Spicer-Escalante, an associate professor of Spanish at USU.
They had interviewed and recorded 46 individuals at the end of 2007. After analysis, they noticed several prevalent themes appearing in the histories.
“Family plays a large role in their stories,” Williams said.
They recently discovered that although they had made significant progress to this addition to Special Collections in the library, they were missing a major piece of the Latino Voice. They were preparing to write an article about the project.
“The youth voice was missing,” Williams said. “We realized we couldn’t write this article without the voice of the youth.”
Spicer-Escalante expressed the characteristics of the Latino population.
“Persistence and sacrifice were required,” she said as she explained some of the struggles of first-generation Latin Americans.
The youths, the second generation, still have those characteristics. Williams, Ortiz and Spicer-Escalante introduced the students they came to know during the interviews. Each one had their own individual story, but like Pineda, they want to go on to receive higher education to grow and make a difference in the world.
“It is so important to collect these perspectives,” Spicer-Escalante said.
Williams said it took a lot of courage to share such personal stories of hardship and growth.
“These stories are so poignant,” she said.
They want documents like letters and journals to add to the collection.
Ortiz said the importance of the Latino Voice project is not only important to the posterity of the Latino population in Cache Valley, but their unique perspective will give the entire population a better understanding.
“This helps us understand the complexity of this world,” he said.