Diversidad

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative supports cultural heritage projects exploring Latino in Dodge City, Emporia, Newton, and Overland Park. Here, Miguel Morales of the Billington Library at Johnson County Community College reflects on the initiatives impact in Overland Park.

The fall focus for the Latino Americans project at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park centered on education.

Partnering with the college’s annual Diversidad Conference, the Billington Library screened an episode of the PBS documentary, “Latino Americans: 500 Years of History.”

Peter Haney, Assistant Director for the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies at the University of Kansas, moderated the post-screening discussion.

Latino Americans: 500 Years of History is part of an NEH initiative, The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, which is designed to demonstrate the critical role humanities scholarship can play in our public life. The nationwide public programming initiative supports the exploration of the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape the United States over the last five centuries and who have become, with more than 50 million people, the country’s largest minority group.

The screening and discussion served as a starting point for all the conference workshops and the keynote speaker’s presentation.

The Billington Library’s initiative also supports an oral history project. Two of the conference participants shared their experiences as educators living in the Midwest.

Art Gutierrez

Art Gutierrez

Art Gutierrez, a member of the Emporia Board of Education, spoke about the pride he feels as an educator and as a Latino at the spring graduation ceremony. He reflected on the significance of the ceremony when he, a Latino school board member, shakes the hands of a Latino graduate.

“I think it’s important for them to see another Hispanic member on that stage to know that’s possible, to encourage them and inspire them,” he said, “it’s how I give back to my people.”

Gutierrez also spoke of the growing presence of Latinos in the Midwest

“We’re everywhere and I think if you have the chance to be everywhere, that’s great,” Gutierrez said, “but if you’re looking for a place [to settle] the Midwest is a great place to be. I would encourage anybody, especially Hispanic people, to investigate it.”

Elva Medina, counselor at Shawnee Mission North High School, decided to go to college after going to work with her father on ‘Take Your Daughter to Work’ day. Her father was a farm laborer.

“I remember my dad waking me up at 4:30 in the morning to get in a van,” She said. “I didn’t make it through the whole day because it was too hot.”

Medina said she made up her mind that day to finish high school and to go to college.

The stories collected and shared would not have been possible without the support and guidance from the Kansas Humanities Council.

For the next Latino Americans screening in April, the Billington Library will partner with the Johnson County Library and the Latino Writers Collective. After the screening and discussion, members of the Latino Writers Collective will help participants document their own stories. Emphasis will be on collecting stories from and about the 1951 flood that devastated the Latino community in Kansas.

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative is supported by a grant KHC received from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.

It Takes a Village in Dodge City

Louie Sanchez grew up in the Village and went on to become Dodge City's mayor. Photo courtesy of "A Reminiscence: Teaching in Dodge City's Mexican Village" by Lola Adams Crum.

Louie Sanchez grew up in the Village and went on to become Dodge City’s mayor. Photo courtesy of “A Reminiscence: Teaching in Dodge City’s Mexican Village” by Lola Adams Crum.

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative supports cultural heritage projects exploring Latino in Dodge City, Emporia, Newton, and Overland Park. Here, Cathy Reeves of the Dodge City Public Library reflects on the initiatives impact in Dodge City.

The Dodge City area is rich in Latino history from the influence of Coronado and the conquistadores to the establishment of the Mexican Village.

In the early 1900s the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway constructed housing for their Mexican employees in the railroad yard near the depot. Those who came north from Mexico included men either single or some who were working to make money to send for their families. Some brought their families with them. This settlement known as the Mexican Village lasted for almost 50 years

Most of the first homes in the Village were constructed of railroad ties and discarded lumber. In 1913 Santa Fe constructed a new roundhouse and the village location was relocated to a new site. The homes were devoid of paint with wooden or dirt floors and tar paper on the roofs. The only furniture was a few chairs and beds. There was no indoor plumbing and water was carried from two hydrants. Families planted gardens and raised chickens and made rent or lease payments to the railroad.

The Village was a community in itself complete with its own grocery store, a dance hall, pool hall, and later a church and school. Though there was no formal government, there were members of the community who were looked upon as leaders. The men worked on the railroad then socialized in the Village meeting place. The women tended to the domestic chores and cared for their family. When the children were old enough they attended school. In 1955 the village was dismantled and many families moved to the east side of Dodge City.

One noted resident who grew up in the Village was Louie Sanchez. He worked for the railroad and then the power company. Louie was not only involved with activities in the Village but also with the city. He served as a city commissioner for four years and was Dodge City’s mayor from April 1984 to April 1985.

Today, nothing is left of the Village. An information board by the depot tells of the history of the Village and more information is being planned for a display inside the depot. Several publications tell about the history and some of the residents still reside in Dodge City. On April 21 the library will host a program presented by those who grew up in the Village. This is one way we can help inform everyone about the influence the Village had on Dodge City.

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative is supported by a grant KHC received from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.

Las Colonias de Emporia: Stories from the Latino Community

Simon Rodriguez and granddaughter Natalie Rodriguez in front of the family's restaurant in Emporia.

Simon Rodriguez and granddaughter Natalie Rodriguez in front of the family’s restaurant in Emporia.

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative supports cultural heritage projects exploring Latino in Dodge City, Emporia, Newton, and Overland Park. Here, Lisa Soller of the Lyon County History Center reflects on the initiative’s impact in Emporia.

Latino immigrants traveling to Emporia, Kansas, didn’t come by way of New York City and the Statue of Liberty. No, the first Latino immigrants were predominantly from Mexico. They were greeted in El Paso, Texas, by railroad employment agents with promises of money, lodging and transportation to the work site. For them it was a chance to escape from poverty and the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution.

The Emporia Gazette first mentions Mexican laborers working for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1904. These first immigrants lived an area just west of the roundhouse known as “Little Mexico.” Early day housing consisted of bunk cars made from boxcars and buildings made from railroad ties. Sometime later permanent housing was available in the area and was known as, “La Colonia” (The Colony) and “Las Casitas” (Little Houses).

The second wave of Latino immigrants to move to Emporia began toward the end of the 1960s. Armour Packing Company opened a meatpacking plant in 1964, but sold it to Nebraska based-company Iowa Beef Packers in 1967. In the years following the purchase, I.B.P. expanded its operations and employed as many as 1,600 employees. Many of these new employees were Latino immigrants recruited from San Antonio and Laredo, Texas.

Project manager and Curator, Lisa Soller says, “The Latino immigrant story begins like any other immigrant group looking for a better life in America, yet many barriers prevented a complete assimilation into the Emporia community for decades. This initiative is an excellent opportunity to explore those barriers, but also highlight the contributions of the Latino community.”

Until recently the story of the Latino community in Emporia has been largely untold. The Lyon County History Center is hoping to change that by working with local organizations; Hispanics of Today and Tomorrow (HOTT) and two Emporia State University organizations: Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO) and the Spanish Club.

Through this initiative LCHC hopes to increase the number of oral histories from the Latino community and create an exhibit that will highlight the history of Latinos in the area. At present Emporia’s Latino population represents over 25 percent of the total population. The LCHC believes this initiative will also serve as a springboard for future Latino programming in their new location, a move that will happen later this summer.

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative is supported by a grant KHC received from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.

Newton’s Azteca Dancers

Group shot of Azteca Dancers

Newton High School’s Azteca Dancers

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative supports cultural heritage projects exploring Latino in Dodge City, Emporia, Newton, and Overland Park. Here, Debra Hiebert of the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives reflects on the initiative’s impact in Newton.

When considering the grant opportunity for Latino Americans: 500 Years of History, staff at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives had lots of ideas. One consideration discussed was choosing a topic that not only influenced the community in the past, but was still an active part today. The Hispanic community in Harvey County is a diverse mix of descendants of families that settled here generations ago, mostly to work for the railroad, and current immigrants that are settling here still today, as well as immigrants from varied countries of origin.

The Azteca Dancers of Newton High School is a perfect reflection of this diversity, and the oral histories being collected will help to tell one part of that story. The dance troupe was formed in 1990 and is part of the Azteca Club, whose mission is “to promote awareness of Hispanic culture in NHS and the Newton community.” This has been a theme running through the oral histories. It has been expressed by many of the interviewees who feel that little of their culture is visible right now. In addition, the dancers shared the motivation of exploring their history, learning new things about their culture and keeping connections to past and current family members.

Museum staff hoped that this project would fill a blank spot in our collections – a popular community group with few photos and no formal histories in the collection. Community members responded with more photos than could be catalogued, and interview subjects, ranging from high school students to past instructors, have offered insight into the dance troupe. One surprising discovery was that although the dancers love to perform, everyone interviewed expressed a strong dislike of performing in the community for people they know. The irony of the mission to raise awareness in the community coupled with the aversion to performing locally (which they do a lot of) was interesting. Additionally, several interviewees expressed that the Azteca Dancers helped them to form an identity when they felt isolated and invisible and that the expectations of being in the group, which requires dedicated time and effort, helped them in other areas of life.

Although this has been an area needing exploration, HCHM would not have been able to dedicate the resources to the project without the grant from the Kansas Humanities Council, American Libraries Association and National Endowment for the Humanities. Thanks for the opportunity to add to our collections and the encouragement to explore the Hispanic community in Newton.

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative is supported by a grant KHC received from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.

 

KHC Receives “Latino Americans: 500 Years of History” Grant

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KHC has been selected to receive a competitive Latino Americans: 500 Years of History grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association (ALA).

As one of 203 grant recipients selected from across the country, KHC will receive a grant of $10,000 to support projects at four partner organizations: Dodge City Public Library; Harvey County Historical Museum, Newton; Lyon County Historical Society, Emporia; and Johnson County Community College, Overland Park. Funding through KHC will enable partner organizations to explore local stories of Latino history and culture with film discussions, oral histories, and other complementary programming.

The initiative also features the six-part, NEH-supported documentary film Latino Americans, created for PBS in 2013 by the WETA public television station. The award-winning series chronicles the history of Latinos in the United States from the 16th century to present day.

“The ALA’s Latino Americans: 500 Years of History project is an opportunity for all Kansans to learn more about the state’s large and diverse Latino populations,” said Julie Mulvihill, Executive Director. “The Kansas Humanities Council is looking forward to sharing these unique stories about Latino life in Kansas, both past and present.”

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History grantees represent 42 states and the District of Columbia, and include 78 public libraries, 68 college/university libraries and organizations, 19 community college libraries, 10 state humanities councils, 12 museums and a range of other nonprofit organizations. View a full list of the recipients. Latino Americans: 500 Years of History is part of an NEH initiative, The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square.

For more information, contact Murl Riedel, Director of Grants, at murl@kansashumanities.org.

To read the Spanish-language press release about Latino Americans: 500 Years of History, please click here.

This project is supported by the Kansas Humanities Council. Latino Americans: 500 Years of History has been made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association (ALA). It is part of the NEH initiative, The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square.