PHOENIX – A research project at Arizona State University seeks to reverse the “racism” and “segregation” leading to marginalizing Hispanics’ role in the history of a state with a significant Mexican cultural and historical heritage.
Despite the indelible presence of Latinos in Arizona, where 30 percent of the population is of Hispanic origin, just 2 percent of the state’s known archival collections include information about the Latino tradition in the region, an injustice that those in charge of the library archives at ASU want to end.
“Racism and power resulted in the history of minorities not being made known,” Sujey Vega, one of the co-authors of the study entitled “Engaging, Educating, and Empowering: Developing Community-Driven Archival Collections,” told EFE.
“When we recall that Arizona was part of Mexico and that those records have not come to light, there can be no doubt that history was written by Anglo-Saxons,” Vega added.
“This historical ‘exile” of Latinos in ... state records is not due to carelessness,” she said.
Recently, ASU received a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a three-year project designed to build and expand community-driven collections in an effort to preserve and improve Arizona’s archives and give voice to historically marginalized communities.
“We hope that together we can shed more light on those stories that need to come out of the shadows,” the researcher said, adding that the efforts to “erase” the lives of Hispanics from Arizona history were not undertaken only in the past.
Meanwhile, Nancy Godoy, an archivist with ASU’s Chicano/a Research Collection, who headed the rescue project, told EFE that the Latino community has not been the only one to be marginalized.
Other minorities – such as African Americans, Asians and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community – have suffered the same fate in the historical records.
Godoy noted that in 2012 in the Arizona Archives Matrix Project, a state initiative to gather data about local archives, identified these communities as ones that had also been eclipsed.
“But we’re already working on the restoration of history. We’re going to have 15 annual workshops over three years and we want to hold them in public places so that the community can come and share data and photos,” Godoy said.
She said that among the 2 percent of the archival records referring to Latinos in Arizona is the collection of the Ocampo family, who came to the state in the 19th century and settled in northern Phoenix.
The family possesses graphic archives of the other families who lived on ranches and worked the land. It is documented in the “rescue” effort how many of them helped to establish the first churches and schools in the area.
Also, the documentation specialist added, they have a fragment of the life of Cesar Chavez, the farmworker activist and leader, who in 1972 staged a 24-day hunger strike to protest the decision of then-Gov. Jack Williams to prohibit farmworker labor strikes.
“I really identify with this story,” Godoy said.
“My father worked in the fields in Yuma, Arizona. Personally, this research is very important for all it involves,” she said.