In recent years, Special Collections and Archives, a division of the Merrill-Cazier Library at Utah State University, has been involved in several successful oral history projects, and a new project is about to begin.
The new collection — the Latino Voices Project — joins a number of earlier successful oral history projects, including the recent Veterans History Project.
Randy Williams, folklore curator for Special Collections and Archives in the Merrill-Cazier Library, heads the new project.
The Latino Voices Project joins Northern Utah Speaks, an umbrella collection that includes oral histories from the Grouse Creek Cultural Survey, the Fife Mormon Collection, Basque Women and Foodways in Southern Idaho, the Providence, Utah, Turkey-Sauerkraut Tradition and Cache County Women During the 1930s. The collection is an ongoing effort by Special Collections staff and volunteers to include the voices of all northern Utah communities.
“This continued oral history work is important as a means to bring history to life,” said Brad Cole, associate director for Special Collections. “These oral histories allow us to more fully understand and acknowledge the local, state and national story for both present and future researchers.”
The addition of the Latino Voices Project contributes an important element to the overall project and represents an important segment of Utah’s community.
“This is a community that is not well represented in our archive,” Williams said. “It is estimated that 10 percent of Utah’s population is drawn from the Latino community. Their voices certainly do not make up 10 percent of the archive. We want to change that. Oral histories should tell the story of a place, and the stories should represent all those in the community. We are excited to begin the project.”
Williams said the project will hire a bilingual community project assistant. It will also train and pay bilingual community members to conduct the oral history interviews.
“We already have five USU linguistic students in the community conducting interviews,” Williams said.
While preliminary work has begun, the project officially begins in May.
“As pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic church, I have had the privilege to listen to many stories from our Latino community,” said the Rev. Clarence J. Sandoval, a member of the Latino Voices Project advisory board. “The project will give these families a sense of honor, knowing that their stories will be recorded and preserved for generations. It will also give the larger community the opportunity to see the human face of our Latino community.”
The collected oral histories of Latino men and women will be transcribed and translated into English and Spanish and made available to all interested parties through USU’s Special Collections and Archives. They will also be available online as part of USU’s Digital Library. The original recordings will be retained in the language of the interview.
Rubi Rodriguez is among the fieldworkers already collecting histories.
“I’m so excited to be a part of this project in Cache Valley,” said Rodriguez, a USU linguistics student. “It will be something that generations of the Latino community, including myself, will have access to and be enriched by.”
The project has many local partners, including the Multicultural Center of Cache Valley, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies, Grace Huerta, an associate professor in USU’s secondary education department, and USU’s Folklore Program.
A grant from the Utah Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Utah Division of State History, makes collection efforts possible.
A ceremony with the Utah Humanities Council will be held Friday, April 13, at 4:30 p.m. in the Merrill-Cazier Library, room 101. The public is invited.
More information about the project, including recruitment and training, is forthcoming. A job description for the assistant project director is now available. Contact Williams for details.
Anyone interested in participating in the Latino Voices Project or providing financial support should contact Williams at (435) 797-3493.