February 26, 2014
By Francisco Vara-Orta
For the story of America to be fully told, the history of Latinos in the United States and the landmarks of that history must be better documented and preserved, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said at the recent San Antonio Latino Legacy Summit.
“These stories have gone way too long untold,” Jarvis said during the Feb. 15 summit at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, where the National Park Service showcased its 400-page study on the need for inclusion of cultural landmarks designating Latino history.
“We want the American story to be complete,” he said.
Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered the study after National Park Service officials realized only 8 percent of U.S. historical landmarks noted contributions from people of color. A report titled “American Latinos and the Making of the United States: A Theme Study” found that less than 1 percent of the nation's historic landmarks depict U.S. Latino contributions.
The Latino population has reached 53 million in the United States and makes up 17 percent of the nation's total population as of 2012, according to U.S. census figures.
“We hope to spark a dialogue in better identifying sites to be preserved,” Jarvis said to politicians, educators and activists in the audience. “We hope this report gives you a framework to continue your work.”
After Jarvis' keynote speech, professors who contributed to the study spoke about preserving Latino history.
“U.S history is Latino history, and Latino history is U.S. history,” said San Antonio-based historian Antonia Castañeda, one of the experts who guided the study.
Nicolás Kanellos, a University of Houston professor, gave nearly a dozen examples of how Latinos in the past two centuries were among the first in the country to use media — printing presses, Spanish-language radio and TV — chiefly in cities such as San Antonio.
The reason mainstream America may not be aware of Latino history or see its importance is that it hasn't been properly documented or justified by inclusion in textbooks, he said.
“We have never been on the sidelines, but we have been marginalized and essentially erased from history,” Kanellos said.
University of Texas at Austin journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez said the public can help with fleshing out those stories and providing evidence that could help the National Park Service better include Latinos in selecting U.S. landmarks.
“Please keep your diaries, letters, photographs from your families and lives, because that is what we will need to document their stories on this journey,” Rivas-Rodríguez said.
Speakers at the summit also reminded the audience that Latinos are only asking for equal treatment in how they are included in American history.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who is running for lieutenant governor and whose family has lived in Texas for six generations, told the audience that the more America's tapestry is examined, the more “you realize we are made up of many different threads.”
“When we know each other's stories, we lessen the divisiveness,” Van Putte said.
Source: My San Antonio