The Oral Narratives of Latinos/as in Ohio is a statewide initiative to collect, catalog, and preserve oral narratives of Latinos/as in Ohio in collaboration with the Ohio Hispanic Heritage Project and the Center for Folklore Studies. When I started this project, I didn't know where it would lead me. I imagined I would encounter similar experiences as I had when I first moved to Ohio in 1992. I have now traveled to several cities in Ohio to interview Latinos/as and I have been humbled about the wide range of experiences, including a deep commitment to their community. In preparation for the collection of video-narratives, my student collaborators learned about the Latino population in Ohio and listened to various community leaders as they talked about the work they have done with and for Latinos in our state.
Latinos are more than restaurant owners or workers, migrant workers, or part of the labor force. Throughout this video-narrative collection it will be clear that they are fully invested in their community by way of activism, education, policy making, faith and cultural events meant to celebrate their heritage. The two larger Latino heritage communities in the state of Ohio are Mexican and Puerto Rican. Many migrant Mexican communities came to places like Celina, Defiance, Dayton, Toledo and other rural areas. Puerto Ricans settled primarily in the Northeast and in areas like Lorain and Cleveland, many of them are second or third generation immigrants. In areas such as Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati, meanwhile, we can find Latino heritage of Dominicans, Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and most recently a large number of Central American students, professionals, activists, and other members of the middle and lower classes. This growth has fashioned, just in the past twenty years, an even richer cultural heritage that merits to be documented. Migration and immigration often initiates cultural mixing and change (adaptation), so this oral history project will document this process and the shaping of a culture that emerges out of this experience. Although many of the video-narratives in this collection show unique stories, it will also be evident that many share similar experiences and beliefs.
Through this experience, we have met wonderful people and have listened to amazing stories that will have an impact in our lives, well beyond this project. I hope that through these stories we are able to facilitate and encourage a mutual understanding of other cultures. It is the beginning of a conversation that will last, change, and move beyond what we can imagine. This project is not finished; there is room for you to tell your story! It is my hope that the relationships and scholarship that comes out of this project will continue to document the past and the future of Latino life in the Midwest.
Watch the Oral Histories of Latinos/as in Ohio introduction video!
Dr. Elena Foulis received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Arkansas. She is a senior lecturer and serves as coordinator of outreach and service-learning in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Dr. Foulis specializes in Latin@ literature.
Cassie Patterson is the Assistant Director of the Center for Folklore Studies, and the project archivist, she is also a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
Dr. José Díaz s Associate Curator for Special Collections and Latin American and Iberian Studies Librarian at The Ohio State University. In addition to being reviewer and a critic of the project, Dr. Díaz provides support of copyright/rights management focused on copyright law, and fair use.
Carlos Martinez (Computational Linguistics)
Guadalupe Medina (B.A., 2014, Public Affairs, The Ohio State University)
Allie Mellinger (BA, International Studies and Spanish, 2015)
Samantha Quintell-Lenzi (currently completing her B.A. in Spanish and International Studies)