There should be more efforts to preserve Latino archives

latino archives

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Latino archives should be preserved in a way that makes them accessible to the Latino community it is serving. 

Before the 1960s, there were practically zero written documents referring to Latino culture. This is not to say that they were nonexistent. 

There were hundreds if not thousands of documents collecting dust in boxes, but since they did not fit the white male American’s perception of Latinos, they were disregarded. 

The Recovery Project at UH aims to build a collaborative and inclusive space for scholars from all around the world to preserve Latino history. 

There has been a lot of criticism of the archival world as the majority of the content within them has to fit a certain standard that does not match the way history flows within minority spaces. 

For Latinos, it is common for documents to never make it into the archives as they prefer to keep them safe in their homes as they get passed along through generations. 

The term migrant archives is used to refer to this unique flow of documents as there is a lack of trust in the archival world as previous encounters have led to a loss of personal histories. Several instances have occurred where records have been taken away by white archivists only to never be returned and kept in spaces blocked by a paywall or specific credentials. 

To add on, there is a lot that goes into archiving works of minorities, especially those in different languages. With translations, meanings can get lost and with a majority of archivists lacking the cultural context of these Latino documents, much information is white-washed or straight-up racist. 

Translation and interpretation are two completely different concepts that usually get mixed. 

The Recovery Project digitizes these important documents combining the efforts of several Latinos to ensure that the information delivered as is clear and raw as its original document. 

Migrant archives explore a unique experience that usually does not match up with the previous concepts of Latino histories. Some of these documents share new ideas and revelations and sometimes add to theories to strengthen them. 

Many people used to think that Latinos were illiterate and that women contributed nothing to the scholarly world, however, these theories were debunked as documents were uncovered by future Latinos who believed that their pasts were more than just what the white-centric archival world told them. 

It is important to place importance on building an honest and inclusive archival world that includes these Latino histories but it cannot be done without creating a space for Latino archivists to input their thoughts as well. 

The whole reason Latino archives are so undervalued is that the people who have to power to pick and choose which archives are important refuse to acknowledge the very people who the archives are about: Latinos and their histories. 

Archives have the power to reconstruct the present as they provide insight into the past and without Latinos having a say on how their history is presented, only misconceptions will continue to be told. 

Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a journalism sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]

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