Martínez, De La Cruz, and Quinn: Latino Roots in Oregon

“Latino Roots in Oregon” is the working title of a 52-minute documentary by assistant professor Gabriela Martínez, doctoral student Sonia De La Cruz (both at the School of Journalism and Communication), and local community activist Guadalupe Quinn. Currently in production phase, this 2009-2010 CLLAS grant-winning project addresses the important but often neglected history of Latin American and Latino settlement in Oregon.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos made up 10.6 percent of Oregon’s population in 2007, a percentage that will only keep growing based on the trend sustained since the early 1990s. The number of Latino immigrants settling in Oregon has become more apparent in the last two decades, with considerable demographic transformation in areas such as Woodburn. USCB statistics show that at the start of the twenty-first century the Woodburn population included 50.1 percent people of Latin American origins (primarily Mexican).

But Latin Americans and Latinos in Oregon are not newcomers from recent decades. This community began developing as early as the 1850s, when Mexican mule packers worked as suppliers for white settlers fighting in the Rogue River area and Mexican vaqueros from California brought up large herds of cattle. However, the past and present history of this community and its contribution to Oregon’s social, cultural, and economic life are little known. This documentary seeks to amend this omission.

“Latino Roots in Oregon” is based on extensive research and uses archival materials and in-depth journalistic and ethnographic interviews. An open-access digital archive is part of the overall research project and an important derivative of the field work for the documentary. The archive encompasses moving images, still photographs, documents and text that work together to tell the stories of Latin American and Latino historic and contemporary settlers who call Oregon home.

—Gabriela Martínez, SOJC