Latino Roots: A Grand Celebration

Mariachi del Sol performed at the celebration / photo by Feather Crawford.


June 9, 2017—Yesterday’s Latino Roots Celebration marked the fourth time UO students from Latino Roots classes (Anthro/SOJC)  have presented their ethnographic documentaries before an audience of peers, faculty, staff, and community, including many of the people whose stories are told in those documentaries. It was a huge turnout in the Knight Library Browsing Room, filled with the festive music of Springfield High School’s Mariachi del Sol and the appreciative and off-time eloquent remarks of featured speakers, including UO President Michael Schill, SELCO Community Credit Union Vice President Laura Illig, PCUN Secretary-Treasurer Jaime Arredondo, Oregon Center for Education Equity Director Carmen Xiomara Urbina, and others.

Gabriela Martínez presents award to Laura Illig, Vice President of Marketing, SELCO Community Credit Union / photo by Jack Liu.

This year’s celebration also included the launching of the inaugural Latino Roots Awards given to our community partner SELCO Community Credit Union and Vice President of Marketing Laura Illig, and to UO Senior Vice President and Provost Scott Coltrane. The spirit of the Latino Roots Award is to recognize a member and/or institution from the community for their support and commitment to Oregon’s Latino community through the Latino Roots Project, and to recognize a representative from the University of Oregon for service, commitment, and support to enhancing diversity on campus and promoting community engagement by way of the Latino Roots Project and the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies.

Sponsors for the two-hour celebration included: Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies, Department of Anthropology, Office of the President, Office of the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, School of Journalism and Communication, SELCO Community Credit Union, and UO Libraries.

Here is an excerpt from the remarks of Lynn Stephen, UO Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, who co-instructs the Latino Roots classes along with Gabriela Martínez, associate professor, UO School of Journalism and Communication.

Comments from Professor Lynn Stephen:

Welcome to a wonderful moment that brings together education, research, creativity, and public engagement. I am so proud to be a part of the team of faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, librarians and archivists, research center staff, and film participants who were all a part of what we are bringing you here today.

Latino Roots began as a small collaborative project between Professor Gabriela Martínez, community consultants Guadalupe Quinn, and Patricia Cortez, the Lane County Historical Museum, and myself in 2008-2009, to mark the 150th anniversary of Oregon as a state. Latino Roots was our exhibit with panels, object exhibits, nine video stories, and a bilingual book that was seen by several thousand people in the museum.  There were exhibits on African-American history, Asian history and Native American history in Oregon to greatly broaden the settler colonial/pioneer narrative, white narrative that has dominated Oregon history.

Since that time, Latino Roots has expanded to sponsor three versions of a touring exhibit of 15 panels featuring Latino history in Oregon and individual stories. The exhibits visit schools, universities, parks, libraries, town halls, theatres, businesses and more throughout the state. More than 60,000 people in Oregon have viewed the exhibit since it began circulating in 2010.  It is accompanied by copies of a bilingual book and information about the Latino Roots class website that now will feature 66 different bilingual stories of Latino immigration and settlement and contributions in the state of Oregon. Our inaugural Latino Roots class in 2011 produced 17 documentaries, the class of 2013 produced 16, the class of 2015 produced 17, and this year’s class is contributing 16 more for a total of 66 documentary films.

UO President Michael Schill chats with Latino Roots student Emily Robinson / photo by Feather Crawford.

UO students who harness their creativity, enthusiasm, intelligence, determination and lots of hard work to make these films tell the amazing accomplishments and stories of these 66 people and families in Oregon from Puerto Rico, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba, and many parts of the U.S.  At the same time, we have also worked in partnership with UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives staff to build the archival and historical record of Oregon through contributing the audio files, final videos, photographs, and interview transcripts of each of these 66 stories. We are grateful to the 66 individuals and families from our state and the UO students who worked with them for gifting all of these materials to the UO archive. Thus our students not only engage in research and produce independent films that in turn are used to educate people in out state, they are also contributing to building an archive of Latino history in our state. This archive can be used by present and future generations of citizens, scholars, and students. Our long-term collaboration with the UO Libraries, its past and present deans and the staff of Special Collections and University Archives is something we treasure and for which we are grateful. This year Jennifer O’Neal, Linda Long, and Bruce Tabb have been key to our class’s success, hosting us for several classes and working on digitizing material. We are grateful to Giustina Director David de Lorenzo for his support.

Latino Roots students critique one another’s work in the Cinema Studies lab, with instructor Gabriela Martínez at center.

The Latino Roots class is an experience of 20 weeks. Students spend the first six weeks learning about the racial/ethnic history of Oregon from its many perspectives, including African-American, Native American, Asian, White Settler, and Latino. We discuss the concepts of race, racism, settler colonialism, and racial/ethnic hierarchies in the state of Oregon and read serious scholarship on these topics and write on it. Then students each write their own story in response to the question, “Where am I from?” and share it with their classmates. We then move to learning how to conduct an oral history interview, how to use an audio recorder, how to transcribe that interview, and how to read it for a story. Each student begins to develop a relationship with the person whose story they will tell. Students learn the ethics and responsibility of telling another person’s story and how to work in collaboration.  They then learn the professional Final Cut Pro editing system and spend many, many hours in the Cinema Studies lab where we teach the second half of class making their movie. They transcribe, translate to provide subtitles, and add music. When they are finished, they each have produced a movie and are directors and filmmakers. We are so proud of each and every one of them.

This year as always, but even more so due to the climate of intensified fear that is deliberately targeting immigrants, Muslims, people of color and frankly anyone who is deemed by someone to “not belong” and warrant exclusion, our class had to work with particular care and commitment to tell our stories in a way that offered as much safety as possible to film participants. In some cases, stories were not told. Our students had to make the difficult and ethical choices to not make films about people who inspired them. Because all of our films are bilingual and public and available online to anyone, we and our students have to think hard about what this means for the people featured in the films.

I am proud and grateful to have the opportunity to work with the many people who are part of the Latino Roots team to publically document and shout out the important contributions that immigrants make in our state and throughout our country. And it is a great honor to work with such talented young people who are each going to go out and make a difference in our world.

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Upcoming Events

3/9/23: Creating Californios: Masculinity and Localized Liberalism in Mexican California, 1800-1850, 3:30-4:30pm, location: EMU Diamond Lake Room

3/10/23: Faculty Grant Information Session, 12-1pm, location: Remote

4/13: Graduate Student Research Colloquium, 330-5pm, location: Gerlinger Alumni Lounge

6/1: Undergraduate Awards Ceremony, 4pm, location: TBD