The Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada project is celebrating an important milestone: the collection of 100 oral histories from Latinx residents in Southern Nevada in just under a year.
“The stories we have collected enhance the rich history of Las Vegas and Southern Nevada we preserve,” said Claytee White, director of the UNLV Oral History Research Center in the University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives. “These histories include citizens from all walks of life. Their stories paint a vivid picture of the diversity of the Latinx experience in our region.”
Latinx Voices officially launched in September 2018 with an event featuring U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, who was the first to donate her oral history to the project and pledged the papers of her father, the late Manny Cortez, to Special Collections and Archives.
Under the direction of White and project manager Barbara Tabach, seven UNLV students, Laurents Bañuelos-Benitez, Maribel Estrada Calderón, Elsa Lopez, Nathalie Martinez, Monserrath Hernández, Marcela Rodriguez-Campo, and Rodrigo Vasquez, have collectively identified and interviewed the first 100 narrators for the project.
“I wanted to be involved in the Latinx Voices project because I wanted to help record and preserve the stories of the Latinx community,” said Estrada Calderón, of joining the project at the beginning of the fall semester. “These stories will serve as proof of the many contributions that Latinos and Latinas have made to Las Vegas.”
Having the students, who all speak Spanish and come from many different backgrounds, conduct the oral history interviews has been a strength of the project, which has a goal of increasing intergenerational dialogue. All of the students have remarked on how conducting the interviews has strengthened their connection with their community and understanding of their cultural heritage.
“As I listen to the stories of the people I interview and read the archived oral histories of the Latinx community, I reflect on my own Latinx heritage,” said Martinez. “This project has allowed me to reconnect with my own roots and be even more grateful of the sacrifices my family has made to help me become the successful woman I am today.”
The students also are conducting discussions as part of a series of events that are bringing the stories of Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada into the community. The first event was hosted in April with the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce and focused on the business community. A second event is being planned in conjunction with UNLV’s Research Week in October, with additional events in 2020 covering topics important to the Latinx community.
“We have been fortunate to have an active and passionate advisory group of UNLV faculty and alumni, as well as members of the community who have consulted with us, provided recommendations, and generally supported the project from the early stages,” said White.
“The Latinx communities in Southern Nevada have truly embraced this project, and that can be seen not only in the phenomenal financial support, but in the number of people who have reached out to us with the names of individuals we should interview and who have an important story to share,” said White.
Funding for Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, MGM Resorts International, the Commission for the Las Vegas Centennial, Mark and Marianne Haley, NV Energy, former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, Jennifer A. Lewis, Las Vegas Power Professionals, Pat Hawthorne, and Tony and Elaine Sanchez, as well as a number of individual community donors.
To date, Latinx Voices has raised more than $240,000, surpassing its original two-year goal of $200,000, and allowing the the project's expansion into a third year.
Having reached the 100-oral-history milestone, the project is aiming to collect about 50 more. The final year of Latinx Voices will focus on editing and transcribing the completed interviews and making them available online and in print in Special Collections and Archives in Lied Library.
The Latinx Voices Advisory Board members include Bob Coffin, former Las Vegas city councilman; Maria Dent, AARP Nevada state director; Lorri Jackson, vice president, wealth management advisor, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith; Bethany Khan, director of communications & digital strategy at the Culinary Workers Union Local 226; Jose L. Melendrez, executive director of the office of community partnerships in the UNLV School of Public Health; Leslie Mujica, executive director of Las Vegas Power Professionals; Magaly Munoz-Mejorado, senior manager of National Diversity Relations at MGM Resorts International; Margarita Rebollal; Linda Rivera; Tony Sanchez, senior vice president of government and community strategy at NV Energy; and Tom Wright, distinguished professor emeritus in the UNLV history department.