Documenting the undocumented
While many historians and writers are working hard to document the contributions Latinos have made to the state of Arizona, for the most part we are an undocumented people. I am not referring to our legal status, but to the literal meaning of the word undocumented.
Simply put: Our stories are not being recorded, as they should be.
One shining example of a Latina who made sure her story was forever preserved was Cecilia Esquer, the longtime activist, lawyer and teacher who passed away in December. She wrote about her life experiences in a book titled The Lie About My Inferiority: Evolution of a Chicana Activist.
A perfect opportunity to follow her lead is upon us, now that StoryCorps will be in town this month. The mobile recording booth travels the country to record personal stories and accounts, typically with one family member interviewing another. But even if you don’t get one of the coveted 60 interview slots this time around, you can still record an important part of your family history.
If you want to conduct your own interview, the StoryCorps website (www.storycorps.org) walks you through the whole process and even provides a “question generator.” This way you don’t inadvertently ask your mamá something embarrassing like, “How come you like Beto better than me?”
While the interviews done by StoryCorps are archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, yours can be shared with extended family members, hopefully sparking even more conversations and recordings.
It would go far to help advance the work of historians like Christine Marin if we provide the accounts of our family histories as well as our contributions to the growth and prosperity of Arizona.
We need to document. To not do so would thwart our significance in history and make us, pues, undocumented.
So in honor of people like Cecilia Esquer, who lived a life worth remembering, and whose own book was published a mere two months before her passing, we must take pen to paper, voice to tape, even stories to smartphones.
With today’s technology, we have the ability to document in the palm of our hands, a la Get Smart. Heck, you can even do it surreptitiously if your nana is the “chy” type.
Imagine listening to recordings of your grandparents or even great-grandparents talking about their daily lives, their struggles and accomplishments, raising their families and maybe even giving sage advice that can be applied to your own life.
For some of us that opportunity has sadly passed. Wouldn’t it be nice to preserve for your grandkids, nephews or nieces stories about a certain mean ol’ sheriff and how you helped to get rid of him?