Learn about the importance of knowing your own history and the role of oral history as our students reflect on the Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada project. Community members such as North Las Vegas City Councilman Isaac Barron and state senator Mo Denis share their stories as they relect on their histories. Hosts Laurents, Monse, and Elsa discuss how important it is for the Latinx community to tell and determine its own narratives and stories in comtemporary American discourse.
Preserving and sharing the life stories of Southern Nevada’s Latinx residents are important because these individuals and communities have played a significant role in our region’s history but are underrepresented in our historical record. Today, approximately 29% of Southern Nevada’s residents and more than 25% of UNLV’s student body are Latinx. Many Latinx residents have greatly influenced the progress of our educational system, multiple business sectors, politics, and cultural life in Southern Nevada. By collecting and preserving these oral histories, the UNLV University Libraries ensures that the perspectives of our region's Latinx residents are reflected in our collections so that present and future generations can learn and study more about their achievements, aspirations, and experiences.
This is Clay T. White, director of UNLV's Oral History Research Center. Support for the Latinx Voices Unveiled series is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, MGM Resorts International, the Commission for the Las Vegas Centennial, Mark and Mary Ann Haley, Envy Energy, and the Culinary Workers Union Local 226.
UNLV's Oral History Research Center presents Latinx Voices Unveiled series. Today's episode is brought to you by the Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada Oral History Project, a UNLV libraries initiative to record the marginalized voices of the Latinx community. This series is produced by the UNLV Rebel Media Group.
How are we doing, listeners? This is Lawrence Spanielas Benitez and you are listening to the Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada Project Voices Unveiled. This is our last episode of this first season. I highly recommend if you haven't listened in yet to the rest of the season go back and listen to the first five episodes. They're great conversations cover various topics from food to language to music and they're fantastic episodes. Today's episode is going to be a little bit different format than the rest of the season. We're going to be more reflective in this episode. We're going to look back on the project, look back on this podcast, and today I'm joined again by Elsa Lopez and Monte Hernandez. So I want to kick off the conversation by asking this question, how far back can you trace your ancestry without having to look into those kind of commercial databases like 23andMe or what is it, AncestryTree?
Without using any of those, how far back can you trace your ancestry?
Well, I don't know that anything would even pop up if I use an ancestry.com. I guess the furthest that I can trace it back is just my grandmother. I have one set of grandparents who are still with us and I talk to them over the phone every now and then and I visited them just once before but hoping to go back soon. And that's the extent to it. I can ask her stories and she can show me photos. Luckily she has a lot of family photographs. But that's, yeah, that's it, unfortunately. My great grandma from my dad's side, who passed away like a few years ago, actually, they say, I don't know how true this is, but that she aided soldiers during the Mexican Revolution when she was a little kid. Other than that, that's pretty much it. And like Elsa, I don't know if my family history would be in any of those kind of archives, because in Mexico, like the church holds all the archives,
or they used to at least up to like, probably the 70s. So I don't know. I really don't know.
So thinking back on my own history, on my mother's side, I can only really go back to my grandparents. I can go back to my grandfather who, this again, this is family history, family legend. My grandfather was a centurion, lived to 103. I think he, from what they tell me, and again, he doesn't have birth records, he's actually a Spaniard who came to El Salvador and married my grandmother who was more indigenous. So my family is, at least from my mother's side, mestizo, because we have Spaniard. My grandfather was white and blue-eyed. On my father's side, it gets a little dicier, because I never met my paternal grandfather. He passed away before I was born. And then maternal grandmother never met her either. But there are stories. My dad is very much a storyteller, and he likes to tell us. And I'm one who kind of takes things with a grain of salt, especially when it comes to my dad, because my dad tends to exaggerate a little bit. It's his pet peeve when we criticize his stories. Anytime we go to visit family in Mexico, he looks for verification from the family. He's like, tell my kids that I was riding horses. It's kind of funny because my dad is not a very tall man. He's 5'4 and a good day. To imagine him riding a big Bronco as he claims like it's just really funny.
Yeah, no, it's funny that you mentioned the verification because my dad did the same thing like right before she passed away, we actually got the chance to visit my great grandma and he was like telling like, oh, tell him once because I really never believed my dad. Again, I took it with a grain of salt. It's like Tom once said how you used to like help bunch of videos army when you were little by giving them water when they would pass through town and all these things, right? And my grandma was like, she was barely lucid and she's like, oh yeah, I did that. But I don't know how much was it like my dad telling her to say and her actually remembering like, oh yeah, I used to do that. Legend says that like they would hide the women in like holes and like pits so that
the soldiers wouldn't come and take them.
So the reason I wanted to open up with that story is because essentially, I mean, our families are practicing oral history. This is what our families did. At least in my part, I grew up listening to stories of my parents' country of origin. I grew up listening to how beautiful El Salvador was before the war. I listened to stories of how different life on the ranch in Mexico was to growing up in the city. And so our parents, at least my parents, in a way, practiced oral history. And the only thing that was lacking was us physically writing them down.
When they tell us these stories, a lot of the times it's at different points in our lives. So listening to it as a kid, so when you're saying that it's like an oral history, I totally agree. Unfortunately, we're not always equipped to be good listeners. So then it's lost there too. And then through that game of elephant as well. Yeah. And then the reason that I get like snippets of history from my parents, especially like my dad, is because like, there was a period of time where I was like, Okay, I need to learn about Mexico. This is where my parents come because my parents never really told me like, they told me stories of like, growing up in Mexico, but not like Mexican history. And so I remember like one time I had read of like the Olympics, the massacre that happened in like the 60s when Mexico City was hosting it. And I asked my dad about it. I'm like, Oh, dad, did you like know? He's like, I was there. I'm like, what? Apparently he was a little kid. And like he saw the riots that happened that led up to the massacre where like the government killed all these student protesters, locked everyone in the stadium, so they couldn't come out, cleaned up the streets and then let everyone out and like, knowing you that there was massacre of hundreds
Right. And then to broaden the subject up, I mean, I think this highlights the importance of this project and doing oral histories in general. It's one thing to read what's put in textbooks.
Versus talking to someone who was actually there. And I'll even bring it back to the point how you said that, legend says that the ranchers would hide the women from Pancho Villa's army. There were people in this project, especially who cited that the reason for their family immigrating was the Mexican Revolution or that their tia was running away because they heard Pancho Villa's army was coming through their pueblo. So again, to me it's very mind-blowing to listen to someone being somewhere in history. So another thing that we wanna do for this episode is we wanna talk about certain clips that maybe didn't quite fit in the first five episodes or we didn't get to, because I mean, this project has gotten so huge.
So we're over 100 interviews right now, I think currently as of right now.
We're like 105.
And so, because of how huge it's gotten, there's so many stories, so many good stories that we just can't get to them all. But we do have some clips that we really just wanted to put in and talk about in this first season. So, I'm actually going to let one of you guys go ahead and introduce our first clip.
These next two clips are from Rosemary Q. Flores, and she's involved in a lot of stuff, so I feel that it's best summarized as most of her work revolves around community outreach and family engagement. But yeah, this first clip, we see her, I mean, we hear her talking about her interview work that allowed her to get to know the Latinx population, and this was during the 80s.
You know, I remember there was such a diversity. We had, there were very humble families with very minimal, they lived very minimally. Minimalists already existed then. And they had warm kitchens and they were so willing to answer questions and every time I'd walk into any home, they always had something to offer us. Coffee or bread or food. So I never went hungry when I was out in the field. And it was cold in Reno. In Reno, it snows and here I am with my son doing these interviews late at night sometimes. So a cup of coffee was always, oh, just very nice. But I, and I just shared this with my husband. I remember seeing an affluent Latina was part of, she was one of the ones that I needed to interview and I was quite impressed. I was just like, okay, how did she get here? You know, just going into a neighborhood that, here I'm going into a neighborhood with my 1970 Chevy Nova, doesn't fit in with the other cars in the neighborhood. And as I interviewed her, she did share information for the survey, but I immediately felt the, I felt her loneliness. I could feel her loneliness. So that, I'll never forget that. Here I'm working two worlds, not just two worlds, there were a whole bunch of worlds, but I'm looking at the extremes. And I guess if I kind of position it with my schooling experience, here I am in a very humble school in my grandmother's town compared to a very resourceful school that gives me, and yet I feel warmer in one than the other. So I kind of felt the same thing with these, as I was doing these services, like why are the people who are supposed to be successful not so happy? Yet the people who want to achieve success are very happy, seem very content in their home. And I just, that stayed with me from that experience with the surveys.
So, Elsa, why did you pick this clip?
Well, there are a few things I like about this clip, but mostly I liked how she talks about the interviews that she did at the time, and it reminded me that the work that we're doing now has been done before and it's great to know that throughout Las Vegas or just Southern Nevada, Nevada in general, throughout our history there has always been, I guess you could describe it as a market for wanting to hear about Latinx experiences. Rosemary was doing this back in the 80s. That's the main reason why I chose it. What did you guys think? I like the fact that she mentioned how she would come in to these interviews and people would offer her food which is such a Latinx thing to do. Like regardless of your social economic background you always feed your guests like always right. My mom always said well if there's not enough for you you give it to your guests because you don't you don't want them to feel bad right. But it's not just coffee right it's cafecito con leche or con pan dulce and I think that's where she was getting at
which I think is incredible. You can you can hear how welcome she felt with all the guests and that's something that you know We've experienced ourselves with this project through this whole process It's been very rare for us to find anyone that's hesitant to be part of this project almost everyone We spoke to were just on it. They were excited. They wanted to speak to us They couldn't wait to schedule an interview and then when we got there again It was that experience of especially if we were at their home, like, here's some cookies, you want water, can we get you anything? Are you comfortable? Some tea, some cafe. Yeah, they were very accommodating.
I wish that there was some way we could go back and find those surveys to see what life was like then and maybe even compare it to now, because, like you mentioned, Monse, the whole cafe thing, that's something that's been a part of our culture for generations and it will continue to be. It's like a staple food. We're always going to have cafe and we're always going to offer it to our guests. And, you know, it's depending on where she would go and the types of household she would go to, they'd probably offer like different types of coffee, too, because, you know, like cafe in Mexican families is different than like cafe cubano or whatever. So it's but it's this shared thing. And that's another thing I took out of this interview, how the Latinx community has these certain bits in our culture that span all of our community, and it's just another thing that we can all bond over. Well, the second clip is from the second interview that we held with Rosemary, because she is that interesting of a person. But this interview, I mean this clip, she talks about the crisis that is happening at our border. And she also mentions the need to take action.
Watching these children going through what they're going through at the border or away from the border or just the entire struggle of the caravan and just observing it but seeing how some of the families are staying together. It does make me think that as a state, as a community, we all have to be prepared because these children will need support. find strength at the end of the tunnel, find it, and be able to move on. So what should we as a country, I think some of the group that's coming from Honduras, I think that some will probably stop in Mexico, in some of the countries in Mexico. What should we be ready to do? How should we handle it? What is the humane way that this country should deal with this? Well, you know, going back to when we were working at Nevada Hispanic Services and we had the opportunity through a grant through the state, we were able to help families who could not afford attorneys. And that's when we learned that there are policies already set to be able to help individuals who are looking for a refugee status or asylum. And of course, things change. Things are changing every year, every decade. And so when there is struggle, I think if we ourselves were to find ourselves in times of struggle within our own community here in the States, we would get up and move and do something as well. It's the compassion and the empathy that's on the other side that is going to be a relief for many of these families. Here in the state of Nevada, well here in southern Nevada, we have Catholic charities that I know, I know they do incredible work when it comes to refugees and people who are seeking asylum. And I know that they try their very best to align a service of compassion so that the families can be able to heal themselves with what they're going through, but also because the families, they want to be able to give back. They want to work. They want to be of service. And I think that's why my father's story of him being willing to join the army, that, it just, with the work that I was doing and to see him do that, there is an irony there. And so within my own family, my brothers, I have two of my brothers also join the service. I chose not to. I really wanted to do this by educating I don't think I have a clear-cut answer other than what I learned from my maternal grandmother. It's very important to be compassionate. It's very important that when we have, to really understand the other side, understand the pain, and to be there when one can, because we may not always be able to, and we may not be able to do everything for everybody. But if we mentor, just as if we commit to mentoring a family or mentoring a child or being of service in some way, it will make a difference for that particular person, that particular child.
Well, I chose this clip for a couple of reasons, but mostly because this is a very personal issue to our community as a whole, and a lot of our narrators in this project talk about how they came here as refugees. And when we think about what's going on down at our southern border, there's a lot of inhumanity, but here Rosemary reminds us that when everything is said and done, there's going to be many children who will need resources that will help them heal. So we need to be prepared for that too, because while all this horrible stuff is going on, we need to know that if the kids, if any of these people come here, they'll have help. And you know, luckily, there are some resources in Las Vegas that help migrants and refugees. And Rosemary talked about one of them, which was the Southern Nevada Catholic Charities. There's one called the African Community Center, who I believe also helps with refugees and migrants. But yeah, she there's it's more than just that. It's about being compassionate. And I think that's something we, gosh, everyone needs a little bit of that. Something that unfortunately is happening
with this current administration is the rhetoric that is being used against our community and kind of dehumanizing us. It's very easy to paint us as a villain and blame us for the current issues going on in the country. But I think this is where projects like this come into play, because it's very hard to start dehumanizing someone when you sit across from them and hear their story.
And it doesn't help that nowadays it's really easy to turn on the radio or the TV.
And be misinformed.
And so I think people fear what they don't know. And projects like this humanizes our community. And it goes back to not only the power of oral histories, but controlling our own narrative. When Rosemary was talking about the refugees and just having compassion, I mean, for me personally, that hits home because my own mother's a refugee, you know, not the current one, but she came from a separate wave of refugees that we had back in the late 80s and early 90s from Central America, again, same country. There's this is all connected. There's a reason why these refugees are coming again from Central America decades later, because things haven't improved from when my mother decided to come for a better life.
I remember at the beginning of this project, our supervisor, Clay T, she talked about how the Latinx Voices Project was a long time overdue But that in a way it's it's good that it came now because we need it now more than ever Like you guys are saying especially you Lawrence you said that when people can't understand us There's there are major consequences to that. I get where you're saying also like what happened So we're recording this after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. So After that, there are true consequences to the rhetoric that's being used and we see it now more than ever with like hate crimes rising ever since. This administration took hold and even before then, so it's really important now more than ever to voice our stories, to voice our community and fight back this negative rhetoric.
and introduce this next clip from Isaac Barron. Isaac Barron is a long-time teacher at Rancho High School, one of the big main Latino-serving schools on the east side of Las Vegas. He has run SOL out there, the Student Organization of Latinos, and on top of doing all of that, that alone is full-time job and then some, he also serves on the North Las Vegas City Council. And so this next clip Isaac is talking about, he kind of reflects on his rise from just your kind of everyday laborer to being a councilman. And I think it's just an extraordinary, and you know what, he tells it best, so I'm just gonna go ahead and let him do that.
The Greenspun, hey, Brad Green for a short time, he was part of my route. And so, you know, him, his dad, and other people who are big time developers, some of them who I never even got to see while I was actually their pest control guy. It's kind of funny because years later, I wound up, you know, working with these people because of my station here counselor. But when I met up again with Carolyn Goodman, she didn't recognize me. Hey, Mayor, it's good to see you again. Oh, you seem familiar. She didn't remember who I was until I kind of, after a few times, I kind of remember her. Well, I don't know, and you know, I have to preface this. I worked for one of the guys actually on the list of 100 most prominent Las Vegas, right? A guy named Alfred G. Williams. He was the owner of A.G. Williams Pest Control, the first pest control company, licensed one, in the state of Nevada. And so, you know, I met all these people because I worked for him. And so, I don't know if you remember me, Mayor. I used to service your home. Do you remember when we saved your bushes? They were dying, they were getting all yellow. That was you? Yeah. She didn't recognize me. And I understand now why, but you know, of course, number one, it was a long time ago, three years ago. But also, number two, how was the health? I had Brian Greenspan right here in the chair that you're sitting in, right? He came here on a business item that he was hoping to launch in North La Vegas. I said, hey, Mr. Greenspan, so nice to actually meet you in person. Yeah, nice to meet you. So I said, hey, do you still have that 50-style diner for your kitchen? And he looked at me kind of funny. I don't remember inviting you to my house. I've been to your house lots of times. Really, how? I was your pest control guy. Do you still have, hey, is Petra still your housekeeper? She died 10 years ago, right? Or something like that. Yeah, a lot of these guys, men and women who I really went to their house, I never even met them, but I got to meet them. Now, you know, and here's a councilman, now they know who I am. But I'm sure that, you know, prior to this, they didn't know who I was, right? And for some of these people, when I'm done here, I'll probably recede back to the background.
I really like this clip because it's very Las Vegas-like, right? Las Vegas, it's such a small town and it's a growing big city with a small town vibe to it. I can't think of many places where you're, for lack of a better term, where common folk can mingle with the high-end people, just powerful people on a daily basis. My dad is an avid gambler. I can't tell you how many times he'll take us out to dinner on comp study one, and we're sitting there and he goes, he's like, hey, look, look over there. I'll be looking over and this big security guy is escorting this frail old man coming through.
He's like, you know who that is?
I was like, no. I'm like, he's like, that's Jackie. He's like, that's the owner of this casino. I'm like, how do you know that? He's like, oh, I've talked to him a bunch of times. I was like, what do you mean? He's like, I just have, I just have. And so it's very like Las Vegas. But the thing about it is, and what Isaac is kind of getting at, is that you're invisible. I really connected with when he said is you're the help, right? Because I've even had serving tables. There were a couple of times where I've served a person high rollers multiple times. They couldn't put my name on it, even if the left depended on it, because you're kind of invisible. You're kind of this person. So I think it's very interesting for him to break that invisibility. And it's funny to hear the other people's reactions and the good men's of like, how do you know us? It's almost like they're not aware of we're everywhere. You know, we're everywhere. So to me, it's very funny, very Las Vegas like and I connect to it.
It goes back to being called a help. It reminds me of Justin Favela in his exhibition, Sorry for the Mask, where he highlights the help and how casinos, for the most part, they don't want you to see the help, right? They're very discreet, but for us, and how Justin describes it, like, oh, my tia's around here, or someone that I know might be around here. It goes back to that. Our community, for a long time, has been just a help. And then when we do make it up to these powerful positions or positions of power, sometimes people don't, for lack of a better term, like don't acknowledge us sometimes. Or like they don't realize where we come from, or they don't realize that they know us from somewhere else. And it boggles their mind that someone that came from, like Isaac, from pest control made their way up all the way here. It's kind of like, oh, okay,
like, they take a few steps back.
Also, I, that's one of the cool things about this project. I mean, you were mentioning Justin's exhibit, how he highlights that everyone has a place in Las Vegas history, but not all of it has the limelight. So that's, that just reminds me that Isaac Vajon, he has a unique story and there are others like his, but then there are also others that when you talk about the help or like blue collar jobs, these people, for example, Justin's mom, they work at these hotels and what they're doing is it is deserves recognition. So even if you don't end up being councilman, I love how this project is trying to say that all of this stuff needs to be told to all of those stories need a voice as well.
Yeah. And speaking of which, which is a complete nice segue to our next narrator. So we're going to be listening to installation artists, Yuna Villalamba and host of Latinos Who Lunch, Justin Favela, talk about why a project like this one because it talks about the hunger of the community to have something like this to look at and refer to. What do you think about this project that we're doing, this Latinx project, recording
the oral histories of the Latino community here in Las Vegas?
It's needed because, let me tell you, I was so interested in learning specifically, we did this episode for Latinos Who Lunch called Latinos in Las Vegas. And I came to the library and I was looking for, I just wanted stats. Like how many Latinos have been here, how many Latinos worked at the casinos, I was just trying to look for numbers and then stories, and I couldn't find that many. Latinos built this town, especially in the 80s when it had its first, its second or third regeneration or whatever, and their names aren't written anywhere. Something as simple as that, just seeing a Latino name in a book that they existed is so important. So you doing this project and like what an honor. Thank
you for having me.
So I really like how he said, I just wanted stats. I wanted to know the people that built this city and kind of just know who was here, but he couldn't find anything. And during the course of working on this project, one of the things I learned was that the Thomas and Mac was designed by a pair of Cuban architects, Cuban brothers, the Cambero brothers. But I never knew that. It's not stated anywhere. And it just blew my mind when I found that out here is kind of the centerpiece of the city because everyone in town knows Thomas and Mac, knows the history of Thomas and Mac, knows huge events have been held at Thomas-
Or have been at the Thomas-Semac at some point.
Have been at the Thomas-Semac, right? The start of the UFC was there.
You had- All graduations were there.
All the graduations- All your families have been there. Right, all the graduations. Tarkanian's run with the running rebels was there. And yet, no one ever says-
Who built this?
Who built this? We never-
We usually have statues to commemorate these people, and we don't even have a name right?
We don't even have a name and so it's just crazy and over the weekend actually I saw Something that I mean it's not a full almost Commemoration of the people who worked on it, but I think Something really cool that the Raiders did over the weekend They were putting up the last steel beam of the the inner or the the skeleton of the Raiders Stadium, right before they put up the last beam, they actually let the crew, the construction workers on site, sign their name on that construction beam. I sat there and I was like, that is, that's cool. Those construction workers are forever going to be able to say my signature is on that building. But then once that moment of kind of passed and I went well No one's actually gonna physically ever see that beam that beams not gonna be exposed right because they still have to put the
The outer shell to it. My dad's a construction worker and I could tell you he's worked pretty much on every single casino at some point Doing something like right now. He's working at the Raiders Raiders Stadium doing a painting the inner things that are already constructed
And so little things like that, that I just wanted names, right? The bare minimum.
The bare minimum, give me names, right? And so like, I feel like he illustrates the hunger that we have as a community to know our own stories. Because yeah, we can talk about it with our families, but our families are very niche. They're very close. If we knew more of people that of our own community, that would be an even bigger milestone than just this project.
I mean, I'm thinking about my dad. My dad does landscaping. So when I say maintaining Las Vegas, my dad does a lot of that. I have family members who do landscaping as well and construction. So I know that they're out there making Las Vegas look beautiful. I know that when I drive down the road, especially if I'm driving with my dad, he'll be like, we fixed that there. We did that there. And I'm like, it's kind of, you know, it looks beautiful. So they deserve that. But then also there's, there are so many reasons we need to have these stats and not just for acknowledgement, although that is a big reason. Also when you talk about the history of Las Vegas, it's so incomplete when we don't talk about where we've been and what we've done. I forget who I was having this conversation with, but we were talking about the Las Vegas recession and how if we want to have a conversation about something like that, how can we have it if we like this thing, that's an economic result of a community. How can we look at it, discuss it without understanding what the Latinx community did and what, like how we suffered the results of what we had to live through, especially when you talk about, you know, all your undocumented people here, they suffered a lot too. During the recession, I know that a lot of the jobs that were lost were construction jobs or from my dad, like landscaping. Which leads us to our next, our next narrator. And he talks about this. He talks about owning our narrative and controlling our narrative. And so we're going to listen to Emmanuel Ortega Babelito, professor of colonial art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago and also the host of the podcast Latinos Who Lunch.
The value of our communities is in the archives. And the archives sometimes are in the built environment, sometimes they are in the visual culture, and sometimes they are in the recorded history. And the fact that you have a group of Latinx kids taking control of Latinx stories stories as opposed to allowing Netflix do that, it's super valuable. It's super important. I only wish this would have happened when I was here so I could have been part of it. So this is really, really exciting, especially coming from UNLV. So it's really, really cool. Don't stop doing it. So once you guys graduate, pass the torch. It's very, very, very important because we talked about it yesterday. We see ourselves reflected in media, and we get excited, like, ah, a brown queer, you know? But it's like, who's producing that brown queer? And who's managing those voices? Let's be careful. So this is an opportunity to take control over that. Like, how long we record for an hour, two hours, nobody's going to take away from me and from the community. So if you allow me, I will nominate my dad just to continue. Yes, please. Okay.
He's so poetic. He really is.
He's like the archives are built in the environment and that's what we were just talking about, how like the archives for our community, at least in like helping build this city has been in the actual structure themselves, in the landscaping, in the maintenance itself. He's so poetic, I love it.
Yeah, that's beautiful. And you know, what I wanna touch on and just kind of put this maybe in a more historical context is that archives like this If it wasn't for this project, how many of these stories would have just vanished with the person, right? And that happens and it happened and then Go back throughout history There's so much knowledge that got lost because either it was never recorded or because it got destroyed. I'm thinking of when the Catholic Church came in during the Conquista. Burned all the codices. Right, burned all the codices. And the Aztecs had this massive library of massive knowledge. And now I think it's maybe a handful survive today.
And that's because missionaries themselves took it upon themselves to record it. So you have someone else managing their history.
Right, exactly. And that's exactly what Babalito says. It's not the Aztecas managing those codexes anymore.
It's the hand of the conquistadores doing it.
Or massive corporations.
And so I think this was great. I think Clay T. White and Barbara Tabak did an amazing job in realizing that this project would be better served being run by people of the community, right? Be participating and having a voice in it. And just in the long run, this project to me is important because here's, as of right this moment, there's 105 histories, recorders, 105, get some change, all right? I'm thinking of stories of crossing the border. I'm thinking of stories of early Las Vegas. I'm thinking stories of being in the academic environment.
The construction boom.
The construction boom. It's one thing just to go out and record this right now, but it's another thing to take care of this and maintain it so future generations can come and experience it and hear these stories.
And it'll be online too.
That's awesome that it can reach so many people.
Yeah, I specifically like where he says, like, you need to pass the torch. So after, you know, our time of the project due to graduation is up, we pass the torch and give it to someone else and, you know, tell them to continue this, our legacy, because, like, ultimately this is our legacy, and I don't mean like that personally,
but like our community's legacy.
And then I know we've mentioned this multiple times, but I think the big goal for this project is to inspire the next generation to be part of activism and be part of continuing the work that's been laid from the generations before them. And our last clip for this episode touches on that. For this last part of the episode, we're going to hear from Nevada State Senator for District 2, Mo Dennis. And he, again, we asked him to reflect on the importance of this project.
You know, we have to learn from the past. And we have to make sure that it's accurate. The history that I learned growing up didn't always have all of it. It's very specific to know that we've got people like me, that looks like me, and has had similar experiences, and they can be whoever they want to be. Regardless, I look at my cousin, even though he's a Republican, he was a little kid here, just like any of the other little kids. And he could run for president. Any of our kids could run for president. The fact that a kid could be an engineer, could be, you know, superintendent of schools, it could be whatever, teacher, lawyers, could be, I think that that, making sure that we're documenting that so that we don't forget. You know, I hope we never get to the point where we become so successful that we forget our past. Because that could also be a problem. But I think this is great. I enjoy... We do family history. We're Christian in our church. But as a family, we want to do that. And that's very hard for us because with Cubans it's hard to get information. One of the benefits to having a cousin that's a US Senator is that the show Finding My Roots, Find Your Roots or something like that, on PBS, decided to do one on my cousin. So they hired a genealogist and all kinds of things. So now we actually can trace back at least my mom's side of the family to like Italy and Spain where we couldn't do that before. But I just know it's amazing when you start looking at the past and what they did and the kind of lives that they lived and just to know a little bit, it's amazing. So this kind of a project allows us to see that, you know, to see where we were as a community. I mean, I'm just, to me to see the changes that have come in the Latino community in Nevada has been great. And regardless of, I mean, I think my kids consider themselves Latino, even though they're only half Latino, because they've got the culture that they have embraced and they love. I think that being able to look back and see what those have come before them have done, I think will be a great project. I love hearing, even the other projects that have gone on that wasn't Latino, when you look back and see what has gone on. Because it has come so far in technically a really short period of time. Even though I think back to when I was a first grader at Robert E. Lake, that was 50 years ago. That's like half a century. It seems like a long time. But yet, when we think of history, it's much bigger than that. And that's really a privilege of the city. So we're a fairly new city, but to see where we've come, and we can learn from others, and hopefully we don't make those mistakes. And I think it's great.
I think there's so much to dissect in this last clip.
He touches on a lot. The one I want to jump on is this point that he made of, it's important for our kids. And we touched a little bit about this earlier when we were talking about Isaac Barron, but that's something I did when I was doing my student teaching for the district is I took some of these interviews and I showed them at the school that I was teaching in. And I showed them, you know, these kids like, hey, and I think at that point we only had like 50 interviews or something like that. And it's just I can't tell you how awesome it was to see kids be like you know Hey, all these people are from Las Vegas are from the east side, and they've gone on to Work in City Council. They've gone to to own restaurants They've gone on to be politicians have successful financial careers And it just changes the kids perspective completely and and I like the example he used of his cousin. So for those who are unaware, the cousin that Moy Dennis is referring to is actually U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. And this is something that we learned during the course of the interview that Marco Rubio actually grew up here, spent some time here in Las Vegas before his side of the family decided to move on to Florida. And it's crazy to think that a Cuban kid running on the streets of Las Vegas eventually got to a point in his life where he could he could make a run for US president, right? And I think it was a big deal when he was like the first actual contender from Latino origin, if I'm not mistaken, right. And so I think that's just amazing. And I think in this is how we move the barrier, right? How we move, push the wall. Yes, Marco Michael Rubio's run wasn't successful as president, but now How many years has it been?
Right, but now we have
Right now we're at a point where it's where it's not uncommon to see a Latino on the presidential debate Forum, right? We've gone from Michael Rubio was this Anomaly this Latino out of nowhere. He came to run to now it's Julian Castro. It's not even a second thought of him running for president. It's okay.
And he speaks Spanish up there. Right. He's very, he's definitely different than Marco Rubio, but you're right in just a couple of years.
Couple of years. And then Nevada itself, he touched on it. And it's funny enough on my way into the office today, I was listening to NPR. And 60 years ago, Nevada had the reputation of being the Mississippi of the West, because we were so segregated and we were so against trying to embrace what was happening with the civil
And now we're very liberal.
Right, in those 60 years, we flipped.
Majority women legislature, two women senators.
A democratic governor for the first time in I don't know how many decades and on top of that you know there's been articles written about Nevada saying that Nevada
reflects what the US will look like in a few decades. Yeah no I like where he says like we have to learn from the past and we have to make sure it's accurate because the history that he learned growing up didn't always include everyone and that's so important when we talk about owning our narratives and taking ownership of it and making sure it's accurate. And so just doing this project alone allows us to do that in the Southern Nevada aspect of it at least. And I think that's incredible. That's something that I don't know if any other city has been able to do that, or I'm
sure if they have, there's just little pockets here and there.
We'll find them.
We'll find them.
Eventually. I love a lot of what he said. I know we spoke about this in the beginning when we talked about our ancestry and how it's difficult for some of us to find. And congrats to Mo Dennis. I'm glad he was able to be given that opportunity and he was able to figure out more about his family lineage. With a lot of the interviews that we've done, we've found out that sometimes you have stuff worth bringing and then you can't bring it. So that's one of the questions that we will ask our narrators. We'll ask them, you know, what did you bring? What did you have to leave behind when they made the journey from whatever country they were to the US? And it's really sad that you bring what you can and some things that are very precious to us are not portable, so those don't get brought over. And if you're lucky, then you can still communicate with the people in your country back home and you can talk about these stories. But yeah, we've seen that it's very limiting when we try to document our history. But we do have this oral tradition that, whether formal or informal, it really tells us a lot about our history. And I want to continue doing this even once I'm finished with the project. I've learned so much from oral history that I want to find a way to incorporate it into what I'm doing, which will be very easy because I'm going to be an elementary school teacher. And I feel like oral history most certainly has a place in the classroom. And I can't wait for all of these interviews to be out so that I can use them like you used them, Lawrence. That was actually the reason I wanted, or I gained interest in this project back in the first place, because I thought, what a great resource that we can use in our classrooms. My kids will be so interested in history if they're learning it from their parents' perspective. You know, they get to see their parents in these interviews, our family members, and they'll know that this is a history worth listening to. They were involved in it as well. So yeah, there's so there's so much that we've got to still look forward to. But yeah, that's that's it. I'm so happy that we got to do
This has been awesome. I can't wait to see what this project does going forward. And it's just it's been again, it's been a real big privilege and honor to work on this project. So with that being said, thank you so much to our listeners for sticking with us through this first season of Latinx Voices Unveiled. Again, this is brought to you by the Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada Project at UNLV. Please if you enjoy the stories that you've heard, continue to support the library at UNLV and support the Oral History Research Center. Because, you know, not just, it was mentioned earlier, it's not just the Latinx project. There's all these other projects that have focused on the other histories of Las Vegas and I think they're just as important. Thank you for joining us this season.
Thank you for listening to Latinx Voices Unveiled series. Each episode features smaller parts of larger interviews with community members. These interviews were conducted by research assistants at the Oral History Research Center. To hear these interviews in full, contact UNLV Special Collections and Archives at 702-895-2234. Special thanks to Yoni Kessler for our theme music, and to performing musicians
Ricardo Arana, Tasos Peltekis, Marshall Peterson, and Spencer Pfeiffer. Audio engineering by Ron George. Production engineering by Kevin Kroll. Ricardo Arana, Tasos Peltekis, Marshall Peterson, and Spencer Pfeiffer. Audio engineering by Ron George. Production engineering by Kevin Kroll.
This podcast is a production of KUNV radio and the UNLV Rebel Media Group.
Transcribed with Cockatoo