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Untold Stories: Grassroots Project Aims to Record the History of Latinos in Boulder County

Untold Stories: Grassroots Project Aims to Record the History of Latinos in Boulder County

History professor Marjorie McIntosh was shocked— in her own words appalled— to discover the lack of Latino inclusion in the prevailing histories of Boulder County. 

“With a few small exceptions, Latinos are virtually invisible in the standard histories of Boulder County,” she said.  “For me, it’s a moral issue. What we know about the past should be about everybody.”
 
Community lore documents some compelling stories about Latino war veterans who stood up for their rights as citizens and the demise of discriminatory city ordinances. Still McIntosh, a University of Colorado Boulder professor emerita, sees a need for recording the uncharted stories passed down through generations before they are lost.
 
Buoyed by a passion to make it right, McIntosh has teamed up with Jerry Ohrt, a retired St. Vrain Valley teacher and technology specialist, to co-coordinate the Boulder County Latino History Project. The coordinators are part of a broad grassroots campaign directed by a cohort of community organizations
 
“To document a history, it is clearly going to have to be done by Latinos, not me,” McIntosh said.
 
The goal is to prepare a multimedia history of Latino families that have deep roots dating back 100 years or more as well as more modern histories of Boulder County residents. Through personal stories, local Latinos can help paint a more complete picture of their current and past economic, social, and cultural contributions to life in Boulder County. 
 
“We want to document the struggles— the way so many people succeeded despite those struggles— and we want to make very clear the contributions Latinos have made in Boulder County,” McIntosh said.
 
The Boulder County Latino History Project officially began with a kick-off celebration and informational booth at the annual Longmont Celebrates Cinco de Mayo Festival on Saturday, May 4. Project volunteers were available throughout the day for interested community members to ask questions and potentially sign up to participate.
 
Thereafter, the project will include substantial involvement of a dozen local youth as interns who have been nominated by community organizations. Beginning this summer, high school and college interns will assist in video-recorded interviews. Some interns will also help maintain the project website and digitalize historical photos and artifacts. As early as fall 2014, the project plans to provide an open-access website and a written history based on a multitude of sources. 
 
McIntosh said youth involvement and community engagement are must-haves for success of the project.
 
22-year-old Veronica Lamas will serve as the project’s full-time intern who will help conduct and transcribe some of the interviews. 
 
Lamas is a first-generation college student who is set to graduate from CU-Boulder in May with honors in ethnic studies and a political science minor. The daughter of immigrants, Lamas’ incorporated her personal history and past into her honors thesis about immigration laws and higher education.  
 
When Lamas was seven years old, her father was deported, and she was separated from her mother and siblings for several years. It was a traumatizing experience, but it helped guide Lamas to her studies. She hopes to eventually enroll in law school and devote her career to immigration reform. 
 
“My story is very vivid. That is why I made it public,” she said. “Everything in my life led me to this. 
 
“Yes, it was a struggle. Yes, I was hurt by it. But something else can come of it. I want to help other families.”
 
Lamas hopes to assist others in telling their stories through the Boulder County Latino History project. Her internship begins in June, but that is not soon enough.
 
“I am excited about it,” Lamas said. “I like the truth. That is why this project is so important to me. We rarely hear these stories and these stories are lost when they are not retold.”

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