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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Oral Histories

As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close I would like to draw attention to three oral history collections housed in the Kansas Collection at Kenneth Spencer Research Library. These collections speak to the everyday lives and experiences of the Hispanic communities in Garden City, Emporia, and Kansas City, Kansas.

The collection I’m going to highlight is the Oral History Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas (RH MS 750). The collection consists of interview transcripts, audio tapes, and photographs. This project was funded by a grant from what is now Humanities Kansas.  

For example, in her interview Cipriana “Sue” Rodriquez spoke about the harsh conditions and treatment her father faced as part of the working class in Mexico before coming to Garden City to work for the railroad, originally in 1900. Cipriana also discussed living in a railroad house, her experience in school, the family’s work experiences, and the strong sense of community among the Hispanic families.  

Photograph of a railroad crew in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1900
A railroad crew in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1900. Oral history Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH 183, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.
Portrait of an unknown Hispanic family in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1900
A portrait of an unknown Hispanic family in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1900. Oral history Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH 183, Box 1, Folder 25. Click image to enlarge.

Similarly, Lydia Mendoza de Gonzalez and Louis Mendoza discussed the conditions in Mexico that lead to family members coming to Garden City around 1900. They spoke of growing up in a culturally traditional Mexican household and the discrimination faced by the Hispanic community. A primary focus of this interview was education and Lydia’s efforts to help members of the community get the financial support they needed to attain a vocational education.

Photograph of a Mexican Fiesta in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1950
A Mexican Fiesta in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1950. Oral history Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH 183, Box 1, Folder 24. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of graduates Angela and Salina Gonzales, with their mother Lydia, at a commencement ceremony in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1970
Graduates Angela and Salina Gonzales, with their mother Lydia, at a commencement ceremony in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1970. Oral history Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH 183, Box 1, Folder 31. Click image to enlarge.

The other oral history collections are the Oral History Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Emporia, Kansas (RH MS 751) and the Kansas City, Kansas, Spanish Speaking Office Interviews and Slides (RH MS 752).

Letha E. Johnson
Kansas Collection Curator

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