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ASU celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month

September 07, 2007

Arizona State University will honor National Hispanic Heritage Month with Images from the Camps of Litchfield Park. The photo exhibit, “Gente, Lugares, y Communidad: People, Places, and Community,” is a collection of images that traces the history of Litchfield Park from 1916 to 1986. It features Mexican American agricultural workers and their families, chronicling the development of the camp communities, while capturing the memories and places special to the former residents of the Goodyear Farms camps.

The celebration begins at 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 15, with an opening reception and camp reunion, in the La Sala Ballroom, ASU’s West campus, 4701 W. Thunderbird Road, Phoenix. Lunch will be provided to individuals who RSVP prior to the event. The photo exhibit, which runs until Nov. 1, is located in the Fletcher Library on the second and third floors.

Directed by Gloria Cuádraz, associate professor in the department of Language, Cultures, and History, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the Mexican Americans of Litchfield Park Oral History Project reflects a partnership between the university and the Litchfield Park Historical Society (LPHS). The photo exhibit brings history to life by connecting the voices gleaned from the oral histories to the images of their collective lives in the camps. The project was a first-ever study conducted through videotaped interviews of former camp residents. Now in its second year, Cuadraz, her research team, and members of LPHS have collected more than 45 oral histories of the Mexican American community.

“It is important to preserve and honor these oral histories so we can understand the perspectives of these founding citizens who contributed so much to the economy and culture of the southwest,” said Cuádraz. “We’ve gained valuable insight into the dedication of the workers and their families, their daily activities, their cultural practices, religiosity, and the myriad ways in which they formed community.”

The first year of the project included a reunion of camp families and a video documentary, Voices from the Camps of Litchfield Park. The project was a learning experience, immeasurable in scope, and considered an important snapshot of how the Mexican American community helped shape the quality of life in the west valley and the greater Phoenix community.

The oral history project received the Celebrating Cultural Awareness honor at Westmarc’s annual Best of the West awards. The award was presented to ASU at Westmarc’s annual celebration in October 2006.

Images from the Camps of Litchfield Park is made possible through a grant from the Arizona Humanities Council and supporting funds from American Express, Litchfield Park Historical Society, Southwest Ambulance, ASU’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, and New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.