On Thursday, my Mexican history class visited Cline Library’s Special Collections to learn about “Los Recuerdos del Barrio en Flagstaff,” an online repository of oral histories from what the exhibit describes as “Flagstaff’s Basque, Spanish, Mexican, and Mexican American families.” Interviews include transcription, translation (where applicable), and video or audio recordings of the discussion. (Much of the text is searchable!) Over the course of more than a decade, Special Collections librarian Delia Ceballos Muñoz has been collecting memories and images that preserve the experiences of Flagstaff residents who lived through historical events such as the Mexican Revolution or the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. The site includes potential lesson plans for secondary education in Arizona, as well as a bibliography of local histories.
During the class period, researcher and librarian Delia Ceballos Muñoz talked to the students about how she conducted this project, its importance, and its scope. After the presentation, students had a chance to ask her questions about the meanings of oral history. Then, I created a group activity in which students laid out a hypothetical interview with a survivor of the Mexican Revolution, taking into account the importance of interviewer and narrator identities. This visit to Special Collections allowed students to learn more about Flagstaff’s communities while considering the practices of oral history. I hope this repository will play a role in final projects for my undergraduate classes.
Catalog Description: “BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY: Lillian Martha Ortiz Mayorga Chavez was born in Flagstaff on April 23, 1943. She and her brother were orphaned as young children and then adopted by Benito and Maria Mayorga. Benito worked at the Saginaw sawmill and Maria worked at home, taking care of the family. Lillian’s upbringing was greatly influenced by her parent’s values, her Mexican heritage and the Catholic faith.”