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Jaydin Clounch dances with her grandfather Rocky De La Torre during the 2015 Chanute Mexican Fiesta during the Royalty dance. Starting in April, the Center for Latin America and Caribbean Studies will bring visibility to Latino history in the United States with a series of events and educational programming around Lawrence.

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean studies has partnered with the Lawrence Public Library to create recordings of oral histories told by Latino people living in Lawrence. The stories told will be preserved and made accessible to future generations.

Danika Swanson, outreach and project coordinator for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, is in charge of the program and said that the recordings precede the screening of the documentary series, "Latino Americans: 500 Years of History."

Swanson said that although not a lot of people have used the source, she hopes that changes.

“We are hearing a lot of enthusiasm for the idea," Swanson said. "So hopefully, we will generate some good word of mouth and get a lot of folks in to share their stories."

Kristin Soper, events coordinator at the Lawrence Public Library, said that a couple of people stopped by to ask questions on Friday, but no recordings were made. She hopes more people come to use the resource after the opening reception on Wednesday, April 6. 

Wednesday's opening reception will take place at Watson Library from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The reception will be open to the public.

Swanson said the idea originated after they received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, and they suggested they do recording sessions in accordance with the documentary series.

“We really see this as a starting point for hopefully a larger oral history project in the future, collecting and consolidating existing oral histories of the Latino community in Kansas,” Swanson said.

Soper said people will be able to come in solo if they want. They can also interview family members or the library provides prompts if people need a structure for what to talk about.

“Lawrence is about 85 percent Caucasian, so it’s not very diverse, but we have a really active, vibrant Latino community," Soper said. "I want to capture their story because it is probably different from the Caucasian experience."

Swanson said she hopes the program as a whole helps bring visibility to the Latino experience, educate the community, inspire pride among the Latino community and create new knowledge about the presence, history and experience of Latino Americans.

“Our goal is that the oral history component serves to fill in a gap in our local historical record and we look forward to recording and preserving these stories to make them accessible to the public and future generations,” Swanson said.

Besides bringing visibility to the Latino community, Soper hopes it gives the Caucasian community a look into the lives of Latino Americans.

“It’s my hope they can get a different perspective of Lawrence,” Soper said. “I think there are all sorts of stories around the Lawrence community and hope it highlights another part of Lawrence history and not just the Caucasian history."

The recording sessions take place every Friday during the month of April from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

— Edited by Shane Jackson