Guide to Documenting Latino/Hispanic History & Culture in New York State
What to Document in Latino/Hispanic History
To be considered a statewide priority for documentation, a topic should meet at least one and probably more of these criteria.
- It represents a contribution by New York that is distinctive,
seminal, or precedent-setting in Hispanic/Latino history and experience
Example: The development of Latin music and dance in New York City since the 1930s has been a major cultural force in the citys Latino communities. But it has also established New York as the center of a worldwide popular music phenomenon and an important international industry. Not every band needs to be documented, but those that are recognized as pioneers or who are considered great by the community should be. And collections that document the development of a particular style or the music of a particular community over time may be important to preserve.
Example: The suits filed in Suffolk County that led to the mandatory creation of bilingual education there directly affected only the students in the county, but they inspired and influenced people in other parts of the state and around the country.
- It reflects the beginning of a trend or issue or an important milestone
in its history.
Examples: Latino history begins in each part of the state with the establishment of a community, and it continues with many "firsts": the first Hispanic elected to public office, the first Hispanic church, the first bilingual education program, and so on. Looking back, some of these firsts may be interesting markers but may not be considered historically very important. Others, for example, the integration of the police and fire departments in Buffalo and the establishment of bilingual education in Suffolk County, came as a result of controversy and struggle. Some led to the founding of an organization that has remained important in the community, or set a precedent followed by other communities in New York. Such events or milestones may be important to document.
- It has had a significant impact or influence on Latino communities
statewide or on a large proportion of the target population, if geographically
concentrated. (See Community Size and Duration below.)
Examples: Migrant farm work by Latinos has been a significant part of Latino history over much of Upstate New York and Long Island for many years. The farmworkers themselves constitute an important community with unique challenges, they have formed and interacted with settled Latino communities throughout the state, and they have been an essential component of the agricultural economy. The War on Poverty programs of the 1960s and welfare reform in the 1990s were federal initiatives that had significant impact on Latino communities in New York.
- It has been significant over a considerable period of time.(See
Community Size and Duration below.)
Example: An organization that meets some of the other criteria in this list and has been in existence for decades will be a higher priority for documentation than an organization doing similar work that was founded five years ago or lasted only five years. For example, it will be more important to document a Latino theater company that has survived thirty years than a company founded at the same time that folded after a few years or one that is just getting established.
- It has engaged and had significant impact in several subject areas.
Examples: A community-wide annual Latino parade is an important part of family and community life and the arts and culture; it engages businesses and may involve politics and social reform issues. The establishment of a new Latino community or the rapid expansion of an existing one due to migration or immigration affects nearly all subject areas.
- It is illustrative of common experience statewide.
Examples: It is extremely important to document the social history of Hispanic communities. It is not necessary or possible to keep records of every kind of family celebration, social club, community organization, or bodega, but it is important to preserve and make accessible enough of this kind of documentation to represent the social and cultural life of diverse Hispanic communities around the state. At this time, there is so little record of Latino social history that most documentation of this kind would be considered high priority.
- It is not already well documented (see Existing Documentation). Few topics in Latino history and culture are well documented in New York. However, since the gaps are so great, it doesnt make sense to put time and resources into documenting topics for which substantial records already exist. It is important before beginning a documentation project to check the State Archives Preliminary Guide to Latino Documentary Sources in New York State, to see what materials already exist in archives. The guide is available on the State Archives web site (www.archives.nysed.gov).
The Latino/Hispanic population of New York State is extremely diverse, encompassing immigrants or descendents of people from every country of Latin America and from distinctive regions or cultures within particular countries. The Puerto Rican community is the largest, has been here the longest, and is well represented throughout the state. The Cuban and Dominican communities are of long standing as well, though not as widely dispersed, and the Mexican population, though relatively new, is growing very rapidly, both in New York City and Upstate. Communities of varying sizes representing Central and South America abound, each with its unique history.
For the most part, the size of a community and the duration of its history in New York will be related to the communitys impact on New York State history and the amount of documentation that exists. The following principles offer an approach to prioritizing documentation projects that address different cultural/ethnic groups within the Hispanic communities overall:
- For documentation projects dealing with a single cultural community (for example, Dominicans or Hondurans), the larger, older communities would have higher priority for documentation than smaller, newer ones.
- There may be sufficient similarity in history and experience among a group of communities of different ethnic background to warrant projects that document the group as a whole (an example might be Central American communities in New York City). In such a case, the collective size and historical significance of the group of communities might merit high priority for documentation.
- The priority of a documentation project that focuses on one or more of the subjects below would be raised if it addressed the topic in a group of communities. For example, a project to document occupation and labor for the Latino communities as a whole in Syracuse would be higher priority than a similar project focused on one community.