The goals of this initiative were to involve Latinos in the humanities, reach Latino communities with humanities programming, and provide the general public with education about Latino history and culture. This initiative explored Tennessee as a particular setting in which Latino communities reflect historical and cultural processes. What do elders transmit to young Latinos in Tennessee to provide cultural continuity? How do changes in material culture reflect the Tennessee environment? What are the economic and cultural contributions of these new American communities, and how are their vitality and growth expressed?
In 2002, Humanities Tennessee conducted a community-based oral history project addressing the state's growing Latino population. Spanish-speaking volunteers conducted oral history interviews with members of the Latino communities regarding their experiences coming to and living in Tennessee. The project produced a bilingual tabloid entitled Este Lugar, Nuestras Palabras/This Place, Our Words that contains excerpts from the oral history interviews, as well as interpretive content that explores the meaning and significance of the stories in a broader context.
This tabloid was distributed the same year in East Tennessee by Mundo Latino newspaper, and in West Tennesseee by La Prensa Latina. They were also distributed statewide via the regional library system. In 2004, La Noticia distributed the tabloid throughout Middle Tennessee.
Also in 2004, Humanities Tennessee provided information and guidance to a Vanderbilt student, Robert Cox. As an Ingram Scholar fellow, he conducted oral history research in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Cox interviewed Latinos, local officials, and others to study the morphology of the growth of a new ethnic community in a small, Southern town.
By sharing individual stories in the context of Tennessee and nations of origin, participants demonstrated the diversity of their history, culture, and immigration experiences and highlighted the contributions they bring to their communities. We also strived to:
- raise humanities-based questions and issues that require further exploration and community attention;
- increase the awareness of the central role of the humanities to community issues and to community change;
- explore the role of immigration in shaping Tennessee communities.