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Creative ways to teach RI Latino history


RILA Executive Director promotes Latino history in Rhode Island with book readings and lectures statewide and an interactive art installation taking the form of a coffee cart will travel with her...

The Latino Oral History Project of RI (Nuestras Raíces) was started in 1991 and is managed by Marta V. Martínez, the Executive Director of the RI Latino Arts. It is a collection of the stories and lives of Rhode Island’s Spanish-speaking pioneers.

Marta has been compiling these stories for over twenty-five years and the immigrants she interviewed came from different Latin American countries, many arriving here with little more than a suitcase and hopes for a better life. Their poignant stories engage viewers on different sensory levels.

In August of 2014, this oral history collection became
a book. In the fall of 2014, Marta began visiting schools, libraries and community youth groups to offer presentations about the project and sharing stories from the book. Martínez gives these presentations with a strong purpose in mind and in the introduction of her book writes: “When students in Rhode Island who are of Latino heritage do not see themselves as part of history, for many their sense of self may become marginalized. Marginalization negatively impacts students’ connections with school and their success at school. It may contribute to the high drop out rate for Latinos. A more accurate history, where students can identify themselves, would provide some students with a sense of self and purpose.”

Teachers and youth group organizers can contact Marta if they want her to visit their classroom or program. For more information and to purchase a copy of the book, click here:
www.nuestrasraicesri.org. When purchasing a copy of the book through our organization (and not through Amazon), you will be donating to the Juanita Sánchez Community Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation.

What’ Next?

Beginning in January of 2015, the Latino history project will become a traveling exhibition called
Café Recuerdos: A Traveling Piece of Rhode Island Latino History

Café Recuerdos will teach people of all ages, particularly elementary to high school students in Rhode Island’s most underserved communities, about the history of Latin American immigration to Rhode Island through an innovative blend of artistic and educational activities. Programming developed with partners at key community organizations, and implemented by educators, librarians, visual and performing and artists will primarily target people of Latino heritage, but will be accessible and meaningful to non-Latinos as well. Diversified activities will serve a wide audience of young people, and build artistic and literacy skills. Through the study of true stories of Latino immigration, all those engaged by the project and its outreach activities will gain a deeper understanding of history, heritage and community.

Our main goal is to illuminate, through a compelling art installation, the diverse stories of Latino immigrants to RI, and to enhance the viewer’s understanding and appreciation of this ongoing part of our state’s cultural history. The venues chosen for exhibition and programming will be the community of South Providence and will offer a culturally relevant arts project that will bring the community together in celebration of their heritage.

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The visual core of Café Recuerdos will resemble a peddler’s cart, recalling those with which vendors once sold their wares. The wooden cart, which has already been developed through sketches and working model (see below) by Charlestown-based artist Ana Flores, will be fitted with “wall supports” made of Café Bustelo coffee cans painted with the likenesses of Latino immigrants to RI. The coffee theme was chosen because of its strong appeal to Latinos, a daily ritual that, far from being a quick pick me up at Starbucks, is connected to unhurried conversation with family and friends; coffee is thus a powerful memory catalyst.

The Latino History Project of RI through the
Café Recuerdos art installation will encourage Latinos of all ages to tape, video or write down their own and other people's life stories. If you are interested in participating by inviting Marta to bring the cart to your program or organization, write to us at this email: info@rilatinoarts.org