Colorado has a rich history and a diverse population, but there are voices in our community that we rarely hear — farmhands, day laborers, essential workers — people who helped shape our state. Assistant professors Carlos Jimenez and Lina Reznicek-Parrado want to add their voices to Colorado’s story.
Thanks to funding from DUs Center for Innovation in the Liberal and Creative Arts (CILCA), Jimenez and Reznicek-Parrado launched Documenting Colorado’s Hidden Voices. The project trains DU students to conduct and collect oral histories of Spanish-speaking Coloradans across the state. Students then participate in a paid internship with a community partner.
“The project was really about delivering oral histories focused on telling stories of the Colorado community from people we just don’t hear from…people who are just working to make their community a little bit better” , explains Jimenez, assistant. professor of media and film studies.
Twenty students were selected for the pilot project, which was promoted in classes taught by professors who support the program. Students who had media production experience or who could speak Spanish in a professional setting were encouraged to apply.
Students attended workshops during the fall term, including a series on how to collect oral histories presented by History Colorado oral historian Rachael Storm. Faculty mentors, including Jimenez and Reznicek-Parrado, also conducted workshops in their own areas of expertise.
“We started with the workshops and the idea was that these workshops would prepare [students] not only to learn or develop skills in media production and narrative and oral histories, but also to get them thinking about internships in general,” says Reznicek-Parrado, Assistant Professor of Spanish Teaching who oversees the internship program .
“We came up with the idea of extending student experiences through Spanish with communities, the same communities that we want to bring out through oral histories,” she says. Reznicek-Parrado has established relationships with community organizers, nonprofits, and private organizations that support Spanish-speaking communities in various ways.
“It was quite quickly that we realized that we wanted to send our students to be part of this work, especially our bilingual students,” she says.
Camila Frech, a junior international business student and first-generation student from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was among that cohort.
“I learned so much about how history is a collection of people’s stories and how they perceived these events in their lives,” says Frech, who also learned to honor the original story of the person while digging deeper to gather more information.
“This project has been a great opportunity for me to get to know the Denver community better. I came to appreciate the simple act of sitting down and listening to others. Everyone has so many interesting stories to share about their life that they don’t even realize it until someone else starts asking them about it,” he said. -she adds.
Jimenez conceived the idea for the project when he saw a grant opportunity through CILCA. He wanted to do audio work that would connect his students to the community, and says CILCA has been immensely supportive.
“They gave us a lot of support to conceptualize a project to really find what is doable,” says Jimenez. “The funding itself was extremely supportive as we were able to hire two student workers who are the main coordinators for the whole project.”
CILCA has also given each of the teachers involved in the program a course release, which means that they each have one less course to teach, giving them time to devote to the project.
“[The course release] is absolutely essential to being able to do any of this work,” says Reznicek-Parrado. “It allows us to devote time and energy to networking, maintaining community partnerships and recruiting students. Without this support, we simply wouldn’t be able to do this. »
Students collected their oral histories and media production began. The the oral histories will be stored in History Colorado forever, Jimenez said. The team also received a grant from DU’s Center for Immigration and Policy Research to process audio and create short podcasts for a series focusing on Colorado immigrants.
“A lot of people don’t just go to an oral history website and listen to oral histories,” says Jimenez. “It’s a good way to have a distribution aimed at the public.”
CILCA provided the seed capital, but the team sees a long future for the project. They applied for a grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities and hope more funding will lead to more participating students and community partners.
“We have a lot of great stories that I believe if we didn’t do this work, nobody would ever hear these stories,” Jimenez says.