StoryCorps Historias to Record Life Stories of American Latinos

By Suzanne Gamboa
Associated Press
Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gus Hernandez and his family spent two nights sleeping in their car before Siddiqi Hansoti gave them three weeks' stay in his motel and then, even better, a job.

"I just needed a little bit of help," Hernandez says in a recording of his story of finding an unexpected benefactor after being evicted from his home.

Hernandez and Hansoti shared their story in Salinas, Calif., with public radio's StoryCorps, which has been capturing moments of American life since 2003 and archiving them at the Library of Congress.

StoryCorps is seeking more life stories from U.S. Latinos and launched StoryCorps Historias last week to get them.

"The mission is just to honor and celebrate our lives through listening," said Diana Velez-Griffen, a StoryCorps Historias spokeswoman.

Plans are to send a StoryCorps Historias Airstream trailer to different towns and cities over four weeks to record conversations with at least 700 Latinos. Possible stops are Los Angeles; Yuma, Ariz.; Granger, Wash.; Miami; Boston; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Brownsville, Tex.; San Antonio; and Albuquerque.

Stories also will be collected through community organizations, libraries and other local spots.

StoryCorps recordings are generally conversations between two people, talking about important times in their lives. Some are abbreviated for broadcast on National Public Radio.

Some of the StoryCorps Historias recordings will focus on uniquely Hispanic experiences. StoryCorps Historias is funded through a $700,000 Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant.

"It's really important for Latinos to be fully represented in our country and this is just one way for Latinos to be fully represented," said Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, a University of Texas at Austin journalism professor who has been recording the oral histories of Latino veterans for a decade.

Rivas-Rodriguez's U.S. Latino and Latina World War II Oral History Project is a partner in the project. Other partners are Latino Public Radio Consortium, radio show "Latino USA" and community groups.

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