Twenty years ago, journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez aimed to give a voice to the underrepresented Latinx people from the World War II era. Since then, the Voces Oral History Project has gathered over 1,200 interviews from primarily Latinx veterans and civilians.
Over 380 people gathered in the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library Sunday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Voces Oral History Project with a presentation, dinner and guest speakers. Rivas-Rodriguez, who created the project, said the project’s interviews come from across the country and were inspired by her own experience as a reporter.
“When you’re doing a recorded interview, you only use maybe three or four minutes from quotes,” Rivas-Rodriguez said. “When you’re done with it, that interview just gets deleted somehow, and I’ve often thought about how much of a waste that is.”
Originally called the U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project, the initiative expanded to documenting the Korean and Vietnam Wars in 2010 due to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It was then renamed the Voces Oral History Project, according to the website.
“Oral history, I think, is so important, and a critical part of it is that it not only teaches context and texture but reminds the next generation of what the previous generation sacrificed going through the struggles that they overcame,” said James Aldrete, chair of Voces Resource Council.
Public relations sophomore Dani Velarde said she gained a better understanding of the Latinx experience in the U.S. from Voces’ public resources. She said she is thankful the project’s website is not only available to students, but also the general public.
“It’s so important to tell (Latinx) stories, since it’s a voice that’s often quieted in the media or even just in our society today,” Velarde said. “It’s so interesting, hearing what these people have given up. It makes me proud to be Hispanic.”
Rivas-Rodriguez said the Latinx population has not been represented fairly in popular media. She said an example of this is in the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” where the only Latinx representation is on a gravestone in the first scene.
“To be able to penetrate that consciousness so that we’re not just replicating the same tired history that we’ve been looking at over the years is really important,” Rivas-Rodriguez said. “There’s lots of layers to that onion, but I know we’re making a difference.”