Exhibit gives voice to Flagstaff's Hispanic heritage
Breann Velasco’s motivation was to acknowledge all of Flagstaff’s people who helped contribute to building Flagstaff.
She started working at the Pioneer Museum about four years ago, and, to her, much of the history of Flagstaff focused on the Anglo settlers.
“So, when I would walk through the museum, I would feel a disconnect because I really didn’t feel I could directly relate to that history,” said Velasco, who is Hispanic and serves as the operations technician at Pioneer Museum.
She created the exhibit “Todos Unidos: The Hispanic Experience in Flagstaff.” And, as part of Hispanic Heritage month from mid-September to mid-October, she shared information about the exhibit to students and staff at Coconino Community College on Oct. 10. More than 80 people attended.
Velasco said that she and her team members realized whole populations did not have their histories represented about their contributions to Flagstaff. A theme at the museum is “community building.” Most of the histories center on those people who financed the institutions that were built in Flagstaff.
“This exhibit wants to feature the folks who actually built it,” Velasco said. “We really wanted to make sure all voices in the past were being acknowledged and recognized.”
The presentation at CCC was a glimpse of what it would have been like to live in Flagstaff of the past with a different skin color. Velasco started in the 1800s, when Flagstaff started to settle as a town, and ended in the 1940s. The common theme was one of “All United” for the strong sense of community and family in the Hispanic experience in Flagstaff.
Velasco said, although not perfect, the term “Hispanic” was chosen for the exhibit because it encompassed Mexican, Mexican-American, Latino, Basque and Spanish experiences among others. She spoke of waves of immigration throughout history, the work the immigrants would get in mining, agriculture and lumber. She offered information about the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods – names like Los Chantes, Plaza Nueva, Plaza Vieja, Las Calaveras – their churches and their schools.
And, she spoke of racism of the past, the exclusions, the poor treatment of the hard-working people who came to Flagstaff to seek a better life.
“I would hope that people recognize that everybody’s journey is different, and maybe think about what community means,” Velasco said of the exhibit. “Some things that we dealt with in the past we continue to deal with, and to recognize that connection.”
CCC student Maggie Gil, who recently moved to Flagstaff from Colombia with her mother, appreciated the presentation.
“We are important to the American culture and how we incorporated to help build the United States,” Gil said. “I enjoy the Hispanic culture and learning about it.”
Food and drink donations for the presentation at CCC were provided by Tacos Los Altos east-side and La Fonda Mexican Restaurant. For more information about the Pioneer Museum, visit http://www.arizonahistoricalsociety.org/museums/welcome-to-pioneer-museum-flagstaff/. The museum also has a new app: https://app.cuseum.com/AZHS
- Monday, 30th October 2017