Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Elena Herrada Follow-Up Interview

I had hoped that being one of the last groups to interview, Tina and I would be able to avoid some of the technical snafus that the other groups encountered but it was not to be. The troubles started even before we arrived at Elena's house. Since our original interview subject, Mary Luevanos, could not commit to a time, Maria quickly asked Elena Herrada if we could do a follow-up interview with her. Elena graciously agreed even though she was attending a very important meeting with the Detroit Public Schools on Friday morning. Since our interview was scheduled at the last minute, Tina was unable to secure the camera we had originally trained on and was given a camera with p2 cards instead of SD cards.

The old-school camera
At around the same time that Tina was receiving the bad news about the camera, I had a near-tragic accident involving the hard drive, my digital camera, my tablet, and my laptop. I had had my partner pack all of these things in my backpack along with my fancy water bottle, not realizing that the cap was not secure. When I set my backpack on the floor of the library, I noticed that my backpack was leaking water. Fortunately, nothing was damaged, especially since I kept the hard drive in its nifty little box, but it brought home Maria's advice to bring two laptops to the interview in case something happened.

Tina and I made it to Corktown in good time, and Maria arrived shortly after with all the scanning equipment, archive boxes, a slate board, clamp lights, batteries, an extension cord, and power strip. While we were setting up and waiting for Ari to join us, we got to meet Elena's neighbor with an interesting story of her own. However, I don't believe a public blog is the place to tell it, although it did add to the hilarity of the circumstances that surrounded our interview process.

Tina and I had the good fortune to have Ari join the team to scan some of the archive, and she helped us stage the filming area and gave me advice on lighting. This saved us a lot of time.
The clamp lights that Maria brought really helped, and I was glad that I had brought two of my own extension cords which made setting up the lighting much easier. While Tina was getting the video camera and sound recorder ready, Elena, Maria, and Ari began sorting the archive. Since Ari was familiar with the sensitivity of the wireless microphone, she scanned the archive upstairs while we filmed the interview in the den.
Maria began the interview by mentioning that she was interested in hearing more about Chicano Boricua studies, but that she first wanted to know about how the Herrada's first came to Michigan. We learned that her grandparents came to Detroit in 1920 and that the family has been there ever since. Her family also has a long history within the auto industry and labor organizing. Elena also worked for the Union, negotiating contracts for 70 different auto plants.

Elena told us about her experiences with the Chicano Boricua Studies program at Wayne State University from 1985-1987 and how her experiences in the movement to establish Chicano Boricua Studies as a two year program with two full-time counselors, faculty, and it's own director inform all her subsequent projects. Elena then began to discuss the oral history project and documentary, "Los Repatriados: Exiles from the Promised Land." 

There was a lot of good advice about oral history interviews that could be gleaned from her story. Elena spoke about how certain theoretical strategies would not work for her particular project which implies that it is imperative that an interviewer be knowledgeable about her interviewees. Elena also told us that interviewing one-on-one feels like a sort of confessional, leading people to tell stories they wouldn't normally share, and that many people rescinded their permission after the interview. It may behoove an interviewer to have a team accompany her so that interviewees get the sense that many people will be hearing their stories. Another important thing that Elena taught us is that the framing of the project is important in that some people will not participate if the aim of the project is not well-defined.
Sadly, we did not have enough memory on the cards to get all of Elena's story about how someone stole the work that Elena and her committee had been gathering and used it to create his or her own documentary. She was kind enough to tell us the rest of the story before we left. I hope that I can be part of the follow-up to the follow-up interview to get the rest of that story on tape and hear about her year as a graduate student at Michigan State University.
Strangely, the black cat didn't cross our path until the interview was over :) Perhaps the kitty is responsible for our technical difficulties with the p2 cards....................

1 comment:

  1. I love this post Jasmine! It really captures that afternoon, both the great, and the not so great! Its possible Necro jinxed us! I know he wasn't to happy with all of the disruptions the last time our team came around!