Sunday, November 3, 2013

Reflection 2 -- Herrada Archive and Roybal Oral History

Archival Image
This is the cover of an issue of the Metrotimes that discusses Elena Herrada’s Repatriados project. The strength of the emotion portrayed in this image is what drew me to it: the hunched shoulders, the emphasized downcast faces, the barefoot travelers being pushed away by cold, white hands. It tells the story of a family being expelled from the U.S. This family is most likely working class since the man wears overalls and carries a battered suitcase. It tells the story of a working-class family that is being pushed out of America. They leave with hands covering their mouths indicating both their sadness and that they are silenced/that their plight is not heard.
This is quite a powerful image. I like it because it hints at why we may not have heard the story of the repatriados in the past. It is not, by any means, a proud history. This image portrays that even as Mexicans/Mexican-Americans were leaving the United States, they did not want to speak about their plight. We can also glean information from this image since it is the image chosen by the Metrotimes to introduce Elena Herrada’s research to the public. It is a dramatic, eye-catching image which may indicate one reason a publication like the Metrotimes would chose it to attract readers to Herrada’s project. It also illustrates a stark color distinction between the skin color of the pushing hands (very pale white) and the skin color of the people leaving (medium/dark brown). This suggests that, at least in the context of this image (a front page that is intended to grab attention from quick glances), skin color is significant in conveying the message of the history of the repatriados. The fact that this image highlights skin color suggests that the history of the repatriados can be used in the discussion regarding racial differences and inequality today in addition to discussing past grievances.  

Oral History
Rosie Marie Roybal’s oral history reflects that narrative of a Chicana in Colorado born in the 1940s. Her narrative illustrates an interesting nexus of older, more conservative generations’ (Mexican American) organizations and newer, more liberal ones. She received scholarships to attend college from the American GI Forum and LULAC. She describes both of these organizations as “mainline organizations” who were working to “do good, not shake things up.” She describes the primary goals of both of these organizations (at least the chapters in her area) as raising money for kids to go to college. We have discussed LULAC and the GI Forum in class and have analyzed their mainline tendencies as compared with the organizations and goals of younger generations. As described in 500 Years of Chicana Women’s History, LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, was formed in 1929. It was especially mainline holding up middle-class models and “Americanization” (Martinez 85). The GI Forum was started after Chicano GI’s (from World War II) returned home to the same racism as they had encountered before. This organization was formed in 1948 and made up of mostly working class people (Martinez 84).  As part 4 of Chicano indicated, newer generations thought that older generations and organizations run by older generations had “sold out” and that moderates were ‘part of the problem.’
Roybal provides an interesting perspective on these histories that we have discussed in class because she was supported through college by more conservative organizations while at the same time being taught more liberal ideas by her professors in college. She talks about how her sociology and anthropology teachers radicalized her and taught her that she was a victim (an idea she had not really considered before). She creates a narrative in this oral history that we have not really seen before: the generation that connects the values of the old generation with the ideals of the new generation. We have looked at the abrupt break between newer organizations (such as the Brown Berets) and older ones (such as LULAC); however, we have not considered the group of people who were partially a product of the old generation while still young enough to be included in the game-changing ideals of the newer generation at the end of the 1960s.
Rosie Roybal’s narrative fills in the gaps between the narrative of the conservative groups of the 1930s-1950s and the liberal groups of the end of the 1960s and onward. She tells the story of Mexican American women who experienced both old and new ideas about what rights should be fought for by Mexican American communities. Furthermore, she exhibits the merging of both these groups’ ideals by being supported throughout her education by conservative groups but working for groups that taught her more liberal ideals such as the Urban League and SER. During her time at the Urban League, she tells one anecdote in which she was asked “If you were going to hire someone, what characteristic would you look for?” to which she responded “If they spoke with an accent, I wouldn’t want to hire them” to which a woman responded “What does that have to do with intelligence??” This response changed her ideas about intelligence, especially as it related to the Mexican American community. She realized that she had inculcated prejudices growing up that she was not even aware of. She changed her views towards people with accents after this conversation. Roybal’s experience here signifies a turning point from conservative views of language ability championed by organizations such as LULAC (which wanted all its members to speak English and “Americanize”) to more liberal understandings of language ability championed by the Chicano Movement in such manifestations as the Blow-Outs by Chicano high school students who demanded educational materials in Spanish. Roybal’s epiphany of her prejudices regarding speaking English and her resolution to change these prejudices illustrates in one story the shift in ideals occurring at this time in Mexican American communities across the U.S.

The Process of Making History
            This interview reflects a few interesting production decisions. The camera is closely framed on the subject’s face and reflects what we have discussed about the “rule of thirds” as well as having the subject look into the shot. The shots at the beginning have both the slate and the title slide to help with organization of the video clips. The sound quality is good with little intrusion from background noise. One other important element of the sound quality for this oral history is that the interviewer is clearly audible. This is important because it is much easier to understand the flow of the history if you can clearly hear the questions that lead to new information given by the subject. The lighting is a soft light that clearly lights up the whole of the subject’s face but is not too harsh, creating a comfortable interview atmosphere. The purple curtain in the background is a nice aesthetic choice because it is a light hue that does not distract from the subject. It is also more comfortable to look at than a plain white wall. These production decisions contribute to the aims of the CPMR project by creating a comfortable environment for sharing the history of a group that has not had much representation in academia till now. It is easier for the subject to share her story in this environment and nicer for the audience to watch. It is important that this history is shot in a documentary-style because this style should make it a more useable tool by teachers and historians alike.

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