Nick Juravich and Daniel Morales Give Final Report on their HAPA-funded work with SEMAP

Nick Juravich and Daniel Morales give a final report on how they used their History in Action Project Award (HAPA).  Congratulations to Nick and Daniel on their successful and significant work.  Read their report below:

Summary: Our two weeks in South El Monte and El Monte, California with the South El Monte Arts Posse (SEMAP) were extremely successful and productive. In the course of our visit, we conducted forty-one oral histories, digitized hundreds of pages of documents and photos, presented for two high school classes, wrote six blog posts, and hosted four day-long events that reached hundreds of community members. In addition to this immediate output, we held formal and informal conversations to plan future collaborations with high school teachers, KCET Youth Voices, members of South El Monte’s City Council, and faculty and staff in the Public History Program and the Charles E. Young Research Library at UCLA. Our work received positive reports in the local press and online, and we will be presenting and writing on this research as part of our own academic progress in the coming months and years.

HAPA Funds and Additional Support: Our awards paid for rental cars, gas, food, graphic design and printing for flyers and chapbooks, oral history equipment, film equipment rental, and administrative support from SEMAP. Our primary sponsor in El Monte and South El Monte was SEMAP, and their co-directors, Carribean Fragoza and Romeo Guzmán, donated many hours of their time and energy to plan our visit, organize and publicize our events, and connect us to collaborators and oral history narrators in California. We received additional support from the Columbia Center for Oral History Research (oral history recorder and two lapel microphones), the UCLA Oral History Research Center (four recorders and eight lapel microphones for one event), the Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History (printing costs at Columbia Print), KCET Youth Voices (coordinating high school events and participation), and the hosts of our events (Mountain View HS, South El Monte HS, La Historia Society Museum, South El Monte Senior Center, and the Mulhall Community Center).

Oral Histories: Over the course of our visit, Daniel conducted seventeen oral histories, Nick conducted sixteen, Romeo conducted three, and two other PhD students (Janett Barragan of UCSB and Laura Gutierrez of UCSD) conducted three. Narrators ranged in age from their twenties to their nineties, and included residents of Latina/o, Asian, Indigenous, and EuroAmerican descent. These oral histories ranged in length from half an hour to nearly three hours, and included individual interviews and group conversations. All of these oral histories, as well as our summaries of them and related documentation, will be archived with SEMAP. We also conducted an oral history training workshop with high school students from Mountain View High School, who are learning interviewing as part of their coursework in journalism, and with staff members from La Historia Society Museum, who hope to conduct their own oral histories as part of their ongoing historical work.

Documents and Photos: Using simple scanners and iPhones, we digitized documents and photos in many contexts. At our events, oral history narrators, community members, and students brought family archives to contribute. One particularly extensive contribution came from a retired educator, union president, and school board member, who shared a pair of scrapbooks with over 200 pages of newspaper clippings, newsletters, election materials, photos, and letters. At South El Monte City Hall, we created digital copies of two massive scrapbook-albums that catalog life in South El Monte in the mid-1960s and were submitted with applications for national awards. At South El Monte Library, we created digital copies of city annual reports and calendars from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s, as well as a newspaper clippings file kept by the Library and a history of South El Monte written in 1983 on the 25th anniversary of the city’s founding. These digitized copies are not of “archival quality” by the strictest standards of the profession, but they serve as perfectly useful and legible research and teaching tools to make these freely-held and accessible city archives available to a wide range of scholars, students, journalists, and others through the SEMAP archive.

High School Visits: In preparation for our visit, Romeo Guzmán spoke with Mountain View High School and South El Monte high students about the East of East archive and the work of historians. We then conducted two visits with high schools through SEMAP’s partnership with KCET Youth Voices. On Tuesday, January 6, we visited Michael Weller’s Journalism class at Mountain View High School, where Daniel presented on the history of El Monte’s barrios and Mexican migrant life in the early 20th century. On Thursday, January 8, we visited Sara Quezada’s Social Studies class at South El Monte High School, where Nick presented on the founding of South El Monte and we passed out chapbooks with this essay to the students. Both events included ample time for dialogue with students and teachers, and students from both classes attended our weekend events at the South El Monte Senior Center and La Historia.


– The Barrios of El Monte I & II: On Thursday, January 8 and Sunday, January 11, SEMAP and La Historia co-hosted all-day events on “The Barrios of El Monte.” Throughout both days, community members dropped in to share oral histories, photos, and documents about life in the barrios of El Monte and South El Monte, and Daniel presented his research on these communities and led discussions with community members. These events were also opportunities to train La Historia staff in oral histories and discuss future opportunities for partnerships between La Historia and SEMAP.

– City of Achievement: On Saturday, January 10, SEMAP and the City of South El Monte hosted an all-day event on the history of the city, with walk-in oral histories and digitizations. Chapbooks were passed out, Carribean and Romeo presented on the ongoing development of SEMAP and East of East, and Nick presented on the founding and first twenty years of South El Monte. Most exciting was the showing of a 16mm film unearthed by SEMAP last year that documents the civic programs and community organizing that won South El Monte an “All American City” award in the 1970s. This film generated a robust discussion afterward, and the success of the event has encouraged KCET to help digitize the film and make it widely available.

– Inmigración y La Vida en El Monte: On Thursday, January 15, SEMAP partnered with the Mulhall Community Center and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) to produce a day-long event that combined histories of immigration (oral histories & digitizations) with a presentation on current developments in light of President Obama’s expanded executive action on Immigration. Apolonio Morales, Political Director of CHIRLA, native of El Monte, and friend of SEMAP, presented on the specifics of the new policies and took questions from residents.

Writing and Press Coverage:

We produced the following blog posts while working on this project:

“Live Blogging Public History” Tropics of Meta (ToM), January 7, 2015

“Mapping Community Narratives at Mountain View HS” ToM, January 9, 2015

“In Search of Buried Histories in El Monte and South El Monte” KCET, January 9, 2015

“Pain and Pride: Reflections on a Weekend of ‘History in Action’” ToM, January 14, 2015

“Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte” ToM, January 26, 2015

“From Discipline-Based to Community-Based” AHA Today, February 4, 2015

The project received the following coverage:

“Around the Valley: December 17” San Gabriel Valley Tribune, December 16, 2014

“A Journey Through El Monte” Chipster Life, January 2, 2015

“The Importance of Knowing Your History” KCET, January 19, 2015

“Residents Share Their Memories” Mid-Valley News, February 4, 2015

Concluding Remarks and Future Plans: Our two week project has already generated several opportunities for future collection and collaboration. We have received emails from residents who missed our events but are eager to share their stories and materials, and partners at KCET, La Historia, and South El Monte City Hall have expressed their enthusiasm for the project. The directors of UCLA’s Public History Program have expressed interest in placing an undergraduate intern with SEMAP, and archivists and scholars at UCLA’s Charles E. Young Research Library are interested in discussing possibilities for collaboration in archiving materials. Our own work continues; Daniel and Nick will both be presenting dissertation chapters this spring at Columbia that will utilize materials relating to this project. Finally, Romeo will present on the larger project and its ongoing development at the “History in Action” conference on March 7, 2014.