New Study: Gauging Hispanic Interests in Hispanic Heritage Resources
by Magda E. Mankel, PhD Student in Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park
Between June and August 2015 I had the pleasure of interning for the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (Anza Trail) thanks to the National Park Service’s Cultural Resource Diversity Internship Program.
Briefly speaking, my internship involved conducting focus group discussions with Hispanic individuals living in Tucson, Arizona. The objective of this project was to understand how participants understood and used the portions of the Anza Trail located in and near the City of Tucson. Once I completed the focus group discussions, I worked the insights that participants shared with me into a report. The report highlights how the Anza Trail can reach out to this community and how it can better engage the public with the trail’s heritage resources.
As an Anthropology graduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, this was a great opportunity to refine my skills as a researcher and apply my knowledge to a project that works towards making the Anza Trail more accessible to the public. As a Mexican-American woman who was born in Nogales, Arizona, and grew up in Tucson, I saw this as a unique and special way to give back to a region that I call my home.
I have to admit that I was not fully aware of all the history behind the Anza Trail and the Anza Expedition when I first started this research project. As I learned more about this history I began to see the once familiar landscape with fresh eyes. Places that I was familiar with obtained new depth as I attached new meanings onto them. It was also incredibly rewarding to talk to members of the community and see how they related to the Anza Trail and how they connected their Hispanic heritage to this landscape.
After conducting a total of six focus groups with 38 participants (26 female and nine male) I was surprised to learn that few participants new about the Anza Trail and the history of the Anza Expedition. Although few participants knew the history of the Anza Expedition, the majority of participants knew about and had visited places affiliated with the Anza Trail. These places include the Santa Cruz River Park in Tucson, Tumacácori National Historical Park, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, and some of the local streets that compose the Anza Trail’s automobile route.
The fact that participants knew of places associated with the Anza Trail but did not know the history of the Anza Expedition demonstrated a disconnect. This gap may be filled through community outreach, educational programs, and engagement efforts in the future.
As I listened to what participants had to say I was intrigued to see that many participants believed that the Anza Trail was important because it helped them feel as though Hispanic heritage made a significant contribution to the region and the nation. Several participants noted that the Anza Trail was a good way to highlight Hispanic achievements and to fight negative stereotypes and discourses on immigrants today. In other words, the trail and its history asserted their sense of belonging in a time when Hispanic contributions might be questioned by public discourses.
Overall, this was an incredibly rewarding experience and I hope that this work will serve to civically engage Hispanic individuals and other members of the public with the Anza Trail’s resources in the future.
I would like to end by thanking all of the individuals who participated in the study, Naomi and Stan (my supervisors), Diana (the National Park Service’s Urban Fellow for Tucson), Neil and the other folks at The Environmental Education Exchange, Bella, Yesenia and Kevin (Saguaro National Park staff and interns). All of their help and support made my ten week internship run incredibly smooth.
Report Author Madga Mankel
Downtown Tucson Mural
Santa Cruz River Park, Tucson