Latinos have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 in Texas. Texas virus expert Dr. Peter Hotez has said the community has faced “decimation” from the illness.
The Voces of a Pandemic project is meant to be a small salve for that suffering. Oral historian and project founder Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, who’s also a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told Texas Standard that though many project participants were vulnerable to illness and more, they were determined to share their stories.
“They understand that too often that Latino part of the American experience gets left out – it’s either ignored altogether or it’s marginalized in some way. So people have been pretty adamant that they want their story included,” she said.
The project is a collection of video interviews with Texas Latinos, and includes their raw takes about how they’ve coped over the last year. Voces partnered with 14 institutions across the state to find candidates. One institution was UT-Rio Grande Valley, where student journalists conducted many of the interviews. Rivas-Rodriguez says the most important thing for them and anyone conducting these interviews was to build trust with their subjects.
“People have to believe that you’re not going to take their stories and use them in some way that’s going to be exploitive. And they need to be able to open up to you as much as possible,” she said.
A common thread throughout all the interviews has been resiliency.
“People have been so incredibly resilient and taken care of each other. We’ve done interviews with with folks who created their own systems of distribution to provide PPE [personal protective equipment] and to provide food. And that, kind of the pairing of resiliency and resourcefulness, is something that we continue to see throughout the country,” Rivas-Rodriguez said.
The project will shine a light on the Latino pandemic experience, but it’s also been a space for Latinos to share – for their own healing, she says.
Voces of a Pandemic has a virtual showcase on Jan 17. You can register to view the project here.