DeKALB – Northern Illinois University’s Center for Latino and Latin American Studies has partnered with the University of Texas at Austin on an oral history project that preserves the experiences and struggles of the Latinx community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 public health crisis has ravaged Latinx communities throughout the U.S. with an impact disproportionate to other groups. A construction worker in Arizona said he never stops working – even in a pandemic. A surgeon in South Texas, who recovered from the virus in April, wistfully noted many people don’t understand the severity of this illness. A New Jersey woman said she personally knows at least 20 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The head of a nonprofit in Omaha says he is heartened at the community stepping up to help his food giveaway program.
“Our goal is to document the stories of as many individuals as possible, to really capture the many different ways that the COVID-19 crisis has impacted Latinxs across northern Illinois and nationwide,” said Christina Abreu, director of the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies. “The interviews we’ve recorded so far bring to light the realities of incredible loss and inequality as well as resilience and community.”
Voices of a Pandemic is a partnership among seven institutions across the country, dedicated to recording, preserving and disseminating the unique perspectives of Latinos/as during this crisis. NIU joins Fundación Luis Muñoz Marín (San Juan, Puerto Rico); University of Nebraska at Omaha; University of California, Los Angeles; Rutgers University and University of North Texas to give a voice to a population heavily impacted by the virus.
Latinos have been disproportionately affected for several reasons: Many are “essential workers” who are required to go to work (some without protective equipment) and face potential exposure to the virus. Others lack health care. Some have lost their jobs, introducing still more uncertainty into their lives. Some suffer from pre-existing health conditions, sometimes as a result of poverty and inequality, which put them at greater risk. Thousands are also undocumented, compounding their vulnerability.
Interviews and data gathering are collected online via Zoom. Abreu said she anticipates the interviewing process will run through the fall and winter.
“Interviews vary in length, but most are about an hour long,” Abreu said. “We are flexible and can do interviews in multiple sessions to accommodate the schedule of the interviewee. We are also able to set up individual interviews with members of the same family.”
Completely processed interviews will be posted on the Voices Oral History website, accessible to researchers, journalists and the general public. Researchers will produce articles and reports based on the interviews, including pieces for the peer-reviewed US Latina & Latino Oral History Journal (published by the University of Texas Press).
If you would like to participate in the project and share your story, email Christina Abreu at firstname.lastname@example.org.