The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)
Exhibit to honor Latino heritage
September celebration starts compilation of local history to share
The Latino Lorain History Project, starting Sept. 15, is a joint effort with the Lorain Historical Society and El Centro de Servicios Sociales Inc.
They are joined by Leadership Lorain County, Oberlin College and a number of community supporters who want to recognize this key element in the city’s culture.
It’s been two years in the making with a committee dedicated even during the novel coronavirus pandemic, said Maria Carrion, community development director for El Centro, the Spanishlanguage social service agency of South Lorain.
Some members of the planning committee met July 23 to brainstorm ideas about the exhibits, promotions and paying for the project.
It is rooted in a conversation between local groups.
Lorain Historical Society Executive Director Barb Piscopo and Victor Leandry, El Centro executive director started the collaboration.
Leandry said he always wanted to research and connect the Latino stories.
Lorain’s Latino heritage has been well documented in books, news articles and video, he said.
But there is no single archive or collection of those stories and information, Leandry said.
“We realize it’s a big project,” he said.
Planning began in September 2019, and a year later, Oberlin faculty and students were compiling oral histories from people who lived the city’s Latino heritage.
The project has grown, Leandry said.
He and Piscopo emphasized the exhibition is the first of many, not a one-time thing.
Vine Avenue will be the centerpiece of the first exhibit.
“To many people, Vine Avenue embodied the soul of the Latino community in Lorain,” said the draft display created by graphic artist Jesse Guardado, a Parma native who now lives in Lorain.
Piscopo credited the work of Bethany Tober, Historical Society project manager, for adding 11 interviews of people who remembered Vine Avenue.
“We wanted to make sure that we got those interviews before people got too old, because that has been the problem, that many of the people we wanted to interview have either gotten ill or their memory is failing or whatever,” Piscopo said. “So, we wanted to capture those stories now.”
Gina Perez, Oberlin College professor of comparative American studies, discussed how the planners developed their skills with college students to collect the oral histories about Lorain history in general, and Vine Avenue particularly.
“I was very excited and honored to be a part of it,” Perez said.
The planners hope the oral histories will bring alive the stories and experiences of the life of Vine Avenue, while encouraging other people to share their memories and young people to learn about collecting oral histories, she said.
Tober introduced Guardado, a 41-year graphic designer, who is designing the visual elements for the exhibition.
“Vine Avenue was particularly challenging,” for creating the visual elements, Guardado said.
In the display, the word “Avenue” has each letter in a different font, representing the various cultures within Vine Avenue.
The image depicts a road leading to the steel mills “which is the main focus of why people came to Lorain,” Guardado said.
The sides of the street are lined with subject matters such as Religion & Spirituality, Night Life and Small Business & Entrepreneurship.
Jenn McManamon, Lorain Historical Society children’s education and curriculum director, discussed ways to make the exhibits interactive for children.
The exhibit will be open for Hispanic Heritage Month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 30.
The planners are seeking people, families, businesses and community groups to sponsor each day.
Information is available from Tober by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sponsorships and sharing the historic information is not limited to just Latino-related business or organizations, said Joel Arredondo, Lorain City Council president and chairman of the Mexican Mutual Society of South Lorain.
Additional committee members included Lourdes Bennett, El Centro administrative assistant; Ally Morgan, Lorain Public Library System South Lorain Branch manager; Julie Cruz-Blair, director of Leadership Lorain County; Jovi Rolan, community member; and Ruby Mitchell, Lorain Historical Society student volunteer.