Whoo, first three weeks of the internship have come and left. I believe I have immersed myself in the park staff, as I was part of several meetings where I had a leading part. The first meeting I was a part of was about Fort Larned’s National Park Service Centennial celebration. It is going to be called “Pinic in the Park,” and we are going to have representations of the different cultures that passed through Fort Larned, such as the Native Americans, German immigrant soldiers, African American Cavalry, and, the Hispanic traders. Although I’m not very keen of having to have an incentives for people to come out (like I want people to come out because they want to learn), the incentives of this events is going to be food samples and entertainment of the different cultures. Fort Larned it a little far out from the surrounding towns, and majority of the visitors that come by are people that are just passing through Kansas. So what I’m trying to say is these incentives are key to this event.
My task for the event is to find a Hispanic based sort of entertainment, a Hispanic food sample, and cultivate a Hispanic educational piece. I’m very excited to be able to administrate this aspect as I am of a Hispanic background, and I will be able to use my personal experience to decide what come out of the Hispanic trader aspect. I have decided that the people of Kansas should try the delicious Conchas, which are a vastly popular and historically accurate in the Hispanic history. I have to get to know townspeople of a nearby town to find entertainment options. For the educational piece, I believe there will be a speech before the entertainment piece so the visitors has a chance to learn about the Hispanic culture in Fort Larned.
Another meeting I had was to bring up the idea of having mini video clips that bring to life documented stories of the Fort. For example, there’s a story that a wild wolf entered the hospital and chased out wounded soldiers, so there will be a video reenacting this story but with a touch of Paola. I have imagined the video to have comedic relief by poor production, and dramatic music or acting (like a telenovela, or a soap opera). Obviously the videos will be in Spanish, so that viewers will see that Fort Larned is making an effort to reach out to Spanish speaking communities, therefore making Fort Larned more welcoming and accessible space for Spanish based communities. Also, I have been able to administrate the social media outlets of Fort Larned, in which gives me the space to be as creative as I want to be.
Aside from the awesome work I have been doing and planning, I have gotten into a few conversations about racial issues with different people in the park. I’ve had one sided conversation where I was automatically silenced or offended, ones where people want to understand my experience as a brown Latina, and ones where there was a back-and-forth dialogue about racial issues. I am not use to having these conversation at all. Some of these conversations have left me feeling uplifted, hopeful and happy. While others drained and frustrated, to be completely honest. I was initially shocked of the conversations we were having (as in, don’t these people understand black lives matter?!?! Or that immigrants are actually financially valuable to the financial success of farmers?!?!?), I now understand the fact that some people I’ve conversed with these past three weeks have had different experiences compared to mine. I come from a very diverse city (San Diego) where people grow up surrounded by people with different backgrounds. I went to one the most diverse schools of the nation (UC Riverside) where the students, professors, and staff respectfully acknowledge the differences in ethnic background in uplifting manner. So it explains (it does not justify!) why some these people might not see eye-to-eye in some topics with me. But more importantly, I have also come to conclusion that there is a need for open dialogue with people who do not see eye to eye with the issues of race, who get their information from the media, and/or have honestly never been exposed to other ethnicities. There is a need of open dialogue to cultivate an understanding and a middle ground so that, in the bigger picture, diversity in the parks is not unnatural.
Although at times it is hard to listen to some people, I have come to understand and believe these conversations will be very valuable for my future. I am able to understand where people are coming from, and what they are thinking so that we (the person and I, as a team) can create a dialogue that leads to a positive exchange of information regarding race. From now and on, I will informing myself on current social inequalities twice as much, and looking inward more often to examine my own prejudices and experiences in order to be able to express myself better in future conversations. I will learn from this experience, and carry it with me where ever I go. And looking once again at the bigger picture, I believe these conversations will help with the process of understanding how to debacle obstacles that prevent diversity in the NPS, both in employment and visitation.