Hi everyone, my name is Alex La Pierre and I am the Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP) intern for the Urban Agenda in Tucson through Saguaro National Park. I currently attend the University of Arizona and I have been a seasonal employee of the National Park Service for the past three years. I have worked at National Historical Parks, a National Monument, and a National Historic Trail with attributed histories exclusively reflecting our country’s Spanish and Mexican heritage. I started working for the National Park Service at Fort Union National Monument in northeastern New Mexico as a summer seasonal preservation worker, helping take care of what was the largest adobe fort and supply depot in the Southwest. Fort Union was also a base for the New Mexico Volunteers, a Hispanic military unit which fought for the Union in what was then part of the great western frontier. My next duty station was nearby at Pecos National Historical Park, just outside of Santa Fe, which preserves the remnants of one of the most significant indigenous Pueblos in the state as well as the ruins of two Spanish Colonial churches founded by the Franciscan order in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is a beautiful place where I never grew tired of the Pinon and Juniper-crested mahogany orange mesas that surrounded the site. After a life-changing University of Arizona ethnographic field school in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, I decided that the Arizona-Sonora borderlands were where I wanted to be and was fortunate enough to secure a seasonal preservation position here at Tumacacori National Historical Park, just 20 minutes north of the international border at Nogales and 45 minutes south of Tucson. Tumacacori is a mission site that was first founded in the late 17th century by Eusebio Francisco Kino, a German speaking Italian Jesuit priest. It is an extremely tranquil place adjacent to the Santa Cruz River and its accompanying Cottonwood-Willow-Elderberry gallery forest, the most endangered type of forest in North America. Mesquite bosques or thickets line either side of the river, and it was through this forest I refer to as the “Sonoran Jungle” that Juan Bautista de Anza led a colonizing expedition to found what is now the city of San Francisco, California, in 1775-76. The Anza National Historic Trail has been my latest seasonal position in the Interpretation division while still duty-stationed here at beautiful Tumacacori.
I am really excited about this LHIP internship which starts next week, for many reasons. One reason is that upon completion of the program and my degree, I will be eligible for non-competitive hire for a permanent position in the National Park Service, which has been my professional goal all along. I truly consider this LHIP Direct Hire Authority Resource Assistant position as a really rare opportunity to realize this goal with this chance it provides. My heart is also 100 % aligned with the project I will be working on. The project is to conduct the research and work on the documentation required in order to make the Barrio Viejo – what remains of the historic Hispanic city core of Tucson – a National Historic Landmark. The Barrio Viejo is so important to me because it really represents one of the last physical vestiges of the regional Sonoran adobe row house architectural tradition – a unique vernacular architecture that really ties us to our neighboring Mexican state of Sonora to the south. It is so important that we accomplish this project of gaining National Historic Landmark status in order to preserve this treasure which reflects the beautiful diversity in the story of the United States.