Neighborhood Meeting and the Oral History Component
Its been yet another busy week with temperatures reaching 115 degrees – but it’s a dry heat! My supervisors representing the National Park Service, University of Arizona, and the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, as well as myself and counterpart Magda, had the official neighborhood meeting for all the property owners in the Barrio Viejo. This occurred after we sent out about 350 ‘snail mail’ letters to everyone in the neighborhood last week inviting them to the forum to talk about the National Historic Landmark (NHL) designation project that is underway.
We had a pretty exceptional turn out considering the meeting was held at 5:30 p.m. on a weekday, with about 50 residents showing up. On the whole, I don’t think we could have asked for a better reception; we were very well received and most, if not all, of the residents were entirely on board with what we are accomplishing. Tucson has been in the news pretty frequently lately, especially after the attention of the UNESCO World City of Gastronomy designation last year. That being said, developers are coming into the city looking for what area to carve out next for some modern behemoth. Downtown Tucson is smaller than nearby Casa Grande’s downtown, and as such these developers likely have their eye on this historic district. This is part of the reason why this NHL designation is so important – to help prevent these developers from coming in and further eroding away this unique place.
In another arena, we have also commenced the oral history aspect of data collection to present along side our application for NHL. We have since interviewed Sandy Chan, a retired Pima Community College Librarian and a local expert on the Chinese American history of Tucson. She provided us with information from when the first Chinese arrived in the 1870s up until the middle of the last century. She is also a volunteer at the Arizona Historical Society Research Library, where our Research volunteer group is diligently working every week. She has been really helpful in aiding the groups as well, giving us leads on our building-by-building investigations. We also were connected with Mary Wong, a Chinese American woman who, at over 90 years old, is a delightful riot! We met her at the Chinese Cultural Center of Tucson where she invited us for lunch, and we were able to record her memories. She mentioned to us that Spanish was her first language, as a first generation American with Chinese parents growing up in Barrio Anita.