ON Newsletter - Fall 2023
Latino History for a New Generation
COURTESY OF ARCHIVES DEPARTMENT, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-WILWAUKEE LIBRARIES UWMAC214_000535
On August 27, 1970, Latino activists demanding access to higher education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were set to meet with the chancellor. UWM’s mission centered on serving the urban population of the city, and the activists had been striving to hold them to their word. At that time, there were 12 Latino/a students enrolled, and they were from Puerto Rico or Mexico and other countries, not Milwaukee, where 30,000 Latinos lived.
When the chancellor skipped the meeting, 200 activists, allies, and family members responded by occupying his office. It was a peaceful sit-in that spilled out to the lawn; protestors sang, ate, and planned their next moves.
“For most, it was the first time they were inside a university building,” William Quiles remembers, in the first episode of UWM’s HOLA Archives podcast. “And to think, to get inside we had to force our way in.”
The voices of Latina activists central to the higher education movement are featured in the second episode. They describe approaches to activism borne of the particular challenges they faced, often caregiving while they mobilized and protested.
Graciela de la Cruz, one of the 12 Latino/a students enrolled in 1970, describes her hybrid priorities at the occupation. “The minute the police said ‘move and get out,’ I got out. I had to worry about my two kids.”
The protests led to a pivotal moment in Milwaukee’s history that brought about structural change in how UWM served the city’s Latino/a population. One major outcome was the founding of the Spanish Speaking Outreach Center in the midst of the Latino community. Now known as the Roberto Hernandez Center (RHC), it continues to provide outreach and academic services to foster Latinx student success.
Supported by a major grant from Wisconsin Humanities, the RHC and UWM Libraries draw content for the HOLA Archives podcast from their Latino Activism oral history collection. The podcast aims to enliven essential but little-known Wisconsin Latino/a history for a new generation of K-12 and undergraduate learners, voiced by people who contributed to that history.
Documentarians Steve Dayton and B.J. Hollars stand before the former Uniroyal Tire plant, which has been converted to a multi-use complex of professional, commercial, retail, housing, and hospitality spaces.
PHOTO BY STEVE DAYTON
When Rubber Hit the Road: The Loss and Legacy of Uniroyal
When Rubber Hit the Road: The Loss and Legacy of Uniroyal is a documentary film about the closing of the Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Company in Eau Claire in 1992. The film, awarded a major grant, explores how people worked together to save their city in the aftermath of the closure that spelled the loss of thousands of high-paying manufacturing jobs.
On a societal level, the humanities help us grapple with the challenges we face and guide our collective quest for new and better solutions. We find our way there together, which, in a democracy, requires allowing all to have their say. What then about those people who have been devalued and made invisible by the justice system?
Communities in every corner of Wisconsin are facing a huge array of challenges, from the impacts of climate change on infrastructure, to the loss of talented youth who look for better lives elsewhere, to the need to increase cultural literacy as communities grow more diverse.
Love Wisconsin, our digital storytelling platform, connects you to stories of inspiring people across the state. Whether a life story resonates with your own or introduces you to a vastly different experience, we’re hoping you’ll find that we Wisconsinites have more in common than not.
Here is an excerpt from Angie Treinen’s story about an unexpected twist in the life of their family’s century-old farm.