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Project Expansion


In 2009, the VOCES Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin expanded into the Korean and Vietnam War eras. On Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, the project unveiled its new name and logo. Now called the VOCES Oral History Project, the new name reflects its expanded collections about the nation's largest ethnic population.

The unveiling was part of three Veterans Day-related events organized and hosted by the project:

  • On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, interview subjects, mostly WWII veterans and civilians, joined by the newer interview subjects from the Korean and Vietnam war eras, were feted with a free breakfast at San Jos Catholic Church's community center. Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch was the keynote speaker and Tejanos in Action provided a color guard. Music was provided by Trobadores Guadalupanos. The breakfast was sponsored by families of the interview subjects.
  • Friday, Nov. 12--a symposium at the Santa Rita Suites of the Texas Union. Speakers were three UT graduate students who helped conduct over 110 interviews since October 2009, who shared the perspectives and themes they discovered. In the afternoon session, four undergraduate students screened 5-minute "shorts," documentaries edited down from 2-hour interviews with WWII veterans.
  • Friday evening, Nov. 12, from 7 to 10 p.m. the Oral History Project hosted a dinner to unveil its new name and logo. Keynote speaker -- U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (Ret.), the former commander of the coalition ground forces in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. The Travis High School Navy ROTC provided a color guard.

The expansion to the Korean and Vietnam eras was made possible through a $428,000 grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Over the summer, Project staff traveled throughout the state and outside of Texas, to record interviews with Latinos and Latinas of the three wartime periods. The work was enabled by volunteers who found interview locations, tapped into local communities for interview subjects, and provided food during major interview sessions.

"We are only able to do our work because of there are good men and women across the country who are committed to documenting the Latino experience in our country," said Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, project director. "They understand the importance to current and future students of including Latinos in our nation's historical narrative and are committed to supporting our mission."

One of the most remarkable finds, she said, was the wife of a Vietnam War veteran who showed up at an interview session in Topeka, KS, with two huge plastic bags of letters her husband had sent her from the war.

"She came in and asked a little tentatively, 'Do you think you might be interested in these?'" Dr. Rivas-Rodriguez said.

"We were ecstatic! These are the kinds of treasures that historians dream of. There were 222 letters and envelopes to be scanned and returned to her.

"But we have to wonder: How many more treasures are there in garages and attics that help to tell the story of how U.S. Americans lived through war periods?"

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