An Eye Opening Experience into Daily-Life in the National Park Service Building

My stay in D.C., drafting the National Historic Landmarks Nomination Report for Chicano Park in San Diego, California has been an eye opening experience into the world of historic preservation and daily-life in the National Park Service (NPS) building.

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During the last LHIP webinar, much emphasis was placed on identity politics, particularly, Latina/o and Hispanic identity and gender politics. A few days ago, I found myself in awe as I sat in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. All I could do was think of all the roads, the paths, and the trails I omitted and those I had taken that led me to the world’s greatest library. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen, the son of a housekeeper and construction worker, a former construction worker, and a doctoral student. I identify as Chicano politically and academically, Mexicano and Mexican-American culturally, Hispanic at times, and Latino colloquially. As a friend of mine put it, “you are a survivor of the American educational system.” How did I make it through the system? How can my experience help others? What can I do to help my community engage with the National Register of Historic Places or the National Landmarks Program? These are the questions that have kept me up at night. While the work for my project could be conducted from afar, being in D.C. has made me realize the important role my body represents in Washington D.C. and in the NPS building.

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I have been in D.C. for 3 weeks interning at the NPS building and I realize that I could be the only Latino male on the eight-floor—I am almost certain that I am the only Chicano in this building. Recently, I attended a luncheon in the NPS building. The experience of attending the luncheon was moving, emotionally triggered, and necessary, as the topic discussed was the current demographics of NPS employees. The people in attendance ranged from historians, human resource managers, site interpreters, park rangers, archeologist, biologist, interns, in other words we were from all sectors of the NPS. What we all had in common, aside from our employment (in my case temporary employment), was our frustration at not seeing the contemporary demographics of the United States represented in leadership positions in the NPS. The statistics presented at the luncheon confirmed that, indeed, the possibility of being the only Latino on the eight-floor and the only Chicano in the building is very real. While the statistics presented at the luncheon are not surprising, they are a frightening glimpse into the lack of diversity in the NPS. What does this lack of diversity in NPS leadership positions mean for the broader goals of inclusion and cultural preservation as outline in the many NPS Theme Studies? This is a question that I hope to answer before my internship ends.

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