From Cameron County, TX to Essex County, MA

 

Howdy!*

I recently made the move to Salem, Massachusetts, leaving my hometown of Brownsville, Texas for the third time in my life. This move marked the start of my journey as a Community Outreach and Interpretation bilingual intern with Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Saugus Iron Works Historic Site.

I arrived in Salem on May 10th. My friend, Karina, came with me, and together we walked around the city, and learned a lot about how the influence of the Salem Witch Trials has had on the tourism industry here. Down by the wharves, we saw the Derby Wharf Light Station and the outside of several of the historic houses that are part of the National Park Service (NPS).

She left May 14th, ready to start her position as a seasonal trails employee for Zion National Park. Karina, thank you for helping me move here and for our roadtrip through the northeast the week before we both started to work. I appreciate you so much for motivating me to look for opportunities with the National Park Service. You’re the reason I found this program and why I am here, writing my first blog post.

I had my first day of work as an intern on May 15th. Throughout the week, I saw more of the city, the historic site, and, with an official letter from the NPS stating I’m an intern who will be informing the public of local attractions, I got to go to museums for free!

On Friday May 17th, I was given a tour of the Derby House by a fellow intern from Conservation Legacy, Dustin Smart. He walked us through every room of the house, painting a picture of how the Derby’s lived. Contrastingly, that same day, we visited the Narbonne House and were guided by our Visitor Services Manager Kathryn Rutkowski. She explained how the floor plan has changed since the house was built in 1675. It was fascinating that during the 1970s, a garbage pit was found in the backyard after the NPS bought the house in 1963. For three years, archeologists excavated and found remnants of the lives of the people that used to live here. Looking at the vivid colors of the shards of a broken teacup, seeing tiny buttons, pins, and needles, helped me gain insight into the lives of the people that lived there. It was also really interesting to hear of the three generations of women that ran the house towards the end of the 18th century until the beginning of 20th. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into homes and lives of the bourgeois and the working class families of the time.

This week we started training. I quickly realized how interpretation encompasses a lot more than I realized. The park service aims to protect natural and cultural resources while fostering long-term stewardship through providing positive park experiences and meaningful interpretation – that’s a goal I am glad to be a part of.

I have also learned how the interpretation of the park’s history has shifted with time, even in the last decade. Under indigenous NPS leadership, there is a focus on enhancing equity and inclusivity. I feel lucky to be involved in this organization. I wonder how I’ll see these values in place as the summer progresses, and how much more this government agency will do to reckon with its colonial legacy.

Though I’ve come across slight bureaucratic hurdles (like going to Boston three times because my fingerprints are finicky!), I find myself very content here. It’s been an amazing immersive experience learning about the rich history and culture of this area. I am really looking forward to helping facilitate upcoming projects, including birding at Saugus, and observing National Trails Day and National Pollinator Week.

We continue our training tomorrow at Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site. I am really excited to learn about the history and evolution of the area. Rest assured, I will have an update on that soon.

Talk soon,
Valeria

*My inclination to say “howdy!” has increased exponentially since leaving Texas. I miss it y’all.

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