05 Jul Howdy Fort Larned
“What are you doing out here for?!” says every visitor that finds out I’m from San Diego, California. I tell that I got an awesome opportunity to work alongside the National Park Service that I couldn’t turn down, no matter where it was. Then I continue to tell them about my purpose of familiarizing the National Parks- specifically Fort Larned- to Latino/Hispanic communities due to the low visitation rate of the Latino/Hispanic communities. The visitor will then become very supportive of my internship, as I will be representing Fort Larned to “diverse“ communities. And I am completely honored in doing so, because Fort Larned National Historic Site is a step back into history. Fort Larned was active through the years 1859-1878, so please keep in mind the mentality and goals of the United States at that time. The Fort was created for the protection of the commerce and mail going up and down the Santa Fe Trail. For this purpose, up to 500 soldiers were stationed at this Fort. Among the soldiers, there were Native Americans receiving compensative amenities for their land. Traders from the southwest and northeast seeking temporary refuge near the fort. Buffalo Soldiers were also stationed at the Fort until racial tensions grew too strong. Families of the officers, laundresses, working civilians and many others also had a relationship with Fort Larned. So essentially, there were various and countless different perspectives of Fort Larned that are important, in which Hollywood movies does not expose you to. Current day Fort Larned, the Park Rangers are picture painters, storytellers, fact reciters, and Living History actors for the visitors. During my first week on Fort Larned, I was to learn so much about the Fort. I learned what horrible conditions the soldiers lived in the barracks of the fort. I learned that it wasn’t all fighting between the soldiers and Native American; there was actually peace, with the exception of a couple encounters, between the soldiers and Native Americans. I learned what kind of clothing people wore on the fort. And I learned the difference between infantry and Calvary! By no means am I an expert in history like the Rangers! But I am much more knowledgeable of the Fort and post-Civil War history than I was a week and half ago. And what I realized about Fort Larned is that leaving the park with a little bit more knowledge is what it’s all about. A child that visits the parks isn’t going to want to know about the politics of the Fort, but they learn how soldiers lived in the 1860’s and they understand that the conditions were not favorable, at all (two soldiers per one twin, hay filled bed, yikes)! Adults that are already knowledgeable about the time period can get into lengthy conversations with the Rangers who live breathe history. And even if a person doesn’t really want to learn about the logistics of Fort Larned, just walking from building to building in the hot sun or cold weather gives them an idea of life in Fort Larned. Overall, giving visitors more knowledge than they had entering Fort Larned. After this week of discovering the fun and knowledge Fort Larned provides for all, I want to raise the Latino/Hispanic visitation rate. Throughout the first week I was here there was about five groups of people of color walk in, while the other 100+ groups were white. In theory, there is no problem. But knowing that the cities surrounding Fort Larned have a majority, if not large, Latino/Hispanic population is pretty much the reason I’m here. I believe the parks goal is to increase awareness of the park, so more people in the Latino/Hispanic community will want to come out. Therefore increasing the visitation rate, as a whole. I believe there is a slight pressure for my work to make a difference, mainly coming from myself because I want to do well and make an impact. And I want to share the greatness of the park, as it is a great learning experience and place to spend time with the family. Luckily, the Fourth of July weekend celebration has allowed me to capture the Living History activities the park does on a regular basis, creating great footage for the outreaching. There was officer’s wives cooking with the wood-fire stove, a blacksmith was making hooks and chain-links for the guests- shoot even I joined in as a schoolteacher! Every Ranger was dressed and participating in giving the visitors a memorable experience. I mean who doesn’t like watching a cannon go off?!