The National Register’s Role in Cultural Preservation

Hola todos! This past week has flown by so quickly – it is already at the midpoint of the internship program, and with weeks just flying by it seems that the following five will surely attempt to go by without much apology.

DC LHIP Interns at the NPS Historic Preservation Awards Ceremony at the Department of the Interior Building

DC LHIP Interns at the NPS Historic Preservation Awards Ceremony at the Department of the Interior Building

The past two weeks have been amazing! I was fortunate enough to participate in the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Awards Ceremony as a speaker announcing one of the nominated awardees, along with three other LHIP interns. I was able to meet a very fascinating and inspiring woman, Vernelda Grant, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona, as well as one of the awardees from the ceremony. Also these past two weeks have allowed for my participation to read, comment and strike dialogue with my supervisor, on the following nominations:

  • Huey P. Long Memorial Hospital, Pineville, Louisiana
  • First Congregational Church of Cornwall Parsonage, Cornwall, Vermont
  • New Orleans Federal Savings and Loan Building, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Ermita Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria del Plantaje, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
  • Section 106 Proceedings: Lime Cave, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, Nebraska
  • Omaha Power Plant Building, Omaha, Nebraska

These reviews have proven insightful and educational on so many levels and just being able to have this opportunity to discuss and contribute with the reviewers of the National Register have been humbling and rewarding. I am learning the tricks of the trade from the best, with regard to deciphering what crafts a solid National Register nomination, to what best conveys the real significance of a place, site or building. It is not an easy task to write a nomination that conveys vital aspects of a place, much less to read countless nominations while fully comprehending the essence of a place or a history, through a paper report. Sometimes noteworthy information is convoluted or lost completely to another thought in these nominations, so being able to pinpoint these lost ideas and address their importance to the nominating party to be included or touched upon in the report is very crucial for the argument of significance.

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Aerial Image of Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center, Puerto Rico. Photo by Universidad Interamerica de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Ponce (http://ponce.inter.edu/tibes/ingles/aerea1.html)

One of the nine ball courts at the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center, Puerto Rico. Photo by Nan C. Schaller, Rochester Institute of Technology. (http://www.cs.rit.edu/~ncs/PuertoRico/Tibes/bateye1.jpg)

One of the nine ball courts at the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center, Puerto Rico. Photo by Nan C. Schaller,
Rochester Institute of Technology.
(http://www.cs.rit.edu/~ncs/PuertoRico/Tibes/bateye1.jpg)

In my free time I have started researching the current listings on the Register, specifically those with Latino ties and significance and I have found sites that I was completely unaware of that have been historically or culturally significant to the Latino community. One such place that was an interesting discovery was the Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes (Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center) in Barrio Portugués, Ponce, Puerto Rico. It was discovered in 1975 after Hurricane Eloise and was eventually deemed an archeological breakthrough, becoming one of the largest and most significant indigenous sites in the Caribbean region. Archeaologists, from the Guaynia Society of Archeology and History, estimated that the Igneri, an Arawak indigenous tribe of the Caribbean, had inhabited the site from about 25 AD through their discovery of nine ancient ball fields. They discovered the Igneri had left the area in 600 AD for unknown reasons and that another Arawak group, the Taínos, were living in the area during 1000 AD. Needless to say this discovery was a huge achievement in gaining a deeper understanding about indigenous people within the Caribbean. In 1978 the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places and since 1990 it has been preserved and turned into a protected attraction open to the public. Listing on the National Register has garnered much needed attention and recognition to the region’s earliest inhabitants.

Aerial view of Little Havana, Miami, Florida. Photo by Aero-Pix (https://www.flickr.com/photos/28495936@N03/3974441455/)

Aerial view of Little Havana, Miami, Florida. Photo by Aero-Pix (https://www.flickr.com/photos/28495936@N03/3974441455/)

Apartment building in the new Riverview historic district in East Little Havana.  David Santiago, El Nuevo Herald (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/little-havana/article25371145.html#storylink=cpy)

Apartment building in the new Riverview historic district in East Little Havana, Miami, Florida. Photo by David Santiago, El Nuevo Herald (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/little-havana/article25371145.html#storylink=cpy)

Calle 8 Tile Mural in Little Havana, Miami, Florida. Photo by Nathan Strandberg, Eight Hour Day Design & illustration (http://eighthourday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/EightHourDay_LittleHavana_01.jpg)

Calle 8 tile mural in Little Havana, Miami, Florida. Photo by Nathan Strandberg, Eight Hour Day Design & illustration (http://eighthourday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/EightHourDay_LittleHavana_01.jpg)

It is important that we take the necessary steps to preserve and document our heritage and culture, leaving a legacy for future generations while also fostering a sense of value and ownership of these amazing and significant places. Tomorrow is for them and if they do not feel a sense of inclusion or involvement these places and sites will be lost and forgotten. This week the National Trust of Historic Preservation listed their 11 Most Endangered Sites list and one such site that seemed almost ridiculous and shocking to be listed was Little Havana in Miami, Florida. It is shocking as Little Havana is the epicenter of Cuban-American life in the nation and a place so full of heritage, culture, identity and significance. Such a listing brings forth two things – 1) the realization that a key element of Latino built culture and heritage is at brink of being destroyed and that 2) the community needs to join forces to protect their heritage from being pushed to the wayside. After working with the National Register for 5 weeks now I have seen firsthand the important role community and advocacy play with regard to preserving significant places. If there is enough awareness in the community of the implication played by these historic and cultural resources then there is greater power to save them from destruction and ultimately share their histories, landscapes, and cultural stories with others to broaden American history.

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