Oral Histories of Latina Women Preserved

Students from Dr. Maryanne Leone’s Spanish V-Conversation and Grammar Review class at Assumption College had the privilege and challenge of interviewing several local Latina women in their native language. The students conducted, recorded, and transcribed interviews completely in Spanish for their course requirement, and turned these files over to the Worcester Women’s Oral History Project (WWOHP) at the conclusion of the semester. Dr. Esteban Loustaunau, Associate Professor of Spanish at Assumption, then assigned his students the assignment of translating the Spanish transcripts into English. WWOHP is the grateful recipient of these transcripts.

While this is certainly a welcome addition to the 250 oral histories that WWOHP has already collected, it is clear that the students were grateful for this experience also. One student-interviewer commented, “This project helped me to put my study of Spanish into a ‘real-world’ setting…It definitely helped my listening and comprehension skills, having to transcribe line by line…to determine each word…When interviewing our Latina woman, it was very interesting to hear her story, and it broke any stereotypes that I had previously about immigrants.”  Another student said, “I benefitted from learning that perseverance really does pay off in the end. Even the most unexpected of people can find great success in life.”

Those interviewed include Dr. Matilde Castiel, Physician at UMass Hospital and Medical School. Dr. Castiel directs and provides care at medical clinics at “Worcester Housing”, Centro las Americas, and Casa de Hector Reyes; Olga Lopez-Hill, Coordinator of General Operations for the Resource and Referral Center of the Worcester Community Action Council; Hilda Ramirez, Executive Director of the Worcester Youth Guidance Center; Gladys Rodriguez-Parker, Director of Community and Intergovernmental Relations for U.S. Representative James P. McGovern; Dolly Vasquez, Director of the Institute of Latino Art and Culture; and Isabel Gonzalez-Webster, Chief of Staff for Mayor Joseph O’Brien.

In her interview Ms. Gonzalez-Webster said, “I think that as a Latin woman, a person of color, I see that there is a difference in the way that I am treated. The services provided to me, and my community, and my family (should be the same) provided to the white people, to people with more money. So, since the beginning I saw the difference. But instead of saying, ‘Well, that’s the way things are,’ I’ve always had the energy to want to change things. I’ve always wanted justice. And I will die wanting social justice.”

Published Date: 
September 19, 2012