A local historian is looking to detail the stories and memories of the Hispanic community in Northeast Florida, including Clay County.Rebecca Karimi-Dominguez was tasked by the Jacksonville …
A local historian is looking to detail the stories and memories of the Hispanic community in Northeast Florida, including Clay County.
Rebecca Karimi-Dominguez was tasked by the Jacksonville Historical Society to create a presentation for Hispanic Heritage Month, which is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Her line of work requires archives and she noticed Jacksonville didn’t have the most extensive collection of Hispanic-related articles, documents and pictures.
The size of her task changed, as well as her coverage area.
“I reached out to different organizations,” Karimi-Dominguez said. “My contact list grew.”
Karimi-Dominguez has numerous projects, including the “The Tortilla Diaries” podcast. The First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sponsored her second edition of the Voces de Hispanos Oral History Initiative. She has presented to the Florida Humanities Council and is a sought-after speaker. The state’s Hispanic community is predominantly thought of as being located in Miami or Orlando, she said, but that’s not the entire picture. Many Hispanic organizations started in this region.
“The state Hispanic chamber of commerce started here,” Karimi-Dominguez said. “Things like that need to be recognized. I usually mention that when I reach out to historical societies and host presentations.”
The area, however, is missing a large part of its Hispanic history, Karimi-Dominguez said. She described her work as solving a puzzle. For example, one lead begets another lead or another interview, she said.
“I’m so passionate because there’s not very much,” she explained. “It’s a little bit harder. It’s under the radar.”
Karimi-Dominguez can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She welcomes engagement and collaboration, meeting new people and documenting their pasts, struggles and anecdotes.
“The importance of this is that it documents the history of a group of people so it won’t be lost,” she said. “They’re precious, they are more valuable than gold to me. Once those memories are gone, they are lost.”
That extends to discrimination of the Hispanic community also. One interviewee told her of a police officer harassing him in Flagler County. Hispanics, similar to other communities, wouldn’t get served at lunch counters. Growing up in Texas, Karimi-Dominguez herself recalled getting sent to the principal’s office for speaking Spanish.
A dense story in itself, she mentions the 1947 Supreme Court decision Mendez v. Westminster. It challenged the separation of students based on ethnicity, one of the cases paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education seven years later.
“Hispanics did feel the brunt of some of that Jim Crow era,” she said.
Preserving the past is not just for the present, but the future, she said. Her deadline is tentatively mid-August, but by no means is that the end. She wants at least 100 voices. That’s a lot of phone calls, questions and listening. “It will be ongoing,” she said.
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