Preserving Legacy for Dia de Muertos: Archives, Art, and Celebration
In Central Arkansas, we have seen a steady growth in the Spanish-speaking community beginning in the late 1980s that continues to the present. Recognizing the importance of these narratives, the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies is working to ensure that the invaluable stories of this community are safeguarded for future generations. These efforts aim to help in the forming and documenting of community memory. Community memory plays a crucial role in preserving our ancestral heritage, ensuring that the wisdom, traditions, and stories of our forebears are passed down through generations, shaping our collective identity. Supporting traditions like Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead, celebrated each year on November 1) is essential to preserving community memory.
Toward that end, the Butler Center has recently completed processing the Enrique Fuentevilla newspaper collection donated in 2022. In 2000, seeing the importance of documenting the growth and development of the Hispanic and Latine communities in Arkansas, Fuentevilla began collecting Spanish-language newspapers. He immigrated to the United States in the late 1990s, when Arkansas’s Spanish-speaking community was in its early development.
Pictured: La Presna Latina is the oldest publication in the collection with several editions from 2000; the publication is still active today and covers a multi-state area across the southern United States. The edition of Quién es Quién features Dr. Eduardo Ochoa and Maria Guadalupe Touchstone, who were both interviewed during Hispanic Heritage Month 2022. Arkansas Hispanic was published from 2006 to 2015 and covered Hispanic community updates from across Arkansas. (It was also known as Hispanic.)
The collection encompasses over twenty years of Spanish-language newspapers published in Arkansas. Sustaining a small newspaper can be an uphill battle, with limited resources, increasing operational costs, and competition from larger media outlets. Because of these challenges, many of the newspapers in the collection were only published for a brief period and may not have been preserved otherwise. As a journalist, editor, and printer, Fuentevilla has intimate knowledge of mass media in Arkansas; he saw that these newspapers enrich the story of the community.
Fuentevilla’s family owned a media company in Mexico, so he decided to carry on that legacy in his own work. From 2000 to 2007, he served as assistant editor for the Arkansas Times’s Spanish-language publication, El Latino. He also reported for the publication authoring the “La opinión de la calle” or “The opinion of the street” column highlighting community members’ opinions on current events.
In 2008, he started the website and associated print publication ArkansasEnEspanol.net to provide a place for community events and resources to be listed for the community in Spanish. Later the publication became ¡Viva! Arkansas and is published bilingually. ¡Viva! Arkansas is included in the CALS Roberts Library’s periodicals collection.
Included in the collection are publications from across the state, with the majority covering Central Arkansas. Some of the oldest newspapers in the collection were published by non-profit or church organizations to provide information on community services and events in Spanish. They give invaluable insights into the formative years of our Spanish-speaking community, offering a window into stages of development and enabling us to grasp the essence of the community’s social, cultural, and political dynamics.
The newspapers highlight community events, resources, and individuals in the Spanish-speaking community. One publication of note, El Latino special edition Quién es Quién (or Who’s Who), highlights individuals who have had a positive impact in the community each year from 2008 to 2011. Several of those featured were also interviewed in 2022 for the CALS Butler Center’s Oral History collection; interviews can be viewed here.
The preservation of these materials honors the diverse history of the Hispanic community and allows for a deeper understanding of the evolving cultural landscape.
The finding aid for the Enrique Fuentevilla newspaper collection, BC.MSS.22.27, can be found here.
By Danielle Afsordeh, Community Outreach Archivist, CALS Butler Center/Roberts Library
The Latino Art Project Exhibition will be on view from Thursday, November 2, to Saturday, December 30, 2023, at the CALS Underground Gallery, in the CALS Roberts Library at 401 President Clinton Ave.
The Latino Art Project Exhibition will open in the CALS Underground Gallery as part of the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration hosted by the Central Arkansas Library System, the Mexican Consulate of Little Rock, and the Downtown Little Rock Partnership. The Latino Art Project celebrates Latino/Hispanic culture, artists, and subject matter through the visual arts.
The opening celebration and Day of the Dead alley party, free and open to everyone, will be held in Count Pulaski Way between the Roberts Library and the Ron Robinson Theater on Thursday, Nov. 2, from 5 to 8 p.m. The event will feature authentic Mexican food, drinks, and music, as well as traditional Day of the Dead customs and objects.