Extended through August 24th, 2019! Always Free.
Our first exhibit of 2019 is original and unique to the Latino community. The exhibit traces the contribution of international, national, and local events to the formation of the Latino community of Central California. CAMINOS: Latino History of the Central Valley, presents the Latino and Mexican experience from our early colonial history through our present day.
Using artifacts including interviews, photographs, maps, and media from residents of the Central Valley, we pieced together a journey that celebrates the flourishing Chicano and Latino population, highlighting the successes and challenges faced by Latinos from past and present.
Historian Dr. Alex Saragoza, Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley and a native of Madera, California, and other researchers, scholars, and interns developed a historical framework spanning several generations to feature the experiences of early Mexican settlers in the Central Valley.
The exhibit demonstrates ways in which anti-immigrant legislation against Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans at the turn of the 20th century contributed to the recruitment of Mexican farm labor. During World War I and through most of the 1920s, Mexicans began to settle in the Central Valley, establishing a network that would facilitate further migration to the area.
The exhibit begins in 1772 with the first Spanish exploration through the valley and then turns toward the Mexican (1821-1848) and Early American (1848-1900) periods that encompassed the economic transformation of the valley and sparked migration from the eastern and southern parts of the U.S. This economic opportunity also attracted immigrants from Asia, Europe, and eventually Mexico. In a series of chronologically arranged intervals, the exhibit takes the story through these periods and into the present.
The narrative highlights the development of a community bound by language and culture whose integration—however fitful and uneven—has enriched valley life. The story is one of change, resilience, and resistance, from the struggles of the Great Depression and the civil rights era to the achievements of Latina entrepreneurs and brave service of Latino soldiers.
Some information may be scarcely known, including details of the “Fiesta” put on by the KKK in the 1920s at the Fresno Fairgrounds, as well the Mexican community's Fiestas Patrias" in the same year. Another important detail of the exhibit is that in 1960, only about a dozen Mexican students graduated from Fresno State College, but by 2018 over a thousand received degrees at the Chicano Commencement at California State University, Fresno.
This is Arte Américas’ first foray into historical representation, further utilizing the creativity of its artistic community to tell the story. The project began with an initial seed grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a subsequent matched with a grant from the California Council for the Humanities continued its development.
A team of scholars, college interns and volunteers took on the project throughout 2018 with the indispensable aid from librarians and museum curators from Madera, Fresno and Tulare counties. California State University, Fresno, and the State Center Community College District came on board with sponsorships and student assistance. Additional organizations, businesses and individuals also contributed to the realization of the project.
The exhibit represents an initial phase of a larger collection seeking to document the community’s history, the culmination of the collective work to date.
Admission is free. Free admission is made possible with the support of sponsors, though donation of time and/or capital. You can make a donation to support our general programming at any time during the year. All donations are tax-deductible.
The exhibit opened to the public in March and has been extended through Saturday, August 24. It fills the center with collected stories and photos, which were augmented with Sunday afternoon Pláticas, or discussions.
Now the exhibit phase of the project comes to the end of the road. There are just a few days left during hours to experience the exhibit, to revisit it again, or to take time to listen to a tour guide or the videos that accompany the exhibit.
A new addition to the exhibit—MAS CAMINOS—reflects upon the present through graphs and photos. It poses the question: If this history has been told as a journey, a road trip—a camino--Are we there yet? Through current statistics and photos, viewers can determine their own response. The valley is now over 55% Latino in population and growing, as are our accomplishments.
We also throw in some interesting facts and statements on the growing interconnections between the US and Mexico, and even a history of the Border Wall. As we worked on the exhibit, we found new resources and interests, and the journey became as important as the destination. MAS CAMINOS reflects how important this valley story is today.
What happens next? The exhibit will be packed up and stored for future showings as the team recommends next phases of the history project. Add your comments and suggestions by viewing it during these last opportunities, noting new hours beginning August 20.