February 8, 2024

Our Historia, Our Futuro: The Latinx Preservation Toolkit

“We told our own story, and thus that of the United States.”

Doctora Antonia Castañeda, historian
View of Market Square in San Antonio with colorful banners as part of an activation to share Line history.

photo by: Raul Rodriguez/Latinos in Heritage Conservation

A view of Market Square in San Antonio, Texas. The Westside in San Antonio is featured in the Latinx Preservation Toolkit.

For too long, the rich mosaic of Latinx history and heritage has been relegated to the margins of the field of historic preservation. Despite Latinx people being the largest ethnic group within the country, less than 1 percent of Latinx sites are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, leading to real-world consequences, leaving Latinx communities vulnerable to disinvestment, displacement, and the erasure of their cultural heritage.

To meet that need Latinos in Heritage Conservation (LHC) has released a new tool in the fight for cultural equity: the Latinx Preservation Toolkit (Toolkit). The toolkit was funded in part by the Moe Family Fund for Statewide and Local Partners as part of work with the Preservation Priorities Task Force. This resource encapsulates nearly four years of dedicated work by LHC and marks a significant stride toward fostering cultural equity in the preservation movement and redefining who is doing historic preservation work.

A group of Mariachi in red traditional clothing and instruments standing on the steps of the LULAC 60 Clubhouse.

photo by: Raul Rodriguez/Latinos in Heritage Conservation

A group of Mariachi performing at LULAC 60 Clubhouse in Houston, Texas. The Clubhouse is one of the case studies in the Toolkit.

The Latinx Preservation Toolkit

The Toolkit equips Latinx communities with the knowledge and toolbox they need to take charge of their own community preservation efforts by:

Democratizing access to information: The Toolkit levels the playing field by providing clear, concise explanations of historic preservation, concepts, and processes. The Toolkit includes culturally relevant examples showcasing proven practices through communities doing amazing work.

Toolkit users can explore the work to preserve Pike Park in Dallas, Texas, or the LULAC Council 60 Club House in Houston, Texas. Each case study provides a glimpse into the different ways in which cultural heritage is being preserved. The Toolkit and videos examples empower individuals to step into leadership roles within their communities and advocate for the protection of their sacred sites and stories.

Fostering a passion for preservation: The Toolkit looks beyond jargon; through regional workshops, the community will transform this movement by building a passion for preservation and sharing the purpose of protecting cultural heritage.

In line with LHC’s broader commitment to inclusion, the Toolkit incorporates a set of lesson plans that reinforce themes of culture and the historical significance woven into buildings throughout the resource.

Lesson plans include:

  • “Preserving Our Past: Understanding the Significance of Historic Preservation,” (Second grade)
  • “Celebrating Mexican American Heritage: Exploring Culture, Contributions, and Identity” (Fourth Grade
  • “Champions of Heritage: Advocating for Historic Preservation” (Sixth grade)

The enthusiasm fostered by the Toolkit will have the power to inspire future generations to pursue careers in preservation, therefore ensuring the continuation of vital cultural knowledge and skills.

The cover of a toolkit with a series of words in tan overlayed on yellow

photo by: Latinos in Heritage Conservation

The cover of the Latinx Preservation Toolkit.

Building vibrant, livable Latinx communities: Vibrant, livable Latinx communities go beyond brick and mortar. In San Antonio’s Westside, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center’s Community Land Trust, featured in the Latinx Preservation Toolkit, stands as a testament to this ethos. Dedicated to nurturing a flourishing barrio through affordable housing, this initiative provides examples of community members leading impactful preservation efforts. It fosters the creation of wellness-focused, thriving, livable, and meaningful spaces that significantly contribute to the identity of the community.

Exterior view of a tan structure which houses the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.

photo by: Raul Rodriguez/Latinos in Heritage Conservation

Exterior view of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Exterior of the Rinconcito building in San Antonio, Texas.

photo by: Raul Rodriguez/Latinos in Heritage Conservation

Esperanza is currently rehabilitating historic rowhouses in the Westside, transforming them into affordable housing as part of their community land trust initiative.

“It’s buildings, but it’s also about language. It's also about cultural traditions. It’s telling stories, giving workshops…it’s how to dance a chotis and a polka and whatever sort of dances that also are getting lost…. So, it’s all of that, it’s broader than just the preservation of buildings.”

Graciela Sánchez, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, San Antonio, Texas

This is just one example of the case studies included in the Toolkit.

Beyond the Toolkit

However, the development of this resource is just the first step.

LHC plans to integrate the Toolkit into educational settings, from K-12 classrooms to professional development workshops for educators and community leaders. Through these workshops, LHC will offer clear, non-jargon definitions, share the roles of local partners and federal agencies, and explain in detail the processes for designating specific historic sites—this ensures community members, ranging from elders to youths, have the tools and knowledge to preserve their heritage.

Three women in traditional dress standing in front of the entrance to Pike Park.

photo by: Raul Rodriguez/Latinos in Heritage Conservation

A group of performers standing in front of Pike Park in Dallas, Texas which is featured in the Latinx Preservation Toolkit.

LHC is actively seeking collaboration opportunities with heritage practitioners and local partners, stakeholders, and historic communities to expand the Toolkit's reach and enrich its content. This ongoing dialogue and collaboration are crucial for ensuring the Toolkit remains a relevant and responsive resource for Latinx communities nationwide.

The Latinx Preservation Toolkit is a powerful tool that has the potential to reshape the landscape of historic preservation, making it more inclusive and representative of the communities that call the United States home. This resource can help ensure that the vibrant barrios and Latinx heritage continue to thrive for generations to come.

Donate Today to Help Save the Places Where Our History Happened.

Donate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation today and you'll help preserve places that tell our stories, reflect our culture, and shape our shared American experience.

Sehila Mota Casper is a historic preservationist and heritage conservationist. She is the executive director of Latinos in Heritage Conservation and previously worked as a senior field officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

We believe all Americans deserve to see their history in the places that surround us. As a nation, we have work to do to fill in the gaps of our cultural heritage.

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