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The Making of the United States: American Latino Theme Study


The Making of the United States: American Latino Theme Study

The National Park Service is undertaking the preparation of the American Latino Theme Study that will increase opportunities for the public to learn about the role of American Latinos in the development of the nation.  The theme study is an outgrowth of the Department of the Interior’s American Latino Heritage Initiative that seeks to raise the profile of American Latino heritage through a range of projects and programs.  The theme study will assist government agencies and the private sector with identifying and evaluating Latino-related places for their historical significance in communities nationwide and the potential nomination of these places to the National Register of Historic Places and for National Historic Landmark designation.  American Latino historic places currently are underrepresented in all official recognition programs at all levels

The audience for the American Latino theme study includes historic preservation professionals in Federal agencies, state governments, tribal governments, local governments, and the private sector.  Their job is to identify, document, nominate, and preserve historic places.  Many will not be familiar with American Latino history or how to develop historical surveys to identify such places within their purviews.  Other audiences include decision-makers at all levels of government, including members of Congress and state legislators.  The general public, academics, and students also are important audiences that will benefit from this study.

The theme study presents a number of opportunities—an opportunity for the most recent scholarship in Latino history to be brought to a broad public audience and an opportunity for this research to be readily applicable to historic preservation priorities for greater inclusion of the nation’s diverse cultural groups in this work.  This study will serve as a model for additional theme studies that address other ethnic groups in the United States. 

This project is undertaken by the Department of the Interior and National Park Service with support of the American Latino Heritage Fund of the National Park Foundation and in cooperation with the Organization of American Historians. 

What is the Content of the Theme Study?

The theme study will consist of a “core essay” that will cover Latina/o history since the 15th century, with a primary focus on the period since the 1820s, and will highlight four broad themes:  Making the Nation, Making a Life, Making a Living, and Making a Democracy.

The supplemental essays will delve more deeply into topics related to the four broad themes explored in the core essay.  Each supplemental essay might be understood primarily in relation to a single broad theme, but most will deal to a considerable extent with more than one of those broad themes. 

Making the Nation:  (1) Empires, Wars, Revolutions; (2) Intellectual Thought; (3) Displacement, Migration, & Immigration; and (4) Media. 

Making a Life:  (5) Religion & Spirituality, (6) Arts, (7) Gender & Sexuality, (8) Sports & Leisure, and (9) Food.

Making a Living:  (10) Labor, (11) Business & Commerce, (12) Military, and (13) History of Science & Medicine. 

Making a Democracy:  (14) Struggles for Inclusion, (15) Latinos & the Law, and (16) Education.

Each of the essays will range from 4,000 to 5,000 words each and include endnotes and a substantive bibliography. 

How is the Theme Study Being Prepared?

In late 2011, the American Latino Scholars Expert Panel was established under the auspices of the National Park System Advisory Board.  The expert panel includes the following members:  Belinda Faustinos, Member, National Park System Advisory Board, and Luis Hoyos, Associate Professor of Architecture, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Co-Chairs; Antonia Castañeda, Independent Scholar, San Antonio; Rudolfo O. de la Garza, Eaton Professor of Administrative Law & Municipal Science, Columbia University; Frances Negrón-Mutaner, Associate Professor of English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University; Stephen J. Pitti, Professor of History & American Studies, Yale University; Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Vice-President of Historic Sites, National Trust for Historic Preservation; Raymond Rast, Assistant Professor of History, California State University, Fullerton; Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Journalism, University of Texas, Austin; Vicki Ruiz, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine; and Virginia Sánchez Korrol, Professor Emerita, Brooklyn College, City University of New York.  Subject matter experts from the National Park Service are also contributing to the theme study, including David Vela, Regional Director, Southeast Regional Office; Joseph Sánchez, Superintendent, Petroglyph National Monument and the Spanish Colonial Research Center; and Dennis Vasquez, Superintendent, Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  The project is being coordinated under the supervision of Stephanie Toothman, Associate Director, Cultural Resources and Science, National Park Service, and the bureau’s cultural resources staff. 

The expert panel is advising the National Park Service on the structure of the theme study, potential authors, and major sources of information.  Expert panel members also will review essay manuscripts in their areas of expertise.  The National Park Service and the Organization of American Historians will be responsible for hiring the recommended scholars to produce the essays under a cooperative agreement between the two organizations.  The selected scholars will produce the essays, recommend illustrations for their essays, and consider comments from peer reviewers in finalizing the essays. 

Give Us Your Input

The expert panel welcomes suggestions from the public about American Latino historic places and stories associated with them that could be added to the “study list” that forms a part of the theme study.  These places may be in your community, such as sites that recognize civil rights struggles; local culture, such as murals; historic trails; and migration routes or in national parks managed by the National Park Service or on lands managed by the Federal government or state, tribal, and local governments.  No matter where the site is located within the boundaries of the United States, the National Park Service wants to hear about it.  Send the name of the property, where it is located, and a few sentences about why it is important and why it tells an important story to:


The coordinator of the American Latino Theme Study project is Antoinette J. Lee of the NPS cultural resources programs, (202) 354-2272,