Magda E. Mankel: Summer 2015 Internship Report

Gauging Hispanic Interests in Hispanic Heritage Resources: An exploratory study of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Tucson, Arizona



In the summer of 2015, I had the privilege of interning for the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (Anza NHT) through the National Park Service’s (NPS) Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program. The main objective of the study was to explore how the Anza NHT can better engage Hispanic individuals in Tucson, Arizona. As a student intern I was tasked with conducting a research project that featured a series of bilingual focus group discussions with Hispanic adults living in Tucson. The discussions focused on three topics which included local understandings of: (1) the National Park Service and its national parks, (2) Hispanic heritage, and (3) the Anza NHT. Incorporating these topics into the discussions allowed me to: (a) gauge interests and experiences in national parks; (b) explore conceptualizations of local Hispanic heritage; and (c) explore experiences with the Anza NHT and interests in its interpretive themes and site components. What resulted from these discussions were a series of insights that illustrate: the current relationship between participants and the Anza NHT, the barriers that prevent Hispanic individuals from engaging with the Anza NHT, and suggestions for increasing awareness, encouraging visitations, and improving experiences along the Anza NHT. Such insights were worked into a series of recommendations that aim to help the Anza NHT improve its relationship with Tucson’s Hispanic community and work towards establishing collaborative partnerships in the future. These recommendations also aim to illustrate how the broader Anza NHT mission and the NPS’ A Call to Action campaign may manifest themselves within this local context.

The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (the Anza NHT) traverses 1,200 miles between Nogales, Arizona and San Francisco, California. As a unit of the National Trail System managed by the National Park Service (NPS), the Anza NHT serves to preserve the history and heritage of the 1775 Anza expedition and promote the enjoyment of the Anza route. The Anza NHT is composed of national, regional, and local parks, historic sites, private properties, and multi-purpose recreation areas (i.e. hiking trails). Today, the Anza NHT can be enjoyed through its multi-purpose historic route and an auto-route. Together, these various places form a network that commemorates the Anza expedition through a series of partnerships that the Anza NHT has established with private landowners, federal, state, county, and city governments, non-profit organizations, and volunteers (JUBA 2011). As a whole, the Anza NHT is an important Hispanic heritage resource because of its celebration of the Anza expedition and cultural diversity, its proximity to traditionally underrepresented communities living in urban areas, and its overall capacity to partner with local communities and helps the NPS tell more diverse stories that speak to an increasingly multicultural public. Of particular interest to this study are the segments of the Anza NHT located near and within the city of Tucson, Arizona.

The need to engage with a more diverse audience and traditionally underrepresented groups, such as Hispanics, has been brought to the forefront by the small proportion of minority status visitors to national parks, a growing Hispanic population within the United States, and the A Call to Action campaign created in response to the NPS centennial in 2016 (NPS 2014). Generally speaking, some national parks have struggled to attract minority populations (Floyd, et al 1993; Floyd 1998; Floyd 2001: NPS 2011b). This may also be the case with the National Parks associated with the Anza NHT. For example, a recent study based at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona reported that only 2% of its visitors were Hispanic even though the U.S. Census reports that 30% of Tucson’s population is Hispanic (Rivera Murdock 2012). Such evidence has prompted this research project to consider how the Anza NHT can collaboratively engage Hispanics living in Tucson, encourage more visitations to local national parks, and work towards the A Call to Action goals it has chosen to fulfill (JUBA 2012). I saw this project as a preliminary act of civic engagement because it reached out to Hispanic individuals and invited them to participate in discussions regarding their perspectives of the Anza NHT, national parks, and Hispanic heritage. Moreover, I saw this as an opportunity to give back to my community since I grew up in Tucson’s Menlo Park Neighborhood which borders portions of the Anza NHT’s historic route. My identification as a Hispanic woman, Spanish speaking skills, and family ties to Tucson, proved to be very helpful when conducting the bilingual focus group discussions. Although I also identified myself as a graduate student from the University of Maryland and as an intern, I got the sense that it was my identity as a Hispanic Tucsonan that primarily encouraged participants to openly share their opinions, concerns, and sentiments regarding the topics we discussed. The thoughts and suggestions expressed throughout these focus groups have been worked into recommendations that may help the Anza NHT improve its relationship with Tucson’s Hispanic community and establish future collaborative partnerships and programs.

Literature Review

Literature concerning the recreation and leisure behaviors of underrepresented communities to national parks has traditionally used the marginality hypothesis and the ethnicity hypotheses to theorize and explain the barriers that prevent individuals from visiting parks. Briefly speaking, the marginality hypothesis states that ethnic minorities exhibit low participation in outdoor recreation because of their limited access to resources which are a result of “historical patterns of discrimination” (Floyd 1999: 3). The ethnicity or subcultural hypothesis states that cultural factors, such as differences in social norms, value systems, and socialization practices, help determine the recreational preferences of racial and ethnic regardless of socioeconomic factors (Floyd 1999).

Using definitions found in the NPS literature, “minority group” is understood in two ways. First, “minority group” refers to an ethnic or racial group that “experiences a wide range of discriminatory treatment and is assigned to a low status position in the broader society” (Floyd 1999). Second, it refers to numerical minorities within the entire US population (Floyd 1999). However, a minority group can be a “majority group” in geographic locations where the size of their population is larger. Furthermore, “race” is understood as a socially constructed classification based on a person’s “real or perceived physical characteristics” while “ethnicity” is defined as a socially constructed classification that is based on an individual’s cultural characteristics, such as language or religion, or nationality (Floyd 1998; 1999). In this study, “Hispanic” is understood as an externally imposed label created by the US government to refer to those individuals of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, South American, Central American or Spanish decent regardless of race (Oboler 1995). Conversely, the term Latino is regarded as a “grassroots alternative” that is generally self-imposed and includes those who qualify as “Hispanic” (Oboler 1995). Although the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” create a sense of homogeneity, they also act as umbrella terms that disguise the diversity found within. This study uses the term “Hispanic” because it is the term used in the majority of the literature concerning the Anza NHT.

The various applications of the marginality hypothesis and the ethnicity hypothesis are summarized and expanded by the Ethnicity and Public Recreation Participation (EPRP) Model© which organizes the theoretical development of ethnicity and recreational research by combining three theoretical frameworks (ethnicity or subcultural hypothesis, marginality hypothesis, and discrimination hypothesis) and six recreation participation factors (acculturation, socioeconomic status, subcultural identity, benefits of recreation, perceived discrimination and recreational participation) (Gomez 2006). Studies using iterations of these theories and factors generally result in observations regarding: the amenities, services, or resources that members of underrepresented communities use at national parks, the style of recreational (i.e.: group size, group composition, motivations for participating, and preferred activities), and the barriers (i.e.: transportation, language differences, financial restraints, and lack of information, and perceived discrimination) that prevent individuals from visiting parks (Floyd 1999; NPS 2011b). Although this study does identify the barriers that prevented participants from engaging with the Anza NHT, the findings are not structured within the WPRP Model©. This is because this study primarily focused on exploring local understandings of the Anza NHT, national parks and Hispanic heritage in order to build connections with the Hispanic community.

Offering a local application of the EPRP Model© is the work of Rivera Murdock (2012) who conducted eight bilingual focus group discussions with local Hispanics individuals from Tucson, Arizona in order to evaluate the efficacy of programs at Saguaro National Park and create new plans for engaging the Hispanic community. The insights provided by focus group participants led to the conclusion that all the recreation participation factors in the EPRP Model© were attributing to the underrepresentation of Hispanic Tucsonans at Saguaro National Park. For example, the biggest factor influencing underrepresentation was socioeconomic status since participants had difficulty paying for park fees and obtaining transportation. A series of recommendations followed and suggested that Saguaro National Park should use more Spanish language materials, increase marketing to Latinos, hire more culturally competent staff, and undergo infrastructural changes (i.e. picnic areas for large groups). These recommendations are particularly valuable because they offer suggestions that address the concerns pinpointed by participants and they acknowledge the park’s limitations in a constructive manner.

With the exception of Rivera Murdock (2012), the aforementioned recreational and leisure studies seldom considers how heritage can be used to overcome barriers and encourage traditionally underserved communities to visit parks. For example recreational studies literature did not consider how Hispanic heritage could be used to attract more Hispanic visitors to national parks. Although Rivera Murdock (2012:23) does not focus her research on this topic, she does offer observations which suggest that Hispanic heritage resources can be used to engage Hispanic audiences. In one particular observation, Rivera Murdock (2012) explains that Hispanic children who watched a video on the “Hispanic heritage of the Rincon Valley” at Saguaro National Park drew connections between their Spanish surnames and the Spanish surnames mentioned in the video. This is a valuable observation for two reasons. First, it demonstrates that sub-cultural identities (in this case a Mexican-American identity) and heritage (Spanish surnames and the Spanish language) may influence the connections that individuals form with national parks. Second, it demonstrates that a park’s Hispanic heritage resources and Hispanic themed interpretive materials may be used to build connections with Hispanic audiences who value their subcultural identity. Another, example of using Hispanic heritage to develop relationships with a Hispanic community is demonstrated by the Linking Hispanic Heritage Through Archeology (LHHTA) program. Piloted in the summer 2013 and implemented in the spring 2015 in Tucson, the LHHTA connected urban Hispanic youth (ages 14-18) and their families with regional archaeology, national parks, and local museums featuring Hispanic heritage.

A second limitation present in the recreation and leisure behavior literature is that little space is devoted to exploring how national parks play a role in constructing, recreating, and maintaining group identities. This is briefly mentioned by Floyd (1998:16) who states that “leisure-related activities are likely to be part of the mix of materials from which ethnicity is created, recreated, and asserted.” Although this statement is insightful, the term “leisure-related activities” is limiting because it does not fully capture the cultural work or “heritage work” (Smith 2006: 1) that underlies the activities that take place at national parks and by extension national historic trils. Smith (2006:1) suggests that leisure activities performed at parks may in fact be cultural performances that work towards maintaining one’s heritage and identity through such measures as being in place, renewing memories, making new memories, sharing experiences, and participating in practices that “cement present and future social and familial relationships.” Extending these thoughts to the Anza NHT and the national parks associated with it, it can be reasoned that Hispanic individuals who visit the trail may use its resources to do heritage work renew connections to these places and maintain group identities. Because heritage work can manifest itself in a variety of ways, this study used focus groups to offer participants with the opportunity to share their understanding of Hispanic heritage and heritage practices.

Drawing from critical heritage literature, I worked with the notion that the Anza NHT, its history, and its resources are variously interpreted and used by numerous stakeholder groups, such as local communities and federal agencies, whose perspectives and uses of the trail may conflict with one another (Tunbridge and Ashworth 1995; Lowenthal 1996; Smith 2006; Mortensen and Hollowell 2009; Silverman 2011; Hafstein 2012; Lafrenz Samuels 2015). In a similar vein this paper acknowledges the dynamics between official heritage which is protected by legislation and linked to an “authorized heritage discourse” and unofficial heritage which is generally practiced locally and not protected by legislation (Smith 2006). I also worked with the understanding that the misrecognition of heritage and the omission of the past can have dire consequences on those groups being represented (Taylor 1994, Hafstein 2012).

Because heritage resources can be variously interpreted, the focus group discussions gave participants the opportunity to agree or disagree with current interpretations of the Anza NHT and share their own understandings of the discussion topics. In other words, it was not assumed that all participants would identify with or recognize the Anza NHT as Hispanic heritage. Moreover, I note that the term “Hispanic” is an umbrella term that covers a great diversity of identities. In this particular study, the majority of participants identified as Mexican and Mexican-American or Chicano and Latino. As such, this study does not capture the full breadth of Hispanic opinions.

The emphasis on community engagement found within the Anza NHT’s community engagement and outreach plan demonstrates a framework that works to construct “dynamic conversations” or dialogues with traditionally underrepresented communities (JUBA 2011). The focus on collaboration and civic engagement is further illustrated in the most recent NPS Management Policies book (NPS 2006) and Director’s Order 75A: Civic Engagement and Public Involvement (NPS 2007a). On the one hand, the NPS Management Policies book (NPS 2006:90) notes that interpretive and educational programs create connections between parks, park resources, events, and the public by “linking a park’s tangible resources to the intangible values and meanings found in those resources.” On the other hand, Director’s Order 75A: Civic Engagement and Public Involvement (NPS 2007a) defines “civic engagement” as: “an essential foundation and framework for creating plans and developing programs…a continuous, dynamic conversation with the public on many levels that reinforce public commitment to the preservation of heritage resources, both cultural and natural, and strengthens public understanding of the full meaning and contemporary relevance of these resources. The foundation of civic engagement is a commitment to building and sustaining relationships with neighbors and communities of interest.” (NPS 2007:1).

Because civic engagement in unique to each context, the process of engaging communities may seem like a daunting task. The work of Russell (2011) helps demystify this process by analyzing fifteen case studies where civic engagement was used successfully by an NPS sponsored program. Russell (2011:5) demonstrates that there are key “principles” – “actions that were undertaken not as strategies, but as additional efforts meant to supplement the civic engagement process” – that allow practitioners to foster collaboration and more effectively represent the population they are working with. These principles include “core principles” (trust, relationships, and active listening) and “secondary principles” (diversity of opinion, understanding communities, open communication, and transparency). The Civic Engagement framework is mirrored in the Anza NHT’s community engagement plans that focus on inviting, including, and involving participants “early and often as plans and projects are forming” (JUBA 2011). Drawing inspiration from these sources, this study used the focus groups discussions as a way to converse with Hispanic Tucsonans and begin a dialogue.


Focus Groups

This study used bilingual focus groups discussions and participant observation to collect data. A total of six focus group discussions with Hispanics adults (18 years or older) were conducted at five different Pima County Libraries and one neighborhood center. The libraries and neighborhood center were chosen because they are neutral, public spaces that are located in zip codes with a Hispanic population that is greater than forty percent (Rivera- Murdock 2012). Any adult who self-identified as Hispanic and lived in Tucson, Arizona was eligible to participate in the study. Although the study targeted Hispanics, non-Hispanics could also participate. Additionally, one focus group discussion was held for community leaders at the Historic Y building after the first six focus groups were completed. Community leaders included community organizers and members of local non-profit organizations, foundations, and associations with an interest in historic preservation, national parks, and Hispanic heritage.

A total of seven focus groups were conducted. The first six focus groups included thirty-six Latino adults (eight male and twenty-eight female) and the last focus group included seven community leaders. The format for the focus group discussions with Hispanic adults was modeled after a previous research study conducted at Saguaro National Park by Rivera Murdock (2012). The focus group discussions contained three sections that featured questions pertaining to understandings of: (1) the NPS and national parks; (2) Hispanic heritage, and (3) the Anza NHT (look to Appendix 1). Each section was designed to encourage conversations that allowed participants to express their thoughts on the discussion topics.

Participants were recruited using bilingual flyers which were posted at Pima County libraries, Catholic churches, neighborhood recreation centers, and local businesses in the neighborhoods where the focus groups took place. The flyer was also circulated on City Council Woman Regina Romero’s Facebook page. Moreover, two key informants—the Executive Director of the Environment Education Exchange, Neil Markowitz and the NPS Urban Fellow for Tucson, Díana Rhoades– emailed the flyer and a recruitment letter to a list of community contacts they compiled respectively. News of the study was also spread by word of mouth. All focus groups with Hispanic adults lasted anywhere from ninety minutes to two hours and they contained no more than ten participants per group. Questions were translated into Spanish whenever participants who primarily spoke Spanish were present. The discussions were audio recorded and were later transcribed and coded by the principle investigator. The codes were based on the reoccurring themes that participants brought up during the discussions. All focus groups were facilitated by myself. Additionally, at least one of two interns from Saguaro National Park was always present at the discussions. These interns helped me by taking notes and translating questions and comments when Spanish speaking participants were present. At the end of every discussion, participants were given a $20 travel reimbursement at, a free pass to Saguaro National Park, and Anza Trail educational materials as incentives for participating.

The focus group discussion with community leaders was not structured in the same way as the discussions with Hispanic adults. Community leaders were invited to share: experiences they had with partnering with the Anza NHT, struggles and successes they had with attracting Hispanic visitors, and general observations on the state of Hispanic heritage within the city. The community leader’s discussion was loosely structured and also served as an opportunity to share my preliminary research findings.

Participant Observation

Participant observation was conducted at the Santa Cruz River Park (SCRP), areas of the Menlo Park Neighborhood located near the SCRP, Tubac State Historic Park, and Tumacácori National Park. These locations were chosen because they contained a portion of the Anza NHT or they were located near it. Doing participant observation at sites associated with the Anza NHT involved: (a) using and checking the physical condition of the walking trails, wayside exhibits, and Anza NHT trailhead signs and (b) observing how visible the Anza NHT trail was within each location. Together, the focus group discussions and participant observations informed each other and created a more holistic understanding of the ways in which the Hispanic residents of Tucson are conceptualizing not only national parks, Hispanic heritage, and the Anza NHT, but also the heritage landscape in which Tucson resides.


The following findings primarily illustrate the insights gained from the six focus groups discussions with Hispanic adult participants rather than the insights gained from the community leader’s focus group discussion. References to “focus group participants” corresponds to the Hispanic adult participants rather than the community leaders. Shared below is a brief review of participant demographics and understandings of the NPS, understandings of Hispanic heritage, concerns over the representation of Hispanic heritage, and understandings of the Anza NHT.

Participant Demongraphics

A total of thirty-eight individuals (nine males and twenty nine twenty-six females) participated in the non-community leaders focus groups. The majority of participants self-identified as being Mexican, Mexican-American, Latin@, or Chican@. One female participant identified as Central American and another female participant identified as white. The white female participant was a local elementary school teacher who taught social studies and was looking to diversify her lesson plans. In addition to claiming Mexican ancestry, several participants also claimed some sort of indigenous ancestry. For example, four participants mentioned being of Yaqui descent. Based on personal narratives, it is speculated that two thirds of participants were American citizens who were either first generation or from a multi-generational family background. Overall, the entire gamut of Hispanic diversity was not represented within this study because the majority of participants identified as Mexican-American or Mexican. A factor that may have affected the results is the large number of female participants.

Community Leaders Focus Group

A total of seven participants were present at the community leaders meeting. The focus group with community leaders occurred after all of the other focus groups had been completed. The community leader’s discussion thus focused on their experiences with partnering with the Anza Trail and their general observations on the state of Hispanic heritage within the city. These individuals represented: The Arizona Desert Museum, the Western National Parks Association, The Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, The NPS Urban Agenda, Barrio Kroeger Lane, Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson, and Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace.

One valuable insight that came from this meeting is that the area located between Interstate 19 and Grande Avenue, just south of Congress Street, was identified as a major nexus of places, events, activities, and projects that are associated with Hispanic heritage. Based on my participant observation in this area and the insights provided by community leaders and Hispanic adults, I can confirm that this area encompasses various places associated with Hispanic heritage. These places include the Anza NHT, the Santa Cruz River Park (SCRP), Mission Gardens, Barrio Viejo, and a bronze monument commemorating the first people of the Tucson basin and the first sighting of Europeans by the O’odham people. Moreover, I learned from the discussions with Hispanic adults that local activities, such as the processions on horseback to San Xavier Mission, El Día de San Juan, and the All Souls Procession, take place near the SCRP and the dirt lot located in-between the SCRP and the new Mercado San Agustin. Community leaders also noted that this area is being developed under the Rio Nuevo project (Rio Nuevo 2015) and that there are plans for creating a visitors’ center and a Tucson Origins Heritage Park (City of Tucson 2014a) (Look to Figure 1). The confluence of these various places, activities, and project illustrates that the area located west of I-19 and south of Congress Street is a major center of activity.

Last updated: March 13, 2018

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