by Kendra Dickinson
It has been a while since I have written, due to the all too familiar rush and chaos of the life of a college student during midterms. Still, I have been consistently working in the Extension Office of Hispanic Outreach during this time, on a variety of interesting and challenging projects. I have been working on an interview for the Radio Extension, a Spanish language radio show hosted by Julia Bello-Bravo, an Extension Outreach Specialist with whom I work very closely. The radio provides different information every week to the Spanish-speaking community of Champaign-Urbana. Although I have absolutely no experience in journalism, what motivated me to become a part of this project was the need to provide accessible information communities in their native language. As the Spanish-speaking and Latino population in the United States increases, the importance of having news and information accessible in Spanish is ever increasing. Although I have not yet conducted the interview that I am preparing, I will let all of you know what it is aired so that you can tune in!
I have also been working with Julia Bello Bravo in preparing the next edition of the Latin American Literature and Cultural Identity Read Group. This is a reading group that any person who speaks Spanish can be a part of, so for more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants receive copies of the reading, and then meet periodically for coffee and snacks to discuss the readings. Next month’s reading is a book called “La Voragine” by Jose Eustasio Rivera. This book is of particular interest to me because one of the main themes is man’s interaction with and struggle against nature. The book describes the journey of two lovers, Arturo y Alicia, that flee to the Amazon Rainforest. They experience many hardships in their travels, being lost in the forest, violence, hunger, and illness. This work is considered to be one of the first examples of Latin American “jungle literature.” It will be very interesting to see how the participants of the reading group interpret the work, and to ultimately see how the work reflects a variety of cultural views on nature and man’s interaction with it.
Also, in recent news, Francisco and I finished our preliminary analysis of the Water Quality Survey, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Illinois State Water Survey. As I have previously mentioned, the survey aims to gain more information about the water quality and the concerns about water quality of the Spanish-speaking and Latino communities in the Midwest. My next assignment is to find people in Chicago that will complete the Water Survey for me over Spring Break! When giving me this assignment, Francisco discussed with me the challenges of going out onto the street and asking people to be a part of the survey. First of all, many people are busy, whether it by on their way to work, to the store, to pick a child up from school etc., and therefore do not have the time to stop and complete a survey. Others might feel a distrust for or take offense to a complete unknown person asking for information such as what is their country of origin or what is their grandparents country of origin, at a time when immigrations issues in the U.S. are at the forefront of a heated policy debate. Also, given that I am not a native speaker of Spanish, nor I am of Latino/Hispanic origin, I have many worries that I will not be trusted by the people that I try to interview. Still, I recognize that it is important that I do the survey, because the more information that thus survey can gather, the most accurate and useful the information will be, particularly concerning giving Spanish-speakers information about their water quality by understanding what type of concerns they have, and what are their preferred methods of having those concerns addressed. In no way do I mean to generalize that the entire Spanish-speaking or Latino population of the Midwest has the same concerns, however there are certain cultural and language based trends that may affect the transmission and reception of information, and I think that it is important to take into account specific cultural needs of a group of people to better address their concerns.
Well I wish everyone a wonderful and relaxing Spring Break, and please wish me luck as I embark on my first experience in the field for the Water Survey! Stay tuned for more information about my experience in the field and for updates on the Radio Show!