Latinos in Rural American offers an intimate window into the lives, journeys and aspirations of Latinos in Knox County, Ohio.
The Latinos in Rural America exhibit includes a series of 10 bilingual panels that provide snapshots into the lives of Latino families in Knox County. Read the summaries below and attend the exhibit to see the full panels. Interview transcripts, a video and photo gallery are available in the Kenyon digital archive.
This exhibit offers an intimate window into the lives, journeys and aspirations of Latinos in Knox County, Ohio. Drawing on visits and interviews, it highlights the challenges and rewards as Latinos conduct their daily lives in rural Ohio. You will meet college professors, workers in the business sector, agricultural workers, athletes and young people with a range of experiences, cultural origins and values. Photo: Ivonne García, professor of English at Kenyon College, has traveled between the U.S. and her native Puerto Rico throughout her life. The colors and details in her Ohio home are reminders of her Latino heritage. Credit: Patricia Mota '16.
Latinos have helped shape the United States over the last five centuries and constitute the country's largest minority group today with more than 50 million people. There are 357,000 Latinos in Ohio of a range of nationalities. In 2013, there were 789 Latinos in Knox County. A majority were from Mexico with other Latin American nations represented as well. Photo: Kiana Reyes-Parson, a 12-year-old Latina and African-American who lives in Mount Vernon, and her mother, Tamara Anderson. Credit: Tamara Anderson.
The proximity of many Latin American countries to the United States, the strong ties that exist between extended families and the rich cultural identities of many Latino immigrants all contribute to circular journeys - Latinos' physical and emotional back-and-forth between their homelands and the United States. Photo: José Àvalos, the owner of Mount Vernon restaurant Fiesta Mexicana, emigrated to the United States in his youth but has returned to Mexico several times to ensure his children are connected to their Mexican heritage. Credit: Patricia Mota '16.
The proximity of many Latin American countries to the United States, the strong ties that exist between extended families and the rich cultural identities of many Latino immigrants all contribute to circular journeys - Latinos' physical and emotional back-and-forth between their homelands and the United States. Photo: José Àvalos at a quinceañero in Mexico before he moved to the United States. Credit: José Àvalos.
Latinos in Knox County experience a sense of place and of displacement. They belong to the community, yet that belonging involves exploring what is new and transplanting what they brought with them: family values, culture and stories. As Gloria Anzaldúa stated in Borderlands: La Frontera, "I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry 'home' on my back." Many Latinos in rural Ohio are born on wheels and experience a sense of displacement. However, they root themselves in family, faith and work to create a sense of place. Photo: María Esmeralda Villa grew up in an agricultural family in Mount Vernon and is pursuing a nursing career. Credit: Patricia Mota '16.
Family, education, faith and food culture are the defining values for Latinos in rural Ohio. Despite the distance that separates them from their countries of origin, Latinos prioritize holding on to their cultural roots. Photo: Despite not having grown up in Puerto Rico, Gigi Gonzalez Cottrell (with her mother and father) enjoyed a rich Latino cultural life while growing up. Her parents emphasized both the role of family and maintaining strong Christian beliefs. Credit: Patricia Mota '16.
While acknowledging the tension between assimilation to U.S. culture and preservation of Latino cultural identity, those interviewed described how being intercultural enriches their lives. Most participants are bilingual and plan to pass that on to their children. Many also proudly display their biculturalism to other Knox County residents. For some, there is a practical benefit: being bilingual creates job opportunities. For others, biculturalism is a tool for understanding the world more broadly. Photo: Balinda Craig-Quijada, professor of dance at Kenyon College, with her Venezuelan father, Oklahoman mother and son Felix. Credit: Balinda Craig-Quijada.
Both invisibility and hypervisibility characterize the daily experience of Latinos in Knox County. They may feel invisible or sense a lack of representation in the community. Sometimes they attribute this to a tendency among Latinos to keep to themselves. Others feel a responsibility to stand up for the Latino community, rendering themselves extremely visible. This path may help to create a space for Latino culture in the context of the larger community, but it can also be a barrier to intercultural understanding by highlighting differences in a negative way. Photo: The daughter of Amnéris Pérez-Román, a native of Puerto Rico. Credit: Patricia Mota '16.
The immigrant story is a powerful narrative founded on a hope for a better life. For those arriving, the American dream promises that hard work will result in social mobility. Yet, amidst the growing Latinization of the United States, the perception of difference can produce an outlook that establishes newcomers as a threat rather than a positive addition to the receiving community. While this may be commonplace in the history of immigration to the United States, in Knox County today, the contrary seems to be true. Photo: Mario Àlvarez-León, who attends school in Mount Vernon, is an aspiring soccer player. Credit: Silvia and Mario Álvarez.
Latinos in Rural America was directed by Clara Román-Odio, professor of Spanish and director of the Latino/a studies program at Kenyon College in collaboration with Kenyon summer scholar Amelia Dunnell and summer research fellow Patricia Mota. Students enrolled in Kenyon's Spanish 380 course also contributed with translation, archiving interviews, research on Latino culture and supporting the goals of the local community by implementing a preparatory college curriculum for Latino youth. Photo: The research team and participants celebrate the conclusion of the project at Fiesta Mexicana in Mount Vernon. Credit: Patricia Mota '16.
This program is made possible in part by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, finding conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.