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Hard-Hit But Resilient: 'Voces Of A Pandemic' Reflects The Latino COVID-19 Experience

two women stand in front of a box with images of people who've passed away this year with flowers on top
Michael Minasi
San Antonio residents mourn the loss of those who died in 2020 at an ofrenda in Confluence Park. The event honored those lost to COVID-19, and butterflies tagged in their honor were released during the event.

From Texas Standard:

Latinos have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 in Texas. Texas virus expert Dr. Peter Hotez has said the community has faced "decimation" from the illness.

The Voces of a Pandemic project is meant to be a small salve for that suffering. Oral historian and project founder Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, who's also a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told Texas Standard that though many project participants were vulnerable to illness and more, they were determined to share their stories.

"They understand that too often that Latino part of the American experience gets left out – it's either ignored altogether or it's marginalized in some way. So people have been pretty adamant that they want their story included," she said.

READ MORE: 'Ofrenda: A Decimation Of People, A Celebration Of Life'

The project is a collection of video interviews with Texas Latinos, and includes their raw takes about how they've coped over the last year. Voces partnered with 14 institutions across the state to find candidates. One institution was UT-Rio Grande Valley, where student journalists conducted many of the interviews. Rivas-Rodriguez says the most important thing for them and anyone conducting these interviews was to build trust with their subjects.

"People have to believe that you're not going to take their stories and use them in some way that's going to be exploitive. And they need to be able to open up to you as much as possible," she said.

A common thread throughout all the interviews has been resiliency.

"People have been so incredibly resilient and taken care of each other. We've done interviews with with folks who created their own systems of distribution to provide PPE [personal protective equipment] and to provide food. And that, kind of the pairing of resiliency and resourcefulness, is something that we continue to see throughout the country," Rivas-Rodriguez said.

The project will shine a light on the Latino pandemic experience, but it's also been a space for Latinos to share – for their own healing, she says.

Voces of a Pandemic has a virtual showcase on Jan 17. You can register to view the project here.

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Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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