In box 9 of the Lawrence Cardoso papers housed at the American Heritage Center is a booklet dating to the mid-1970s titled “Amigos de la Comunidad.” I was leafing through that particular box searching for something totally unrelated. But the booklet drew my eye and I couldn’t resist thumbing through it.
The Amigos booklet was most likely part of Dr. Cardoso’s research materials. He was a University of Wyoming professor and an expert in the field of Latin American history. In 1989 his life was cut short at the age of 49 by a heart condition. At the time of his death he was nearing completion of “White and Brown,” a study of American attitudes toward Latinx persons. He had previously published Mexican Emigration to the United States, 1897-1931 (1980).
The spiral-bound booklet contains biographical sketches and personal anecdotes of thirty-two persons of Latinx heritage living in Torrington, Wyoming. It is broadly representative in terms of occupation, age, gender, special interests, point of view, and community activity.
Many of those profiled were children of migrant workers who came to Torrington to harvest sugar beets. Holly Sugar Corporation had been a major employer since 1925 when the Union Pacific Railroad constructed a spur line into South Torrington.
Compilation of the portfolio was done as an educational and inspirational resource for K-12 up to college level, as well as for the public, to introduce them to the “wealth of human resources which can be tapped to enrich the educational experience of students as well as community life as a whole.”
Suggested classroom activities included adding the students’ stories or their families’ stories to the portfolio, discussing selected profiles from the book, and reading aloud only part of the stories and allowing students to tell their version of how the stories ended. Teachers were encouraged to invite the individuals to their classrooms to talk about their occupations, cultural activities, hobbies, philosophies, etc.
It was recommended that the community ask those profiled to participate in special task forces to address community needs or to serve as “talent scouts” in identifying other persons to assist in community development. Another idea was to host an “Amigos” night in which young people and members of the public might invite certain persons from the portfolio and others who they wanted to honor or with whom they wanted to become better acquainted.
The project’s coordinator was Anne Gardetto. She had graduated in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and Spanish from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. For a short time, she worked at Head Start, which is where she began to form her philosophies of how education could lift individuals and whole families out of poverty. She moved to Torrington in 1974 and began her career at Eastern Wyoming College, retiring 36 years later in 2010 as the associate director of student services at the college. She won the Wyoming Woman of Achievement Award in 1987, the Outstanding Young Women of America Award in 1976 and 1986, and the Outstanding Community Service Award in 1977.
It was serendipitous that I poked around in that box of archival materials and discovered such a wonderful project created around Torrington’s Latinx community. It gave me the opportunity to learn about the town’s rich heritage and to share Anne Gardetto’s work with you.
Post contributed by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener