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MASK ANNOUNCEMENT

Welcome! The History Center is requiring that all visitors continue to wear masks inside the Tompkins Center for History & Culture. Our visitors include young audiences and others who are unable to be vaccinated. We appreciate your respect and awareness in following our Health & Safety Protocols

HISPANIC/LATINX HERITAGE MONTH

SEPTEMBER 15TH - OCTOBER 15TH

There were students from Latin America at Cornell University from the very beginning: a Brazilian student was part of the first group of students in 1868. Recruited by Geology Professor Charles Hartt, who traveled in Brazil, more Brazilian students arrived. In 1873 the Brazilian students published Aurora Brasileira a monthly newsletter written in Portuguese, and they established a Club Brasileiro. In her autobiography, Anna Botsford Comstock comments favorably on the Brazilian students who lived in the same boarding house as she did: “They were all gentlemen, by our standards, as well as their own.”


Cuban-American writer Richard Fariña (1937-1966), wrote the popular counterculture novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me (1966) based on  his experiences at Cornell. The setting for much of Fariña's novel is Ithaca's Collegetown, although the names have been changed to Mentor University in the town of Athene.


 Students also came from Cuba – the first student of color to graduate from Cornell was Francisco de Paula Rodríguez y Valdès from Cuba in 1878. In 1888-89 Latin American students from Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Honduras and Brazil created Alpha Zeta, which, the Sun reported, was “intended solely for the benefit of persons born in the western hemisphere and who speak either Spanish or Portuguese, but excludes all Europeans." In 1894 a Club Latino-Americano flourished. A graduate student from Argentina, Modesto Quiroga, organized the Cosmopolitan Club, Cornell’s first international student group in 1904; townspeople were eligible for “associate membership.” A Cornellian, Mario García Menocal (Class of 1888) was active in the Cuban independence movement, and served as president of Cuba in 1912 to 1921.

Ithaca’s first Mexican restaurant, Subs & Such, Ltd. opened on North Aurora St. in 1977, advertising itself as “Ithaca’s Only Mexican Restaurant serving Mexican Taste Treats Such as Tacos Beef Burritos and Mexican ‘No Jumping’ Beans’” See Ithaca Journal, April 27, 1977.

The Latino Civic Association of Tompkins County (LCA) was founded in 1994 to represent Latinx needs in the community. The association sponsors Latinx Heritage Month; helps migrants, especially farmworkers; hosts bilingual town halls and focus groups; and sponsors scholarships for Latinx high school seniors. ¡CULTURA! Ithaca  a project of LCA hosts arts-based educational events and experiences throughout Tompkins County to foster and share Latinx culture in the community. 

*Hispanic Heritage Month first began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage week under President Lyndon Johnson. President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to a full month in 1988 spanning from September 15th (anniversary of independence for: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) to October 15th. According to the Library of Congress, “Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month* from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.”

**Note on terminology: While the month is still officially titled Hispanic Heritage Month, the term “Hispanic” is usually used to refer to people who speak Spanish or are descended from Spanish-speaking people, while the term “Latino/a/x” has been adopted to describe immigrants and their descendants who come from Central and South America or the Caribbean (thus including Brazil).

Connect with our archivist to contribute to the archival collections documenting Hispanic and Latinx history in Tompkins County.

EXPLORE ITHACA'S EARLY HISPANIC & LATINX RESIDENTS ON HISTORYFORGE

HistoryForge is an innovative digital history project combining maps, archival records, and census data that allows any community to explore its local history through the individuals who lived there and the buildings and neighborhoods they lived in.  

Our pilot project began in 2016 and focuses on exploring the history of Ithaca, New York in the late 19th and early 20th century using interactive search functions which allow users to find information on historic maps about people and places.

Ithaca HistoryForge includes over 70,000 digitized census records of Ithacan's from 1900-1940, and is in the process of adding tens of thousands of building records to the database. 

By searching the database using the "Race", "Mother Tongue", and "Place of Birth" filters on different census years you can learn about Latinx residents in the City of Ithaca during the 20th century. 


Each red dot references an individual or family born in Puerto Rico and living in Collegetown in 1940. You can see the names, ages, professions and more of each individual by exploring their census records

RELATED ARCHIVAL COLLECTIONS

Stories of Immigration to Tompkins County Oral History Collection - Hispanic/Latinx Interviews from this collection

The Stories of Immigration to Tompkins County Oral History Collection was established in 2021 to highlight interviews and stories in our archives that explore the experiences of first generation immigrants to Tompkins County and the United States, and their descendants. The topics of these interviews explore a wide range of experiences, community, and cultures. These interviews can be heard through scheduling an appointment in our Research Library

  • Abner Argueta - 2019 Immigration & Food Oral History Project
  • Yen Ospina - 2019 HERSTORY Oral History Project
  • Patricia Rodriguez - 2019 Local Sisters of Change Oral History Project

**Thanks to a two-year (2021-2022) grant from the Institute of Museum & Library Services, The History Center has been funded to make more of its oral history collections available remotely. Part of this project includes expanding virtual access and lesson plans for our Black Experience in Tompkins County Oral History Collection. Contact community@thehistorycenter.net to learn more. 

Collections held at Cornell University

© The Field Museum, GN87875c, Photographer Diane Alexander White.

Connect with our archivist to contribute to the archival collections documenting Hispanic and Latinx history in Tompkins County.

The Fuertes Family - A Local Legacy

Estevan Antonio Fuertes was born in Puerto Rico in 1838. In 1857, he graduated from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and became a successful civil engineer. At the age of 35, he became Cornell's first dean and professor civil engineering in 1873. He was careful to include astronomy among his civil engineering curricula, because it was useful for geographical surveys and telling time. He led the construction of Cornell's first observatory. During the summer, his students would do field work surveying the Finger Lakes. One of the detailed maps they created is of Cayuga Lake and is in the History Center’s map room. Fuertes was the father of six children, including civil engineer James Hillhouse Fuertes and ornithologist Louis Agassiz Fuertes. Cornell’s Fuertes Observatory was built and named in his memory in 1917.

American Ornithologist and Artist

Louis Agassiz Fuertes was born in Ithaca, New York, in 1874. Since his childhood, he had a passion for ornithology and sketching birds. He decided to dedicate his life to birds after he met ornithologist Elliott Coues, taking on several artistic projects and going on expeditions to Florida and Alaska. For the rest of his life, he traveled around the world studying birds and making detailed sketches of them. When he died in 1927, he left behind over a thousand exquisite paintings and sketches of hundreds of bird species. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology keeps many of his drawings and has a room named after him.

Global Civil & Sanitary Engineer

James Hillhouse Fuertes was born in Puerto Rico in 1863, the second son of Estevan Fuertes. He graduated from Cornell University in 1883, and became a civil and sanitary engineer, doing work in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and the islands of Hawai'i. He gave lectures at Cornell and is known for his skillful technical sketches and his works Water and Public Health (1987) and Water Filtration Works (1901). He died in 1932 in his home in Brooklyn NY. 

Follow us for posts highlighting Hispanic and Latinx history, culture, and heritage in Tompkins County. 

     @TompkinsHistory

ACTIVITIES & ONLINE LEARNING RESOURCES

  • New York State Migrant Education Children's Census, 1976-1996 - Activity for Middle & High School - New York State Archives
  • Digging at the Roots of My Family TreeIn this activity, students reflect on their own family’s arrival to the United States by filling in a family tree with as many generations as possible. Students research and fill in as much information as possible on the names and birthplaces of themselves, their parents, grandparents and so on. Next, they plot the names and birthplaces on a World Map. More important than establishing the exact detail of their family tree is the process of understanding the migration/settlement story of those that came before them.
  • What's in a Name? This fun activity introduces students to the idea that place-names around North America tell the story of indigenous, Spanish and Mexican settlements that pre-date the United States’ presence. North American Map from 1830
  • Latino Americans - PBS documentary series
  • Home is Here - Documentary about migrant farm workers in upstate and central new York. 

Physical Address

Located inside the Tompkins Center for History & Culture

110 North Tioga Street

(On the Ithaca Commons) 

Ithaca NY, 14850 USA

Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' Territory

Hours

Exhibit Hall Wednesday-Saturday 10am-5pm - CLOSED Sun-Tues

Cornell Local History Research Library & Thaler/Howell Archives - By appointment only. Please contact archives@thehistorycenter.net

Contact                                                 

Email: Refer to Contact page for individual emails, General inquiries to community@thehistorycenter.net

Phone: 607-273-8284

Web: thehistorycenter.net

Find us on social media @tompkinshistory




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