Latino Voices of the Valley

Latino Voices of the Valley is a project dedicated to promoting the cultural heritage of Latinos in the Mahoning Valley. It consists primarily of video recordings of oral history interviews in Spanish, transcripts in Spanish, translations in English, cultural artifacts, and teaching resources related to the interviews in both Spanish and English. This initiative began as part of a Service Learning in Spanish course at Youngstown State University and was a collaboration between YSU’s Spanish program and the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor. Then, thanks to support from Ohio Humanities and YSU’s University Research Council, funding was provided for additional interviews to be conducted, transcribed and translated. This project took place from 2019-20. Youngstown State University students Brea Tinsley, Lindsey Chludzinski and Angelica Diaz conducted the interviews and Dr. Diana Palardy, Professor of Spanish at Youngstown State University, and Dr. Marcelle Wilson, Manager of the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, directed the project. The initial phase of this project consisted mostly of interviews with individuals whose native language is Spanish and have been living in this region for a while. However, this initiative may be expanded to include Latinos in a variety of different circumstances. If you are interested in contributing to this project or have any comments or questions, please contact us at: latinovoicesofthevalley@gmail.com.

Ohio  Humanities logoThis program is made possible, in part, by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed on this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Oral History Interviews →

Cultural Artifacts

Teaching Resources in Spanish and English

Latino Voices: Reflections on Culture and Life

Justino Morales

Sowing the Seeds of Success

The Hispanic community has developed a lot because when we first came here, we called ourselves the “jibaritos de la pala y el pico” (farmers with a shovel and pickaxe) and now, with the United States’ educational system, Puerto Ricans have managed to educate themselves to the point of being university students. Of my three children, two are university graduates. 

Armando Labra

A Legacy of Music

Three of my boys are in a group together. They are called The Labra Brothers. One of my sons first showed interest in music when he was four years old, so I taught him to play the guitar and sing songs in Spanish. And after that, he taught his other brother how to play the guitar, and then that brother taught another brother how to play. My son Adrian started to play locally in cafes. But then Adrian said to his brothers, “Well, we have three guitars. Why don’t you learn how to play the bass and you learn how to play the saxophone?” Those were the orders that Adrian gave and they have kept it up since. As time goes on, more and more doors are opening for them.

Maria Teresa

Gonzalez de Torres

An Idyllic Childhood

My childhood was very nice. My parents owned a huge farm where they grew everything, like cotton. They had cattle and a very big house and we would go there on the weekends. We would go any chance we could get, like when we had three months of vacation. We would go swim in a canal there. It made us so happy.

Herminia Lees

Love from Afar

My husband is American. We met as pen pals. That’s how I got to know my husband, until he came to Peru. He went to where I was studying, at the University of Peru. And one of my teachers, a priest, told him, “Let’s go, I’ll bring you to another city, Talara.” There were English priests there. So the priest told him, “Tell him to marry the Angulo girl (Herminia) because she is intelligent and a good person.” That’s why he married me.

Ana Torres

Perseverance and Growth

Growing up in Peru was difficult because there were times when we did not have a democratic government. We had a military regime. I experienced that when I was very young and ever since I remember, we endured difficult times because one of those regimes took away land from landowners. In the northern part of Peru, where my grandparents and I were from, the government took away their land and they were left without anything. So it was difficult to see them suffer because of that, because they had worked their whole lives in order to be able to have those lands.

Marcela Diaz

Cultural Heritage Through Sports

Every four years, the World Cup (which is an international soccer competition) is sacred to me. It’s for one month, every four years, and that’s all I think about. And it’s surprising that people here don’t even know that it exists.

Victor Arcenio

Service Through Education

I’d say that, besides my daughter, I’m most proud of being a teacher and seeing that my students are excelling in life. As a teacher, I’ve had many students thank me when they see me in the street and that is always nice.

Consuelo Mendez

Strength and Determination

I was lucky to have been raised by a woman who was ahead of her time. She was very independent, intelligent, and educated. She studied pharmacy at a time when women didn’t even go to school. She had two daughters. She raised us to be independent, with a strong character. And she always told us to study and that our work would take us to where we wanted to go… I always thought I was equal to everyone else… I believe that I did a great job as a medical resident and I am a good doctor.

Mary Lou Reyes

Giving Back to the Community

I started my career at OCCHA (Organización Cívica y Cultural Hispana Americana) as a teenager in 1973, working in the office and as a summer aid to the Summer Camp Program. I worked for 30 years as Center Director of Girl Scouts and then retired in 2008. During my retirement I volunteered for various agencies and attended numerous functions and at one function, I met the president of OCCHA and she informed me that OCCHA was seeking a director. I applied and was hired in 2015. I was honored to be hired as Director. My life has come full circle—I started at OCCHA as a teenager and now I’m the Director of OCCHA.

Carlos Ramirez

Honoring Heritage Through Food

Mole poblano is my favorite Mexican dish. It was created when the Spanish culture mixed with the Indians and the French… So, they made a dish that was a combination of French, Spanish and Indian flavors. It is made with six or seven different chili peppers. It also has chocolate, which gives it a sweet flavor, which is the Indian part. The French part has ground nuts in it… and in the past, they would ground the nuts by hand.

Iris Guglucello

Invested in Others

What I liked most about my job as a lawyer was the other lawyers. They were very interesting people. They always had jokes. They had interesting stories about when they were in court or clients who were crazy… things like that. I enjoyed talking with people that had the same interests as me.

Maria Class

Inspiration Through Dance

I taught dance for six or seven years… My two children were in the group. They danced cumbia, salsa, merengue, and bachata. I brought them to do dance performances in nursing homes. They danced for the Summer Festival of the Arts at Youngstown State University. And we were with another group, with Karen Clark-Green. She had a dance group at a church and they invited us to dance for Nelson Mandela’s daughter, up in Cleveland. We had that opportunity and that is how I dedicated my time.

Elba Navarro

A Passion for Education

The Youngstown Board of Education had to open a bilingual program because they had a lot of Hispanic children that needed help. I said, “Oh! I’m going to start that program.” And when I started the program, it was me and another teacher and they didn’t want me to go… I thought that I didn’t want to teach small children and that I wanted to teach in a high school… but the thing was that I fell in love with the students.

Francisco Nolasco

Stories of Old Mexico   

My parents and everyone else who lived in Youngstown worked and depended on the steel mills, so it was common for them to meet after work or on holidays. Many people gathered at our house in Brier Hill. When I was very young, I liked listening to all their stories, especially those about growing up in Mexico and political stories about Mexican Revolutions. Mexico had many revolutions and these men valued history in their story telling of the events they saw. I was influenced by their respect for culture and history of Old Mexico.

Luis Arroyo

A Lifetime of Giving

I’ve really tried to live a life helping my community as much as I could. I worked in mental health. Nowadays, sometimes, I see a mother, a father, or somebody that reminds me of when I was helping them with their children… I want to be remembered for always trying to help others with their problems as much as I can.