Podcast Preserves Rich History Of Latinos In Ohio

Apr 18, 2019

A new podcast developed at Ohio State University highlights the rich history and experience of Latinos in Ohio.

“I thought it could be a platform that allows our stories, our Latino stories to be amplified,” says Ohio State professor Elena Foulis, who coordinates the university's service-learning and heritage language programs.

Ohio Habla began streaming weekly episodes in December 2017.

“We have a growing Latino community, but also we have deep roots in this state, and I just wanted to be able to tell the stories and allow people to tell the stories of their community and the work that they’re doing and how they’re working with other Latinos in our state,” Foulis says.

Foulis explains Latinos have lived in Toledo, Lorain and Cleveland since the 1920s. Many of them traveled from Texas to Ohio for jobs.

“There was a wave of Puerto Ricans that came in the 1940s to work in the steel industry in Northeast Ohio as well,” Foulis says. “So we have that history of our community that not very many know.”

Ohio State student Adriana Ponce De Leon helped launch the podcast - the fifth she's participated in. Her father grew up in Puerto Rico, while she grew up in Cleveland.

“There are so many different types of Latino stories, that there isn’t just one, that we are obviously a very diverse group of people, so it’s exciting to come back each week and hear a completely different story,” she says.

Ohio Habla grew out of the school's oral history project about Latinos in Ohio, Oral Narratives of Latin@s in Ohio (ONLO).  The aim is to collect, catalog, and preserve the stories of Latinos in Ohio, along with the Ohio Hispanic Heritage Project and the Center for Folklore Studies.

Students in Foulis' heritage language and service-learning classes create their own podcasts by interviewing family members and reminiscing about family stories. They may also speak to other Latino community members.

“It is also a platform where we can celebrate our culture and our identities,” Foulis says.

Foulis explains that the podcast can help to break down stereotypes about Latinos.

“When we think of Latinos, a lot of times we think of the Catholic Church or a Catholic identity, but we’re more than that,” Foulis says. “We have Latinos that practice Islam. We have Latinos that are Jewish as well, which is a podcast that is coming up next week.”

Ponce De Leon says the podcasts cover the serious and light-hearted sides of Latino culture. On one podcast, she interviewed an advocate for domestic violence issues. For another, she spoke to several women about their music preferences during their childhoods.

“It shows me that there are other people who are having similar experiences, but also very, very different experiences,” says Ponce De Leon.

So far, Ohio Habla has recorded 70 podcasts.

“I like that it’s an opportunity to engage in dialogue, about our differences, about our similarities, and it also allows students to have a voice,” Foulis says.