September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Several libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions nationwide use this month to pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans “who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.”
Northwest Washington is rich in Hispanic heritage dating back to 1774, when Spain claimed the Pacific Northwest. According to Historylink.org, Spanish captain Juan Perez led the Santiago from Mexico to the coast of what would eventually become Washington state. Early Spanish expeditions were typically led by Mexican crews. These Mexican explorers were the pioneers in the late 18th century settlements of Neah Bay and Vancouver Island, and they produced our earliest non-Native scientific and topographical studies of the region. Think also of the familiar nearby place names like Fidalgo Island (home to the City of Anacortes), and the San Juan Islands. The Hispanic legacy of our region is abundantly evident.
In Everett, the overall Hispanic population is between 14 and 15 percent. Some neighborhoods have Hispanic populations exceeding 50 percent. This City of Everett Planning Department map illustrates Everett’s dense and robust Hispanic communities.
It seems only fitting, then, that the Northwest Room—the corner of the library dedicated to preserving and interpreting local history—acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month by sharing a highlight from our collection, as we recently did with Jewish Heritage Month and Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
In researching this blog post, we found some terrific books in the library collection, like Color: Latino Voices in the Pacific Northwest and We are Aztlán!: Chicanx Histories in the Northern Borderlands. Color is an anthology of intimate stories of Spanish-speaking immigrants in the Northwest, based on a Spanish medical interpreter’s clients and their lived experiences. We are Aztlán! is a collection of scholarly articles on historical and contemporary issues faced by Chicanx (Hispanic) communities in the Pacific Northwest and Midwestern United States. For example, one chapter explores a recent history of Latino voter suppression in Yakima. Another tackles activism in the Yakima Valley and the Puget Sound regions. The library also has interesting books documenting early Spanish explorations—like Wagner’s Spanish Explorations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca—which provide useful historical context.
Unfortunately, though, we had trouble coming up with items in our Northwest Room archival and photographic collections that specifically document the history of Hispanic heritage and rapid growth in Everett and Snohomish County. We are concerned about this lack of representation in our local history collection. It is certainly an area of importance and increasing relevance to the communities we serve. Part of the Everett Public Library’s mission is to “embrace the future while preserving the past.” We can’t do that alone. Please reach out to us at email@example.com if you have knowledge and resources to help us better preserve and share the rich, diverse, and growing history of Hispanic communities in Everett—now and for future generations.