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Introducing our Southwest Voter Archivist and Archives Assistant

June 26, 2016

Earlier this year we announced the exciting news that we were awarded $145,650 by the National Archives to process the archives of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP). With those grant funds we were able to hire an archivist and an archives assistant to process the collection. We are delighted to introduce Project Archivist, Leah Rios, and Archives Assistant, Jenn Longoria.



Leah Rios, SVREP Archivist

Leah Rios comes to us from Tucson, Arizona. She was most recently a Project Archivist at the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center. Leah received her master’s degree from the University of Arizona’s School of Information and while there was a Knowledge River Institute Scholar.





Jenn Longoria SVREP Archives Assistant

Jenn Longoria has been working in libraries since 2006, including most recently UTSA Libraries Downtown Campus. Jenn has extensive experience working as both a volunteer and full-time employee for Battleground Texas.




I sat down with Leah and Jenn recently to hear what they have to say about working on this important collection.

What excites you most about this collection?

(LR) Although a majority of the work was completed in Texas, I have already seen documents pertaining to Pima County, which is where I am originally from. It touches close to home to think that such important work was being conducted in my own neighborhood and I am grateful I have the opportunity to play a vital part in preserving this material and making it accessible to the public.

(JL) Seeing the organization start from scratch, grow organically and create the strategies that voter registration organizations still use today has been really informative. The scope of what Southwest Voters was tackling was immense. As an archives assistant I get to see that history unfold and see how this one organization shaped the culture of voting in Texas.

 Why is this collection so important?

(LR) This collection is an integral part of our nation’s political history. As a Latina, I feel honored to be working so closely with material created by determined individuals who were responsible for actively building a political voice for Hispanic Americans. Willie’s work continues to resonate even more today, as we see how important the Hispanic vote will prove to be for this upcoming and future presidential elections.

(JL) Willie began SVREP in San Antonio, surrounded by a population that he knew was not being represented fairly. It was this community that inspired him to act. Now more than ever Latino engagement in the political arena is a topic that researchers want to know more about, and the records in this collection are the beginning of that story. Researchers, organizers, and historians can now trace the steps that SVREP took to register thousands of voters across the country. We can see what worked, what didn’t and most amazingly we get to interact with all of the historical organizations and activists that helped along the way.

This collection serves as a record of how much work goes in to changing political climates. It took activism, research and litigation to make sure the Mexican American Community was represented and I believe our collection showcases some of that work.

What ideas do you have for outreach and promotion of the collection?

(LR) Utilizing social media is a great way to entice both researchers and the public. I look forward to posting regularly on The Top Shelf to document our process, posting images on Instagram to highlight interesting documents and artifacts, and interacting with social media of related community organizations to increase our exposure.

A way to further promote the collection would be to feature an exhibition of documents and materials found throughout the collection. Planning the exhibit to coincide with Willie Velásquez Day would be especially exciting.

This collection can also serve as a gateway for high school students to learn about government policy, history, and an individual that has a direct connection to their community. It would be an amazing opportunity to reach out to as many schools as possible in order to introduce the students to archives and how they can enrich their educational experience now and in the future.

(JL) In addition to social media, I think other promotion venues and opportunities are showcasing the collection in conjunction with National Voter Registration Day and with other voter rights organizations. I echo Leah’s comments about reaching the younger generation. Area high school civic engagement semesters would be a perfect opportunity for that.


 **This project is generously funded by the NHPRC**


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