Multicultural News

Local Latina historian uncovers stories of the Latino experience in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Latina Hoosier is working to fill in the missing narrative of one of Indiana’s largest growing populations.

Nicole Martinez-LeGrand at the Indiana Historical Society helped put together a traveling exhibit that shares the long history and contributions of Latinos in Indiana.

“I’m more than proud of my family, their history, family here today, family that existed over a hundred years ago,” Martinez-LeGrand said.

Stories of local families and their migration to Indiana are woven together with the history of their ancestors in this exhibit. Five years ago, Multicultural Collections Coordinator Martinez-Legrand recorded hours of audio to uncover stories of the Latino experience in Indiana.

“It’s only going to help further our understanding of where we have privilege in this community (and) where we don’t have privilege and it really helped deepen my own sense of pride in my own family and their contributions,” Martinez-LeGrand said.

In the process, she discovered that her own family settled here in the early 1920s.

“My great-great-grandparents came with my teenage great-grandmother who met my great-grandfather who was also in Indiana Harbor who had worked as a section hand on the railroad, building the railroad,” she said.

Carolina Castoreno is Executive Director of the American Indian Center of Indiana. Her grandparents made their way to Frankfort in the 1960s.

“They were one of the first. I think we were the third or fourth Mexican-American family to settle there,” Castoreno said.

She says this exhibit carries a powerful message.

“When people in the political or social atmosphere talk about Latinos in this state, they talk about immigration only almost as if it’s a recent thing, and there are so many of us who have had our roots here for decades,” Castoreno said.

“It’s just a really great project and … it has deepened my own sense of pride and what it means to be a Latino Hoosier and I really hope it does for many generations to come,” Castoreno said.

Currently, the traveling exhibition is located at Conner Prairie and will run until Sept. 30.

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