Sienna Cordoba

Sienna Cordoba

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 17:02

Migration is Beautiful

I drive to work every morning down a long straight open road, passing by huge silos of grain, vast expanses of fields, combines and semis full of cows blanketed by an enormous sky. Fort Larned is a remote, middle of nowhere and everywhere sort of place. It is like being in the middle of the ocean but without the seasickness. I love the space.

 

I usually love it. But then, I started getting anxious the day before my LCW event. I wasn’t nervous at all up until that point. I simply loved designing the day, promoting it, and meeting all different types of people all over Central Kansas.

 

The day before I started to think, “What if no one comes? What if I convinced a mariachi to come two hours from Wichita, a taco truck from Great Bend, dancers, so many beautiful Latino people, etc. to come out to this 19th century Fort and no one is here to see them in all of their gloriousness? What if I convinced the Chief Ranger to buy $300 of Butterfly Weed Seedballs, convinced the maintenance guys to build me a giant slingshot, and no one is here to launch them?” 

 

But then people came! Despite my anxiety and the extreme heat, maybe around a hundred amazing people showed up. The thing that really struck me was who came. I’ve never hosted such a community feeling public event before. People came out from everywhere, from Garden City to Hutchinson, an over three and a half hour radius around the Fort, not even including my precious mentor Jan Elder, who came from way eastern Kansas to interpret the historic garden. Tons of families came who believed in the theme of our event “Migration is Beautiful” and wanted to support the mission of Latino Conservation Week. We had over 25 new Junior Rangers! It was truly beautiful!

 

One of my favorite rangers (ok they are all my favorites) told me afterwards that this was one of the most successful small events they had hosted in a very long time. And all of the performers and musicians who came were so enthusiastic about the event and the history of the Fort, they promised to come back next year to perform at the upcoming grand opening of the new museum exhibits. 

 

The event started out with the idea of Kansas being in the Central Flyway, the airborne animal highway between Canada, the US, and Mexico. I started thinking about Monarch Butterflies who have one of the most epic and unimaginable multi-generational migrations in the world and their connection and symbolism to the local Latino community. Then, I found out that the Fort’s previous Butterfly Garden had been uprooted because a lot of the plants weren’t native. I can’t wait to see our newly created Monarch habitat when it matures a couple years from now (yes, the grasslands are all about patience). I deeply  enjoyed the mixture of history and nature, Hispanic and Anglo, young and old at our event Saturday. I love the beautiful perfect mess of migration and settlement and coming and going and I think we hit the nail on the head with this program. 



Friday, 14 June 2019 17:13

Doing My Best Dorotea Impersonation

Hi! I am Sienna Córdoba, the Historical Interpretation Intern at Fort Larned Historic Site in Kansas. I have my master’s degree in Latin American and Environmental History from UC - Santa Barbara. I am so thrilled to be in Kansas this summer - it is absolutely fascinating and beautiful, such a hidden gem. Many people do not realize that the Hispanic exploration and settlement of the center of North America was early and extensive, beginning in 1541. Nearby the Fort, archaeologists have found 16th century chain mail and cannon balls from Coronado and other early Spanish expeditions!

The far-reaching implications of the historic Hispanic presence in what is today Kansas provides an excellent but poorly understood context to a lot of current events. What might seem like the middle of nowhere is actually a vibrant borderland. My job is to highlight the role of 19th century Hispanic Traders in the settlement and economic development of this area during the post-Independence era.

Before Mexican Independence in 1821, trade with the US (and everywhere else that wasn’t Spain) was illegal. As soon as Mexico got free of Spain’s clutches, there was no end to the goods being traded back and forth between Santa Fe and all of the major cities of the United States. US currency was a mess at the time with each state printing their own money so traders of all sorts were eager to get their hands on Mexican Silver Dollars or specie. Then, in 1846, just 25 years after Mexican Independence and the opening of the Santa Fe Trail, the trade route was used for the US invasion of New Mexico, leading to the Mexican-American War and the infamous Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.The Fort was established shortly after the US annexation and was active from 1859 to 1878, protecting mail and other good from American Indian attacks and distributing annuities to five different tribes. The arrival of the railroad in 1880 rendered the Fort unexpectedly obsolete.

Today, Fort Larned is very well preserved and is an extremely well run Living History museum made to resemble the year 1868, just twenty years after the dramatic border change. It was a very fun surprise that part of my internship includes “dressing out” as a 19th century servant with my amazing supervisor Ellen Jones! I love interpreting the historic garden and kitchen every Saturday after spending the week on the computer or in the library and archives.

I am also planning a “Migration is Beautiful” event for July 20, celebrating migrating animals, mainly butterflies and birds, for Latino Conservation Week. The maintenance guys are helping me make a giant slingshot and harvest local clay for Milkweed seed balls and then we are going to let kids launch them into the prairie for the Monarchs! I’m also working with a local community leader to have a ballet folklórico group come perform to complement the current Living History exhibits. The local Latino community here has already shown a lot of support and interest in the event so I am really looking forward to it!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019 14:44

Sienna Cordoba

My mom, an entomologist and Adirondack raised woodland creature on the women's rugby team, and my dad, a wildlife management expert and butterfly stroke swimming party animal straight out of the Colombian Andes, met at SUNY ESF. I was pretty quickly born in Alexandria, VA and grew up with my backyard on the Beltway - but always retained my parents' fascination with and devotion to protecting and studying nature. I have my master's degree in Latin American and Environmental History from the University of California- Santa Barbara. I received my BA in History from NYU with a double major in Dramatic Literature. I'm an independent writer and researcher currently working on an innovative environmental history of motherhood in 19th century Paraguay. I am looking forward to connecting with the Latino audience at the Fort Larned site and making a positive contribution. I am so grateful for this opportunity to do research that is directly connected to conserving Latino heritage and re-telling Latino histories from our own point of view!