Gianna Sanchez

Gianna Sanchez

The entire process of creating an interpretive, educational website about Hispanic heritage on and along Route 66 in New Mexico has definitely been an interesting one. I have worked on interpretive projects before, and creating a StoryMap about this topic was both more demanding and more relaxed than anticipated. A lot of the work I do with digital media is for younger audiences, those who are considered computer literate. I carry my own assumptions of what is considered "easy" and "intuitive" for technology, mostly because I grew up using computers and different forms of technology both for recreational and educational purposes. However, I had to constantly remind myself and edit content for this particular project to be more intuitive and suitable for an older audience. While this information will only be exclusively available online, most of the people who utilize the National Trails' resources are older adults that tend to be less familiar with current technology. This was an interesting challenge to work through because the text and site I was creating had to have language that explained material to their expectations (which was a bit more in depth than normal), while also trying to make the experience as smooth as possible when interactive with different forms of digital media. So, while I had to go over details about Route 66's alignment and be precise about dates and how the bypass specifically affected different communities, I also had to be cognizant of how the text appeared, using tools like pointing out when users can click on a link and coloring it in a brighter color so that, through repetition, they will also know that future text that is that color can also be clicked on. [caption id="attachment_12595" align="alignleft" width="1067"] I created this GIF to illustrate that the history of Route 66 goes far beyond rockabilly and road trips and impacts the lives of numerous individuals who live, work, and play on and along the road. I had to make sure site users knew they could access this content by clicking on a particular link by noting where they click in the text and highlighting it a different color so it stands out.[/caption] I am pretty happy with the end product. There was definitely more information I could have included, but, given the platform, I didn't want to overburden users too much. I do think, however, that there are many opportunities for future interns and staff to expand this project to create new StoryMaps based on specific communities, zooming in on a micro-scale, or to focus on other geographic regions entirely, such as Texas or Arizona, whose Hispanic residents have entirely different experiences than those in New Mexico. I hope projects like this continue. I hope those that use this site enjoy the experience and learn from it and that it can serve as a great example why having a presence online or how using technology can be a great form of outreach to visitors. It can be accessible, even if those using the platform aren't entirely tech-savvy, and can create unique experiences that provide educational content in a new way.
Sunday, 30 July 2017 00:38

A Needle in a Haystack

As part of the interpretive StoryMaps website about Hispanic heritage on Route 66 that I am creating, I have had to locate and include as many images as possible, which are interspersed throughout the text. These images are all important. They attract users and offer a break from reading text, provide greater context, and, perhaps most importantly, can feature the people behind these stories and show that the history of Hispanics on and along the Mother Road was a lived experience. [caption id="attachment_12261" align="aligncenter" width="641"] This image, from the Center for Southwest Research archives, is a great example of advertising Hispanic stereotypes to attract visitors. In this image, Coronado and conquistadors are romanticized and are meant to represent the Hispanic population in New Mexico. To use this image in the StoryMap, I had to locate it in the archives first before I could ask permission.[/caption] One collection of images I have been utilizing comes from previous research with the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in conjunction with the University of New Mexico Spanish Colonial Research Center. These images are largely a collection of postcards, magazines, and marketing material, and provide a great example for how Hispanic and Native American culture as commodified and stereotyped to attract visitors to drive through New Mexico. The one caveat of using these collections is that when they were collected, they were not properly cited. I have to ask permission to use all images utilized on the website, and this requires an exact location and description of each item. The process of finding these images has been pretty tedious, but not fruitless. Luckily, the archives are next door to the office I am at, and the staff and archivists are wonderful and extremely helpful. I've actually managed to locate most of the images and obtain permission, which is great. There is some excitement in actually finding something you're looking for, a sense of accomplishment for being able to fill out all of the information needed and know exactly where it is among a plethora of collections. [caption id="attachment_12264" align="aligncenter" width="1211"] This postcard is used on a section about the railroad in New Mexico and how Route 66 followed some of its tracks. This image is also from the Center for Southwest Research, and had to be located within its New Mexico Pamphlet Collections.[/caption] For the images I can't locate, I have gotten very good at going back through other collections and images that I know I have permission to use or have the exact location for. There are a surprising number of collections that are open to allowing the use of their images and resources for educational purposes, even if it is *technically* counted as being published as a website. This entire process of emailing different archives and people and asking them permission to use their collections has been an extremely positive experience, and one that will surely come in handy as I move on to other projects and continue to work with digital media and interpretation.
Tuesday, 25 July 2017 23:28

Revisions Upon Revisions

I have about three more weeks of my LHIP internship, and my digital StoryMaps project is in its final stages. All of the text is written and the images have been selected, so now the process is all about reviewing, editing, and obtaining permissions. It definitely doesn't sound too exciting, but there is something nice about having a product in its later stages and just working on polishing it to be the best it can be. It's hard to believe that a few weeks ago this project was just getting started and barely had a few jumbled sentences that tried to summarize the Hispanic legacy and heritage on Route 66 in New Mexico. [caption id="attachment_11904" align="aligncenter" width="867"] This image was given to me by one of the Route 66 community leaders in Santa Rosa. It is, by far, my favorite image and I'm really excited that I get to use it in this project. Delgado, Richard. "Route 66 Ladies," Santa Rosa, New Mexico.[/caption] I've actually been having to go to the archives this past week to locate images for the StoryMaps. While I have found all of the images I would like to use (and keep stumbling upon more that, if I had infinite time and space, I would include as well), I still need to obtain permission to use them because posting an image on a website technically counts as publishing. Some of the images I would like to use do not have full citation information, and so I have to go back to the archive to find out the precise location, which is needed both as an acknowledgement on the website and for permission paperwork. I suppose, given this work and the editing, that I am in the drudgery stages of my internship, making small revisions here and there and finalizing everything before my last day. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. It's nice to see a project to its completion and even if there are a few loose strands here and there that need to be tied up after I'm gone, I'm happy with what I've produced. I can't wait until the StoryMaps is officially approved, and I can show off the work I did and further add to work that asserts the importance of Latino history to the larger American experience.
Monday, 17 July 2017 22:06

Route 66 as a Lifeline

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel east on Route 66 and visit with community members in Moriarty and Santa Rosa. It was a wonderful experience and allowed me to talk directly with Hispanics who grew up on the Mother Road and greatly influenced its development in New Mexico. Previously, I had been using oral histories to get a better sense of the first person narrative, and while those are rich in content, talking to people directly and actually traveling on the road put the experience more in perspective. For many Hispanics in the state, Route 66 was not the travel corridor to vacations in California or milkshakes and rockabilly, as we tend to think about it today. Instead, it was, in all honesty, just another road, but one that granted access to new ways of living and offered opportunities in business, politics, and commerce. It connected many rural communities and allowed families to participate in both rural and urban forms of economy. It allowed people like Mike Anaya, the first person we spoke with, to open businesses when he was just nineteen and move away from the labor-intensive construction work he had done prior to that. It became, as Richard Delgado of Santa Rosa asserts, a lifeline that impacted all aspects of daily life. Our first stop was in Moriarty, a small town about a forty minute drive away from Albuquerque. There, we talked to Anaya, who graciously welcomed us into his home. His house, which he built himself, is behind his shop and restaurant on Route 66, "Mike's Friendly Place" and "El Comedor." His store opened in 1949 and provided basic goods to tourists who passed through, but was also a resource to locals, who would barter and sell their rural products like eggs or beef for credit to purchase items in the shop. [caption id="attachment_11688" align="alignleft" width="1830"] El Comedor in Moriarty, New Mexico.[/caption] For Anaya, Route 66 provided access to new business opportunities and was also a resource for his political endeavors. During the twentieth century, Anaya served in numerous positions for the New Mexico Democratic Party. He used Route 66 to access other party affiliates and organize small towns to support the party. His restaurant, which opened in 1950, was also a common stop for both local and national politicians. Former President Bill Clinton even announced his intent to run for president at El Comedor in the 90s. Route 66 facilitated these interactions and allowed Anaya to take the initiative to open his businesses and participate in politics. As he stated, "Anybody can follow, but few can lead." And he just so happened to be one of the few. After leaving Moriarty, we stopped in Santa Rosa to talk with Richard Delgado, whose family has a long history of opening businesses on the Mother Road. His father's family moved from Puerto de Luna to Santa Rosa specifically to take advantage of the job opportunities made available through Route 66. Over the course of his lifetime, he's seen Santa Rosa expand because of advancements in transportation, first through the railroad and then Route 66. [caption id="attachment_11689" align="alignleft" width="1280"] Image (c) Suzassippi's Lottabusha County Chronicles. ([/caption] While in Santa Rosa, we had the opportunity to visit Delgado's sister, who recently purchased, renovated, and opened the Lake City Diner, a restaurant along Route 66 that has an extended history. The building was originally a bank, built in the 19th century. After that, it was converted to a diner, but maintained much of the original architecture, including a vault door that leads into the kitchen. It closed after the I-40 bypass, but through this restoration effort it is now up and running again during the weekends. Unfortunately, not many people know about the Lake City Diner anymore or that it is even open. Delgado's sister has invested a lot into the restaurant, however, and hopes that business will pick up. In spite of these difficulties, this endeavor, to me, further illustrates the kinds of opportunity Route 66 provides. The road, even after its heyday, gives those who live on it opportunities to both look toward the future in their business efforts while appreciating the past for what these locations mean to locals in the area. Countless people ate at Lake City Diner, but even before that, before New Mexico was a state, residents used it as a way to store and save money and build a foundation in the town. This much was evident when we were talking with Delgado. As he asserted, Route 66 was integral to the lives of Hispanics and others who lived along it. It was a river to feed on or risk drying up.
Saturday, 08 July 2017 20:57

Rethinking Distance

One point emphasized in the many Route 66 oral histories I've looked through is how long it took to travel from place to place. It might seem obvious, but the way we experience travel today—getting on the freeway and driving anywhere between 60–80 mph—is not the same as it was in the mid-twentieth century. Road conditions were often precarious with roads not always paved, traffic piled up on roads through cities and small towns, cars required drivers to stop every hour to refill gas and water bags to prevent overheating, and extreme speed limit restrictions (by today's standards) made every trip, even if it was to the next town over, a journey in its own right. This is particularly significant for me because my research as a historian looks at the reproductive landscape in New Mexico, and considers how women in the state experienced birth both utilizing traditional healing practices (like curanderismo) and professionalized medicine. The facility I wrote my thesis about, the Santa Fe Maternal Health Center, provided women in the area vital prenatal, postnatal, gynecological, and general medical care. However, because the Center offered contraception to their patients, doctors in the city refused to work with them for fear that such affiliation would jeopardize their careers in Catholic Santa Fe and at the only local hospital, St. Vincent's. Instead, Dr. Evelyn Fisher Frisbie of Albuquerque, New Mexico, would drive north once a week to treat patients and prescribe and administer birth control. When I originally thought about the path that Dr. Fisher Frisbie took, I pictured the route we use today using the interstate. It's fairly direct, easy to traverse, and takes about an hour. However, when Dr. Fisher Frisbie would have started her weekly trips in 1937, the interstate was not yet developed and she likely had to drive using the Old Santa Fe Trail and portions of the pre-1937 Route 66. This would have taken far longer and made the journey and her devotion to these women that much more poignant. What's more, this new understanding of New Mexico's transportation and travel environment emphasizes how difficult it was for women to access certain medical care unless it was already available in their communities. The Santa Fe Maternal Health Center was the only facility in the state for a good thirty years to offer contraceptives, and one of a small handful of maternal facilities in New Mexico as well. And yet, women from nearby, but remote, towns like Tijeras and in adjacent counties would save money, ride share with neighbors, and correspond with the facility to ensure they could get the care they needed. Route 66 and new development on other travel corridors in the state made access to the Center easier, to be sure, but the determination to make this journey on a regular basis and for better maternal care speaks volumes for the women, the facility, and the medical landscape in New Mexico as well. Again, these are things I probably should have realized on my own. But in going through these documents about Route 66 and the experience many Hispanic families had on this road, I've been able to better understand how important this road was as a lifeline and how isolated many of these communities were. I've obtained a greater understanding of the landscape and how existing travel corridors were used, as well as how advancements in transportation transformed small town New Mexican communities and provided new access to healthcare, economic opportunity, leisure, and employment.
Friday, 30 June 2017 19:04


When I was driving down the Albuquerque alignments of Route 66 last week, I was struck by how familiar everything was. These were roads that my family would drive whenever we'd take my sister to kickboxing, the area where I spent my lunches during a summer program at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, old paths that my mom would point out as the place where she grew up. This is, perhaps, one of my favorite parts about this internship: rediscovering old places that I've forgotten and viewing them with new context and significance. [caption id="attachment_11121" align="alignleft" width="576"] The Red Ball Cafe (best known as Wimpy's) was an iconic Route 66 restaurant. It also was where my mom used to eat as a teen and where, thirty years later, I would go to for lunch during my summer program at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.[/caption] The Red Ball Cafe, for example, has been known by residents as a great place to get a good burger without spending too much money. My mom ate there as a teen, and a generation later I did too. It is more popularly known as "Wimpy's," after the hamburger-loving Popeye character, but the restaurant took on its own mythos as a contributor to Albuquerque history, Hispanic heritage, and Route 66. The Red Ball Cafe, up until it closed, was a Hispanic-owned business in the old Barelas neighborhood of New Mexico. This is an historic district that quickly adjusted and transformed to accommodate Route 66 traffic and take advantage of the new form of commerce. It takes its name from the Valera/Balera family who owned an estancia in the area as early as 1662. According to the National Register of Historic Places for the area, "At its peak from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s, the Barelas-South Fourth Street Historic District was a thriving automobile commercial strip. It not only served highway traffic and was the primary shopping district for the Barelas neighborhood, but also offered South Valley farmers on their way to downtown a full line of businesses with congenial, bilingual proprietors." (Sec. 7, pg. 7) Meanwhile, the Red Ball Cafe served both as a private residence for the owners, the Padilla family, and was also a place where "people came from all over the area to buy hamburgers with red chil[e], six for a dollar." (Sec. 7, pg. 15)  For my mom and me, though, "Wimpy's" was just a reliable place to eat some great food that transcended generations. This area is filled with places like Wimpy's: personally significant for me and my family, but also considered historically and nationally significant. Hispanic business owners and consumers influenced these roads and chose to operate and frequent businesses that impacted the lives of travelers and residents alike. This is what this project is all about, to highlight the history of these areas and show not just their historical significance but their connection to Hispanic heritage that features transformation and navigation of new forms of transportation, technology, and commerce. It's a shame that Wimpy's closed down. I keep hoping that it will reopen and I can eat one of their burgers again. But until then, there are plenty of other places I can visit along Route 66 in the Fourth Street and Barelas neighborhood, most of which are Hispanic-owned. There's El Modelos, which has the best stuffed sopapillas known to man; the Dog House, which, while relocated to a different area, still has amazing chile dogs; B. Ruppee's Drug Store, which is a great location to get herbal remedies based in curanderismo; the house my mother grew up in that is just off of this road and the Catholic Church that we would sometimes go to on Sundays; even the South Valley Animal Clinic, where I take my cat for her shots every year...all on pre-alignment Route 66. Everything has a history, and this area, which maintains a strong connection to Hispanic culture and heritage, is steeped in it. [caption id="attachment_11130" align="aligncenter" width="460"] "South Valley Animal Clinic," Donatella Davanzo, Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico.[/caption]
Friday, 23 June 2017 20:02

Little Legacies of Route 66

This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to Los Lunas, New Mexico, and visit with Cynthia Shetter and Troy Ainsworth of the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts and with a local historian, Baldwin Burr, who wrote about the history of Los Lunas in the Images of America series. Generally, you wouldn't think about Los Lunas as contributing to the history of Route 66 in New Mexico. This small town is south of Albuquerque and does not intersect with what remains of Route 66 as defined today. However, the history of Los Lunas is intertwined with Route 66, as prior to 1937 part of the Mother Road actually crossed through Los Lunas as it headed west toward Gallup. [caption id="attachment_10742" align="aligncenter" width="3264"] Pictured: Kaisa Barthuli (far right in the corner), Program Manager of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program; myself (in the blue shirt); Cynthia Shetter, Los Lunas Museum Library Director; Troy Ainsworth, Los Lunas Museum Specialist; and Baldwin G. Burr, local historian during our meeting at the Los Lunas Museum.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_10743" align="aligncenter" width="1199"] Pael, Michael E. "New Mexico's Historic Route 66." New Mexico Department of Tourism, ca. 1990s-2000s. Inventory of the Albuquerque and New Mexico Pamphlet Collection 1880-1961. Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico.[/caption] The pre-1937 alignment of Route 66 in New Mexico snaked across the state, forming a sideways "S" as it traveled south from Santa Fe, crossed through Albuquerque, and went through Los Lunas before following the road out to Arizona. It wasn't until 1937, when the road was paved, that it was straightened out and bypassed Los Lunas and Santa Fe to reduce travel time. In spite of the realignment, parts of the pre-alignment Route 66 remain, and it followed this "S" pattern for many reasons. Access to Route 66 transformed the towns it went through; it provided new access to commerce, healthcare, employment, and many other opportunities. For many New Mexicans, it provided a lifeline outside of the isolated communities they lived in. So, it is no surprise that Route 66 stretched to so many different towns in the state to best benefit everyone who lived there. There is another reason for this path, however. Route 66, in part, followed established roads that already existed in the areas it traversed through. Within New Mexico, outside of east-west corridors established by the railroad, it relied upon north-south routes that had been utilized for centuries, first by indigenous groups as trade routes and hunting grounds, then by colonizers and Spanish and American traders who utilized the Camino Real that ran from Santa Fe to Mexico City, and later the Santa Fe Trail which connected Santa Fe to Missouri. When Route 66 traveled through Santa Fe and Los Lunas, it was following much older paths that had facilitated movement for centuries. As such, some parts of this old alignment strongly contrast with what we stereotypically envision when we think of Route 66. It isn't neon signs, but acequias and farmland that still mirrors the old Spanish rectangular allotments. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4=""][/video] On the way back from the Los Lunas Museum, instead of taking the interstate we traveled through the pre-1937 Route 66 (and Camino Real) road, still marked as such, which winds and curves throughout rural areas, small towns, and even crossed through Isleta Pueblo. What struck me most, as we drove through and Kaisa pointed out abandoned adobe houses and old buildings that used to be gas stations or other businesses that accommodated Route 66 travelers, was how much people who lived in these communities made an effort to adjust and take advantage of the opportunities Route 66 brought. They didn't completely change their ways of living; cows often grazed next to what used to be old service stations, and farmland was just as prominent as the businesses that travelers would have encountered. Instead, they transformed with the road, incorporating traditions and lifeways into modern advancements of transportation and commerce. Many of the oral histories I've read acknowledge this as well; cows and sheep were herded across the road to different pastures while tourists from the east passed through and stopped at gas stations, providing an economic benefit to the community and offering a glimpse of the world outside of New Mexico. It is this personal impact that museums like the Los Lunas Museum hope to emphasize and what my project hopes to accomplish. The entire history of Route 66 as it travels across the entirety of the United States is interesting, but what is more fascinating is how individual communities, particularly Hispanos who had lived in these small towns for centuries, evolved and adjusted to best utilize the Mother Road, and how Route 66, in turn, was influenced by their presence.
Friday, 16 June 2017 19:53

American Indians and Route 66

Route 66 is defined by a long, extended history that features numerous distinct and connected stories, all centered on improved access and new forms of transportation, leisure, economy, and migration. This narrative tends to focus on the Anglo-American, tourist-based experience, and neglects the involvement and experience of African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and others on and along Route 66. It is more than milkshakes and long drives with the family and curio shops. For many Hispanics in New Mexico, it was a new form of economic gain, a point of interaction with tourists who called them "little Mexicans," or a link that provided access to other communities normally secluded by miles of desert and sagebrush. But before all of this, the Route was (and often still is) part of American Indian lands and connects to an indigenous past featuring extensive trade routes, traditional hunting grounds, and everyday life in settled communities. [caption id="attachment_10403" align="alignleft" width="300"] Meeting with the archivists at the CSWR[/caption] This week, I started putting together interpretive text for the StoryMap Route 66 project. The Program Manager of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, Kaisa Barthuli, urged that it begin with the far earlier history of American Indian movement and trade in New Mexico, which ultimately influenced all other types of travel from Spanish colonialist expeditions to Route 66 family vacations. After all, this land originally belonged to American Indians before displacement and colonization, and it is important to acknowledge that legacy. My first task as part of this section was to find images that convey this past and show the shadow of American Indian travel on Route 66. Ideally, I wanted a map that illustrated American Indian movement and trade prior to colonization. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. The exact specifications that I wanted, copyright regulations, and quality of images made finding the exact resource difficult. I met with staff from the Center for Southwest Research (CSWR), an archive at the University of New Mexico, to see what they had and searched through different National Trails projects to see if any material could be repurposed. While I never did find the exact map I envisioned, I was able to utilize the American Indians & Route 66 Project, which addresses American Indian heritage on the road. [caption id="attachment_10408" align="alignleft" width="270"] Pendant, Pueblo III - IV AD 1200 - 1550, BAND 22048[/caption] I became more inventive with how I presented information and tried to do a better job of integrating text and images to illustrate a point. Instead of a map that displayed trade routes, I found a pendant from the Bandelier National Monument Collections made of  turquoise, which was traded widely throughout the Southwest. The American Indians & Route 66 site featured numerous quotes and stories that helped illustrate more difficult themes, such as commodification of American Indian culture or the fact that many routes in New Mexico today still cross through American Indian lands. I still have a map or two, but I need to use more than just that to convey this deep history of the road to an audience not as familiar with the material as I am. And, as part of best practices for museum interpretation, a lot of that involves showing, not telling, and letting the people featured "speak for themselves" using quotes and images wherever possible. Following this protocol has also helped establish a format for the project going forward. As I progress into talking more about Hispanic heritage along the road, I hope to keep these points in mind and utilize them throughout the narrative and interpretive text.
Friday, 09 June 2017 21:21

The Lesser-Known History of Route 66

On June 1, 2017, the Washington Post published an article about The Negro Motorist Green-Book. African Americans traveling across the country through Route 66 used this resource (and similar publications like it) widely. It was more than a guidebook to help wanderers and tourists alike traverse the American landscape, it was a necessity. As the Post article explains,
"Stopping at the wrong roadside diner could lead to discrimination and 'embarrassments.' Running out of gas on a highway could lead to an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan. Making a bad turn into a “sundown town” — where African Americans were not permitted after dark — could lead to a lynching. Some of those towns constructed signs at their borders warning, 'N—–, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You.'"
Unlike the traditional, mythologized history of Route 66—Anglo American families traveling West for a summer vacation, young adults embarking on new adventures on the open road, rockabilly, and milkshakes—the actual lived experience of Route 66 is vastly different, especially when you consider the experience of non-white travelers. While African Americans may have had the same adventurous spirit as their Anglo American counterparts, traveling into unknown areas without a knowledge of the community and where safe spaces were could be perilous. [caption id="attachment_10107" align="aligncenter" width="562"] The guidebook for African American travelers was published from 1936 to 1964 by Victor H. Green. (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture/New York Public Library).[/caption] The National Trails Intermountain Regional Office's Route 66 project seeks to highlight these narratives and challenge the history of Route 66 as it has been commemorated and remembered. Their goal is to tell multiple stories along Route 66 and show there wasn't just one experience, one narrative, and that this history can be complex and contentious when issues of race, class, gender, and ethnicity are considered. It isn't just about Anglo American tourists, but African American, Native American, and Hispanic travelers and families whose lives were influenced by Route 66 either as a source of transportation and movement or as a new form of economic and urban development. For the National Trails, Route 66 is a conduit to understand American history--its racialized complex past, and how the transformation and advancement of movement/migration, commerce, and transportation influenced the lived experience of people traveling on and living on the Mother Road. My project, "Hispanic Legacies of Route 66," is part of this larger project. Now that I've gotten my feet on the ground, I will be building an interactive website through StoryMaps that explores the history of Route 66 in New Mexico and how it impacted Hispanic communities, and how this group, in turn, influenced the road and experience of those who traveled along it. The story of New Mexico and Route 66 is one of constant adaptation and negotiation, featuring interesting components of racial/ethnic expectations and commodification of Southwestern, Native American, and Hispanic culture. It also was a lifeline and point of development for many small town communities that grew to rely on the traffic and commerce that the road brought to an otherwise remote area. This story is complex and fascinating and far from complete, and I can't wait to share it with you.
Tuesday, 06 June 2017 23:02

A Route 66 Crash Course

For my project with the National Trails Intermountain Regional Office, I will be putting together a set of interpretive materials about the history of Route 66 and Hispanic heritage along the road. It's an exciting project, but also a massive undertaking when it comes to condensing history and making it meaningful, interesting, and understandable to a public audience. So, for my first official week with the National Trails as a LHIP Intern, I have immersed myself in the history and have already begun thinking about how to best package the information using digital tools like StoryMaps. [caption id="attachment_9842" align="alignnone" width="1852"] An example of a StoryMap project, "The Lands We Share: America's Protected Areas."[/caption] The more I read, the more challenging this task seems to be. Putting together a StoryMap and creating interpretive materials is more than just copying and pasting information or dumping pages of historical context on a webpage. Even this early in the project, I have to consider what material will be of most interest to a wide audience, relevant to community members, and can craft a good narrative through mixed media ranging from map-based visuals to text to photographs. One of the core texts I am currently looking through is "The Historic and Architectural Resources of Route 66 Through New Mexico," a report by David Kammer published in 1992 that, in part, is used as a foundation to add certain historic markers to the National Register, preserve important locations along Route 66, and track the overall history of the road. The first pages of this text open not with a description of the road as is, already built, and ready for eager tourists to traverse, but with a thorough investigation of the landscape of New Mexico and how this influenced the construction and path of the road. From the outset, it asserts that “More than any of the other seven states it crossed, New Mexico presented highway engineers with a variety of landforms [which presented a range of obstacles and challenges]. . . . As Route 66 made its way across the state, a course of 399 miles (506 miles prior to its straightening in 1937), it crossed over three of the state’s four physiographic regions. . . . The eastern third took it through the Pecos and Canadian Valleys of the Great Plains Province; the middle third through the Basin and Range Plateau; and the western third through the Intermountain Plateau.” (p. 4) As a result, Route 66 followed traditional pathways in an east-west flow that had been used for centuries, first by Native Americans who lived and traded in the region then by Spaniards colonizing and exploring the area and finally by American traders, expeditionaries, and settlers. [caption id="attachment_9846" align="alignleft" width="550"] This postcard (c. 1940-1949) shows the extended history of travel in New Mexico and confluence of east-west travel across different eras. Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico.[/caption] This mirrored movement over time is fascinating. It illustrates the power of the land to affect human migration and ultimately influence centuries of travel. This is one of the major themes of Route 66 in New Mexico and, ideally, will be illustrated in a transitioning map. If anything, this component is easy to conceptualize. Show the movement of people over time across New Mexico as connected to different trails along the 35th Parallel from Route 66 to the Santa Fe Trail. However, this is just a small part of the story. Following the physical location of a trail, how do I show individual stories and experiences? What about movement of businesses to correspond with the emergence of different forms of transportation? What themes do I find in these components and how do I best illustrate them through maps and interactives? These are the questions I will tackle this summer. It is a daunting task, like staring down the entirety of Route 66 and seeing the expanse of road you've yet to travel. But I have time and resources and, hopefully, the skills needed to best complete the task. Any journey begins not with a first step but by looking at a map and planning a route. So, the best thing I can do this week is read and absorb and piece together the history of the trail and how Hispanic residents of New Mexico were impacted and influenced by this historic road.
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