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UNLV's Latinx Voices: Javier Barajas And Eddie Escobedo, Jr

UNLV Special Collections/Twitter

The first interviewee for the Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada project Senator Catherine Cortez Masto speaks about her support for UNLV Libraries Special Collections pioneering effort to collect the history of the Latinx community in Las Vegas.

It is the stories of a community that really make it a community, which is why the UNLV Special Collections has been working for years to collect and save those stories through its Oral History project.

The oral histories of the African-American community have been gathered and archived and so have the stories from the Jewish community. Now, the stories from the Latinx community are being gathered.

Barbara Tabach is the project director for  The Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada

She said they were able to obtain a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help hire students to help gather those stories. 

“We’ve trained the students to be the face of the project, to be the person the story is told to,” she said.

Tabach said the students bring a fresh perspective and an inquisitiveness that has added dimensions to their interviews. In addition to that, all the students are fluent in English and Spanish, which allows the interview subjects to use whichever language they are more comfortable with. 

Two of the subjects they've already talked to are both prominent men in the community. 

One is Eddie Escobedo, Jr., who started the first Spanish-language newspapers in Nevada, Monse Hernandez, one of the research assistants on the project said.

"They are the prominent newspaper in the Spanish language to this day," she said. "His family came from Mexico. His dad was in the military.. his father emphasized the importance of Spanish, keeping the language alive." 

"My family – my dad wanted to instill what it was like to be a Mexican and to maintain the language. My sister and my little brother their Spanish is like 50 percent. I was privileged enough that when I was 15, 16 years of age, my dad actually put me on a bus – sent me from downtown – age 15 by myself – to Juarez. Eighteen-hour bus drive from here to El Paso, Texas. Fifteen years of age with my little backpack. I crossed the border – across the bridge by myself. Got on the bus to my grandmother’s house. And I spent three summers at my grandmother’s house. So, I maintained a deep love and tradition with my mom’s mother…but I got to experience being a Mexican. And living with Mexicans every summer."

Eddie Escobedo, Jr. 

“The fantastic thing about these interviews is that it really helps us as students reflect on our own experience within the Latinx community. And I think it's striking the way his relationship with his family how he stayed ingrained with his traditions, with his roots,” said research assistant Nathalie Martinez told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Another prominent Mexican-American man they talked to was Javier Barajas. Though some people don't know his name, most Las Vegans will know his restaurants. He's the owner of the Lindo Michoacan chain of Mexican restaurants.

“I used to work for somebody else, too. I used to be a dishwasher and I know – because of that I know how to treat my employees. I know that you got to be fair on everything and be good with them, you know. For me, it was very hard. And I know how hard it is for them, too.”

“Restaurants is like a human. Born, live for a few years, and boom.  And I keep telling them, my daughters, every day: we got to be better and better because restaurants, I tell them, restaurants is like a human. I mean, you’re going to die soon if you don’t take care of your body, and the restaurant is the same thing. If you give the restaurant vitamins and keep it in good shape. And how you keep the restaurant in good shape? Using a good quality. Clean, keep clean. The restaurant, keep it clean. Every day, you know. Be good with the customers. Good service. Not because you’re busy you’re going to be rude with anybody. No.”

Javier Barajas

Javier Barajas/Owner Lindo Michoacan

"He is a proud Mexican from Michoacan. His restaurant is really known within our community. As we all know, he's won the Best of Las Vegas for being the best Mexican restaurant in the community. He is just an incredible person who really embraces both his Mexican roots as well as the Las Vegas community," Martinez said.

Barbara Tabach, Project Director, UNLV's Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada; Monse Hernandez, Research Assistant, UNLV's Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada; Nathalie Martinez, Research Assistant, UNLV's Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.