EAST LANSING, MI.- The Latino journey in North America began more than five centuries ago, long before the founding of the United States. The ancestors of today's Latinos were the men and women who first ranched cattle, introduced the metal plow, developed irrigation systems, innovated mining techniques, spun wool into blankets, produced the bounty of fields and factories, and defended our freedom. Latinos have also helped lay the groundwork for the advancement of art, law, religion, science, education, commerce, and virtually every other endeavor of American life. Against this backdrop of accomplishment, the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives and SITES created Our Journeys/Our Stories: Portraits of Latino Achievement to highlight the diversity of contemporary Latino success in the United States. The exhibition features 24 individuals and one extended family whose stories are told through specially commissioned photographs and biographical profiles containing excerpts from recent Smithsonian interviews. While each of the featured Latinos tells a distinct and individual story, the profiles as a whole reflect shared Latino experiences, values, and ideals. Among these are respect for the wisdom of their elders, passed down through familiar sayings, or dichos, that resound as words of inspiration.
Latinos celebrated in this bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibition include astronaut Ellen Ochoa, Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, Olympic medalist speed skater Derek Parra, writers Cristina García and Victor Villaseñor, artists Pepón Osorio and Judith Baca, and businessman and philanthropist Joseph Unanue. As risk takers, innovators, leaders, and mentors to young Americans, these talented individuals have worked hard to become the best in their fields, frequently overcoming obstacles and prejudices along the way. Also highlighted through photographs and text are a dozen influential figures from the past, including poet and revolutionary José Martí, feminist labor leader Emma Tenayuca, athlete and humanitarian Roberto Clemente, and singer Celia Cruz. The men and women featured in this inspirational exhibition were selected by a seven-member advisory board of historians, curators, and leaders in the U.S. Latino community. Also contributing to this celebration of success, self-discovery, and roots and traditions are curatorial consultant Nicolás Kanellos, University of Houston; photography consultant Ricardo Viera, Lehigh University; and photographers Luis Mallo, Héctor Méndez-Caratini, and Celia Alvarez Muñoz.