A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections at the RIHS

Latinx Outreach for the RI COVID-19 Archive

Within weeks of the Rhode Island shutdown for COVID-19, the RI COVID-19 Archive (RICA) was established and began collecting submissions from Rhode Islanders to preserve the stories and experiences of our community during the pandemic. The Archive was created as a partnership between the Rhode Island Historical Society and Providence Public Library.

Yuselly Mendoza was hired as Project Coordinator for Latinx/Spanish-Language Outreach & Promotion in Fall of 2020. The job was funded by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH) under the COVID-19 Relief Grants – Humanities in the Age of Social Distancing program.

During her tenure she directly reached out to a total of 32 Rhode Island community organizations, community members, and businesses from Latinx/Spanish-speaking communities.  Her insight and experience with these communities greatly improved the archive’s accessibility for non-English speakers.

Mendoza on the job as a community health worker.

Here Mendoza describes her involvement in the project.

“If I had to describe my RICA outreach experience in one word, it would be: amazing. As Project Coordinator for Latinx/Spanish-Language Outreach & Promotion, I instinctively knew how vital it was to capture Rhode Islanders’ pandemic story, particularly the Latinx communities. The privilege of being able to connect and hear their story was wholesome. My role also allowed me to grow new and existing relationships within my own community. 

When I first learned about the RICA project, I immediately knew most folks in Spanish-speaking communities were not aware of the archive (myself included).

When I began to do community outreach, some folks were hesitant and even skeptical of the idea of sharing their story publicly (totally understandable). But I learned when you share your own personal story and actively listen to theirs, they find themselves seeing the importance of documenting the historic time we’re living in. I also found the work I was doing to be therapeutic. I met with community members (while social distancing and wearing masks) where we talked, laughed, and cried.

RICA Submission. Artwork by SISTA Fire RI member Selene Means.

Being part of the RICA team was utterly fun. I enjoyed our bi-weekly Zoom meetings where we shared our project updates, comical stories, and our adorable pets. I am truly thankful for the opportunity and I firmly believe that my work made a great impact and shed light to the value work that community organizations are doing in the Latinx communities. Muchas gracias!” 

Throughout the pandemic, Mendoza has continued her work as a community health worker and team member at ONE Neighborhood Builders in Providence. She created her own submission to the archive about the experience of being a frontline worker here. To see the full submission from SISTA Fire RI that accompanies the above artwork click here.

As of April 2021 the Archive holds over 1350 individual items. It is open to anyone to document their experience of the pandemic in Rhode Island. To submit, just log on to ricovidarchive.org and click on “Contribute an Item”. The website will ask you to create an account and then walk you through uploading your submission. You are welcome to identify yourself as the creator of the work or submit anonymously if you prefer. Your experience matters and shapes how history will understand what it was like to live through COVID-19.

Please feel free to contact rica@rihs.org for help with a submission or to learn about becoming a Community Partner.

Thank you to the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities for the generous support of this ongoing project.

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