COVID-19 Updates: The Wisconsin Historical Society hours have changed. See a full list of COVID-19 Closures and Events HERE.

Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Share Your Voice: Milwaukee (Latinx Community)

Residents share important stories about Latinx history while discussing ideas for a new Wisconsin history museum

Share Your Voice: Milwaukee (Latinx Community) | Wisconsin Historical Society
Guests enjoy a laugh during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session for the Latinx community of Milwaukee on May 15, 2019 at the United Community Center.

Guests enjoy a laugh during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session for the Latinx community of Milwaukee on May 15, 2019 at the United Community Center. Pictured are (from left) Tammy Rivera, Raul Galvan, Alberto Maldonado and Michael Reyes.  


Story and photos by Dean Witter
Wisconsin Historical Foundation 

MILWAUKEE — Several leaders of the Latinx community in Milwaukee were on hand and eager to share ideas and offer connections to key figures in Wisconsin’s Latinx history during the Wisconsin Historical Society’s “Share Your Voice” new museum multicultural listening session May 15, 2019, at the United Community Center, located in the Walker’s Point neighborhood on the Near South Side.

EnlargeRaul Galvan talks about important members of the Latinx community who can share lessons of the struggles of the past in Wisconsin.

Raul Galvan, a Cuban native who works for Milwaukee PBS and has lived in Milwaukee since 1975, talks about important members of the Latinx community who can share lessons of the past in Wisconsin.

“I think there are a substantial number of people that are still alive in the community that have stuff that you don’t even know about, that we don’t even know about,” said Raul Galvan, a native of Havana, Cuba, who said he “has been living the modern-day face of the Latino evolution here since I moved to Milwaukee in 1975.” Galvan is the Manager of Program Production for Milwaukee PBS and is an adjunct professor at UW-Milwaukee. 

Galvan named several individuals who were pioneers in the Latinx migration to Wisconsin, including Jesus Salas, who led a famous march of migrant workers from Wautoma to Madison in 1966. A photo of the march, in fact, was featured in a video shown at the start of the session. 

“He is still around,” Galvan said of Salas. “He’s an incredible storyteller and has a vivid memory.”

The names and stories evoked smiles across the room at the event, which was one of eight multicultural sessions the Society is holding across Wisconsin to make sure all communities have an opportunity to share their personal stories, offer ideas and provide feedback on early plans for a new Wisconsin history museum.

Other multicultural listening sessions are being held with the Latinx communities in Madison and Wautoma; African Americans in Madison, Milwaukee and Beloit; Asian Americans in Milwaukee; and the Hmong community in Eau Claire.

The multicultural sessions are among more than 40 “Share Your Voice” community events the Society is conducting around the state, including at all 12 American Indian nations of Wisconsin. In addition, the Society is gathering feedback from PK-12 and teen students to incorporate their ideas into museum planning, too.

The $120 million, state-of-the-art museum would replace the current aging and undersized Wisconsin Historical Museum — housed since the 1980s in a former hardware store across the street from the Capitol — and open in 2024 or 2025.

Other guests followed Galvan’s lead and told stories of many individuals who would be essential to the Society’s mission to build a new museum that will reflect truthful stories of all people of Wisconsin.

Tammy Rivera, Executive Director of the Southside Organizing Center, a grassroots organization on the south side of Milwaukee that supports the Latinx population, offered a list of names, too, and talked of the importance of connecting with them.

“It’s really an opportunity to fact check the narratives that were written [in the past] and correct that,” she said, “and not be afraid to own the ugly with the good and with what’s still happening.”

“I urge you,” Rivera continued, “to feel comfortable in that discomfort of telling those stories and writing the rewriting of history.”

EnlargeUW-Milwaukee history professor Joe Rodriguez welcomes guests to the United Community Center May 15, 2019 for the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session for the Latinx community of Milwaukee.

UW-Milwaukee history professor Joe Rodriguez welcomes guests to the United Community Center May 15, 2019 for the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session for the Latinx community of Milwaukee.

The session began with a welcome from UW-Milwaukee history professor Joe Rodriguez, who talked about the history of Latinx migration to Wisconsin, with Mexicans arriving in the early 1900s, followed later by Puerto Ricans and other groups who were recruited to work in factories. He also spoke of the activism that followed in the 1960s, with protests for workers’ rights, fair housing, improved educational opportunities, and against police brutality.

“Some of that heritage is unfortunately being lost,” Rodriguez said, “but Latinos are still working in factories and still coming for jobs.”

Tanika Apaloo, the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Multicultural Outreach Coordinator, also welcomed guests with an explanation about the new museum project and the purpose of the statewide listening sessions.  

She noted that the Society began collecting items in 1846, two years before Wisconsin’s statehood. “And not only do we collect rare artifacts, but we collect items that have significance in the lives of everyday people,” she said. “These are the types of things that we would like to make sure to incorporate as we move forward with a new museum.”

“We want to make sure,” Apaloo added, “that when individuals from your community come to the museum, they feel represented. That there are items that they see that represent their community and their everyday lives, and we need your help to make that happen. So this is going to be a process of engagement. We’re not just going to be presenting. We want to hear from you.”

Since it was a relatively small group in attendance, guests introduced themselves before Apaloo showed a Society video about the new museum project and its central storytelling theme — “What Makes Wisconsin, Wisconsin?”

Enlarge“We want to make sure that when individuals from your community come to the museum, they feel represented," said Tanika Apaloo, the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Multicultural Outreach Coordinator.

“We want to make sure that when individuals from your community come to the museum, they feel represented," said Tanika Apaloo, the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Multicultural Outreach Coordinator.

Following the video, Apaloo talked about how the Latinx community is the largest-growing minority in the state and efforts the Society is making to connect with the community. She highlighted books on Latinx topics published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press — such as recent titles “Somos Latinas” and “Mexicans in Wisconsin.” She also noted that the flyer for this listening session was printed in Spanish and mentioned that a July 14 Latinx “Share Your Voice” session in Wautoma will be conducted entirely in Spanish.

“This is a really exciting time for us,” Apaloo said. “It’s full of opportunities for the Latinx community and the Wisconsin Historical Society to partner and learn from one another.”

Apaloo then introduced Cybelle Jones, the Principal and Executive Director of Gallagher & Associates, the internationally known, Washington-based museum exhibit design firm that the Society is working with on the project.

“It’s really been an honor to go around to communities across the state and hear the stories we’ve been hearing,” Jones said. “People have been very honest, very frank, which is what we like to see.”

Jones talked about how museum design has transformed over the past decade to be much more aware of inclusivity.

Enlarge“We can provide a window into other people’s lives,” said Cybelle Jones, Principal and Executive Director of museum exhibit design firm Gallagher & Associates. “We want to bring the lessons of the past forward.”

“We can provide a window into other people’s lives,” said Cybelle Jones, Principal and Executive Director of museum exhibit design firm Gallagher & Associates. “We’re such a divided country. ... We want people to learn about their heritage … and bring the lessons of the past forward.”

“We can all go to old museums that exist,” she said, “and they’re usually told from one point of view, probably from a white, older professor-type. And those museums exclude so many individuals, and they don’t have a place for dialogue and debate.”

That won’t be the case in planning for the new Wisconsin history museum.

“We hear every day where things that we thought were truth and written in stone get turned over,” she said. “So we feel now is a great opportunity for this new museum because we’re much better at finding ways to make sure that we’re telling the right stories and we’re including all of the individuals whose stories need to be represented.”

Guests then engaged in an activity in which they used Post-It notes to write things that they feel should be included in the new museum or that they feel the rest of the state and world should know about the Latinx community, which was followed by a conversation again peppered with names of key individuals. 

Margaret Sandoval Skare — a retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher who said she does a lot of volunteer work with the Mexican Fiesta celebration and Hispanic Scholarship Foundation — talked about the documentation of Latinx culture that could be found in the halls of the building in which the session was being held. The United Community Center (UCC) is a vibrant hub for the Latinx community, with a connected school, a gym and a restaurant, with walls lined with pictures of Latinx life.

Skare talked about interviews she has conducted for the Mexican Fiesta with “first families” of Mexicans to come to Wisconsin and how the first Head Start program in Wisconsin was located in Wautoma in the 1960s to help migrant workers’ children. 

It’s important to highlight “all of the ethnic groups that came to Wisconsin and the different times that they came,” she said. “The multiculturalism and rich history that immigrants have brought to this state [is important].”

EnlargeAlberto Maldonado, Director of UW-Milwaukee's Roberto Hernandez Center, tells guests about a journalist making a documentary. “She’s been going to remote areas in the state where entire communities of Latinos are there supporting companies."

Alberto Maldonado, Director of the Roberto Hernandez Center at UW-Milwaukee, tells guests about a chat he had earlier in the day with a freelance journalist who is making a documentary of Latinx in Wisconsin. “She just came from Arcadia, where she found an entire community of Latinos,” he said. “… She’s been going to remote areas in the state where entire communities of Latinos are there supporting companies."

Alberto Maldonado, Director of the Roberto Hernandez Center at UW-Milwaukee, mentioned a conversation he had with former longtime Milwaukee Journal Sentinel journalist Georgia Pabst, who is working on a documentary of Latinos in Wisconsin.

“She just came from Arcadia, where she found an entire community of Latinos,” he said. “… She’s been going to remote areas in the state where entire communities of Latinos are there supporting companies. … When you look at those communities, there are entire familias out there. The growth that those communities are seeing in their schools is coming from the Latinx communities that have settled in search of jobs.”

Rivera, director of the Southside Organizing Center, highlighted the makeup of the Walker’s Point neighborhood, which was one of the three original towns that merged to become the city of Milwaukee in 1846.

“I don’t think most people know that the Near South Side of Milwaukee is 90,000 residents,” she said. “If you look at the data, it has the piece of land that is the most densely populated in the state. But it also has, despite metro Milwaukee being known as a segregated community, …the most racially diverse and ethnically diverse piece of land in the state.”

She noted that a 2016 Urban Anthropology study documented 111 nations represented around nearby Kosciuszko Park. 

“We have the most concentration of Latinos and then about 20 percent of those are Spanish-speaking,” she said.

Jones then led guests in another activity in which they reviewed a packet of early concept museum exhibit design renderings and offered their thoughts. First, she explained the process behind her firm’s creation of the renderings.

“As a museum exhibit designer, I’m always thinking … what really matters is when a family comes through,” she said, “and when they leave, what did they say? What’s the conversation on the ride home or at the dinner table?”

Being truthful and sharing all perspectives is critical, she said. 

“I think we have the opportunity to inspire people,”  Jones said, “and we’re not necessarily inspiring people by saying everything is great in Wisconsin, don’t you just love it? I think it’s more inspiring to ask hard questions. …”

“We can provide a window into other people’s lives,” she continued. “There’s so much hatred right now. We’re such a divided country. How do we build bridges where we can create opportunities to have empathy to hear the story of some of these people you’ve been talking about and to virtually sit down with them and hear their stories. We want people to learn about their heritage … and we want to bring the lessons of the past forward.”

The first two renderings depicted an “Introduction and Orientation Area,” a large, open space which will welcome museum guests and surround them with a 360-degree digital image wall. 

One rendering showed how visitors could be greeted by a wall filled with dozens of photos that could continually be updated. The other showed how the space could be transformed with seating into a program area that could digitally connect cities (or classrooms) across the state with guests at the museum. In the example, Society underwater archaeologists are broadcasting from a shipwreck on the bottom of one of the Great Lakes and are able to take questions from guests gathered in cities across the state.

“I love what you said about continually integrating history [perspectives],” Rivera said. “I would encourage you to have a process that allows independent integration, meaning someone could go online, tell a story, upload a document with a photo or maybe a video. … Maybe that could even be part of that Orientation area where people could share it. Like, this is the new stuff that is just coming out — the ‘guerilla’ or ‘raw’ history telling. That could be really rich.”

The concept of a “Supper Club Experience” with an associated demonstration kitchen brought up the subject of food and the sampling of ethnic dishes, which was popular with guests.

Meanwhile, a “Laboratory of Democracy” rendering showed a window looking across the street to the State Capitol, with digitally projected historic newspapers from the Society’s world-renowned collection on screens. Jones talked about how guests could call up headlines from migrant marches in the 1960s and also discuss legislation being introduced that day at the Capitol.

“That kind of information can be done in real time,” Jones said. “That’s what’s great about new technology. And we can ask people their thoughts and that data can be collected.”

EnlargeMichael Reyes said he traced the history of his Puerto Rican community in Ohio with information from the Wisconsin Historical Society's archives. “For me, it just said that this is a great treasure that we have here in Wisconsin.”

Michael Reyes talked about how he was able to trace the history of his Puerto Rican community in northeast Ohio by accessing information in the Wisconsin Historical Society's archives. “All of that information was archived at the State Historical Society in Wisconsin!” he said. “For me, it just said that this is a great treasure that we have here in Wisconsin.”

“That would be great,” said Rodriguez.

“I would echo what Joe said,” added Michael Reyes, who shared a story of the first time he visited the Wisconsin Historical Society as a UW-Madison student in the 1980s.

Reyes talked about how he was able to trace the history of his Puerto Rican community in northeast Ohio by accessing information in the Society archives. 

“All of that information was archived at the State Historical Society in Wisconsin!” he said. “For me, it just said that this is a great treasure that we have here in Wisconsin.” 

One younger woman who attended the session with her two small children had yet to speak other than introducing herself.

Alida Cardos Whaley had said she grew up on the North Side of Milwaukee and went to Milwaukee Public Schools and UW-Madison. She said she was a cultural community organizer, practiced traditional Mexican medicine and worked half-time in a Latin American studies center at UW-Milwaukee. 

Before concluding the session, Jones urged her to share her thoughts. 

“I guess I hope that you all can continue to create ways that the community can continue to share,” Whaley said, noting that she hoped for a larger turnout at the session. 

“It sounds like you all have the intentions to be inclusive in highlighting important stories of marginalized communities … like trans and queer and others,” she added. 

She urged Jones to “always continue to have that critical lens as you develop [exhibits],” she said. “I think that’s really important to keep it grounded. … And I hope Indigenous nations can have a big say in what they would like to see so it’s not just a museum that is created for a white community but is created to serve our marginalized communities as well.”

Suggestions made on Post-It notes during the Wisconsin Historical Society's May 15, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session with the Latinx community at the United Community Center in Milwaukee were turned into this word cloud.


Word Cloud from Milwaukee (Latinx Community) listening session

Suggestions made on Post-It notes during the Wisconsin Historical Society's May 15, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session with the Latinx community at the United Community Center in Milwaukee were turned into this word cloud, with the most suggested words in the biggest type.

 

Alberto Maldonado, Director of the Roberto Hernandez Center at UW-Milwaukee, makes a comment during the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session for the Latinx community of Milwaukee.

Alberto Maldonado, Director of the Roberto Hernandez Center at UW-Milwaukee, makes a comment during the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session for the Latinx community of Milwaukee. "The growth that those communities [in parts of Wisconsin] are seeing in their schools is coming from the Latinx communities that have settled in search of jobs," he said.

Alida Cardos Whaley sits with her children as she listens to other guests at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session May 15, 2019 at the United Community Center in Milwaukee.

Alida Cardos Whaley sits with her children as she makes a comment during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session May 15, 2019 at the United Community Center in Milwaukee.

Tammy Rivera, Executive Director of the Southside Organizing Center in Milwaukee, talks about the benefits of connecting with key Latinx leaders of the past when planning a new state history museum.

Tammy Rivera, Executive Director of the Southside Organizing Center in Milwaukee, talks about the benefits of connecting with key Latinx leaders of the past when planning a new state history museum. “It’s really an opportunity to fact check the narratives that were written [in the past] and correct that,” she said.

Retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher Margaret Sandoval Skare said it's important for a new museum to highlight “all of the ethnic groups that came to Wisconsin and the different times that they came,” she said.

Retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher Margaret Sandoval Skare said it's important for a new museum to highlight “all of the ethnic groups that came to Wisconsin and the different times that they came,” she said. “The multiculturalism and rich history that immigrants have brought to this state [is important].”

Alida Cardos Whaley shows one of her children the new museum idea that she wrote on a Post-It note during one of the activities at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session in Milwaukee.

Alida Cardos Whaley shows one of her children the new museum idea that she wrote on a Post-It note during one of the activities at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session in Milwaukee.

Ken Skare shares his thoughts during a discussion at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session May 15, 2019 at the United Community Center in Milwaukee.

Ken Skare, with his wife Margaret sitting next to him, shares his thoughts during a discussion at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session May 15, 2019 at the United Community Center in Milwaukee. 

UW-Milwaukee history professor Joe Rodriguez writes his comments on a packet of concept exhibit design renderings during the Wisconsin Historical Society's listening session for the Latinx community of Milwaukee on May 15, 2019.

UW-Milwaukee history professor Joe Rodriguez writes his comments on a packet of concept exhibit design renderings during the Wisconsin Historical Society's listening session for the Latinx community of Milwaukee on May 15, 2019.

Raul Galvan looks over a copy of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Wisconsin Magazine of History before the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session in Milwaukee.

Raul Galvan looks over a copy of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Wisconsin Magazine of History before the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session in Milwaukee.

Tammy Rivera (right), Executive Director of the Southside Organizing Center, is welcomed to the session by Kristen Leffelman of the Wisconsin Historical Society (seated) and Anna Altschwarger of the Society's historic site Old World Wisconsin.

Tammy Rivera (right), Executive Director of the Southside Organizing Center, is welcomed to the "Share Your Voice" new museum multicultural listening session by Kristen Leffelman of the Wisconsin Historical Society (seated) and Anna Altschwarger of the Society's historic site Old World Wisconsin.

 

Share Your Voice statewide map

"SHARE YOUR VOICE" STATEWIDE SESSION LOCATIONS