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Boise State Receives National Humanities Grant to Document, Celebrate Latino Culture

By: Cienna Madrid   Published 9:31 am / August 4, 2017

Boise State University’s Casita Nepantla has received a $150,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to document the art and cultural expression of Latinos in rural and urban communities throughout Idaho.

The project, which is part of NEH’s Creating Humanities Communities, is one of only 245 humanities projects funded across the nation.

“I am pleased and feel honored that we have received this NEH grant. It will provide a great opportunity for this institution to demonstrate its commitment to the humanities and to engaging in cultural research about Latinos in Idaho,” said Alicia Garza, an associate professor of Spanish at Boise State and director of Casita Nepantla: A Latino Space at Boise State University.

The project, titled “Latino Neighborhoods and Rasquache Private and Public Expressions of Cultural Identity,” begins with mapping the neighborhoods in southern Idaho and southeastern Oregon with significant Latino populations. Through oral histories and still photographs, Casita Nepantla plans on preserving the ephemeral material culture and lived experience of the region’s most rapidly growing demographic.

“We aim to document, interpret and celebrate the homemade, rasquache cultural expressions of the region’s residents,” Garza said. (To be rasquache is to posit a bawdy, spunky consciousness, to seek to subvert and turn ruling paradigms upside down, as explained by renowned Chicano scholar Tomás Ybarra-Frausto.)

Although the Latino population in Idaho is growing, Garza explained that there is a dearth of scholarly research that explores the important contributions Latino creatives are making to Idaho’s contemporary cultural scene. This critical absence inhibits greater community cohesion between the general public and the fastest growing demographic in the American west.

Casita Nepantla is partnering with the university’s Division of Research and Economic Development, College of Arts and Sciences, University Advancement, professor Leslie Durham from theatre arts, associate professor Dora Ramirez from English, and photographer Allison Corona, as well as community partners including the Idaho State Historical Museum, the Cabin, the Boise City Department of Arts and History, and the College of Western Idaho for this project.

Once completed, Casita Nepantla will evaluate the project’s scholarly, community and institutional impacts using qualitative data gathered from its audiences, partner organizations, and media coverage as well as quantitative data on website access, fundraising and participation.