203: Oral History and Documenting Immigrant Narratives with Fanny Julissa García

203: Oral History and Documenting Immigrant Narratives with Fanny Julissa García


In this episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast, I interview the interviewer. I get to talk to Fanny Julissa García about oral history and documenting immigrant narratives. Fanny is an award-winning Honduran American oral historian contributing work to Central American Studies. She has been active in immigration justice as a translator, legal assistant and advocate. In 2022, she received a National Endowment for the Humanities and Oral History Association fellowship to work on Separated: Stories of Injustice and Solidarity, an oral history and testimony project which documents the stories of parents and children separated under Zero Tolerance policy.


In the episode, we discuss: Fanny’s origin story as an undocumented immigrant and the impact of politics and policies on her life. How her previous work supporting the LGBTQIA community during the AIDS epidemic and supporting survivors of sexual violence influence her lens on oral history. Fanny reveals how her own desire to uncover and connect with her family’s stories sparked her interest in oral history. She also shares more about her recent project, “Separated,” and how she is amplifying, reframing, and showcasing the resilience, solidarity, and courage of families forced to leave their homelands.


You can connect with Fanny on her website and you can learn more about the Separated project here.

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Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 0:02

Welcome back, everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host, Doctora Yvette. And today we're going to cover a really important topic. That topic is documenting immigrant narratives and the importance of oral history.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 0:21

Our special guest Fanny Julissa Garcia, who is a Honduran American oral historian contributing work to Central American Studies. She has been active in immigration justice as a translator, legal assistant and advocate. In 2022, she received a National Endowment for the Humanities and Oral History Association fellowship to work on separated stories of injustice and solidarity, an oral history and testimony project which documents the stories of parents and children separated under the zero tolerance policy. She uses applied oral history methods to ensure the collection of survivor stories is used to serve the participants of the project.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:07

Prior to her two contributions as an oral historian, she worked for more than 15 years to combat the public health and socio economic impact of HIV AIDS on low income communities in metropolitan areas, and supported survivors of sexual violence. She received an AA from LA Valley College, a BA from UCLA, and an MA from Columbia University. Welcome to the podcast, Fanny.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:37

Thank you for having me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:38

Of course, I'm so excited to have you. I mean, clearly, we know each other, but I would love for for folks who may be new to you and your work to hear more about who you are, what you do. And I would love for you to say more about your backstory, your background. And as you have said this to me and before about your origin story.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 2:09

Thank you, I love, first I need to acknowledge that we both smiled when you when you read LA Valley College. Because they think instantly it probably brought back memories. We both grew up in the San Fernando Valley, correct? Yeah. And we've we've talked about how all the different places that we've lived. I grew up in like Panorama City, San Fernando Valley, Van Nuys, North Hollywood area, and I lived for a time in like Sun Valley. And I think that's where

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 2:46

I was born in Sun Valley.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 2:51

Exactly. So we have that connection there even before we knew it.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 2:56

That's so funny, yeah.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 2:59

I guess that your question was about my background and history. And as you were reading the bio, I when people read my bio, I always think about how that just kind of tells you like my professional history, right, and perhaps a little bit about what I'm interested in, which is oral histories and testimonies. But I think I always have, it doesn't really reflect like my personal background. It just reflects my path towards a profession and a career. And I identify as somebody who has had a non traditional path towards success. Yeah, there has been it's been definitely nonlinear. There's been detours along the way. And I and all those detours have provided a vast amount of experience and knowledge and connections with communities that I would have never probably had if I hadn't had that nonlinear path.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 4:08

And so I always tell folks that I come from, I was an undocumented immigrant. I came to the US as a child with my mom in 1986. And I feel like my life and my trajectory has been influenced by politics and policies. In that I lived through that I've survived, for example, I was able to obtain US citizenship through the 1986 Immigration and Control Act. Because my mom didn't qualify, she didn't meet the requirements. But her husband, her partner did and so I she was able to apply for naturalization through him and then I was able to apply through her.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 5:00

So that alone shows you that my ability to progress in life to get an education to be able to work has been guided by these opportunities, these windows of opportunities. And that have occurred. And through a lot of work from activists, right, because the 1986 Act required a lot of activism and lobbying by immigrant organizations and labor unions as well. Another example is that I came to the US in the 1980s. And around that time, the LGBTQ community was being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. And I remember arriving as a young kid and, you know, if you're an immigrant, during that time, you're probably a latchkey kid, and you probably watched a lot of TV.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 5:56

Yes, I'm nodding my head.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 6:00

And so I was very much influenced by that and but by the news, and shows like A Different World, talking about the AIDS epidemic, and that influenced me personally, because then I later went on to serve as a case manager. And for folks, that Latinx folks living with HIV and AIDS. And I was really inspired by the LGBT community's efforts and activism to create health care, mental health care, hospice care, chose safe spaces and creating chosen family spaces for people who were being abandoned by our government. And so that's, that's what has influenced me and what has inspired me to do the work that I do.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 6:56

One last nod to a policy that impacted me was I was in high school in the 1990s, when Governor Pete Wilson in California threw his support behind prop 187, which was going to exclude undocumented immigrants from receiving education or access to health care. And I remember the immigrant community, again, from all walks of life. And when I say immigrant, I don't just mean Latinx. Everyone, Filipino, Russian immigrants, Korean immigrants, Asian immigrants, they all created a collaborative, proactive actions to combat this policy.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 7:46

And that, seeing how communities banded together to support each other, and the stories that arose from that, and the successes that arose from that is what has really inspired me and motivates to witnessing all of those events motivated me to really focus in on story. What does it mean, to be an immigrant in the United States? And how can those stories serve, to act to be activated in social justice movements to create narrative change about who we are in American society?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 8:32

Yeah. Wow. I didn't know all of those details, especially like you arrriving in the 80s. And then being inspired in the 90s by activism, and it's just continues to show up today. And I'm curious, I know, you said that it made you be interested in stories. But how did you arrive at understanding oral history? Like, how did you discover oral history, develop an understanding about it? And maybe we can kind of tie that into a discussion about like, what is oral history? And, yeah, and what does it mean for you?

Fanny Julissa Garcia 9:14

Yeah, that's a really good question. And, and I think it has multiple responses. But one thing I know for sure, is that when I arrived in the United States, I lost communication with my family in Honduras. That's where I was born. And so and I lived in the San Fernando Valley, which didn't have like a close knit community that was Central American. Central Americans lived, you know, in the MacArthur area, and Pico Rivera area of Los Angeles, right and like a city away from the suburbs, and so I didn't have access to it. Other than my mom, to stories about who we were.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 10:05

And for a long time, when I was undocumented, I couldn't return to Honduras. So I actually also didn't have baby photos of me. I didn't have, I have had very few stories about who my grandparents were, where I came from, who they were. And so I would ask my mom, as much as I got a chance that I got to tell me, but my mom's own history in her country growing up there was very painful. And so she often didn't want to talk about it. And so this yearning for a connection to where I came from, and who I am, my culture, my values, my history, really planted that seed about curiosity for curiosity about who, who I am and who my family is, and what does it mean to be Central American, Honduran American, with or without the hyphen in the United States?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 11:12

That's a whole other conversation.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 11:16

Exactly. So that's, that's one answer. And then, and then the other also, is that I started working one of my first jobs as was at the Hollywood Bowl, I would work in the laundry at like 15 or 16, folding the towels for the restaurant that was there. And I worked in the summer, you know, when I was off from school, and there was a space at the Hollywood Bowl in the courtyard, where a theater was built, and children's theater happened. And so I remember on my breaks, watching this and watching stories unfold for children.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 12:09

And then that it's, you know, after I worked there, I really wanted to graduate, graduate from high school, and I wanted to go to college, but I would wasn't prepared. And so I started working at a law firm, and then at a rape crisis center, and then at as an HIV AIDS case manager. And I realized when later on, when I did my CV, that in every one of those jobs, I had done some form of interviewing process, whether it was collecting discoveries with attorneys, or working on a hotline at the rape crisis center, and asking people about themselves to keep them on the line. It all meant that I needed to be curious and activate my curiosity and ask people who they were, what makes them tick, what inspires them, what motivates them.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 13:23

And so I think that's, that's where it all started, really, I remember, especially in my work and with the LGBTQI community, in Hollywood, on Sunset Boulevard, and meeting all types of folks from all walks of life, and having to understand them and first understanding them, and how because they were who they were, how they were going to respond to their HIV AIDS diagnosis, and how they were going to respond to their treatment. All because of who they were. The culture, the stigma, whether they were houseless, or not, whether they were, whether they were Catholic or not, you know, all of that was going to impact how they navigated their chronic illness.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 14:25

And so again, all of everything that I've done, I think has inspired my trajectory and finding oral history you know, in a nutshell, the definition of oral history is documenting people's lived experiences through recorded sound interviews, right. But at its very core, it's about understanding people and where they come from and what makes helps them move through the world. It's the things they remember and the things they misremember? Right? Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 15:04

That last part what they remember, what they misremember? Yeah, that's powerful because I often I have a bad memory. And so I'm often very uneasy when I have to retell memory because I'm never sure how much memory is actually accurate. Am I misremembering, but that's also there's, you know, meaning in that misremembering too. And you shared your previous employment history and then you said okay, so in all of these cases, I have been engaging in communication, interviewing people, getting to know people's stories, documenting them in some way, shape or form.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 15:53

But also, all it seems like every single one of them were relatively vulnerable populations. And so that's, that's something that stands out to me too, because I think that there are a lot of individuals who may have forms of employment or day to day circumstances where they're in communication with others, but not necessarily in this way of like supporting and active listening, and also being very sensitive around certain certain areas or topics.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 16:34

So I, this reminds me of, it's allowing me to get to your current project your Separated project because I feel like that's a whole other level of complexity. And it's, it's a tough subject, I know that I was not sure. I was like, Well, what questions should I ask is it okay, for me to ask her to expand more on this project? What can she share? What can she not share? And so I would love for you to maybe transition us into into that, like, you've been working with other types of populations, but now you've been documenting the stories of a families whose children were separated at the border? And, you know, is it is it okay to share and if for you to share any insights or experiences or, or lessons, anything that you've gained from this project thus far? Maybe you can start by describing it will go into what you gain from it, too.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 17:41

Absolutely. Yeah, this project has been a labor of love for migrant people and on the move, and people who have experienced situations that has made them vulnerable that has endangered them. I think the way that we use words is important. And so I say things like state inflicted violence, and populations that have become endangered through policies, because folks don't just endanger themselves, you know, sometimes, through foreign policy, foreign interventions lack there have an inability to see, to learn from history, and inability to see how foreign policy impacts communities or in or domestic policy impacts communities can really endanger populations and people and parents and children.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 18:57

And so this project, it's called Separated, Stories of Injustice and Solidarity. Even the name was intentional, because I think if you were to Google separated families, you would see stories and photos that are very tragic, that show a lot of pain, that show a lot of harm. But I really wanted to focus on the power of choice for people who are forced to move, the choice that they have to make and choices along the way that they have to make to leave their home countries. And so this project, I really wanted to narrow in and focus on that solidarity, that strength, that courage, that resilience, even though that word is thrown a lot around a lot and it means different things and sometimes people take it for granted.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 19:58

But it takes a lot of work to say, to one day wake up and say I have to leave home, because I need to be able to feed my family. And I can't do it in my home country, you know. And so this oral history project, we wanted to document families that had made the choice and really get to understand what were what were the catalysts for those choices, and ask them and get to know them, not just on the the dangerous situation that they went through, which was incarceration, and separation, parents were separated from their children. And then the parent was deported without their child without knowing where their child ended up.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 20:46

We really wanted to also focus on who they were as people, how did they grow up the values that they grew up with the values that they were sharing with their children, and to better understand the reasons behind the migration, right. And we've learned a lot, we've learned that migration doesn't happen in isolation. And they've shared with us that they have had to move because of climate change. Many of the families in the project are from rural villages in Guatemala, or from small towns in Honduras.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 21:28

And so they have had to move because the climate change has prevented them from growing the crop that they use to grow to feed their family on the one hand, and then whatever was leftover to sell to make extra income. And they haven't been able to do that because nothing is growing things dry up, there's such a thing called the dry quarter in Guatemala. There's research on this, where climate change has really dried out the earth, and people can't grow like they used to anymore, milpa, which is maiz, you know, or beans or coffee.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 22:07

And so that's one of the reasons that people are experiencing that we're making light of. I think policymakers see it and understand and say they're trying to do something about it. But then they're not changing the immigration laws to reflect that people need to move to find better pastures and better land. And then they also have expressed that they leave because of violence and corruption and inability to access justice in their home countries, right. Many of them do qualify, many of the families that were separated, qualify for asylum, but not all of them. And I think our policymakers are focusing a lot on asylum seekers and refugees, but not really working towards figuring out how do we make sure that folks that are fleeing, climate change and other and various forms of violent violence and corruption can also have access to a human right, which is to move home in order to be able to survive and thrive, right.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 23:22

And so this project focuses on a lot on their stories about what happened during detention, during their deportation, their separation, families have testified to the fact that they have experienced physical illnesses, and the physical impact of incarceration, deportation, and separation, and also mental health impacts of this, you know. Imagine your child being taken away, and then the government not keeping accurate records, and then not being able to tell you where your child is four months at a time, if not years. And so the project documents, both the stories of parents who were separated, and the stories of children who were teenagers of the time of this separation, but are now young adults over 18 years old, who remember what happened and want to share.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 24:26

Have you noticed any differences between the recounting of the stories or themes or anything between how the the children recount this versus how the parents recount it?

Fanny Julissa Garcia 24:39

Absolutely. What's really interesting is that I've gotten to interview fathers and mothers who were separated, and there are differences between the two. Mothers cry openly and all of the interviews that we've done so far have been over the phone. And when we started this project, I say we because I work in collaboration with my colleague Nara Milanich, who's a professor of history at Barnard. And we've also partnered with several organizations, including Justice in Motion, Women's Refugee Commission and a few others. So it's a team, right. And then the students at Barnard have helped us with transcription to make sure that the audio is exactly transfers over exactly and as faithful to the audio in a document.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 25:36

And so fathers have a really hard time expressing emotion. So all of the interviews have happened over the phone. Because when we first started the project, they were in Central America, and I was interviewing them on the phone. Now, many of the families are reunified in the United States through a taskforce that Biden set up. So we're still long distances, right? Because I'm in New York, and they live all across the country. And so we've we're still having to do interviews over the phone. And so I couldn't see them. Often, when I interviewed them, I would pull up a photo that I would have them send to me so that I could at least see a photo of them and be speaking to an image.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 26:33

And so the father's have a really hard time expressing crying, but I can hear it in their throats, Yvette, you can hear their throat closing up and then having a hard time verbalizing their story. Whereas the mothers, really, you can hear the tears coming through. You can hear them sniffling and crying, though with the men, you can hear the that they're trying to control the emotions. Fathers report the shame of being deported back to their home countries without their child and then having to tell their partner that their child was not with them, and that they didn't know where their child was. So they report like what a difficult process that was.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 27:32

In fact, one parent, one father, who is from Honduras, said that when he was deported, he was deported back to Honduras. But he, he did not have the stomach to go back to Honduras. And he instead went to Mexico to work, because he could not face his partner, it was just too hard to face her and be and tell her what had to happen at the border and that he didn't have her son. So there's there's a lot of stories like that of the tragedy that it created in the individual and the parent, and also a lot of stories about how the separation did not just impact the parent who was deported, as you might imagine, or the mother who was deported. But the entire family unit.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 28:31

Yeah. Wow. There's so much to say there. Even just you talking about the differences between the husbands, wives, hearing it in the throat, hearing the weeping, doing what you can to, to humanize this experience and to personalize it by having this image in front of you. I wonder specifically if you had any approaches with this project about how to conduct the oral history interviews. I'm sure you have an approach of you know, in general about like how you work on your oral history interviews, but if.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 29:19

Did you do anything different aside from what I just noticed, I'm like, Oh, okay. You use the pictures or you tried to take note of like differences in their voices and where, you know, because when we when we speak, as you know, because I know you've got a theatre background, some of us who have a theatre background, we are taught to speak from the diaphragm, or from the heart or whatever you want to call it, but it's like speaking from down here. And then sometimes people speak from the throat and that can actually hurt and irritate you. But anyway, I'm going on a rant, I want to hear about your approach. I want to hear about methodologies, techniques, considerations, anything else that might have come up that may be either you're like, okay, this is what I do every time or this is what I had to do differently for this particular project.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 30:14

First, I want to say that I'm so thankful that I get to talk to you about this. Previously, you had asked me, you know, that you weren't sure about what questions to ask. Because it's a heavy subject, you know, and it's also a political subject. Because this happened. under a republican administration, families were separated, their parental rights disregarded. And a lot of people don't ask questions, because they think it's going to be a political conversation.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 30:53

But at the heart of the matter, Yvette, is that the, the people that I have met through this project, are just that people, parents, and children who went through a horrible situation. The parents describe it as the kidnapping, that their children would kidnapped by a state government, you know. They describe it as torture. They describe it as a nightmare. And so we can all relate to situations in our lives, where we've gone through things that have been hard and tough and difficult. And so we need to tap into that, to be able to have empathy, and get curious about what happened, and question why it was able to why it was allowed to happen.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 31:50

And so in terms of methodology, I had to consider all of these things. First of all, I could not do a written consent. Number one, because everyone was out of the country in Central America. I couldn't very well mail them a consent form that then they had to mail back, right? They lived in rural villages in Guatemala. And not just, so that's one consideration the paperwork.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 32:22

Second, many of the families don't know how to read or write or have differing education levels. And so the idea of me sending them a form for them to read and then sign would have been moot, it would have been almost offensive. And so I had to develop a verbal consent process that was documented as part of the interview. And one question that I added that as a person who has participated in an oral history project, and who has been around it for a while, one question that I added that I don't think is asked is, tell me why you want to participate in this project? And that was really It opened up a conversation about their motivations, their incentives for telling their story,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 33:15

Giving agency.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 33:17

Giving them agency and whatever it is that they said, not correcting it, just letting it be. And the fact that it was interview, recorded as part of the entire interview that we had was really important, too. And then, so that's one consideration that I had to take into effect. And, and this was all, a bunch of other consideration led me to develop a method called applied oral history. Because one thing that resulted from that question being asked is that families were willing to talk to me, and to tell their story only if we were going to use this story and their experiences, to make sure that family separation doesn't happen, again, to make sure that this doesn't happen to anybody else, and to make sure that their stories served a purpose for the greater good.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 34:18

And so this applied oral history methodology, our hope is that this story, we don't know yet if it's going to be a public collection of stories, like archives or public projects, because we're still protecting the identities of families who went through this. We don't know what's going to happen. Families who have been reunified, have a have been reunified under a three year humanitarian parole. And we don't know if that parole is going to be renewed after the three years expire and and now they're known to the government write their name have been processed so that they can come back and reunite with their child. So we want to...

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 35:06

Does this impact the timeline of your project.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 35:10

No, I think this will be a longitudinal project, which means that we will continue to stay in touch. And part of the methods of applied oral history is to create long term relationships with narrators. So I wasn't going to just drop into their lives, interview them, and then disappear. Like I'm still very much in their lives. Just yesterday, I went to one, three of the families that we interviewed for the project are here in New York City. So I still stay in touch, I go visit them. Just yesterday, I went to visit somebody who's in the hospital. So these are long term relationships that we've built. And I think that's needed it because we needed to build trust, they need to know that we're not that we're going to protect who they are, protect their story, and be what I call caregivers, not caretakers, right caregivers have their story.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 36:14

It's been all of this, I take no credit for any of this. I've learned from them, that this is what they need, in order to be able to open up. They've been, just imagine, they've been through something horrific and tragic. They're not just going to have faith or trust and just anybody. And so it's been a process and our, the website has all of the different commitments under applied oral history, we make sure to reiterate that we don't own the stories. They ultimately on this story. They are the ones who have lived it. But we want to help them navigate what their story means and how it can help other families. So that's some of what we're trying to do with the project. Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 37:14

I really love that you shared about the importance of developing these long term relationships with them and developing trust, and how intentional you're being about protecting them, their identities, their stories. And you also mentioned two terms that I think I might want you to unpack a little bit more care givers and care takers, because when I think about a caregiver, I think about it in relationship to individuals who do any kind of caring after whether it's children or elderly parents or individuals in their community.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 37:59

But I feel like you're putting this, these terms in conversation with oral history. And broadly speaking, any field where individuals are interviewing others. And so I think that, you know, I would love to hear what you meant by care taker, yes care taker. Did you say yeah, this. Yeah. And now I'm getting confused. Because I'm like caregiver caretaker. Yeah, what what did you mean by those two terms, which stood out to me,

Fanny Julissa Garcia 38:30

I just really believe that language matters and how we things matters, right. And when I first started to type out when I was writing the project ethics for the project, I started writing caretaker, and it just felt so odd to me because it just reiterates this idea of taking.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 38:53

But that's a word people use caretaking sometimes interchangeably with caregivers, which is why I got confused right now. Like which is which.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 39:03

I just wanted to be really explicit that, that I'm not taking care with the stories, I am not the ultimate authority. Yeah, I am giving care. I am giving support. I am giving information. I am giving the expertise, whatever it is, whatever privilege it is that I have that I've gained through education. I'm giving it to this project in service of the people who shared and contributed their stories. There would be no separated stories of injustice and solidarity project without the stories.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 39:55

And I don't like the word steward. I don't like the word stakeholder. I don't like the word. You know, I just feel like I'm, I'm more of a vessel. I'm somebody that they can reach out to, if they have a question. If somebody wants to use any or all part of their story, I am not going to be the one that says yes or no, I will always go back to the narrator, the interviewee and ask them do you want to share your story in this way.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 40:39

And I think a lot of this to go back to my professional trajectory, Yvette, all of this is because of the work that I did previously with rape survivors, and survivors of any kind, HIV AIDS, diagnosis survivors, trans and gay folk, and how and undocumented immigrants or immigrants at large and how their stories have been co opted, and taken and use but never acknowledged, never, you know, supported. People just come and take and then they disappear. And so because of that I just was very aware of like, I don't want to continue to do the same things that other people have done.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 41:36

And especially with the population that is represented in the project, who come from experiences where they've been deceived in some way by government corruption, like, for example, many folks that we've interviewed, talk about, you know, somebody's approaching them to sell their land and handing them a piece of paperwork and telling them what it was, and then signing it, but not realizing that they were selling their land rather than letting them borrow it, you know.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 42:13

And so I didn't want to I wanted to be really careful and not recreate the same type of experiences. And I always tell people, that mistakes can happen with the best of intentions, right. And I just really wanted to be, I guess, transparent as much as I could. Yeah. I don't know. I think that that's where like it caretaker just seems so extractive. Yeah, yes, yes. Even the word right. But caregiver sense sounds more like okay, I'm giving care I'm helping to facilitate as much as they will let me. Like everyone understands who has contributed their story to the project, we make sure that they know that they can stop participating at any point and that they have a right for us to return their audio their transcription back to them whenever they desire and, and to not participate in the project at any point.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 43:20

Well, can you share with us some of the strengths and challenges or some of the the things that have come up that have been, you know, who have had more of a positive or negative light? Like what what has come up for you, not just in this project, but your journey as an oral historian? Are there any memorable moments that you can share with us or highlights lowlights, anything like that?

Fanny Julissa Garcia 43:52

Oh, man, there are so many.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 43:56

Whatever comes to mind.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 44:03

One thing that I'll share is that part of the project has been good at navigating how to implement compensation for folks who contributed their story. Because it's not a standard practice in oral history or really, any type of creative or research output that requires interviewing. It's practiced in various forms of ways. And so for this project, we decided to implement what we call narrator compensation or storyteller compensation, because we couldn't. Many of the families who we've interviewed, if not all, have experienced were already experiencing hardship, when they decided to come to the US. And when they were incarcerated and then deported, there was an added level of hardship.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 45:17

And so we could not in good conscious create this project without acknowledging in some way through financial means that it takes labour to tell your story and to acknowledge the hardship that they were living through. And so we we created a process. Luckily, we had some funding. And we're able to compensate funds to families, obviously, not enough because I would want to give them, you know, 100,000 a million dollars. But it's not possible due to budgetary restrictions, but we wanted to acknowledge and provide that support for them.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 46:07

So we navigated how to do it. And we my collaborator, Nara Milanich, and I wrote an academic article to as a case study about how we went about it, the, the reasons for it, and the research that supported us doing it, and hopefully it will publish soon. But that was one that was hard, not to mention other kind of pushback that we got from a few folks around that.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 46:46

Yeah, let's not talk about that. What about the other any other memorable moments, perhaps like highlights?

Fanny Julissa Garcia 46:59

I'm just I'm about the stories I can talk about, like. I've been able to do one story, interview in person. And there was a young man who was separated from his father, they're both from Guatemala. And they live in Brooklyn. And I live in very close about an hour away. And I was able to go interview the young man, he's 19 now. And I interviewed him in person. And after two years of interviewing over the phone, doing an interview in person was very jarring. Because. Jarring. Yeah.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 47:55

Because just think about it. It is I think we we may all at some level, on some level, understand the the importance of seeing a face. When you're interviewing a face that is moving, that whose eyes are moving, smiling when you speak to them, you know that face to face is so important. And I think some of us to some level, learned this during the first few months of the pandemic. And so, I for the first time, I was able to interview and hear one of these stories of family separation in person from a young man who was only 18 when I interviewed him.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 48:44

But I mean, this young man was felt it felt like he was 80 years old. It felt like he had the weight of the world. And that's the way that he spoke of this, his experiences with him being separated from his father. There was just there was a sadness and this really deep sadness in his eyes. And his smile felt almost forced even though he smiles he's a very charming young man. But you can tell that there is there's pain behind that smile and so being able to witness that just reiterated the power of communication and and the value of being heard and being seen. I've experienced it in my own life and I think this is one of the motivating factors for the work that I do that I just really believe that it can be rewarding and validating to have an open welcome ear to hear who you are are and to see you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 50:02

Get to see you fully, not just not just when you're sharing joyful moments, but when you're sharing some especially challenging, yeah moments in your life. Wow, how oyu described it, jarring. And you describe this young man as being so wise. And it's almost like this this melancholy of like, having to have gone through so much to arrive at that wisdom. Yeah.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 50:36

Wow. Yeah. He talked about the value of education, that that's one thing that he really appreciates about having the opportunity to be in the US, because he started working at a young age to support help support his family. And so one thing he really values about living in the US is that he can go to school, and he's working part time and still trying to finish high school, because he knows that it opens doors, and he values it because he didn't have it before. It's really, really beautiful. It was really beautiful to witness how joyful his eyes became when he talked about being able to go to school. Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 51:37

I love that. I mean, I think a lot of us are, are only further reminded of our privileges when when we have these conversations with folks from all walks of life. So I'm glad that you shared that specific moment, interviewing him in person. Wow. I want to hear we're getting close to wrapping up. But I want to hear for any listeners who they themselves are interested in oral history, they themselves are interested in perhaps pursuing this as an option or working on a project of their own. What advice do you have, even for folks who conduct interviews? So this is for me, for me to what advice do you have for folks who are interested in pursuing oral history interested in, in developing the skill set of interviewing and active listening and documenting and all the other things that I'm sure you do that I am not acknowledging, because I don't have the extensive knowledge that you do on the topic.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 52:49

It's funny that you say that because I was just about to say that you don't need expensive education.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 53:03

Please do not take out student loans to go to Ivy League universities. Unless the degree that you're trying to get if you if you do a little bit of the math on the return on investment. I really believe that that's something that I wish I had been taught before I started college. UCLA was the best, provided me the best public education. This is where I started learning about oral history.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 53:36

I took one class with a Central American professor at UCLA. Her name is Lacy Abrego, it was called Central Americans in the US. And not only did she teach, but she created a network of other Central American scholars that I still have access to today. So I would say to folks, you don't need a super expensive college degree or a degree in oral history to do this work. But you do deep need to develop to devote some time to reading, to researching and to connecting with other folks that are doing this work. You can access all of this for free at your local library. There are also resources online that you can tap into the Oral History Association is one of them, but there are many, and there are non traditional, you know about me and my non traditional trajectory.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 54:42

We like those stories here.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 54:46

Absolutely nontraditional practitioners that I highly, would highly encourage. And so me and a few folks are trying also to come together to develop, I don't know, a toolkit or small book that offers guidelines into or suggestions, really not guidelines, we don't want to be best practicing calling it best practices. But just suggestions about how to document family stories. And these are, I think special in because sometimes it's hard to interview family, it's hard to hear stories from family, I know I've had a hard time with my mom and getting her to talk about her life.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 55:37

But they require special attention and different methodologies like the the applied oral history that I developed for the separated project. And so we want to put those out there as options for folks that are working with populations that have become endangered to document family histories, family relationship to history, like, for example, Central Americans, the Salvadoran civil war, or the conflicto armado in Guatemala or just in my family, there's just there's been a lot of domestic violence and sexual violence. And so I want to be able to find methodologies for documenting that history because I think it's important, right? That's things like that trauma like that has the ability to shape us. And so it requires different forms of care and attention. And so I would probably encourage folks to seek out the folks that are doing memory work that is trauma centered, and that supports non traditional or non mainstream histories. Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 57:05

Amazing. Is there any thing else that I may have left out? Or that you know, you wanted to share any other closing words before we go? And if not, I would love for folks to hear how they can stay in touch or they resonated with what you said, how can they reach you? How can they follow you or support your work?

Fanny Julissa Garcia 57:28

I just, there was something that you said earlier, I'm going to try to remember real quick, but it was about I guess why I wanted to document this work. And what prompted me to want to document this work. I go back to interviewing my mom, whenever I talked to my mom and I say, mom, I want to interview you. She says pero por que a mi, why me?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 58:01

I did the same thing with my mom. After we have that one conversation. I was like, ama una de mis amigas me dice que deberia de entrevistarte. Que piensas? Ay porque yo? And then I proceeded to ask your question was like not interviewing her, but just to like, get her to expand. And it was really interesting, because as soon as I started asking questions, she went into the conversation so I'm curious about your mom too.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 58:32

That's it. My mom comes from very humble backgrounds. She told me a long time ago, she was born on a banana plantation, she lived in a shack when she was growing up. She doesn't see herself as a protagonist of her life, as the heroine of her life. But I see her as that. I wouldn't be here if my mom had not brought me to the US, right. And so that's what motivates me to do this work. I want to document people from humble beginnings who have not been traditionally documented in books and novels in literature, who have not been mentioned. Who are discarded, but who are often the ones who take the bulk and the full impact of policies and neglect that is, that is implemented by our governments.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 59:34

So we have to document these stories. We have an obligation to make sure that they're not forgotten. And we honor them when we do and even if it takes convincing them, porque no tu, why not you, porque no usted. You know. There's so much in my mom's story alone. There's so much history. And so yeah, I want to, I want to honor that, you know.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:00:09

My friends are gonna laugh at this, but one of my favorite shows is Finding Your Roots. And I love it. Because it really documents all kinds of stories from all over the world of famous people, right? And whether geneaology. I wanna do it. Yea we should do it. And whenever there's a Latinx person that is featured on the show, I am so excited about it. Um, and so I think we need if it's not going to happen at that level with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Henry Louis Gates. We have to do it ourselves, we have to do it with the skills and expertise and know how that we have.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:00:55

And again, it doesn't have to be with expensive equipment. You can do it on your phone. It doesn't have to be super quality audio. Just legible or audible? Audio work? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that is that is clean and crisp, that you can really hear. Background noise is okay. Imagine 10, 15, 50 years from now when somebody listens to that, and they hear something in the background that's going to add value or just beauty to that interviewer because you hear the bird or, you know, somebody's moving in the kitchen.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:01:39

I'm thinking about all the times I could hear my kids in the background, especially in my early episodes.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:01:45

Exactly. Imagine interviewing your mom while she's lighting las velas.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:01:52

Oh, my goodness, you probably, she probably will, or she'll be doing something because she can't stand still. Exactly. I take after her.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:02:02

Absolutely, yeah. I really feel passionately about documenting these stories and my mom's history. And hopefully in the next few years, I'll write something based on those interviews, because I really want to contribute to that effort.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:02:24

I have no doubt that you will, and I'm excited for your future books to come. I'm just so excited about everything that you're doing. And I resonate with the feeling of wanting to document the stories that are untold and that are nontraditional or non mainstream. And this is a space for that too. I mean, I like to interview all kinds of folks, they can be undergrads, they can be grad students, they can be working professionals, you name it, I'm always up for having people on the podcast.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:02:55

And I often I don't just have like the side doors, but like the main doors, you know, every once in a while, I'll put a posting like I'm looking for new guests. And I get folks all from like, all over the place. And some of my most like, amazing interviews have been from random individuals who have come to me who wouldn't have otherwise known about this opportunity. So yeah, thank you for reminding me about the importance of opening up opportunities to share untold stories.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:03:30

That's yeah, that's so powerful. And one thing, last thing I want to say about folks that are scared about listening to their voices on audio,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:03:40

Yeah, that's a thing. That is a big thing.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:03:46

One of my friends, his name is Mark Menjivar. He's an artist out of Texas. He told me, he was talking to someone, I forget their name, but she told him, we don't know how beautiful we sound. Oh, I have to remember that. And we're, you know, all this criticism that we have about the way we sound. It's not going to matter of 10, 15, 20 years from now. But we're going to have an audio of that person of ourselves engaging with that person. So that's really, that's treasure. That's beautiful.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:04:25

Yeah. And last to close it off. If people want to get in touch with the project, with me. We do have a website. It's called separatedoralhistories.org. And I invite folks to reach out through there we have an email address. I believe it's separatedoralhistories@gmail.com. And yeah, we'd love to receive support about this project. I know the families who've participated in it, are eager to make sure their stories are heard and validated and supported and that there used to help other people.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:05:07

Great. Should we share any other contact info like your website maybe, my own website? Why not?

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:05:19

My personal website is iamfannygarcia.com. And folks can reach me at iamfannygarcia@gmail.com.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:05:31

Thank you. I hope that the folks that found this conversation meaningful will reach out, will share their thoughts and feedback with us, because it means something to us. So thank you, Fanny. Thank you so much for coming on the show today for sharing these incredible stories. For sharing about you and your background about all the many different beautiful individuals that you get to work with and yeah for for holding space for us. Thank you.

Fanny Julissa Garcia 1:06:02

Thank you, Yvette. I really appreciate you.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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