Home > Education, History, Jose Francisco Garcia, Latino/Hispanic, Linda Garcia, South Omaha, Writing > Jose and Linda Garcia find new outlet for their magnificent obsession in the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands

Jose and Linda Garcia find new outlet for their magnificent obsession in the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands


Jose Francisco Garcia and his wife Linda Garcia are two of the most intellectually curious people I know.  They are quintessential searchers always open to discovery and they love nothing more than sharing what they learn with others.  Their great passion is preserving and presenting Mexican history and culture and they do this in a variety of ways, including their work through the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands, which replaced their Las Artes Cutlural Center. Linda is a librarian, storyteller, and artist.   Jose is a photographer.  Both are amateur historians.  This story appeared on the eve of  the organization’s opening a couple years ago and gives a glimpse of the couple’s far ranging interests and of their historical society’s diverse programming.

Jose and Linda Garcia find new outlet for their magnificent obsession in the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands

©by Leo Adam Biga

Published in El Perico

 

Jose and Linda Garcia spend every day immersed in Mexican-American heritage. After devoting years to their Las Artes Cultural Center, the couple recently closed it. Their magnificent obsession with Latino art and history is now expressed through the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands.

He’s executive director and she’s secretary of the new nonprofit in the Mercado building, 4913 South 25th Street. The Garcias bring passion and expertise, along with a collection of photographs, art objects and books, to carry-out the mission of building awareness of Mexican American achievement. Behind-the-scenes, preservation will be a major focus. Publicly, the community will be invited to exhibitions, lectures, art classes, film screenings and other cultural events.

Unlike Las Artes, which the Garcias ran alone as a labor of love, the society has a formal board, its operations and programs funded by grants and donations. A $10,000 Futuro Latino Fund grant and a $5,000 South Omaha turnback tax grant have helped get the new organization up and running.

Why start over again with a new institution?

She said it’s an opportunity to employ their collection as a teaching tool on a new level, reaching more folks. Besides, she said, “somebody’s gotta do it.”

Linda, a storyteller and artist, is a retired children’s librarian. Jose is a Union Pacific retiree.

Linda Garcia, ©photo by Jose Garcia
Jose Francisco Garcia

 

 

“The reason we have a collection is we use it,” she said. “Anything we do, whether design an exhibit or give a talk, we do a lot of research. We go out there and dig.”

Her hunger to learn more about her cultural heritage and to disseminate it was inspired by her first visit to Mexico. The then-College of St. Mary senior was exposed to many facets of her people’s art and history not taught in school. This identity discovery was part of her immersion in the Chicano movement.

“What was awakened was the art, the literature, the becoming who you are as a Chicano,” she said. “I’m not really Mexican, I’m an American, but the combination made me a Chicano, which means I seek knowledge. But it’s not enough to stop there, you must transmit it to other people and share it. It’s not enough to collect and learn and keep it all to ourselves. That’s the reason for this place.”

Jose, originally from Kansas City, Mo., served three years in the U.S. Army, including one long year spent near Saigon during the height of the Vietnam War. Back home, he went from job to job, always snapping pictures on the side.

He moved to Omaha in the 1970s. It was some time before he and Linda got together, each drawn to the other’s curiosity and drive.

“Aesthetic quality is what she’s taught me,” Jose said of Linda. His digital pics documenting South Omaha are posted on picasweb.google.com/razatimes.

“One thing I really learned from Jose,” said Linda, “is to speak out and not be this timid girl. I saw the respect people would give him because he would ask for what he wanted, and now I’ve learned to ask for what I want. We really blend. I’m the artist, he’s more the corporate type. We like to spend time together.”

“We’ve learned to become old souls together,” said Jose.

“We want to leave a legacy,” she said, “but it’s more than that, it’s trying to teach the community they also have a legacy and they also have a responsibility to carry their family traditions and to know how to take care of photographs and keepsakes. We want them to know what they have is really valuable, even if only to family or forbearers.”

It’s all about self-determination, said Jose.

The historical society goes public with these upcoming events

September 15, Mexican Independence Day, 10 p.m. greeting, 11 p.m. El Grito de Dolores

September 16-19, Bicentennial of Mexican Independence, exhibit/lecture, 6 p.m.

October 1, Grand opening, Las Americas South O City Center, 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. program

A website will soon launch.

After October 1, the facility will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday. Admission is free. Donations accepted. Memberships available.

The historical society number is 884-1910.

UPDATE:  The organization does have a website, http://www.mahsmidlands.org.

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