Young Preservationist Sara Delgadillo on Why Preservation Needs Diversity

Posted on: January 29th, 2014 by Aria Danaparamita

Preservationists from different backgrounds gather for the National Preservation Conference Diversity Scholars program. (L. to r.: Rosalind Sagara, Sara Delgadillo, Manuel Huerta.) Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation
Preservationists from different backgrounds gather for the National Preservation Conference Diversity Scholars program. (L. to r.: Rosalind Sagara, Sara Delgadillo, Manuel Huerta.)

Preservation can mean a lot of different things to different folks. For Sara Delgadillo, it’s about authenticity, community, and inclusivity. The 28-year-old San Fernando Valley native is a graduate student at the University of Southern California’s Heritage Conservation program, but she’s excited about what potential preservation has for her predominantly Latino community and for America’s diverse communities at large.

We met Sara at the 2013 National Preservation Conference that she attended as a Diversity Scholar, a program that seeks to support community leaders in preserving diverse historic sites and heritage. We asked Sara what she thought about being a young preservationist and where she thinks preservation is going. Here’s what she said.

How did you come to preservation? What/who inspired you?

I'm 28 years old and was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, Calif., within a predominantly Latino community. I'm currently a graduate student in USC's Heritage Conservation program. I came to the world of preservation through my previous studies in architecture and my desire to have a career that would allow me to give back to my community.

In the past I have been involved in planning and implementing a community event/festival and health fair that commemorates Cesar Chavez in the communities of San Fernando and Pacoima. Through my current and future studies I aim to identify and aid in the conservation of sites, places, or buildings that are important to the Latino community in the San Fernando Valley.

The City of San Fernando Mariachi Master Apprentice Program showcases the talents the Mariachi Tesoro and its children ensemble, Los Tesoritos. Credit: Mariachi Master Apprentice Program
The City of San Fernando Mariachi Master Apprentice Program showcases the talents of the Mariachi Tesoro and its children ensemble, Los Tesoritos.

What are some of the more avant-garde or non-formal/traditional approaches have you seen in preservation?

The more formal knowledge I gain in preservation, the more I become aware of the organizations and programs in place within communities that practice some form of preservation. However, they don't call it preservation.

For example, the City of San Fernando's Recreation and Community Service branch in California has a Mariachi Master Apprentice Program where young students are paired with master musicians to study the popular and traditional Mexican art forms. It's a music education program, but it is also heritage conservation because it celebrates and embraces a culture present within the community. This helps create identity all the while preserving traditions and culture within an immigrant community. It's great!

Thinking about preservation in this way is really exciting for me because when we begin to discuss preservation as a broader discipline, getting past the star architects or the house museum, we can clearly see how many young preservationists we really have among us. Again, they may not know they are practicing preservation, or they may not call themselves preservationists but they certainly are.

Why is preserving history important?

Just like we are stewards of our environment, we are also stewards of our history and it is important for the diverse story of our country and communities to be told. Without documenting and conserving it, the legacy of our history is gone.

What do you think preservation's biggest opportunity is right now?

I think the biggest opportunity is to engage with the minority and immigrant populations of our nation. In engaging these communities we can broaden the appreciation of our nation’s diverse social and cultural history.

Read more about what Sara and other young preservationists had to say on the Preservation Leadership Forum blog.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Aria Danaparamita

Aria Danaparamita

Aria Danaparamita, or Mita, is a contributor to the PreservationNation blog and recent graduate of Wesleyan University. She enjoys walks, coffee, and short stories. Follow her odd adventures on Twitter at @mitatweets.

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