Spotlight Story

26 June 2023

Norma Chairez: Protecting Latino Heritage Through Historic Preservation

Category: Spotlight Story

When Norma Chairez nominated Chope’s Bar and Café to be in the National Register of Historic Places, she did it as part of a historic preservation effort that is deeply intertwined with her family roots. Nominating this place, a significant place in Bracero program history, signified a crucial aspect of representation and ownership of Latino history.

Both of her grandparents were braceros, so she realized it was relevant to highlight that history in the area, while being part of the U.S. history herself through the remembrance of her grandparents' labor. The braceros program got implemented in 1942 as part of the Mexican Farm Labor Program. It allowed Mexican men to work legally in the U.S. on a short-term basis.

Now a museum curator and professor at New Mexico State University, she works to ensure the proper documentation of meaningful artifacts and places for the Latino community. She got introduced to “Place, Story, and Culture”, by Hispanic Access Foundation. The project is a carefully curated list of ten places historically relevant to the Latino Community that needed preservation. She contributed to the report by writing about Castner Range in El Paso, Texas and Duranguito. The list was developed in hopes of identifying the needs in historic preservation and making it inclusive of the conversations around Latinos and representation.

“It’s important to include everyone’s history because a lot of identities intersect”.

Formerly an intern, Norma first initiated her collaboration with Hispanic Access Foundation through her internship at Everglades National Park, an opportunity that helped her break barriers in the process of working with the federal government. This was particularly important for Norma as she and her parents were formerly undocumented. Thanks to her work in Everglades, and the whitepaper report “Place, Story and Culture”, Norma gained valuable exposure and knowledge in historic preservation, which helped her develop scholarly work within the nonprofit sector.

“Historic Preservation needs to be more inclusive, and we highlighted that in the whitepaper report ‘Place, Story and Culture’. I think with the report, Hispanic Access Foundation is one of the first organizations to prompt a new movement in historic preservation."

Through her internship at the Everglades’ archives, Norma was also able to develop crucial skills that helped her with her career path, including networking opportunities with other museum professionals. The support she received during the experience is part of the commitment of the Hispanic Access Foundation to guarantee the exposure of young professionals to real-life experiences that positively contribute to the wealth of information available for Hispanics in the conservation field.

To learn more about the MANO Project and to see what positions are currently available, visit  

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Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

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