Understanding Communities Study: Hispanic & Latino Residents of New Jersey
The New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) initiated the Understanding Communities Study with the goal to better understand how New Jersey history and history organizations can be more inclusive for all. NJHC contracted RK&A for the first phase of the study to conduct focus groups with members of Hispanic and Latino communities in New Jersey. NJHC plans to expand the study to other communities in the future. The New Jersey Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development served as advisors in the project.
With support from NJHC partners, RK&A conducted three focus groups with members of Hispanic and Latino communities across New Jersey in November 2018 and one additional group in March 2019. Focus group participants were recruited by four NJHC partners: Cumberland County Cultural and Heritage Commission; Middlesex County Office of Art and History; Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission; and Passaic County Cultural and Heritage Council. Partners recruited participants that met the following criteria: identify as Hispanic/Latino, reside in New Jersey, and engage with local arts and/or cultural organizations or festivals in their free time, but not necessarily with history organizations.
Results from the focus groups highlight the diversity of experiences of Hispanic and Latinos in New Jersey. History is deeply engrained in participants’ personal and family history—this is a similarity across participants of all groups. Likewise, all groups recognize and value the need to record and share their local Hispanic and Latino history. The groups diverged, particularly in terms of their interest in personally engaging in history work and in perceived barriers to NJHC opportunities. At one end of the spectrum, participants in Paterson expressed high interest and identified few barriers to pursuing NJHC opportunities. On the other end of the spectrum, participants in New Brunswick were highly skeptical of being able to participate in opportunities of NJHC not because of lack of interest in history but competing and more urgent pressures, such as living wages, which limit capacity to pursue grants for history or heritage purposes.