About the Project
In 1919, the Agnes Ward Amberg Club, a group of affluent Catholic women, organized a vacation (summer) school for Mexican children in the Westside neighborhood of Kansas City. Recognizing the needs of the Mexican community, the Amberg Club opened the Guadalupe Center at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in the Westside. Following the path of many other reformers in the early 20th century, the women of the Amberg Club endeavored to educate and Americanize immigrant children. Over time, the Mexican community transformed the Center's programs and services to meet their cultural and social needs. For over a century, the organization has dedicated its mission to improving the Latino population's quality of life, celebrating their cultural heritage, and serving as a significant anchor for this community in Kansas City. Today, the Guadalupe Centers is the longest continuously-operating Latino social service organization in the United States.
Centennials are important milestones. While commemorating the Guadalupe Center's anniversary through several cultural events and celebrations was important, it also provided an opportunity to reflect on the history and legacy of the institution. Kansas City's Guadalupe Centers: A Century of Serving the Latino Community is a multifaceted public history endeavor that documents, interprets, and disseminates the organization's history. Over the last years, local organizations developed a documentary film, an exhibit, public programming, and an ongoing archival project in collaboration with the Guadalupe Centers. Together, these efforts chronicle the organization's rich history and its role in fostering and sustaining a vibrant Latino community in Kansas City.
The story of the Guadalupe Centers provides a case study to understand the Latino experience in Kansas City and the Midwest throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The organization's history illustrates topics such as immigration, labor, community formation, racism and discrimination, activism, culture, social services, education, political empowerment, among others. Yet, despite the Guadalupe Centers' importance in Kansas City and the Midwest history, its story and the narratives of Latinos in the region are often overshadowed, marginalized, and deemed as newer histories.
While the Latino community has imprinted a mark in many aspects of Kansas City history, archival holdings do not reflect these narratives. In the process of interpreting the history of the Guadalupe Centers, the partnering organizations built a new archive comprised of documents, photographs, and objects scattered across various sites owned by the Guadalupe Centers, and by conducting interviews with people with ties to the organization. These new materials will be soon transferred to the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library to enhance the already existing Guadalupe Center, Amberg Club, and Dorothy Gallagher archival collections for the use of researchers and the community. Ultimately, the project team hopes that this collaboration between the Guadalupe Centers, UMKC, the Kansas City Public Library, and Tico Productions, can serve as a local and regional model to document and celebrate the histories of the Latino community and other minoritized groups.
Kansas City's Guadalupe Centers was awarded the 2020 History in Progress Award and the Award of Excellence from the American Association of State and Local History, and received an Honorable Mention for the 2019 Alice Smith Prize in Public History from the Midwestern History Association.