Tony Hernandez is on a daring mission to preserve and showcase the stories of immigrants living in the United States, through his Immigrant Archive Project.
The project is an initiative he launched in 2008 designed to capture on video the intimate stories of the vast and diverse immigrant population in the U.S.
Last Friday, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) honored Hernandez for his work with the Immigrant Archive Project during the group’s 16th Annual Impact Awards Gala.
He received the first-ever Lupe Ontiveros Indomitable Spirit Award. NHMC created the award in remembrance of Ontiveros for her efforts as an actress to represent Latinos “at the highest level and standards.”
“I’m absolutely floored to be receiving this award,” Hernandez told VOXXI. “But this is not about me. This is about the project … and this belongs to the entire community who has contributed.”
He added, “To be tied to Lupe’s remarkable legacy is very heartening.”
Immigrant Archive Project tells the ‘real’ immigrant stories
Hernandez, who emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba with his parents at age five, launched the project in reaction to what he saw was “a negative portrayal of immigrants” being shown through the mainstream media.
“I saw that in these talk shows and news shows, the conversations pundits were having about immigrants were taking a very xenophobic tone,” he said. “Having lived through the immigration experience myself and being raised in an immigrant community, I just saw a complete disconnect.”
Hernandez thought the best way to tell the “real stories of immigrants” was by providing a space for them to tell their stories and disseminating those stories via radio, television and social media. He recently partnered up with Univision to air the content of the videos in television shows such as “Despierta America“, “Primer Impacto” and “El Gordo y la Flaca“.
Five years into his daring mission, Hernandez now possesses 500 hours of video content that showcases the diverse stories of immigrants.
From everyday stories of teachers, migrant workers, veterans and activists to stories of well-known entertainers like the late singer Jenni Rivera, the Immigrant Archive Project preserves the stories of the diverse immigrant population in the U.S.
“What we’re after is simply our story and trying to figure out what is that story,” Hernandez said. “But in order to be fair and honest with telling that story, we need to touch upon so many lives and stories.”
Hernandez: Immigrant experience unites Latinos
One lesson Hernandez said he hopes viewers take away from the Latinos featured in the Immigrant Archive Project is that not all Latinos are the same.
“I always say that if an Argentinian, a Mexican and a Puerto Rican are in the same room, you’re probably going to need a translator,” he told VOXXI. “Our language tends to divide us.”
Besides the different forms of speaking Spanish, Latinos have different foods, cultures and music. But one thing Hernandez said Latinos have in common and unites them “in a very big way” is the immigrant experience.
He vowed to continue documenting and preserving the experiences of Latino immigrants and other immigrants living in the U.S. during the years to come.
“What I’m trying to build here is a self-sustaining project that won’t only capture the stories of immigrants from this generation but also long after I’m gone,” he said.