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Conference unites historians, storytellers to showcase overlooked Inland Empire history

Amari Navarro presenting on her research 'How the Citrus Industry Shaped Education Inequality for Ethnic Mexicans in the Inland Empire' during the IE People's History Conference at Cal State San Bernardino on June 1, 2024.
Josue Muñoz
Amari Navarro presenting on her research 'How the Citrus Industry Shaped Education Inequality for Ethnic Mexicans in the Inland Empire' during the IE People's History Conference at Cal State San Bernardino on June 1, 2024.

The Inland Empire People’s History conference at Cal State San Bernardino over the weekend shed light on histories of underserved communities of color.

The conference united historians and storytellers to showcase overlooked histories of Black, Latino, Native and Asian communities.

Amari Navarro is a third-year history student at UC Riverside. She showcased the Mexican-American community's deep connections to the citrus industry.

"The citrus industry had places like company towns that had churches, schools, stores, and it tied Mexicans down to farm work," she shared during her presentation.

Navarro pointed out that public perceptions, both then and now, often tie Latinos to hard, physical labor.

"Now we see that shifting with logistics centers like warehouses, where there's also pickers and packers…think places like Amazon."

One of Navarro's mentors, UC Riverside Public History professor Catherine Gudis, was one of the event’s organizers. She says historians are attempting to work with the public to build narratives that help inspire civic change for the Inland Empire.

"We are allied in trying to find ways to uplift stories of the past that inform the present as a way to build something that will be about change," she shared.

Eric Bautista is a history teacher based in Riverside who attended last Saturday’s conference.

He believes students feel a sense of self-empowerment by learning about local history.

"It allows students to see themselves as an essential part of the makeup of what is the US today, and to trace back their history and see the importance of their own family," he said

The conference’s organizers encourage the public to visit peopleshistoryie.org.

Josue Munoz contributed to this reporting