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Contributed by Arizona Historical Society Library and Archives, Tucson

La Herencia del Pueblo: Mexican Heritage Project Photographs is an exhibit of photographs selected from the Mexican Heritage Project photos in the collections of the Arizona Historical Society Library and Archives in Tucson. The Mexican Heritage Project was a groundbreaking effort at the Arizona Historical Society to help preserve and tell a story which was in danger of being forgotten or marginalized-the story of Tucson's Mexican American community from the Gadsden Purchase until World War II. From 1979-1983, a group of dedicated scholars, field historians, archivists, librarians and community members united in an effort to gather photographs and oral histories directly from Tucson's Mexican American community. The project's founders recognized the urgency and importance of such a project since it was clear that due to population influx and resultant growth, Tucson was changing rapidly. As descendants of pioneer Mexican families aged, their photographs, documents, traditions and memories were in real danger of being lost and remaining forever absent from the historical record of Arizona. During its approximately five years of active collecting, the Mexican Heritage Project sought to address this by collecting over 4000 historical photographs directly from community members, all of which were catalogued and added to the permanent collection of the Arizona Historical Society Library and Archives in Tucson.

The rich photographic collection of over 4000 images assembled by the Mexican Heritage Project has been accessible to researchers at AHS as individual photos since the mid 1980s, but has never before been viewable or searchable as a united collection. Technology now allows for digital unification of this rich and varied collection of photographs spanning the 1860s through the 1950s. This exhibit was created to offer a conceptual grouping of these important cultural heritage images for the digital generation in the belief that all Arizonans deserve to have access to information about the cultural inheritances which inform and enrich our region. This collection of images contributes to awareness and enhances understanding of the complex tapestry of cultures, traditions and peoples who have contributed to the development and cultural heritage of southern Arizona.

This assortment of images was selected to share a broad sampling of the images collected as part of the Mexican Heritage Project. These photographs portray a wide range of subjects, including formal studio portraits of individuals and groups, street scenes, parades, wedding portraits, interiors, ranch scenes, musical groups, workers, theatrical productions, school class photos, and casual family snapshots. All available identifying information has been included in the description of the photographs, but we encourage anyone with additional information about the people or events pictured in these images to contact us so we can enhance this digital collection and document that information for researchers. In addition, it is our intention that this important cultural heritage collection will continue to grow as we recognize that is also vital to ensure preservation of photographs from the more recent past for the benefit of future generations. If you wish to donate photographs to our collections or if you have additional information to share, please contact us at ahsref[at] This project was supported with funds granted by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records Agency, a division of the Arizona Secretary of State, under the Library, Services and Technology Act, which is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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