Homestead National Monument’s newest intern traveled over 2,500 miles in order to research the history of Latino homesteaders in America.
Veronica Barreto Rosa is a journalism and modern languages student at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras.
When she received an email about the Latino Heritage Internship Program, which had opportunities to participate in different Latino projects for the National Parks Service, Barreto Rosa decided to apply.
“I wanted to do something since this is my last year [of school],” Barreto Rosa said. “I hadn’t done any internships yet and I wanted to do something different.”
Barreto Rosa had previously visited Florida and New York, but Beatrice was her first experience of the Midwest.
“When I first came here, I was like ‘it’s green! It reminds me of home,’” Barreto Rosa said. “People here are the nicest people I’ve met in my life. They’ve been very welcoming, taking care of me and what I need. I really appreciate how people are here.”
Barreto Rosa said she did not know much about homesteading before starting her internship.
“When they told me I had to do research on Latina Homesteaders, I was like ‘what do Latina have to do with Homesteading?’” Barreto Rosa said. “I thought I might find some Latinas, but there are not going to be a lot of them.”
She noticed that many homesteaders originally emigrated from Europe. However, in Arizona in 1913 alone, Barreto Rosa found that 10 percent of homestead claims were made by people with Hispanic last names, which is more than she predicted.
Barreto Rosa also spoke with descendants of Latino homesteaders, recounting how Jacqueline Lopez Abraham’s great grandparents, Mercedes and Lugarda Lopez, homesteaded in Arizona near a Native American territory.
“She said she remembers her nana telling her that when [Native Americans] used to come to the Lopez house, they would make burritos for them, they would make sweet bread for them and it was a peaceful friendship between them,” Barreto Rosa said.
Barreto Rosa chronicled parts of her Homestead experience through her internship program.
One article focused on Homestead Days, which Barreto Rosa said was one of her favorite activities.
“When the staff was planning a fashion show about the Homestead Era clothes, I could not resist and offered myself to be a model,” Barreto Rosa said. “I had the opportunity to dress myself in a white summer dress originally from 1916. I felt gorgeous.”
She also compiled a research video of her findings, which she presented at Homestead on Thursday, as well as recorded biographies of the homesteaders she found, which the park could use in future events.
Barreto Rosa said that while she doesn’t know whether she’ll work with national parks in the future, the internship helped solidify her interest in research.
“Also, it has helped me with my English,” Barreto Rosa said. “I am not an English speaker, and it has helped me gain confidence in myself.”
This was the last week of Barreto Rosa’s internship before she travels back to Puerto Rico for her last semester of school.