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As Arizona celebrates its 100th anniversary, a book that explores a part of that history by capturing the nearly lost-to-time voices of Tucson's inner city and ethnic cultural center before urban renewal has won the Southwest Book Award, and now the book also has inspired a performance troop to recreate the voices in dance.
The book, "La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwest City," written by Lydia Otero, a University of Arizona associate professor of cultural studies and history in the department of Mexican American studies, has been named winner of a Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association.
Otero's book, published by the University of Arizona Press, captures the voices of the late 1960s in Tucson, where downtown reconstruction at the time targeted an area densely populated by the Mexican American community.
Otero examines conflicting claims to urban space, place and history by two opposing historic preservationist groups: the La Placita Committee and the Tucson Heritage Foundation, giving voice to those who lived in, experienced, or remembered this contested area.
The book analyzes the historical narratives of those who recall the renewal project and its effects upon the community.
Inspired by the verbal histories she worked to collect as a former graduate student of Otero's, Yvonne Montoya, turned that research into choreography.
Montoya is director of the Safos Dance Theater, a dance troupe she started in 2009.
"The description of the old neighborhood, or Barrio Viejo, that people described was so beautiful, with vibrant colors, flowers and a river that still flowed through town at the time, spoke to my artistic vision – at the time I recall telling professor Otero that I would one day make those images into choreography," Montoya said.
The choreography for "La Calle," Montoya said, captures Tucson's past, present and future and will be performed on Feb. 4 at 10 a.m. at the Dunbar Community Center as part of "Tapestry of Tucson: a Centennial Celebration" presented by the Tucson Pima Arts Council.
Otero and residents of the old neighborhood will participate in a panel discussion following the performance.