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Travel Piece

While stories of struggle and hardship are found throughout Mormon history, the experiences of the early Mexican saints have remained relatively unknown. To tell those stories is the goal of the Mexican Mormon History Museum in Provo.

That the museum even exists, is a story of the faith and determination of the Gomez family. The museum began when founder Fernando Gomez returned to Mexico in 1991 to reconnect with family members. During his trip to Mexico he found a small, humble collection that had to do with the beginnings of the LDS church in Mexico.

Collections of documents related to Mexican Mormon history came from Gomez’s aunt, Consuelo Gomez. Consuelo was a teacher and kept historical records that others did not.

After the missionaries converted her family in 1925, Consuelo taught the Book of Mormon to children and those who couldn’t read through a series of plays. The Mexican government banished missionaries from all religions in 1926 and Consuelo’s plays were the only way many could learn of the gospel. These plays, as well as her poems and dramas, are just a few of the documents that the museum now houses.

A fellow church member, Bernabe Parra, hired Consuelo to teach his two sons secular topics in a more spiritual environment. The two created the one of the first LDS school’s in Mexico. This pioneering endeavor was one of the first attempts to teach secular skills in a spiritual environment, similar to the Church Education System today.

Consuelo kept detailed notes on the school that were kept by her family. As Fernando talked with his family members and realized the importance of the documents Consuelo kept he decided that he needed to share and honor the history she left behind.

“That is our own individual mission,” said Fernando. “We felt that my Aunt left us a legacy and that we needed to preserve.”

Fernando was compelled to preserve the historical collection. He wanted to not only preserve the collection but also share it with the general public so that all could benefit from the rich history. The museum began in Mexico City, but later moved to Provo.

The move to the United States, and specifically Provo, was important because there are many historical ties to the area. Several of the first missionaries to teach in Mexico were from the Utah County area and there are many records here that pertain to Mexican Mormon history.

Moving the museum to Provo was a challenge. Fernando wanted to locate the museum close to BYU campus, but there weren’t any buildings for sale around the area within his price range. One day he received a call informing him that a building across from BYU campus was for sale. The building had experienced severe flood damage and needed to be completely remodeled. Fernando decided to take on the challenge and create the new museum.

After eight months of hard work and labor by Fernando, his family, and volunteers, the building was ready to become a museum.

“It really feels more like a home than a cold untouchable museum,” said Hannah Richey, a BYU student who visited the museum for her Spanish class.

The new museum became home to several rare artifacts in addition to Consuelo’s hand written documents. Early missionaries to Mexico from the United States translated small booklets with excerpts from the Book of Mormon to teach the gospel. There are only about a dozen of these booklets in existence. The Museum of Mormon Mexican History has two of only 15 existing booklets and is the only museum in the world that has them on display for the general public to see.

Census records and early editions of Spanish hymn books are also included in Fernando’s collection of artifacts.

“We want to preserve this history and help others know the struggles that took place in other countries,” Fernando said.

Mexican saints endured many trials and persecutions similar to those of the saints in the United States, including martyrdom.

Rafael Monroy was one such martyr in Mexico. Monroy and his family were baptized in 1913. Three months after his baptism the missionaries were pulled out of Mexico because of the Mexican Revolution. Monroy was ordained to be the first branch President in the San Marcos Hidalgo area to help keep the church going.

Monroy’s neighbors didn’t like that he was Mormon. When soldiers came to San Marcos Hidalgo his neighbors accused Monroy of withholding guns, though he didn’t have any. The soldiers demanded that he give them the guns. When the soldiers realized he had no guns they told Monroy they would spare his life if he renounced his religion. When he refused he was executed.

The museum will celebrate his legacy in June of this year, which will be the 100 year anniversary of his martyrdom.

Making Mexican Mormon history known is the focus of the museum. However, Fernando has been working with the Mormon History Association on a larger project for its annual conference this year. The conference will be held in Provo and Fernando hopes to have the project finished in time for the conference toward the end of May.

This project encompasses other countries in central and South America. The new exhibit will give a history of early missionary work in these countries. Most of the Latin American countries, with the exception of Argentina, didn’t receive the gospel until the 1950’s and 1960’s.

As an electrical engineer, Fernando had no training or experience as a museum curator.

“We are not historians,” Fernando said. “We don’t know anything about museums, but we did it.”

The focus on history is the main aim of the museum. For Fernando, it isn’t about the money. It is about sharing a rich cultural heritage in Mormon history that few know about. The ability to share his cultural history and its legacy is enough of a payment for Fernando.

It costs money to keep the museum open, but Fernando doesn’t have much else to do with his time and money.

“I have to give something back,” he said.

The museum gives him something to do in his old age and keeps his mind and body active. He doesn’t have much to do, but he has a lot of passion for the museum and what it represents. Many visitors have commented that they can feel a special spirit in the museum.

“Maybe all the spirits are sitting here watching us,” said Fernando Gomez.

The museum has had over 400 visitors so far this year. His goal is to average about 2,000 visitors a year. With the new exhibit for the Mormon History Association, he hopes the museum will gain more exposure.

“If 5 people come then I feel satisfied,” Fernando said.

He loves to share his history and heritage to visitors. The museum is located at 1501 N. Canyon Road in Provo, Utah. It is open to the public from 2-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Appointments to see the museum outside of open museum hours can be scheduled through Fernando by phone, 801-830-1468, or by email, frgmuseo1@gmail.com.

The creation of the museum, with its Mormon Mexican history, is a story of struggles and triumphs. In the end, Fernando says his ultimate goal of sharing his heritage has been met. According to the museum’s historical brochure “[We], with limited resources have brought to life a forgotten history.”

***

Potential additional quotes

“You can really see his heart and soul poured out into it.” Hannah

“I went back a few days later to ask more questions because it was just so fun and interesting” Hannah

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Trend piece

Proposal:

For my trend piece I want to develop the story idea I came up with on my walk about. I want to delve deeper into the other side of Provo. I want to look at the multicultural demographics of Provo and see if there is a cultural divide and where that divide begins. There are clearly places in Provo that are less affluent than other places, but is that related to culture? Also, what other factors contribute to the divide. Are the needs of the community being met, or are they swept aside? What are the implications of the two different sides of Provo and how do the two coexist?

I’ve seen at least one neighborhood that is living in real poverty and does not enjoy many of the nicer things of Provo. There is a community center in the area to help provide support to the community, but is it enough? What more could be done?

***

Article:

April Divine has lived in the Boulders community in South Franklin for seven years. She moved to the area from Florida with her daughter when her daughter was attending BYU. Divine moved into the Boulders because, as a single mother, it fit her price range.

The Boulders is home to more than 2,000 people, the federally-subsidized housing community has seen more than its fair share of crime, drugs, and disaster. But for those on limited incomes (many of the families there are at or below the federal poverty level), who are immigrants, or who are just trying to get a new start, it serves as a diverse and dynamic neighborhood.

When Divine first moved to the area she didn’t know that the area was a low income area and home to rampant crime. Divine remembers looking out her back window to the park and watching people recruit children in the park to do drugs.

“You didn’t come out at night,” Divine said. “It was too dangerous and not a place I would feel comfortable letting my grand kids play in.”

The South Franklin Community center was created to address these problems in the area. In 2005 there were 1,607 9-1-1 phone calls made from the area. The original purpose of the center was to decrease 9-1-1 calls, but has since become so much more to the community.

Before the South Franklin Community Center existed residents had no common meeting place to meet in. This prevented residents from communicating with each other. As residents talk to each other and get to know one another they can share information about valuable resources.

Lack of communication led to a lack of general knowledge about resources available in the community. Residents didn’t know where to turn for help or who could help them.

Divine knows several families who needed help, but didn’t know where to go or who to turn to.

“One girl was seven months pregnant and didn’t know that there were people who could help her pay her bills,” Divine said.

Few residents in the past have been willing to help their neighbors due to the area’s reputation. Many feared if they spoke out about drug problems or abuses then they would become a target. It was better for them to stay inside and not come out. Apathy came about because of residents who didn’t think the neighborhood was capable of ever changing.

The idea for the center began in 2003 when BYU law professor David Dominguez brought his community involvement class to the area to help find solutions. As they got involved and saw a need they became more dedicated to finding a solution to the problems in the area.

Domiguez believes that a community can act as its own law advocate if the residents are involved and become partners with the community.

“Lawyers are more likely to ensure lasting social change if they help residents of under-served communities articulate their own interests and thereby learn to act as their own long-term advocates,” Domiguez said.

The program started in an old apartment complex given to the community by the Boulders management. The center started with only a few programs to bring residents together. Now the center has grown their program base. The majority of programs still focus on education and self-improvement.

The establishment is owned by Provo City, but is operated by the United Way through AmeriCorp VISTAS. VISTAS stands for Volunteers in Service to America.

South Franklin Community Center currently has two AmeriCorp VISTAS. Erica Arguello is one of the two VISTAS in charge of the center. Arguello has been a VISTA for South Franklin Community Center for 8 months and will finish her year contract this summer.

Arguello is in charge of writing grants for the center as well as working with community partners. She hopes to continue to develop resources for residents to use at the center as well as increase community engagement.

“We are working on finding the best way for people to hear about the community center and get more people to the programs,” Arguello said. “We are trying to understand better what impedes people to go, and add more programs that will help community members.”

The center ran out of the apartment complex until August 2013 when the new building was constructed in the same place. The community center is located in the community and is within easy walking access of those in the community center.

Building the new center required many volunteer hours. Divine was one of the many who volunteered to help create the new building.

“I’m not one who can be content just sitting around and not doing anything,” Divine said. “I have to be doing something.”

Throughout Divine’s time living here she has seen significant changes in the community and atmosphere of South Franklin. Divine has also played a major role in this change.

“I spend most of my day out and around the community,” Divine said. “I try to get to know everybody.”

As the community started talking with fellow residents and making connections, many noticed a need for change. The center dedicated its programs and direct action plans to the needs expressed by the community. The founders created a needs based system to address the most pressing issues on the residents.

The center also focused on utilizing the resident’s strengths. The residents are familiar with the community and have a lot to offer. By giving residents the chance to teach a class or help others in the community a sense of unity began to build between residents. Activities at the center got residents more involved and invested in the success of their community.

Community partners started reaching out to the area in an attempt to create a sense of community and connection between residents.

The new South Franklin Community Center gave residents the resources necessary to house multiple educational and informational programs and clubs for adults and children.

The Boys and Girls club has helped create connections between children in the area.

The proximity of the center to Brigham Young University’s campus has increased student involvement in the center.

Cory Finlayson, a program director through Y-Serve for South Franklin Community Center, has had many memorable experiences at the center.

“I love seeing the parents and children getting involved and teaching each other,” Finlayson said. “It helps me remember why I choose to help.”

Residents have increased their relationship with each other and local authorities. All residents now have the police chief’s phone number and police now take 9-1-1 calls more seriously.

Before the center brought a sense of security to the area many residents kept to themselves and stayed out of the way. Now community members are watching out for each other now and act as their own protection system in some cases.

“All the children in the area know my name and know where I live,” Divine said. “They come to me with any problems they have and I try and help them take care of it.”

Divine is also directly involved in the center. As the building coordinator she checks on the building, looks in on classes, and makes sure that needs of everybody in the center are met.

Her grandchildren have often accompanied her to the center. Something that Divine says she wouldn’t have done several years ago because of safety reasons.

The South Franklin community still has to deal with drug problems and violence issues, but with the help of the community center the area is improving. In 2013 9-1-1 calls from the area decreased to about 636 calls.

While the area is still undergoing changes and improvements it is now a place that Divine is proud to call her home.

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Travel Journalism Ideas

Idea 1: Religious activities and festivals in the local area. I know the chalk festival gets covered a lot, but I’m curious to see if there are other religiously tied or related festivals.

Idea 2: I’ve taken several Spanish classes here at BYU and as part of the class we have to do cultural activities related to Hispanic culture. I’ve discovered that there are a lot of Hispanic cultural related places.

Idea 3: Cultural cuisines. I love other cultures and I know that there are many restaurants/hole in the wall places that offer cuisine unique to an area or culture. It would be interesting to see exactly what cultures are represented in Provo.

Idea 4: Local museums. Most people know the museums exist, but what are the unique aspects that no one knows about Provo museums. Like the TV show Mysteries at the Museum. What do visitors who visit a museum once not know or recognize. I know the printing museum has some unique artifacts that few other people in the world have. I’d like to know the stories behind some of the artifacts.

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How To Ideas

Here are my current ideas for my How-To Article.

1- How to get involved as an introvert. I am an introvert and while I like going out and doing things, I often feel that I end up sitting on the sidelines and observing rather than participating. My freshman year I decided to get out more and while I’m still introverted, I’ve gotten better at interacting with others and doing social things. It can be hard to get out and do things as an introvert though, especially at BYU where everyone seems so social. Since there are mainly introverts and extroverts and a few in-between, this is relevant to about half of the population. This could go to the Universe or to another magazine or publication geared toward young adults and those who are on their own and looking to get out more.

2- How to organize a large event. I am a program director for Y-Serve at BYU. I help organize a yearly event that brings 1,100 5th and 6th graders to campus. It requires lots of organization and preparation to keep everything together and not lose children around campus. Organizing events, even on a small scale, is something that many people have to do at some point in their life time. It can be intimidating and quite daunting at times. This could be pitched to a business publication or to a holiday publication.

3- How to stalk people. I’ll probably alter the title a little bit if I choose this one, but my roommates are always telling me I have a knack for stalking people and finding things out. It might just be the journalistic nature within me, but I’m very good at finding out information about people. I call it utilizing my resources. This is relevant not in a creepy way. It can help if you need to find the number of someone to contact or if you want to find the contact information of someone you like. Many times while working for the Universe I would have to track down people to contact and that required my stalking skills. This could be pitched to any young adult publication, but I would probably just pitch this one to BYU.

4- How to survive American Heritage. I am an American Heritage TA and that is one of the classes that most students dread taking. I survived the class and got an A. I also know the other TAs and professors very well. The article would most likely go to the Universe at the beginning of Fall semester when the new freshmen arrive. It’s a more narrowed audience, but there are still large numbers of students on BYU campus enrolling in the course every semester.

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Animation Profile Story

The Brigham Young University student produced short “Owned” won gold for animation at the Student Academy Awards. The animation program is known for its high quality productions. “Ram’s Horn” is the most recent student made short animation film, which premiered after the forum on Tuesday.

“Ram’s Horn” was created and directed by students. Jenna Hamzawi was the student lead director for the film.

Opening: (Reaction to Ram’s Horn- general public and Jenna’s)

talk to those around her and about her accomplishments

The colors flashed across the scene. As it finished Jenna Hamzawi breathed a sigh of relief. Countless hours spent.

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Journalistic Walkabout

Story Idea 1: Provo is known as a Mormon town because of Brigham Young University. Despite the high population of Mormons in the area, the Provo mission is one of the highest baptizing missions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Where do these converts come from? In the small South Franklin community there are many individuals who are in need of help. The flower beds were covered in cigarette butts. The entire neighborhood reeks of smoke. Quite the opposite of the Brigham Young University campus. Such wide diversity in a community that preaches and teaches about love and sharing of your abundance is astounding. While many college students live meagerly, there are people right around the corner and down the street who are worse off than many students would imagine.

Story Idea 2: Doors slammed in my face. Most doors stayed closed. The few doors that opened only opened six inches. For the open and friendly community that Provo is known as, there are some neighborhoods that remain closed off to visitors. The South Franklin community has experienced many acts of violence that have prevented many in the community from opening up and talking to anyone. In the past week there has been a stabbing and a shooting. Most acts of violence are targeted to those within the community, making it a dangerous place to live. The difference comes from the differing backgrounds. The neighborhood consists of mainly those of an older age and many come from a different ethnic background. One man expressed that he was having a bad day and that he was in a rough patch in his life. His brother had committed suicide eight weeks before and his case worker wasn’t answering his calls. The man anxiously danced around the sidewalk fiddling a cigarette and lighter, clearly anxious for the volunteers to leave so he could light up. There seems to be a lack of hope and light in the buildings and the people themselves.

Story Idea 3: The South Franklin Community Center is newly renovated and offers free classes to those in the community. Many of whom live meager lives. The buildings are shabby and dull. Despite the help available, few take advantage of the center. On Martin Luther King Jr. day the South Franklin Community Center sent out volunteers to help them figure out why the center is being under utilized. Volunteers offered to give service to the community members, while also informing the citizens about the community center. Several did not know about the center or had never been. Using a conversational style, rather than interrogative, volunteers gathered information and data for the center. One elderly woman was just heading out to work as some volunteers stopped by. The woman was trying to maintain a sense of independence, instead of relying upon her children for everything. She voiced interest in the center offering a computer skills class. Though she showed interest in the community center and gave the volunteers valuable information, the probability of her attending the center is low. The woman needed to work long hours at a low level job just to keep herself alive.

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How to avoid Rookie mistakes

First write up: filled with cliches and trite phrases

Time moved slow as molasses. The passport line was never ending and the line stood still. Restless children wandered around desperate to find something to keep them occupied.

The passport office had only one man working behind the counter. Though several employees passed, who could have lent a hand.  The man at the counter moved slow as if in no rush at all. As the clock continued to tick onward the line continued to grow longer and longer and people grew more and more impatient. Children screamed and refused to sit tight. The end seemed so close, yet so far away.

People’s faces clearly showed their disappointment at the long wait. Their faces glued to the screens of their phones. While some became impatient, others took notice of those around them and tried to help. They demonstrated kindness when others would not have noticed. One man gave up his chair to a woman standing. Another opened the bathroom door for a little girl who was too small to reach.

Second write up

After counting 605 tiles on the wall there was nothing left to do but listen to the screams of children while trying to escape to a world behind the phone screen. Many waiting in line had moved only twelve inches in the past hour. Though several employees passed through the door behind the line of those waiting, only one man stood behind the passport counter.

People lined the wall of the dingy office as they waited their turn. The clock ticked onward. With each tick the line grew longer and more impatient. The cries of children and tired babes grew louder and shriller with every passing second.

As each new person entered the office their eyes scanned the line. Their eyes continued onward. Their brow furrowed. A sigh was heard as one woman trudged her way to the end. Along the row, nearly everyone was on their phones. Playing angry birds. Texting a friend. Headphones in. While several ignored those around them, a few observed.

A man in a black leather jacket stood to let the woman in line behind him sit down. A father opened the bathroom for a little girl who stretched and pulled, but couldn’t twist the door knob.

What I learned

When I was trying to come up with cliches it was almost hard. The words I used weren’t descriptive and though common allusions, didn’t say much about the situation. The second write up was easier because I used my own personal observations and used my own experience to help me tell the story. My writing style works best when I use specifics and my own thoughts. Sometimes writers think that cliches sound grand, but using specific details helps paint the picture for the reader and help them feel the scene. The difference is reading a story and understanding, verses reading a story and feeling it. Using specifics and details to tell the story through images is more effective and interesting. I will continue to try to incorporate specifics that otherwise would have been overlooked and not included in the story.

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