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Two St. Louis artist groups want Latinos to share their stories of culture, family

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EncoreSTL
Alexa Seda, chief operating officer of EncoreSTL, speaks to people at the Hispanic Festival on Sept. 25 about the upcoming stage play ‘Cuentame’ and why Latinos should share their stories with the broader community.

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Two artist groups in St. Louis are asking Latinos to share stories to help others in the region better understand their cultures. Latinx Arts Network and EncoreSTL are planning a storytelling stage production next year with the collected stories.

"Cuéntame," or "Tell Me," will include captivating stories about heritage, love, family traditions and migration.

Latinos in the St. Louis area have experiences that everyone should know about, said Alexa Seda, chief operating officer of EncoreSTL, a production company by and for people of color.

“This is an opportunity to show the Latinx diaspora and all the different stories that we have and build those connections and also bridge cultures between different groups in St. Louis,” Seda said.

She said Latinos are faced with some of the same challenges that many Black people in the region endure, such as racism and discrimination, and telling Latino stories can help shed light on the shared struggles of people of color.

The two groups want Latinos to interview family members, friends or neighbors about their family stories, struggles with immigration, childhood memories or traditional foods. The audio or video interviews should be between five and 30 minutes. Stories can be recorded in Spanish, English or Portuguese.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Latino population in St. Louis is growing. In 2010, the census recorded 11,207 people who identified as Hispanic or Latino. In 2021, the population increased to 13,028.

Many Latinos are multiracial, and there are a number of them in the St. Louis region with stories that cross cultures, said Seda, who is Puerto Rican and African American.

“I think that we think that most Latin folks are in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, but we have a strong core here in St. Louis, and bringing those stories to life say that we are a community here,” she said.

Latinos have stories filled with pain and some that reveal moments of joy — stories that everyone can relate to, said Carol Lara, a Latinx Arts Network board member.

Seda and Lara hope "Cuéntame" can be a production that will help unite communities that typically do not interact with one another.

“One family might be getting together over rice, beans and plátanos, and another might be getting together over macaroni and cheese, but we're all getting together,” Lara said. “We all have these shared experiences, but we think we are so different.”

They say the stories help Latinos heal from past traumas, including dealing with the immigration system and adapting to new cultures. That could promote intergenerational conversations.

“This could be an opportunity for some social change and to also have that discourse to connect people across different cultures,” Seda said.

Anyone who wants to submit stories can do so through the "Cuéntame" story submission form.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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