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KU graduate receives grant for film documenting Latino community in Lawrence



TOPEKA, Kan. – Humanities Kansas awarded $3,500 in grant money to the Lawrence Corporation for the Advancement of the Visual Arts in support of Lourdes Kalusha-Aguirre, a 2020 KU graduate, and her documentary project “La Yarda.”

La Yarda is a neighborhood that was owned by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad that provided housing for Mexican families working on the railroad in eastern Lawrence in the 1920s.

Aguirre graduated from KU’s Film and Media studies department in 2020 and has already presented “Apertura,” a film she produced, at the 2020 New York Latino Film Festival.

“The Kansas history that I learned growing up in school, there was not a lot of Latinos,” Aguirre said. “I can’t even think of one name.”

Aguirre wants the Latin community to know that there have been people of their heritage before them and that there is a history of the Latin community in Kansas.

Aguirre is also collaborating with Marlo Angell, the film’s director, who has a personal connection to the project.

“My husband’s family came over in a similar situation from Mexico to work on the railroad,” Angell said.

Angell said she wants the film to capture the liveliness and sense of community that families built in La Yarda, and to share the importance of diversity.

Brenna Buchanan, architectural historian, has done extensive research on the community of La Yarda and will be contributing to the film by aiding with research as well as being featured in an interview.

Buchanan has been involved with La Yarda for 10 years and reiterated the sense of community that La Yarda was and continues to have today.

“No matter how hard they were working, they were still having fun,” Buchanan said.

One of the biggest goals for the film is to increase the representation of Spanish-speakers’ stories.

“I think it’s important for Spanish-speakers to see stories that are about other Latinos, especially if they’re from Kansas, have that representation,” Aguirre said.

A potential screening for the documentary will take place in June or July of this year at an outdoor screening following COVID-19 protocols.