Jaime Prieto Valladares, a Costa Rican Mennonite historian, church leader, and former seminary dean, loves to hear the stories of Latin American Mennonite church leaders. For more than a decade, he traveled throughout Mexico, Central America and South America, recording interviews with over 130 pastors, administrators, and lay people. Those interviews formed a key part of the extensive research he conducted that resulted in the publication of Prieto’s book Mission and Migration (Pandora Press, 2010), the Latin American volume of the Global Mennonite History Series.
Until recently, that valuable resource of oral recordings was preserved on dozens of cassette tapes that were becoming increasingly fragile. Last December, with the financial support and encouragement of the ISGA, Prieto completed the project of digitizing these important historical records, thereby ensuring that the interviews will be available to future generations of scholars. The recordings are especially important in light of the fact that churches in many of these contexts have limited paper archives and tend to value oral traditions at least as much as formal records. Prieto has also created a catalogue of the dates, locations, and length of each recording.
“The process took many hours to accomplish,” writes Prieto, but he expressed delight that “these interviews can become part of the heritage of the oral history of Mennonites and Anabaptists and made accessible for use by other historians.”
This digitizing project is one more tangible outcome of the “Power and Preservation” Symposium that the ISGA organized in June of 2019. That conference brought together more than 20 historians, pastors, librarians, and archivists from around the world to discuss the preservation of Anabaptist-Mennonite histories.