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Bringing local history to new audience

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Courtesy of Dr. Jay Price

Several years ago, I worked with a team of students to tell the story Wichita through a series of graphic novels whose narrator was a lovable longhorn named Luke. In recent years, a follow up project developed to translate the story into Spanish. Under the guidance of Julie Henderson, the team included Carolina Wright and Jorge de la Hoz. The translated version has just been released.

Courtesy of Dr. Jay Price

This was more than just putting text into Google Translate, such as when trying to convey the tone of “Old West” speech into another language. Spanish has words for “thief” and “robber” but it is harder to find an equivalent to “rustler” without losing the connotations that the term implies.

Even the name of the main character, Luke the Longhorn, was an example. Longhorn in Spanish is technically toro de cuernos largos but that doesn’t exactly roll off the proverbial tongue. Longhorn is a loan world into Spanish so that could work. The team debated and decided instead on “Lucas Torito” or “Luke the Little Bull.”

The purpose of the project was to bring local history to new audiences. Imagine an abuelo or abuela reading to a child in a language that both understand. In addition, having the story in both English and Spanish allows a unique opportunity for people to be grounded in both languages. In the end, it's a good reminder that those dusty streets of Cowtown Wichita rang with many languages, among them Spanish.

Jay M. Price is chair of the department of history at Wichita State University, where he also directs the public history program.