Sarah O'Leary

hispanic knoxville

La Historia Hispana: documenting the stories of Hispanic Knoxville

La Historia Hispana is a photographic investigation into the Hispanic community of Knoxville, TN. Conducted in 2015, it is a series of interviews and portraits of Hispanics from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Guatemala, and the United States. The content was shared with the community using a blog, a show, and a book. To read about the individuals who participated in this project, visit La Historia Hispana. 

Click images to enlarge.


Selected Stories

Juana | Guatemala | Wendy's employee

I hope that Hispanics are able to reach their dreams so that their children can have better lives.
— Juana | Guatemala

Juana's daughter, Sabina


Vilmaris | Puerto Rico and New Jersey | Educator

The south isn’t as culturally aware of the differences within the Hispanic community and the different nationalities...a lot of the time I’ve noticed that being Mexican isn’t very good in a lot of people’s eyes, it’s a negative connotation...I can’t wrap my mind around it. I just don’t understand.
— Vilmaris Gonzalez | from Colombia, TN | Puerto Rico

Raquel | Guatemala | stay-at-home mom

I hope that the president gives Hispanics the opportunity to fight for their dreams. I am very thankful for the support of Centro Hispano.
— Raquel | Guatemala

Raquel with her son, Mateo


Jose | Mexico | Business owner

I want an immigration reform for all Hispanics, including those living illegally in the United States, so that Knoxville, TN, will prosper.
— Jose | Mexico

Beatriz | Cuba | Student

My hope for the Hispanic Community is that it community is that it continues to prosper and becomes well known by other cultures. Also that individuals feel more connected to American culture and their neighbors.
— Beatriz | Cuba

Audiel | Mexico | Business owner

I would like for Hispanics to have more opportunities, such as driver’s licences, because then we would have fewer problems and more Hispanic-owned businesses.
— Audiel | Mexico

The Show


El Jalepeño: a Tennessee Taco Truck

El Jalepeño is the story of Eleazar and Gabriela and their family. Originally from Mexico, they are making their home in Knoxville, Tennessee, and building a business to support their family's future in the United States. This photo essay gives the viewer an idea of life as an immigrant in Tennessee, the process of starting a business and raising a family simultaneously, and what it is like to grow up with two languages.