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Background Image La Yarda Rendering

Searching for La Yarda

La Yarda Videoundefined

Searching for La Yarda is a documentary short film produced by filmmakers Lourdes Kalusha-Aguirre and Marlo Angell in partnership with Lawrence Percolator. The project was supported by a Humanities For All grant. Kalusha-Aguirre contributed the following story to HK’s spring 2021 Humanities newsletter.

Work on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway brought Mexican workers and their families to Kansas in the early 1900s where they set down roots in communities along the tracks, including Dodge City, Newton, Wichita, and Topeka. In Lawrence, Mexican families settled in an East Lawrence neighborhood known as “La Yarda.” The La Yarda families came from different parts of Mexico, but they soon formed a close-knit community where they shared childcare duties and traditions, and depended on each other to survive. The physical neighborhood of La Yarda is long gone — the Kansas River washed the homes away in the 1951 flood — but the community lived on and its legacy continues today, through the families’ involvement at St. John’s Catholic Church and the influence of their annual Mexican Fiesta. A new short documentary film illuminates the unique traits of La Yarda as an inspiring and important part of Kansas’ culture. The film is produced by the Lawrence Percolator with funding from an HK Humanities for All grant.

The story of East Lawrence’s La Yarda community brings broader awareness to the invaluable role Mexican labor played in the railroad industry in Kansas from 1900 to 1940. Utilizing archival photos from resources such as the Watkins Museum of History and oral histories previously captured by scholars, the film contextualizes and elevates existing material with newly filmed interviews with community members and humanities professionals including architectural historian Brenna Buchanan and Neill Kennedy, a PhD candidate in the Department of American Studies at the University of Kansas.

Lourdes Kalusha-Aguirre, project director of the La Yarda documentary, said she felt inspired to make the film after reflecting on the Kansas history she learned in school.

“Growing up in Kansas, I didn’t get to see many examples of how Latinos like me and my family fit into our state’s history,” Kalusha-Aguirre said. “I hope this project will help preserve some of that history, and show younger generations that they belong and their stories are worth telling.”

Marlo Angell joins the project as the film’s director. Her short film, The Wishing Bench, premiered in 2020 and incorporated the story of La Yarda into its narrative. While researching neighborhood history in Lawrence for The Wishing Bench, Angell delved into the stories of the La Yarda community as source material.

“Receiving organizational support from the Lawrence Percolator and funding from Humanities Kansas will make it possible to capture an important part of East Lawrence’s cultural identity through film,” Angell said. Learn more about the project at




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