DOINews: NPS-Partnerships and Visitor Experience: New Film Out On Woman Civil War Soldier

Last edited 09/05/2019

Actress Romi Dias as Loreta Velazquez, the Cuban immigrant who fought in the U.S. Civil War.
Actress Romi Dias plays Loreta Velazquez, the Cuban immigrant who fought in the U.S. Civil War, in the new educational film. Photo by Gerard Gaskin, graphic work by Hayley Parker.

This month, in select parks throughout the nation, visitors and employees will have the opportunity to view “Secret Soldier,” a 15-minute educational film created from the longer documentary, “Rebel: Loreta Vazquez, Secret Soldier of the American Civil War,” by Maria Agui Carter.

Shrouded in mystery and long the subject of debate, the remarkable story of Loreta Velazquez is one of the Civil War's most gripping forgotten narratives. Velazquez was a Cuban immigrant from New Orleans who fought in the Civil War under the alias “Harry Buford.” Buford fought in the battle of First Bull Run, was wounded at Shiloh, and served as a secret agent for the Confederacy.

While the United States military may have recently lifted the ban on women in combat, Loreta Velazquez was fighting in battle 150 years ago, one of the estimated 1,000 women who secretly served as soldiers during the American Civil War.

Loreta Velazquez's life cannot be defined by lumping her in one category. Looking at her through the eyes of women's history, she will resonate as an example of the commonality of women pushing to change societal norms and laws to reach civic and political inclusion.

As an American Latino, her life will help amplify American Latino stories inextricably woven throughout American history. And, seen through the horrors of the American Civil War, her story will bring further to light the national divisiveness of that war and the personal resolve of each to fight on the side their conscious dictated.

It is no coincidence then that this film will be showcased in March, Women's History Month, during the 150th commemoration of the American Civil War and in light of the commitment the National Park Service has in connecting and amplifying American Latino stories.

Through these types of projects, the American people can reconnect with their collective experiences and rich historical and cultural heritage which is embodied in the great places that the National Park Service protects and preserves.

The website contains additional educational shorts on women soldiers, information on women's roles in the American Civil War, the free streaming of "Secret Soldier" for educators, essays, a media gallery, and more.

In support of the American Latino Heritage Initiative, the National Park Service worked with the American Latino Heritage Fund, PBS, and other funders to support the production of both films.

By: Margie Ortiz, NPS

March 18, 2014

A version of this story appears in the March 12 edition of InsideNPS.

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