¡Extra, Extra! The Hispanic Literary Heritage of Texas public exhibit

The University of Houston's Arte Público Press/ Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Presents: Extra, Extra! The Hispanic Literary Heritage of Texas at the Central Houston Public Library. September 7 through October 31, 2018. Free exhibit! Visit the Central Houston Public Library to view newspapers and rare books from the Arte Público Press/Recovery collection! Location: 2nd and 3rd floors of the Central Houston Public Library. 500 McKinney Street, Houston, Texas 77002. Visit Arte Puúblico Press website at atrepublicopress.com. Exhibit curated by Elena V. Valdez (Rice University) and supported by a grant frm the Rice University Humanities Research Center.

¡Extra, Extra! The Literary Heritage of Texas, on display Sept. 7-Oct. 31, 2018 at the Central Houston Public Library

¡Extra, Extra! The Hispanic Literary Heritage of Texas is an exhibit of Spanish-language newspapers and first-edition books from the Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage collections. This is a free exhibit located on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Central Houston Public Library (500 McKinney Street, Houston, Tex 77002). The exhibit includes rare books, newspaper facsimiles, and photographs.

On the 3rd floor, a special exhibit explains the editorial process for Piñata Books, an imprint of Arte Público dedicated to the publication—in English, Spanish and bilingual formats—of children’s and young adult literature focusing on US Hispanic culture.

This exhibit was curated by Elena V. Valdez (Rice University) and supported by a grant from the Rice University Humanities Research Center.  It will be on display from September 7 through October 31, 2018.

Digital components of this exhibit coming soon!

El legado de los (in)migrantes: ¿A dónde vamos?, ¿de dónde somos?, y ¿dónde quedamos?

Estados Unidos es un país compuesto por (in)migrantes, por ende, la identidad y el récord histórico de cada uno se entrelaza con otros países. Si trazamos las raíces de (in)migración de cada uno, los lazos con otros países están siempre presentes[1]. Por otra parte, la situación como (in)migrantes recae en una situación en la que, si bien estas personas llegan, se establecen y crean una vida en este país. No obstante, en muchos de los casos su trayectoria no se ve reflejada como parte de la historia de la nación ya que ni siquiera se contempla o se le da prioridad dentro de los archivos nacionales. En este caso, hablo especialmente sobre los archivos que representen las diversas historias de las personas de color, como lo son los latinos. En estos documentos se puede ver la presencia del español en los Estados Unidos, un sinfín de contribuciones al país desde diferentes ámbitos y una trayectoria que rompe con los estereotipos impuestos a estos grupos de personas. A demás, estos documentos desestabilizan las identidades fijas que se han construido a través de los años. Lo que en muchos casos la nacionalidad o lugar de residencia impone definir que la persona sea de un solo lugar, ya sea al de origen o al de residencia. Sin embargo, el/la (in)migrante puede ser “De aquí y de allá” lo que incluye que su legado se encuentre en distintos países. Asimismo, a través de los años las distintas historias de los (in)migrantes indican que no solamente los mexicanos y/o mexicoamericanos han vivido en Tejas o en otros estados de la frontera, entre otras intersecciones, complejidades, ambigüedades, similitudes y contradicciones.

immigration map

IMAGE COURTESY UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU

Frances Aparicio (1993) describe que los puertorriqueños han estado (in)migrando a los Estados Unidos desde la segunda mitad del siglo XIX y a través de los años han establecido una comunidad culturalmente fuerte y visible. Además, los puertorriqueños han sido una parte integral de los principales desarrollos culturales e históricos estadounidenses, específicamente en Nueva York y sus alrededores (20)[2]. Sin embargo, archivos que representan estos acontecimientos son escasos, lo que resulta por determinar su historia a través de dos o tres archivos recuperados y reconocidos, como es el caso de los puertorriqueños en Nueva York como el de Arturo Schomburg o Jesús Colón.

El Archivo Digital de Delis Negrón (Delis Negrón Digital Archive) [3]va más allá de dar visibilidad a un puertorriqueño que (in)migró a la ciudad de Nueva York a principios del siglo XX. El archivo de Delis Negrón representa a un ciudadano que se desempeñó profesionalmente en distintas ciudades fronterizas del sur de Texas como lo fue en Laredo, McAllen, Brownsville, Del Río, así como en San Antonio. Tuvo una etapa de su vida en la que cruzó la frontera y vivió en la Ciudad de México, donde trabajó con distinguidos intelectuales y formó parte del grupo de edición del periódico El Universal. Al regresar a la frontera estadounidense, Negrón se estableció definitivamente en el sur de Texas, donde se casó y formó una familia. Al mismo tiempo estuvo muy involucrado con la comunidad hispana de manera política, como también en eventos culturales donde declamaba poesía y era parte del elenco en obras de teatro locales a lado de su esposa, Delia Negrón.

Delis Negrón Digital Archive

El legado de Delis Negrón, desde sus publicaciones periodísticas y otros documentos, se pudo haber perdido en un bote de basura. A pesar de que parte de su trayectoria literaria, periodística y política sigue presente en los Estados Unidos incluyendo Puerto Rico y en México, para muchos es completamente desconocida. Incluso lo fue para su familia por un tiempo ya que solo lo conocían desde el ámbito familiar como el papá, el abuelo o el tío. Fue a través de conversaciones con personas que lo conocieron en su rol como editor, poeta, actor, que su hija Delia Negrón García se dio cuenta que las palabras escritas de su padre llenaban algunos de los vacíos de la historia y documentaban la cultura de las ciudades fronterizas del sur de Texas, así como de otras partes de Estados Unidos y México.

Es de esta forma, el arduo esfuerzo del programa de Recuperación del Legado Escrito de los Hispanos en Estados Unidos, de preservar este tipo de archivos y la iniciativa de crear el Archivo Digital de Delis Negrón conlleva a resaltar “el trabajo de estos intelectuales y grandes artistas y de muchos otros cuyos escritos, que aún nos son en general desconocidos, pero que contribuyeron significativamente a la identidad, historia y cultura hispana en los Estados Unidos.” (Traducción; Kanellos 239-240)[4]. Por otra parte, este proyecto profundiza en el conocimiento y cuestionamiento de la identidad y el legado de puertorriqueños, como Delis Negrón, así como de los Latinos y las Latinas en general. Además, resalta el aporte hacia la documentación histórica y literaria de/en ciudades fronterizas presentes en las publicaciones de Negrón en los periódicos locales y sus colecciones de poesía. Finalmente, este proyecto hace un llamado para concientizar que las identidades, los archivos y legados de los (in)migrantes conlleven a una representación de inclusividad, pluralidad, interseccionalidad, y transnacionalismo presente en los Estados Unidos, las cuales cruzan muros y forman parte del aquí y del allá.

0120

IMAGE COURTESY OF DELIS NEGRON ARCHIVE

[1] Utilizo el concepto de (in)migración en referencia al uso que hace Frances Aparicio de esta palabra al hablar de la historia de los puertorriqueños en Estados Unidos. A demás este concepto resalta que en muchos casos no todos los Latinos/as son parte de la inmigración, sino de una migración a raíz de las cuestiones políticas de su país con los Estados Unidos, como es el caso de los puertorriqueños a partir de 1917.

[2] Aparicio, Frances R. “From Ethnicity to Multiculturalism: An Historical Overview of Puerto Rican Literature in the United States.” Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States: Literature and Art. Edited by Francisco Lomeli. General Editors Nicolás Kanellos and Claudio Esteva-Fabregat. Arte Público Press, 1993.

[3]Delis Negrón Digital Archive (link: https://recoveryprojectapp.wixsite.com/negrondigitalarchive)

[4] Original quote: “the work of these intellectuals and artistic giants and of many others whose writings are still generally unknown [that] contributed significantly to the Hispanic identity, history, and culture in the United States.” Kanellos, Nicolás. “A Socio-Historic Study of Hispanic Newspapers in the United States.” Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States: Sociology. Edited by Félix Padilla.General Editors Nicolás Kanellos and Claudio Esteva-Fabregat. Arte Público Press, 1994.

 

Sylvia Fernández is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Hispanic Studies Department at the University of Houston and a Research Fellow with Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. She is the co-founder of Borderlands Archives Cartography and team member of Torn Apart / Separados. Her research is on US Latina / o literature with a focus on US/Mexico borderlands, transnational feminisms and archives, postcolonial theory and digital humanities.

 

Post-Custodial Archives and Minority Collections

Last week (July 31, 2018), I had the honor of speaking at CLIR’s (Council on Library and Information Resources) summer seminar for new Postdoctoral Fellows. I was very excited to get the opportunity to meet a new cohort of fellows just as they are beginning their new positions at various institutions. (For more information on CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowships, visit their website! And keep an eye out for the next round of applications this fall/winter.)

Title Slide

My talk centered on the work we do at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (aka “Recovery”), the importance of minority archives, and working toward inclusivity. For 27 years, Recovery has dedicated itself to recovering, preserving, and disseminating the lost written legacy of Latinas and Latinos in the United States. US Latina/o collections, like other minority collections, do not traditionally form part of a larger national historical narrative. Herein lies the importance of minority collections: the stories they tell give us a more nuanced understanding of US history and culture.

Let’s take a step back to think about the structure of archives, the inherent issues, and the questions that we—as archivists, scholars, students, and educators—should ask ourselves when engaging with historical collections. Archives help structure knowledge and history. Michel Foucault argues that history “now organizes the document” [with “document” being the archival] “divides it up, distributes it, orders it, arranges it in levels, establishes series, distinguishes between what is relevant and what is not, discovers elements, defines unities, describes relations” (146). Thus history, or perhaps more aptly, what we understand to be or call history, cannot be distinguished from the production and organization of the archive. Furthermore, national archives help to create an authoritative national narrative. The International Council on Archives, for example, describes archives on their webpage as follows:

Archives constitute the memory of nations and societies, shape their identity, and are a cornerstone of the information society. By proving evidence of human actions and transactions, archives support administration and underlie the rights of individuals, organisations and states. By guaranteeing citizens’ rights of access to official information and to knowledge of their history, archives are fundamental to identity, democracy, accountability and good governance.

Given this defined mission of archives, we can think about what archives do or are meant to do; they define:

  • “the nation,”
  • “history,”
  • what is—and what isn’t—considered “important,”
  • “knowledge.”

I write these words in quotation marks to stress that the defining or shaping of such concepts is a construction. In this vein, archives have historically functioned as mechanism of colonialism. They have helped to structure our understanding of history and the nation in a way that also structures our understanding of what we call “civilization” and “barbarism.” In order for colonialism to thrive, imperial powers had to not only take over a physical territory, but they also had to control the shared imaginary. Franz Fanon (1963) emphasizes the total reach of colonialism and its desire to destroy the history of oppressed peoples in The Wretched of the Earth. He writes:

…colonialism is not simply content to impose its rule upon the present and the future of a dominated country…. By a kind of perverse logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts it, disfigures it and destroys it. (210)

As a result of this logic, the colonial model created institutions determined to own and possess history in order to categorize it (using Eurocentric methods of classification). In many cases, history and artifacts were/are appropriated, to the extent of removing sacred items and even bodies (or just body parts) and putting them on display. Think of mummified Egyptian and Indigenous bodies, Sara Baartman (known as the Hottentot Venus), etc. Items stolen from their original communities are often displayed or archived in museums, archives, and libraries. Because of this, it is important to take the moment to reflect when we work on, interact with, curate, and teach archives or the items in them. Here are a few questions to consider:

Chained books on a shelf

  • Who determines what belongs in the archive?
  • Who defined the archive? Who determined what was archivable?
  • Who created the metadata? (Think about the traditional way of organizing things in a library, i.e. using Library of Congress subject headings)
  • Who maintains the archive?
  • Who has access to the archive or the knowledge contained in the archive?
  • Where did the material originate?
Postcustodial archives

Since, as mentioned earlier, archives have historically functioned as an instrument of colonialism, community members with personal collections are often wary of institutional archives. Even today, large, well-known libraries have disposed of or sold collections deemed “unimportant” (usually minority collections) in order to make room for “more important collections.” Moving away from an archive design that requires possession and ownership is a stance that delinks libraries from the colonial model. The postcustodial theory of archives is “the idea that archivists will no longer physically acquire and maintain records, but that they will provide management oversight for records that will remain in the custody of the record creators” (Pearce-Moses). Digital technology allows archivists the ability to return physical collections to the original record keepers and create digital copies that can be housed in an institutional repository. Furthermore, postcustodial practices offer opportunities for community engagement, as Sofía Becerra-Licha (2017) suggests. Digital technology, she contends,

…presents a significant opportunity for participatory and post-custodial approaches that seek to shift curatorial authority and access to the communities represented. In this model, archivists work side-by-side with community members to actively rectify gaps in historical coverage and proactively document the present day. (n.p.)

Postcustodianship allows us to re-think the institutional structure of the archive and promotes new possibilities for record oversight and knowledge-production. Considering the questions posed earlier and the theory of post-custodial archives, we can begin to restructure archives themselves. Personal and community archives can challenge traditional notions of “the national archive” as both a brick and mortar building and a collection of the “official” history. The goal of post-custodianship is to open up new avenues for creating knowledge. It allows the communities themselves to maintain ownership of their own histories, but also fills in the gaps of the official record by providing minority points of view.

Works cited
Becerra-Licha, Sofía. “Participatory and Post-Custodial Archives as Community Practice.” Educause Review, 23 Oct. 2017, https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/10/participatory-and-post-custodial-archives-as-community-practice.
Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Richard Philcox, Grove Press, 2004.

Foucault, Michel. The Archeology of Knowledge. London: Tavistock Publications, 1972.

International Council on Archives. “Mission, Aims and Objectives.” 2016. www.ica.org/en/mission-aim-and-objectives.
Pearce-Moses, Richard. “Postarchival theory of archives.” A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology. Society of American Archivists, 2005. www2.archivists.org/glossary.
Further reading
Battles, Matthew. Library: An Unquiet History. 1 edition, W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.
Lazo, Rodrigo. “Migrant Archives.” States of Emergency: The Object of American Studies, edited by Russ Castronovo and Susan Kay Gillman, 2009, pp. 38–72.
“US Latina/o Digital Humanities Reading List.” Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. www.zotero.org/groups/1920193/us_latinao_digital_humanities
“What Is An Archives?” Society of American Archivists, 2007. www.archivists.org/archivesmonth/2007WhatIsAnArchives.pdf

Lorena Gauthereau is a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage at the University of Houston. Find her online at https://lorenagauthereau.wordpress.com.

Resisting the Institutional Archive through Digital Humanities

“Traditional archival methods often nourish a “feedback loop” in which one’s access to power determines one’s presence in the archive, and one’s presence in the archive shapes historical knowledge, which, in turn, informs the system of values that shapes the collecting priorities of institutions. So those farther away from the mechanisms of power . . . are rarely represented in institutional archives. And when they are in the archive, their legacies are strictly controlled by the very institutional structures . . . that have tended to marginalize them. As an institutionally-recognized scholar I can access these legacies in the archive and write about them, but the communities that they really matter to can’t.” -María Cotera

Access to the legacy of Latina/os in the United States is ever present in my mind as a scholar of US Latino literature. How can one specialize in this field without a well-rounded, informed knowledge of the Latino community in the United States? And how can one accomplish this when many of their legacies are not present in archives, or are not prioritized when they are present? While it is true, as María Cotera states, that a lack of power contributes to a lack of presence, working on the Delis Negrón Digital Archive has given me hope that we can change this.

The digital approach given to this archive allows for open access to Negrón’s legacy as a journalist, editor, writer, activist, and while much of his work is lost or scattered across other archives, on this page he is not lost amongst the literal and figurative stacks of papers. For me, this project symbolizes a resistance to the archival power that “shapes historical knowledge,” a resistance of the marginalized control of “institutional structures” by making this archive available not only to scholars, but also to the community.

Through this digital archive we not only give access to his participation in the literary, political and historical aspects of life in the United States, but we also hope that it will encourage other Latinos and marginalized members of the community to share their stories in ways that resist the power structures that invisibilize them from the archives.

* This post is part of the Delis Negrón Digital Archive project and can be found at Reflections

Annette Zapata is a PH.D. student at the University of Houston, a Research Fellow with Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage and an Editing Assistant with Arte Público Press. Her research in US Latina/o Literature focuses on the representation of immigrants in children and YA literature.

Summer Reading List

Looking for some summer books to read by the beach, pool, or on the road? Why not take this time to read recovered manuscripts from our collections? Here is a sampling of books that include fiction, poetry, and history for your summer road trips. Be sure to also browse Arte Público Press for contemporary books for adults, children, and young adults. Happy reading!

Las aventuras de Don Chipote, O, Cuando los pericos mamen by Daniel Venegas

Las aventuras de Don Chipote, o, Cuando los pericos mamen (The Adventures of Don Chipote, Or, When Parrots Breastfeed) is the first novel of Mexican immigration to the United States. Originally published in 1928, Don Chipote was written by journalist Daniel Venegas. Don Chipote is an unknown classic of American literature, dealing with the phenomenon that has made this nation great: immigration. It is the bittersweet tale of a greenhorn who abandons his plot of land (and a shack full of children) in Mexico to come to the United States and sweep the gold up from the streets. Together with his faithful companions, a tramp named Pluticarpio and his dog, Don Chipote (whose name means “bump on the head”) stumbles from one misadventure to another. Along the way, we learn what the Southwest was like during the 1920s: how Mexican laborers were treated like beasts of burden, and how they became targets for every shyster and lowlife looking to make a quick buck. The author, himself a former immigrant laborer, spins his tale using the Chicano vernacular of that time. Full of folklore and local color, Don Chipote is a must-read for scholars, students, and all who would become acquainted with the historical and economic roots, as well as with the humor, of the Southwestern Hispanic community. Kanellos provides an accessible and well-documented introduction to this important novel he discovered in 1984.

Available in Spanish and in English (The Adventures of Don Chipote, or When Parrots Breastfeed).


Firefly Summer by Pura Belpré

Firefly Summer is an enchanting poetic recreation of life in rural Puerto Rico at the turn of the century for children and young adult readers. Returning home to her parents’ plantation for the holidays, a young student rediscovers the quaint customs, music and lore of country folk, and the lush verdant beauty and lure of the tropical hills. Teresa is honored when her family initiates her in their traditional rites and celebrations that mark the seasons of the year as well as the stages in people’s lives.

However this idyllic journey is not without intrigue. Unknown to Teresa and her best friend from school, there is a real-life mystery unraveling concerning the foreman of the plantation who was raised by the family since early childhood. In the course of their sleuthing, the three young people discover the challenges of approaching adulthood. The events of the summer bind the trio in a lasting friendship.


George Washington Gómez by Américo Paredes

In the 1930s, Américo Paredes, the renowned folklorist, wrote a novel set to the background of the struggles of Texas Mexicans to preserve their property, culture and identity in the face of Anglo-American migration to and growing dominance over the Rio Grande Valley. Episodes of guerilla warfare, land grabs, racism, jingoism, and abuses by the Texas Rangers make this an adventure novel as well as one of reflection on the making of modern day Texas. George Washington Gómez is a true precursor of the modern Chicano novel.


History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio by Adina de Zavala

Traveling to San Antonio, Texas this summer? Why not read up on the history of the missions before visiting them?

Originally published in 1917 by Adina de Zavala, this volume reconstructs the history of the Alamo back to pre-colonial times. Its importance lies not only in its portrayal of Texas’ history as a product of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American contributions, but also in its focus on the role of Texas women and Texas Mexicans in shaping the historical record. At a time when Texas Mexican women held little influence, de Zavala attempted to rewrite the way Texas history was written and constructed. This milestone literary work includes historical maps, plates, diary accounts and other records.


The Collected Stories of María Cristina Mena

If you’re looking for a quick read, try these short stories by María Cristina Mena.

This volume gathers for the first time Mena’s stories written between 1913 and 1931 and published originally in such magazines as Century, American and Cosmopolitan. In her short fiction Mena writes about Mexico for an Anglo-American audience, and skillfully confronts issues of gender, race and nation.

 


The Real Billy the Kid by Miguel Antonio Otero

Driving through the US Southwest this summer? Why not pick up a copy of The Real Billy the Kid and get a historical sense of the notorious outlaw?

Published as a limited edition in 1936, Miguel Antonio Otero’s The Real Billy the Kid: With New Light on the Lincoln County War is a landmark biography of the infamous Western outlaw otherwise known as William H. Bonney, Jr.—his brief childhood, gunfights, encounters with the Apache Indians, entanglement in the murderous feud known as the Lincoln County War, and finally his friendship with the man who ultimately killed him, Sheriff Pat Garrett.


Tropical Town and Other Poems by Salomón de la Selva

Tropical Town and Other Poems, de la Selva’s little-known first collection, was written in English while he resided in the U.S.; he employs traditional rhyme, meter, and forms such as the sonnet and quatrain. Some works celebrate de la Selva’s native land, Nicaragua, while others, such as “Finally” and “The Dreamer’s Heart Knows Its Own Bitterness,” speak of the United States with a mixture of admiration and misgiving. Love lyrics intermingle with folk songs and poems observing the war then raging in Europe. All are marked by a graceful verbal music, embodying what poet Grace Schulman has called “a poetry of deep concern for human suffering.” In a thoughtful critical introduction, Silvio Sirias surveys the poet’s life and work, and examines the “poetic dialogues” that de la Selva conducted with Millay and Dario.


Under the Texas Sun/Bajo el sol de Texas by Conrado Espinoza

Originally published in 1926 in San Antonio, Texas as El sol de Texas, the novel chronicles the struggles of two Mexican immigrant families: the Garcias and the Quijanos. Their initial hopes—of returning to their homeland with enough money to buy their own piece of land—are worn away by the reality of immigrant life. Unable to speak English, they find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous work contractors and foremen: forced to work at backbreaking labor picking cotton in the fields, building the burgeoning Southwest railroad system, and working in GulfCoast oil refineries.

Considered the first novel of Mexican immigration, El sol de Texas/Under the Texas Sun depicts the diverse experiences of Mexican immigrants, from those that return to Mexico beaten down by the discrimination and hardship they encounter, to those who persist in their adopted land in spite of the racism they face.


Who Would Have Thought It? by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Who Would Have Thought It? (1872), by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, is a historical romance which engages the dominant myths about nationality, race and gender prevalent in society in the United States, prior to and during the Civil War. The narrative follows a young Mexican girl as she is delivered from Indian captivity in the Southwest and comes to live in the household of a New England family. Culture and perspectives on history and national identity clash as the novel criticizes the dominant society’s opportunism and hypocrisy, and indicts northern racism.


The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and Other Stories: Collected Tales and Short Stories by Jovita González

Many of the folklore-based stories in this volume were published by González in periodicals such as the Southwest Review from the 1920s through the 1940s but have been gathered here for the first time. Sergio Reyna (editor) has brought together more than thirty narratives by González and arranged them into Animal Tales (such as “The Mescal-Drinking Horse”); Tales of Humans (“The Bullet-Swallower”); Tales of Mexican Ancestors (“Ambrosio the Indian”); and Tales of Ghosts, Demons, and Buried Treasure (“The Woman Who Lost Her Soul”). Reyna also provides a helpful introduction that succinctly surveys the author’s life and work and considers her writings within their historical and cultural contexts.


Women’s Tales from the New Mexico WPA: La Diabla a Pie

At the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the administration of US President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a Federal Writers Project as part of the larger Works Progress Administration (WPA), massive national undertakings aimed at getting the nation back to work. New Mexico was among the states participating in this effort, and the project workers there included two women interviewers, Lou Sage Batchen and Annette Hesch Thorp, who in their work placed particular emphasis upon gathering Hispanic women’s stories, or cuentos. The two interviewed many native ancianos, gathering folktales as well as capturing narratives and gleaning vivid details of a way of life now long disappeared. Professors Tey Diana Rebolledo and María Teresa Márquez have combed through long-lost archives to recover these invaluable first-hand accounts, and have prefaced the whole with an introduction delving into some of the problematic cultural issues surrounding these records.

Omeka site coming soon!

We’ve got great news for you: we’ve started populating an Omeka site with Recovery collections! This week we’ve been busy ingesting files and creating metadata. There are two collections currently in the works: the Alonso S. Perales Collection and the Delis Negrón Collection (I’ve briefly mentioned them before in the blog–look for the link below).

Black and white photo: Alonso S. Perales standing with arms crossed, in his US Army Uniform

Alonso S. Perales in his US Army uniform

This has also been a week of experimenting with different plugins, including Neatline. I’m looking forward to creating visualizations and exhibits to go along with the collections. Stay tuned for the public launching of the site!

In relation to the Alonso S. Perales collection, Theresa Mayfield and I have created a Twitter bot, which automatically posts bilingual quotes from Perales’ letters, articles, and books, as well as facts about the Mexican American civil rights activist and lawyer. Follow the Alonso S. Perales Collection on Twitter at @AlonsoSPerales.

Speaking of Twitter Bots, in case you haven’t heard, our Graduate Research Assistants created @fillingthe_gaps, a bot that posts information about recovered authors who published in newspapers from 1808 to 1960.

A special shout out to Dr. Élika Ortega (Northeastern University) for her April 27th workshop “Twitter Bots for Social Justice,” which inspired us to write these bots!

And of course, make sure to follow Recovery on Twitter at @AppRecovery. Stay tuned for more exciting updates!

Further Reading

Gauthereau, Lorena. “Personal Archives and History.” Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Blog. https://recoveryprojectappblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/personal-archives-and-history/


Lorena Gauthereau is a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage at the University of Houston. Find her online at https://lorenagauthereau.wordpress.com.

Following the Breadcrumbs

UN Conference-Delegations Presidents

UN Conference Delegation University of Houston Special Collections

So today was all about following the breadcrumbs.  I was looking through some of the images in the Alonso S. Perales Collection, you know…just trying to get an idea of what would be suitable for the Omeka project. When I ran across an image that sparked a little niggle in my mind.  (Yes, niggle is a word somewhere, honestly.)  The image in question depicts three delegates from the United Nations Conference.  I thought to myself, “Why do we have such a picture in our collection?”  (Breadcrumb #1) After researching the UN Conference I ran across a site highlighting the United Nations San Franciso Conference of 1945.  On its own, this conference was made famous because it signified the coming together of forty-six nations who signed the first Charter of the United Nations, all in the name of peace.  (Breadcrumb #2).  The niggle was back.  I seemed to recall scanning a document that said something about San Francisco from 1945.  What was it?  Digging through a pile of documents, I found it!  In 1945 the San Francisco Public library extended one of their libray cards to Alonso Perales while he attended the United Nations Conference.  Wait!

pera0013_001

San Franciso Library Card – University of Houston – Recovery

Alonso Perales attended the Conference?  (Breadcrumb #3). I pulled open my book “In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals” by Michael Olivas.  I thought maybe I will get lucky and there may be a mention of something in it about this event.  When I opened the book and started to scan, immediately I saw the words “United Nations Conference held at San Franciso’s Veteran’s War Memorial Building” (Zamora, PP. 288-289, citations omitted).  What are the odds!! (Breadcrumb #4).  Zamora (n.d.) mentions that when the Nicaragua delegation went up to sign the Charter, they had assigned one special place to Alonso Perales.  Breaking with tradition, the delegation decided that Alonso Perales; someone not from Nicaragua,  was important enough to be present at such an historic signing.  Amazing!  Who would have thought that one little picture could have so much meaning.   And so we have come to the end of our breadcrumbs to an important time in Alonso Perales’s life.  With these breadcrumbs, little by little history came to life.

Now let me send you down your own path.  If you follow the link below, it will take you to a picture of that historic signing event in 1945 Nicaraguan UN delegation signing 1945/ United Nations Photo.  Also, if you want to know more about the event itself, check out this video link San Francisco Conference 1945.

Happy History Hunting!


Theresa Mayfield is a graduate student at the University of North Texas, where she is pursing her Master’s degree in Library Science with a certificate in data curation and management. She is an intern at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage and is currently working on creating the Alonso S. Perales Digital Archive. You can find her blog online at: https://practicumperspective.wordpress.com/blog/

Personal Archives and History

This week, the University of Houston Libraries hosted the 2018 Personal Digital Archiving Conference (April 23-25). You can check out the Twitter conversations by searching for the #PDA18 hashtag or view the conference website (and presentation abstracts) here: https://sites.lib.uh.edu/pda18/.

Hosted by the University of Houston Libraries. #PDA18 PDA is the only conference focused on the personal digital archive, including projects and presentations from both individuals and organizations. sites.lib.uh.edu/pda18 Houston, TX - April 23-25, 2018. Personal Digital Archiving Conference

April 23-25, 2017

On Monday, I presented on Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage with my colleagues, Dr. Gabriela Baeza Ventura and Dr. Carolina Villarroel. We talked about Recovery’s mission, our collections, and our developing US Latinx Digital Humanities programming. We thought this conference provided us with a great opportunity to talk about how important personal archives are for US Latinx history. (You can watch the video on our Facebook page here.)

It goes without saying that minority stories have often fallen by the wayside when writing mainstream history. There are significant gaps in our historical record and this is where personal archives come into play. Many of Recovery’s own collections have changed the way we view American history and have elaborated on the role Latinxs have played in American society and culture. For decades, scholars tried to justify the absence of Latinx authors in the US canon by claiming Latinxs did not produce literature. Yet, Recovery’s preservation efforts challenged that assumption by recovering manuscripts and Spanish-language newspapers dating back to the colonial period.  Among these texts is María Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s collection, which includes two novels: Who Would Have Thought it? (1872) and The Squatter and the Don (1885). Ruiz de Burton is considered the first Mexican American woman to have published in the United States in English.

Panel

From left to right: Dr. Carolina Villarroel, Dr. Gabriela Baeza Ventura, and Dr. Lorena Gauthereau presenting at the University of Houston Libraries Personal Digital Archiving Conference on April 23, 2018.

During the presentation, I gave three examples of personal archives that we have in our collections: Leonor Villegas de Magnón, Emilio Sarabia, and Alonso S. Perales (You may remember reading about Villegas de Magnón and Perales in previous blog entries.) These collections help to deepen our understanding of the Mexican Revolution, the Houston Latinx community, and Mexican American civil rights, respectively.

Leonor Villegas de Magnón

Leonora Villegas de Magnón was a teacher, journalist, and political activist who lived on the US-Mexico border at the turn of the century. In 1910, at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, she and her family immigrated from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to Laredo, Texas to escape the fighting. Yet, she didn’t stay away from the Revolution. Instead, she, along with Elena Arizmendi Mejia, founded La Cruz Blanca, or the Neutral White Cross, a neutral volunteer nursing corps. La Cruz Blanca provided medical attention for wounded revolutionaries, regardless of their allegiance. Villegas de Magnón turned her home into a makeshift hospital to tend to the wounded.

Leonor Villegas de Magnón on left, wearing long dark dress, crossed bullet belts, and hat, holding a rifle. Right-side of photo: Aracelito García in dark long sleeves coat and long dark skirt, facing Leonor. Between them, on horseback, holding a rifle, sits Guillermo Martinez Celis.

Leonor Villegas de Magnón, Aracelito García, and Guillermo Martínez Celis. From Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s Leonor Villegas de Magnón Collection

Aware of the historical significance of the women’s involvement in the Mexican Revolution,Villegas de Magnón hired a photographer to document as much as possible. After the Revolution, she wrote her memoirs in Spanish, which she titled La Rebelde. When Mexican publishers refused to publish a woman’s writing on the Revolution, she re-wrote it in English (The Rebel). Once again, her manuscript was rejected. Decades later, through the recovery efforts of our board member, Dr. Clara Lomas, we were able to locate the collection and fulfill Villegas de Magnón’s wish to publish her manuscripts with Arte Público Press both in English and in Spanish (see Archival Research: Recovering Oppressed Voices for a brief outline of the provenance of this collection.)

Emilio Sarabia

Emilio Sarabia is a Houston dentist and local historian. His collection documents the culture and impact of the Houston Mexican immigrant community.

Top: Group photo, people standing on the patio of a house in 1899. Bottom: same house in 1999. Caption at the bottm: 1520 Center Street-1999. Righthand side of image: facsimile of a letter (illegible).

From Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s Sarabia Collection

His family established the Azteca Theatre, the first movie theater in Houston for Spanish-language films. Sarabia’s collection documents the development of the Hispanic community in Houston and contains photographs of buildings that were significant to the community, many of which still stand today. These photographs, therefore, help to provide a cultural map of Houston.

Alonso S. Perales

Alonso S. Perales was the third Mexican American lawyer and co-founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). He was deeply committed to fighting for the civil rights of Mexican Americans. His collection is extensive, measuring 17 linear feet and includes photographs, correspondence, LULAC materials, books, essays, speeches, and more (see also “LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse: This Place Matters”).

PeralesBW

Alonso S. Perales. From Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s Alonso S. Perales Collection

The Perales collection not only documents the creation and organization of LULAC, but also the rise of Mexican American civil rights activism in Texas during the 1930s and 1940s. Among his collection are scores of letters documenting discrimination against people of Mexican descent at restaurants, public parks, barber shops, hotels, and even schools. Recently, while I was digging through his papers at UH Special Collections, I found a heartbreaking letter addressed to Perales from James L. Collins, Commanding Major General of the US Army. In this letter, General Collins acknowledges having received Perales’ letter regarding American soldiers of Mexican descent being refused service while in uniform. Regrettably, Collins responds:

While Article 157 of the Texas Penal Code makes it an offense, punishable by a fine, for any person to discriminate against anyone because of his membership in the United States Army, or because of his wearing any Army uniform; unfortunately, in the instant case, the discrimination complained of was due to the nativity of the soldiers and not because of their being soldiers. (Feb. 8, 1941)

Perales’ collection, thus, chronicles his continuous efforts to combat discrimination in any way that was accessible to him and his community: writing letters to elected officials, publishing (and calling out) the people and establishments guilty of racial discrimination in newspapers, giving speeches on civil rights activism, and more. This personal archive fills in the gaps of US Latina/o civil rights history prior to the Chicana/o Movement in the 1960s.

Delis Negrón Poster Presentation

In addition to our panel, Recovery Graduate Research Assistant and UH Doctoral Candidate, Sylvia Fernández presented a poster on Delis Negrón, a Puerto Rican poet, journalist, and activist. Fernández presented a forthcoming digital project undertaken by the Recovery Graduate Assistants (Isis Campos, Victoria Moreno, and Annette Zapata): The Delis Negrón Digital Biography, which includes digitized photographs, postcards, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and more. This project will be hosted on Omeka and will include various interactive functions.

"Delis Negrón Digital Archive: From a Personal Archive to a Digital Project" poster, with images of letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs of Delis Negrón

Recovery RA and UH PhD Candidate, Sylvia Fernández, presented her poster, “Delis Negrón Digital Archive: From a Personal Archive to a Digital Project” at the 2018 Personal Digital Archiving Conference

 Digitizing Personal Archives

Digitizing these archives is a way to preserve the history that has been left out of history books. With growing access to open-source archiving platforms, we hope that more minority stories will begin to make their way into the public eye. We are currently working to create digital projects focused on the following individuals’ personal archives: Delis Negrón, Alonso S. Perales, and Emilio Sarabia. Keep checking our blog for updates on these digital humanities projects!

Works cited

Baeza Ventura, G., Gauthereau, L., and Villarroel, C. “Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage.” Personal Digital Archiving Conference, University of Houston Libraries, Houston, TX. Facebook. 23 April 2018.
https://www.facebook.com/RecoveringUSHispanicHeritage/videos/456131244842706/

“To Mr. Alonso S. Perales, Director General, League of Loyal Americans, From James L. Collins, Major General, U. S. Army, Headquarters Second Division, February 8, 1941.”, Alonso S. Perales Collection: The Committee of One Hundred Citizens & the League of Loyal Citizens, 1927-1954. April 2, 1934. http://ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=h6b&A N=76512618&site=ehost-live&ppid=divp80&lpid=divl68

Further reading:

Cutler, Leigh. Interview with Emilio Sarabia. November 3, 2004. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/1676/show/1675.

Olivas, Michael A. (ed.) In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals. Arte Público Press, 2013.

Sarabia, Emilio A. Four Brothers. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 2015.

Villegas de Magnón, Leonor. La Rebelde. ed. Clara Lomas. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 2004.

_____. The Rebel. ed. Clara Lomas. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 1994.


Lorena Gauthereau is a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage at the University of Houston. Find her online at https://lorenagauthereau.wordpress.com.

Reading List for Women’s History Month

Are you looking for more books by Latinas to read this Women’s History Month? Why not read a recovered manuscript?! Here is a list of manuscripts recovered and published by Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. Enjoy!

A Nation of Women: An Early Feminist Speaks Out (Mi opinión sobre las libertades, derechos y deberes de la mujer) by Luisa Capetillo

Mi opinión is considered by many to be the first feminist treatise in Puerto Rico and one of the first in Latin America and the Caribbean.  In concise prose, Capetillo advocates a workers’ revolution, forcefully demanding an end to the exploitation and subordination of workers and women.


Absolute Equality: An Early Feminist Perspective (Influencias de las ideas modernas) by Luisa Capetillo

In Luisa Capetillo’s three-act play written in 1907, “Influences of Modern Ideas,” Angelina, the daughter of a rich Puerto Rican businessman and landowner, educates herself by reading the works of European writers, philosophers, and anarchists. After reading Tolstoy’s The Slavery of Our Times, she is convinced that “the slavery of our times is the inflexible wage law.” As the workers go on strike in her home town of Arecibo, Angelina tries to convince her father to give his property—home, factories, land—to the working class. And so the stage is set for Capetillo, a militant feminist, anarchist, and labor leader, to inform the public about her passions: the fight for workers’ rights; the struggle for justice and equality, for women as well as workers; and the education of all classes and sexes. The themes in this social protest play appear throughout Capetillo’s writings.


The Collected Stories of María Cristina Mena 

This volume gathers for the first time Mena’s stories written between 1913 and 1931 and published originally in such magazines as Century, American and Cosmopolitan. In her short fiction Mena writes about Mexico for an Anglo-American audience, and skillfully confronts issues of gender, race and nation.

 


Dew on the Thorn by Jovita González

Dew on the Thorn seeks to recreate the life of Texas Mexicans as Anglo culture gradually encroached upon them. González, a former president of the Texas Folklore Society, provides us with a richly detailed portrait of the ranch life of the Olivares clan of South Texas, focusing on the cultural traditions of Texas Mexicans at a time when the divisions of class and race were pressing on the established way of life.


Feminist and Abolitionist: The Story of Emilia Casanova

When asked to deliver contraband papers to her native island home of Cuba in 1852, twenty-year-old Emilia Casanova gulped audibly in a most unladylike manner. This was her chance to be in the thick of the rebellion against Spanish authority instead of on the sidelines more befitting someone of her station. Even though she would be branded a traitor and endanger her family if she was caught, she pushed her fear aside and accepted the mission.

Back in Cuba following her first summer abroad, distributing seditious propaganda isn’t as easy as it had seemed while in New York. But she honors her commitment to the Junta Cubana, a group of Cuban revolutionaries living in exile in the U. S., and begins her efforts to convert compatriots to the cause of independence from Spain. She begins planting the seeds of insubordination in her social circle and enlists two of her brothers in the cause. Things become more dangerous when she targets soldiers in the garrison close to the family’s home, and it doesn’t take long for one of her brothers to be exposed. Soon Emilia’s father is forced to lead his entire family away from their home and into exile in the U. S.


Firefly Summer by Pura Belpré

Firefly Summer is an enchanting poetic recreation of life in rural Puerto Rico at the turn of the century. Returning home to her parents’ plantation for the holidays, a young student rediscovers the quaint customs, music and lore of country folk, and the lush verdant beauty and lure of the tropical hills. Teresa is honored when her family initiates her in their traditional rites and celebrations that mark the seasons of the year as well as the stages in people’s lives.

However this idyllic journey is not without intrigue. Unknown to Teresa and her best friend from school, there is a real-life mystery unraveling concerning the foreman of the plantation who was raised by the family since early childhood. In the course of their sleuthing, the three young people discover the challenges of approaching adulthood. The events of the summer bind the trio in a lasting friendship.


History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio by Adina de Zavala

Originally published in 1917 by Adina de Zavala, this volume reconstructs the history of the Alamo back to pre-colonial times. Its importance lies not only in its portrayal of Texas’ history as a product of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American contributions, but also in its focus on the role of Texas women and Texas Mexicans in shaping the historical record. At a time when Texas Mexican women held little influence, de Zavala attempted to rewrite the way Texas history was written and constructed. This milestone literary work includes historical maps, plates, diary accounts and other records.


The Rebel by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

The Rebel, by Leonor Villegas de Magnón, is the autobiography of the Mexican-American feminist and pacifist who served as a nurse in the Mexican Revolution and became active in Texas politics and culture. Originally written in the 1920s but never published, The Rebel stands as one of the few written documents which consciously challenges misconceptions of Mexican Americans.


La Rebelde by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

La Rebelde is the original Spanish-language version of Leonor Villegas de Magnón’s memoir. Many women from both sides of the border risked their lives and left their families to support the Mexican Revolution.  Years later, however, when their participation remained unacknowledged and was running the risk of being forgotten, Villegas de Magnón decided to write her personal account of this history. With enthralling text and 22 pages of photos, La Rebelde examines the period from 1876 through 1920, documenting the heroic actions of the women.  Written in the third person with a romantic fervor, the narrative weaves Villegas de Magnón’s autobiography with the story of La Cruz Blanca.


The Squatter and the Don by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Originally published in San Francisco in 1885, The Squatter and the Don is the first fictional narrative written and published in English from the perspective of the conquered Mexican population. Despite being granted the full rights of citizenship under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, this group had become a subordinated and marginalized national minority by 1860.


The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and Other Stories: Collected Tales and Short Stories by Jovita González

Jovita González was long a member—and ultimately served as president—of the Texas Folklore Society, which strove to preserve the oral traditions and customs of her native state. Many of the folklore-based stories in this volume were published by González in periodicals such as the Southwest Review from the 1920s through the 1940s but have been gathered here for the first time.


Who Would Have Thought It? by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Who Would Have Thought It? (1872) is a historical romance which engages the dominant myths about nationality, race and gender prevalent in society in the United States, prior to and during the Civil War. The narrative follows a young Mexican girl as she is delivered from Indian captivity in the Southwest and comes to live in the household of a New England family. Culture and perspectives on history and national identity clash as the novel criticizes the dominant society’s opportunism and hypocrisy, and indicts northern racism.


Women’s Tales from the New Mexico WPA: La Diabla a Pie

At the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the administration of U. S. President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a Federal Writers Project as part of the larger Works Progress Administration (WPA), massive national undertakings aimed at getting the nation back to work. Many people participated in compiling a series of state-by-state guides to the country. Other writers’ projects included the gathering of folk songs and oral narratives by still-living ex-slaves.


For lists of contemporary woman-centric writings, see Arte Público Press’s Women’s History Month Fiction Titles list and their Non-Fiction Titles list.

Archival Research: Recovering Oppressed Voices

Yesterday (February 7, 2018), Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage/Arte Público Press hosted University of Houston Professor Leandra Zarnow’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) class “Issues in Feminist Research.”

Students sitting at a long conference table, looking toward back of the room. Dr. Villarroel standing at the back of the room, talking.

Dr. Villarroel speaks with Dr. Zarnow’s WGSS class about archival documents.

Professor Zarnow invited Recovery’s Director of Research, Dr. Carolina Villarroel, our Graduate Research Fellow and University of Houston Ph.D. candidate, Sylvia Fernández, and me to speak with the class about the importance of minority archives, intersectionality in our own research, archival research methodology, and the digital humanities.

It’s always a treat when I have the opportunity to nerd out about minority archives! Archival research is a bit of a treasure hunt—you can’t always go into it with the expectations of finding something very specific. More often than not, you need to go into in with an open mind and just let the archive lead the way.

The Archival Case of Leonor Villegas de Magnon

Leonor Villegas de Magnón and Aracelito Garcia dredsed in white next to the flag of La Cruz Blanca (White Cross), 1914

Leonor Villegas de Magnón and Aracelito Garcia with flag of La Cruz Blanca, 1914. From Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s Leonor Villegas de Magnón Collection

Sometimes, as Villarroel told the class, big projects can lead you across the world and back. Take the case of Leonor Villegas de Magnon’s manuscript, La Rebelde (The Rebel): Dr. Clara Lomas (Colorado College) was reading archival newspapers when she came across an excerpt of an unknown, unpublished memoir. In order to find out more about the author and the memoir, she had to locate the full newspaper. The newspaper wasn’t digitized, so Lomas had to travel to the archive that held the entire run of the newspaper—it was in the Netherlands! Her transatlantic trip yielded results, as she discovered the the name of the author: Leonor Villegas de Magnón. This led Lomas to Laredo, Texas. There, she learned that Villegas de Magnón’s family now lived in Houston, Texas. The manuscript and a large collection of photographs from the Mexican Revolution had been passed down three generations of Leonors. Publishers originally rejected the manuscript for the mere reason that the author was a woman (not to mention one writing about the Revolution). In 1994, Recovery/Arte Público Press made Villegas de Magnón’s dream of publishing her memoir a reality and published The Rebel (Villegas de Magnón’s own translation). A few years later, Recovery/Arte Público Press published the Spanish version, La Rebelde.

Of course, not all archival research will lead you across the globe, especially as more more archives are digitizing their collections. However, not all knowledge is considered “archivable” or important, so often minority collections are sitting in someone’s abuelita‘s attic. And sometimes minority collections that do make it to universities and cultural institutions, aren’t always indexed and women’s archives are sometimes “hidden” under their father’s or husband’s name.

Archival Research: Where to Start?

There are so many ways to start an archival project. One great way is to read historical newspapers and see what pops out at you. Try reading entire newspaper issues. Many times old newspapers published serialized novels in this way. You may have heard that Charles Dickens published his novels in this fashion, but did you know that the many Latina/o authors published their works in the Spanish-language press this way, too? For example, Daniel Venegas published Las aventuras de Don Chipote (The Adventures of Don Chipote). Every graduate student dreams of discovering some new, never-before-seen manuscript and producing groundbreaking work. Using minority archives is perfect way to do that! With such a vast collection of newspaper, manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs and more, Recovery’s archives offer scholars the opportunity to write about something that no one else has ever written about or researched! Not to mention the fact that much of the history contained in the archive has been silenced and written out of mainstream history.

top left: a box of slides, bottom left: newspaper (visible article title:

Recovered archival documents written by Latinas on display during WGSS Issues in Feminist Research class (Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage collections)

If you’re working with digitzed newspapers in a database with OCR capabilities (Optical Character Recognition), then you can create a list of keywords and search for them across various newspapers. Don’t forget to look at the advertisements! They can provide some insight into daily life. As someone who does literary research, I like to start with historical novels and use archival documents to enrich our understanding of a certain time period, movement, etc.

Manuscripts, diaries, and letters are another place to start your research. Don’t be put off by handwriting! It take a little while to get comfortable reading handwritten documents, but the more you do it, the easier it gets (especially if you’re working with the same author). With social media, you can always enlist the help of an online community in deciphering messy handwriting!

Archives and Digital Humanities

Digital tools offer new ways to approach your research findings. They can help you create visual representations of author networks (that you may have discovered reading correspondence), you can map the trajectory of characters in a novel or the movement of authors, you can find old and new photographs of places mentioned in a memoir, and more. Remember that digital projects don’t necessarily solve any problems, they allow you to represent parts of your research or act as research tools for other scholars. As an example of a digital project, Sylvia Fernández showed the class the project she developed with Maira E. Álvarez, Borderlands Archive Cartography (BAC). This project came out of their research interests in border studies, newspapers, and Hispanic literature. (You can read more about BAC in Fernández’s blog post, “Borderlands Archives Cartography: The First Digital U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Newspapers Archive“).

There are many user-friendly software platforms available for free that you can use to develop your own digital humanities projects (Visit our DH Resources page for a sample list). And no, you don’t need to know how to code! The best way to launch into a project is to just do it. Fiddle with the software and learn as you go. Dr. Jeremy Boggs (Head of Research and Development in the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia Library), who visited UH last month as part of our Digital Humanities & Social Justice speaker series, strongly encouraged people to just play around with the different digital tools available and develop rapid prototypes to see if you like the way your project is turning out. You can always switch to a different platform if you decide you don’t like it.

Digitization and digital tools are just another avenue for preserving historical documents and conducting (as well as displaying) research. The most important take away is that the more we research and produce scholarship (traditional or digital) on minority archives, the more we are able to give voice to silenced histories and enrich the understanding of our past and present.

box car train in background with

Celebration with the General Múzquiz Chávez Band. Jul 17, 1914 (Leonor seated at left side of boxcar door). From Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s Leonor Villegas de Magnón Collection

Further reading:

Lazo, Rodrigo. “Migrant Archives.” States of Emergency: The Object of American Studies, edited by Russ Castronovo and Susan Kay Gillman, 2009, pp. 38–72.

Pérez, Emma. “Queering the Borderlands: The Challenges of Excavating the Invisible and Unheard.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 24, no. 2/3, 2003, pp. 122–31, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3347351.

Spiro, Lisa. “Getting Started in the Digital Humanities.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, 14 Oct. 2011, https://digitalscholarship.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/getting-started-in-the-digital-humanities/.

Villegas de Magnón, Leonor. La Rebelde. ed. Clara Lomas. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 2004.

Villegas de Magnón, Leonor. The Rebel. ed. Clara Lomas. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 1994.


Lorena Gauthereau is a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage at the University of Houston. Find her online at https://lorenagauthereau.wordpress.com.