El espejo del alma: La publicidad en los periódicos hispanos de Estados Unidos (1900-1950)

Por María Sánchez Carbajo

En una reciente labor de investigación para el proyecto Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage, he participado en un trabajo de análisis histórico de cine latino. Junto con Katerin Zapata, nos hemos dedicado a seleccionar, recopilar y estudiar artículos publicados en páginas culturales y de cine y también en periódicos especializados en cine y espectáculo para crear una colección digital y una exhibición de Omeka. Este proyecto nace gracias a una beca ACLS de Media History Digital Library (dirigido pro el Dr. Eric Hoyt de la Universidad de Wisconsin-Madison).

Como ha ocurrido otras veces, la tarea de rescate también muestra la existencia e importancia del legado cultural latino en la formación de este país inmenso y de aluvión de identidades que es Estados Unidos. En efecto, de la lectura detallada de los artículos, entrevistas, anuncios, editoriales y textos promocionales se desprenden uno a uno los intereses, necesidades y preocupaciones de la comunidad latina que vive en este país. En ese escenario negro sobre blanco puede leerse la nostalgia por la patria que se ha dejado atrás y el empeño en conservar la cultura y costumbres del país de origen, pero en ocasiones también la crítica a su gobierno; se habla asimismo de las inquietudes políticas de los hispanos y de sus representantes; también se escuchan gritos de protesta por la falta de representación de la comunidad en los asuntos políticos, o por el escaso número de hispanos como propietarios teatrales; la pluma del columnista se convierte a veces en instrumento de reclamación salarial y de queja contra la discriminación no sólo de los latinos sino también de otros grupos minoritarios, como los nativos americanos; y por último, a la crítica social, política, de asuntos internacionales y hasta religiosa (artículos contra la clasificación de películas y la censura de la iglesia católica), se suman las voces de mujeres articulistas, actrices, directoras de cine y compositoras musicales que ponen de manifiesto una mayor agencia del colectivo femenino en el nuevo país de residencia.

Comprobar que en las secciones de cine de La Prensa, Notas de Kingsville, entre otros rotativos,o en publicaciones como Cine Variedades se refleja y se identifica a toda una comunidad, ha sido muy gratificante para la tarea de investigación. Pero el asombro llegó sobre todo al descubrir que la publicidad en esas páginas no sólo anuncia servicios y productos, sino que representa la identidad de un colectivo que mira a su patria, pero también a su nuevo país de residencia. Veamos en las siguientes líneas algunos ejemplos que ilustran ese reflejo identitario del que vengo hablando. Por ejemplo, un anuncio de 1953, publicado en Cine Variedades, sugiere que los productos Goya “son los mejores” porque “están hechos en Puerto Rico” y son capaces de trasladarnos con sus aromas y sabores hasta la tierra que dejamos atrás (Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 julio 1953, p.11).

Cine Variedades. Nueva York, 21 julio 1953, p. 11

Por la misma razón, por recordarnos la música de nuestros países, el establecimiento de discos Salomé Records es “el preferido por la colonia, ya que es el portador original [auténtico, sin intermediarios] de la mejor música y ritmo” (Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 julio 1953, p.4).

Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 julio 1953, p.4

Pero la comunidad hispana también mira hacia el país de acogida y lo hace dejando claro su carácter transcultural y transnacional. Por eso es importante anunciar servicios de enseñanza musical, fotografía, peluquería, funerarios (con trasporte a cualquier país) o productos capilares o de moda. Todos son necesarios para el proyecto de vida de quien se dispone a vivir en un nuevo país.

Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 julio 1953,  p.35
Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 julio 1953,  p.35

Y se puede vivir entre los dos mundos, como anuncia a plena página de contraportada la casa Gill: “una fotografía Hispana al servicio de los Hispanos” (Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21-Julio-1953,  p.35) o la tienda de ropa de Mario González, “tienda hispana, con capital hispano, para los hispanos” (Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21-Abril-1954,  p.32).

Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 abril 1954,  p.32

Para esta vida “a caballo” entre las dos culturas, es esencial mantener locales en los que se cocinen los sabores latinos, a la vez que se escucha la música patria. En el Café Central, por ejemplo, “se sirven los mejores platos criollos” (Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 abril 1954,  p.22).

Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 abril 1954,  p.22

La nueva vida se perfila, además, sin olvidar el objetivo último del colectivo inmigrante, como anuncia el profesor de canto Edward Albano, cuyo arte “le hará triunfar” (Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 octubre 1953, p.3).

Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 octubre 1953, p.3

Sin embargo, de los anuncios también se desprende que, a pesar de los esfuerzos por conservar la cultura y las costumbres patrias, existen “peligros” en esta vida y que están ahí, en colisión con los conceptos tradicionales de la familia y la pareja, como queda reflejado en el anuncio del libro la Vida Sexual, un libro que “se atreve a decirlo todo” (Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 abril 1945, p. 17)

Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 abril 1945, p. 17

Se confirma entonces la teoría que sostiene parte de la doctrina de que los periódicos han funcionado históricamente como un instrumento valioso para preservar la cultura de la patria de quien la ha abandonado, que intenta reproducir las condiciones de vida en el nuevo entorno (Kanellos 15). Enfocar nuestro interés en el contenido publicitario de algunos de ellos ha ratificado que podamos considerarlos como reflejo identitario de la comunidad latina en Estados Unidos.

Bibliografía

Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 abril 1945. Readex. Newsbank-America’s Historical Newspapers.

Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 julio 1953. Readex. Newsbank-America’s Historical Newspapers.

Cine Variedades, Nueva York, 21 octubre 1953. Readex. Newsbank-America’s Historical Newspapers.

Kanellos, Nicolás. “A Schematic Approach to Understanding Latino Transnational Texts.” Imagined Transnationalism: U.S. Latino Literature, Culture, and Identity.Eds. Kevin Concannon, Francisco Lomelí and Marc Priewe. London/NY: Palgrave Macmillan 2009. 29-46.

Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections. usldhrecovery.uh.edu


María Sánchez Carbajo es estudiante de doctorado en el Departamento de Estudios Hipánicos de la Universidad de Houston y ha sido Research Assitant en Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage de enero de 2019 a mayo de 2021. Está interesada en la emigración española a las Américas desde la colonia hasta 1930, en concreto, en el papel de las mujeres peninsulares durante la conquista (cambio de estatus social, agencia y liberación de la norma imperial) y la participación femenina en la educación social y política mediante las sociedades mutualistas y la actividad de lectura en las fábricas de tabaco en Tampa (Florida).

Publicación de la colección digital: “Antifacismo y feminismo en la Página de la mujer de La voz (Nueva York, 1938)”

Ana María Díaz Marcos (Universidad de Connecticut)

Acaba de salir a la luz esta colección digital que recoge más de setenta textos y documentos del periódico antifascista La voz, publicado en Nueva York durante los años de la contienda civil española con un talante radicalmente antifascista. Este trabajo de investigación, digitalización y edición se llevó a cabo durante el confinamiento y la pandemia del 2020-2021 dentro del programa Recovery of the US Hispanic Literary Heritage/US Latino Digital Humanities (USLDH). Este proyecto se publica gracias a una beca del programa USLDH y The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. En medio del aislamiento y la distancia social, La voz me puso en contacto con multitud de personas que contribuyeron generosamente desde puntos dispares del planeta: Canadá, Cuba, España, Estados Unidos, Francia, México, Reino Unido, Puerto Rico y Rusia. Gracias a todxs ellxs ha sido posible recoger y estudiar estos documentos para ponerlos al servicio de la comunidad, los estudiantes y los académicos interesados en conocer la historia del antifascismo en Estados Unidos, sus vínculos con el feminismo panamericano de los años treinta y la vida de la colonia hispana en el Nueva York de la época.

 “Anuncio de La voz”  7 de mayo de 1938

A esta colección la acompaña una exhibición digital sobre la historia y los protagonistas de La voz que saldrá a la luz el próximo mes de julio. Ambas publicaciones permitirán conocer los avatares y dificultades de esta significativa empresa editorial -La voz tiraba 17.000 ejemplares cuando llevaba solo un año en la calle- y rescatar a figuras tan injustamente olvidadas como su director, el vigués Ceferino Barbazán y quien fue probablemente la primera editora de su combativa “Página de la Mujer”, escondida tras el seudónimo “Lina Mares”: la activista y sufragista mexicana Margarita Robles de Mendoza. Una de las inesperadas sorpresas de esta investigación ha sido poder charlar con la hija de Ceferino Barbazán. A sus noventa y seis años, Gloria Barbazán me cuenta, en impecable español, la dedicación y el entusiasmo de su padre por aquella empresa editorial y recuerda que en el edificio de The Spanish Newspaper Corporation en el número 838 de Greenwich Street de Nueva York (hoy un edificio de apartamentos) se instaló entonces el primer ascensor eléctrico del barrio.

“The Spanish Newspaper Corporation” 2 enero de 1939.

Por último, esta investigación sobre La voz ha dado pie a otro estudio que se publicará en otoño: la biografía de la bibliotecaria y activista Ernestina González Rodríguez que vivió en el exilio neoyorquino durante casi veinte años y cuyo mitin en el Royal Windsor fue cubierto ampliamente por La voz. Su periplo desde Medina del Pomar (Burgos), su compromiso antifascista y activismo en Nueva York, sus problemas con el Comité de Actividades Antiamericanas y su regreso a España en los años cincuenta, descubren la apasionante vida de una figura que era hasta ahora absolutamente desconocida, a pesar de la enorme relevancia de su lucha contra el fascismo tanto en España como en Estados Unidos.


Ana María Díaz-Marcos es catedrática de Literatura Española en el Departamento de Literaturas, Culturas y Lenguas de la Universidad de Connecticut. Sus campos de trabajo son la literatura, el teatro, el feminismo histórico y los estudios de género. Su último trabajo sobre Margarita Nelken, publicado en la revista Feminismos de la Universidad de Alicante, está disponible en el enlace:
https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/111723/1/Feminismos_37_10.pdf

Houston Demographics Project

By Bryant Hernandez and Carlos Campos Jr.

The goal of the Houston Demographics Project elaborated under the supervision of the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program is to help us understand the decades of data that define and shape Latino culture in Houston, and how this particular identity has changed over time. This is the basic research question we are asking of this project. The US Census Collection is produced by the US Census Bureau, a department charged with producing “quality data about its people and economy” (US Census Bureau). Once every ten years the Bureau collects the location and number of persons living in the US, which makes this dataset a great starting point to ask this kind of question about definition and movement.  One of our biggest goals is to understand the Hispanic population in Houston and how that has shifted in terms of various factors listed below.

Poster for the “Shifting Demographics in Houston” project, presented at the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Conference, February 2020, created by Hernandez and Campos

Factors

  • How has the historical definition/classification of the Latino/Hispanic demographic changed in the various Census conducted over the last 40 to 60 years? Given that the 1980 Census asked more specific questions of Hispanics, how did these changes affect the outcome of the 1980 Census? How did those who identified themselves in a different category see it now?
  • How has the evolving growth of the U.S. Hispanic population, especially in Houston/Harris County affected both the cultural and possible political landscape and what are things we can infer based on current and previous data. What kind of implications are there in this research?
  • Where do we see the trends of these Latino demographics? Is there any possible migration of groups from one area of the city to another or are there more concentrated areas that stay relatively the same over time?

Challenges

In our research, there are several questions that we have started to ask in terms of what the challenges ahead are and what new ideas or in what directions we could go with this research. 

  • How has gentrification affected the current Hispanic population in Houston and has that phenomenon caused any mass movement/shift?
  • How have various Hispanic/Latino ethnicities viewed themselves in their own culture? Have they become more assimilated and is that the norm? Does this cause conflicting beliefs? 
  • What does it mean to be Latino/Hispanic?
  • As mentioned in our Factors list above, how or what implications would arise from understanding the ever-growing Hispanic population? What does that mean from a political and cultural standpoint?
A map of racial/ethnic distribution in the City of Houston and Greater Houston2010 U.S. Census – Each dot represents 25 people. Red dots represent White people, orange dots represent Hispanic people, blue dots represent Black people, green dots represent Asian people, and yellow dots represent other people. Created by Eric Fischer. Wikimedia.

Present and future considerations

  • What will be the outcome and difference with the 2020 census and how will this evolve these project questions over time?  Will the new data support or contradict our present research questions? 
  • Along with the 2020 Census, how will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the data?
  • How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the current Hispanic population and what are the long-term effects?
  • In terms of the process of collecting data, how will we, as a group, continue to conduct our research remotely?

Tools and research

Currently, we are experimenting with the digital software, Tableau and Mapbox, to analyze the data and create visualizations. We hope these tools will allow for an analysis that will move us through the preliminary stage and into more complex research questions. We draw our dataset from the US Census from previous decades and are using Internet research to further understand the different modes of collection used for demographic data.

Works cited

United States Census Bureau. census.gov


Carlos Campos Jr., is a volunteer at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. They have a keen interest in Mexican American culture, society, and local demographic historiography. 

Bryant Hernandez is an undergraduate at the University of Houston-Downtown pursuing a major in Supply Chain Management and a volunteer at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. 

Discovering USLDH through the Story of LULAC

LULAC red, white, and blue logos

By Ariatna Vaglienty Gonzalez

My name is Ariatna Vaglienty Gonzalez and I am an undergraduate Political Science student at the University of Houston. My time with Arte Público Press begins in the Fall of 2020. I was in the process of completing a Mexican American Studies course with Dr. Lorena Gauthereau when she informed my classmates and I about an internship opportunity at Recovery. I knew little about Arte Público or Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (Recovery), other than what was briefed by Dr. Gauthereau, but of course, with some research, I grew interested in the program and chose to apply. Very quickly after my interview process with Dr. Linda García Merchant, who would later become my mentor, I met the rest of the team at Recovery, who all welcomed me with open arms.

For my first project, I worked closely with Dr. García Merchant to proof and revise a digital timeline dedicated to highlighting the history of the Latino civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) timeline. In 2019, my fellow UH undergraduate and previous recipient of the LULAC Council 60 Research and Scholarship Award, Katerin Zapata, began compiling research and creating the initial version of the timeline. We analyzed its contents and captions and took the steps necessary to ensure web accessibility, specifically to those with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities.[1] An essential component of the timeline is its appeal to all the senses using diverse forms of technology. Users have access to a wide range of information through various types of videos, pictures and links. In addition to this, the timeline itself is easily operable to accommodate users with limited range of motion and different color combinations were explored to benefit users with visual impairments. Dr. García Merchant and I ensured the content was concise and also made available in Spanish to suit bilingual speakers. Previous to my time at Recovery, my experience in digital humanities was limited. However, this was hardly a concern because Dr. García Merchant did not hesitate to provide her guidance as needed. She ultimately laid the foundation for me to utilize various digital resources and, along the way, taught me techniques to give the reader an overall engaging learning experience. 

LULAC red, white, and blue logo
LULAC Timeline

I knew LULAC as an advocacy organization that was significant to members of the Latinx/Hispanic community, but unfortunately, this was the extent of my knowledge. I was aware of a few of the lawsuits that set critical legal precedents, such as Salvatierra v. Del Rio and Mendez v. Westminster, but only relative to other civil rights proceedings such as Brown v. Board of Education. As I worked on the timeline, I learned about the various councils located across Texas, including Council 60 in my hometown of Houston, Texas. I researched prominent figures like Tony Campos, Dolores Guerrero, Willie Velasquez, Belen Robles, and countless others who were pioneers in the advancement of the Latinx/Hispanic community in the United States. I hope that through this timeline and the many other projects at Recovery, individuals may have the opportunity to learn more about organizations like LULAC and hear about those stories in history not often told.

1970 slide on LULAC timeline

It is no doubt that the pandemic has had a considerable impact on many of our lives. In a few words, I can confidently say that this year was by far the most strenuous time of my life. I figured that my entry into the Recovery program during the pandemic would affect the quality of my experience. While I am sure that the circumstances were very different pre-COVID, I would not say that my experience was in any way worse or less than. If anything, I felt like Recovery was a positive outlet for me. 

After my first meeting with everyone, I remember having an overwhelming feeling of joy. I will never forget how much it meant to be in the same virtual room as so many incredibly accomplished men and women. I was surrounded by professors and professionals at the top of their fields, and when they spoke, it reminded me of home. I saw a bit of myself in them, and for the first time, I witnessed the language of my mother and grandmother being used in an academic workplace. Ultimately, they are who I aspire to be, not only for myself but also for my community. As a woman, a Mexican immigrant, and a first-generation college student, it is motivating to see this representation in academia. Working alongside everyone at Recovery for these past couple of weeks has been truly inspiring and a valuable learning experience that I will always carry with me.

**Stay tuned for the public release of the LULAC Timeline**

Further Reading

“English Plus Versus English Only.” League of United Latin American Citizens, https://lulac.org/advocacy/issues/english_vs_spansih/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

LULAC. lulac.org.

Olivas, Michael A. Colored Men and Hombres Aquí: Hernández V. Texas and the Emergence of Mexican-American Lawyering. Arte Público Press, 2006.

Orozco, Cynthia. Pioneer of Mexican-American Civil Rights: Alonso S. Perales. Arte Público Press, 2020.

Sánchez, Claudio. “Tougher Times For Latino Students? History Says They’ve Never Had It Easy.” National Public Radio, 15 Nov. 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/15/502011688/tougher-times-for-latino-students-history-says-theyve-never-had-it-easy. Accessed 08 Nov. 2020.


Ariatna Vaglienty Gonzalez is an undergraduate at the University of Houston, where she is majoring in Political Science. She is the current recipient of the LULAC Council 60 Research and Scholarship Award.


Notes

Nuestra Historia: Alonso S. Perales Exhibit

On May 14, 2019, in a collaboration between the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 60, the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage/Arte Público Press, and SERJobs, members of the community gathered to celebrate the launch of the Alonso S. Perales Digital Archive. Among those in attendance was Perales’ daughter, Marta Perales Carrizales. This digital archive marks the first digitized collection on the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Archives site.

Alonso S. Perales was one of the most prominent US Civil rights leaders of the twentieth century. He was born in Alice, Texas in 1898. Perales served in the US Army during World War I. After his military service, he attended college and law school at the National University (which later became George Washington University). Upon receiving his law degree, Perales became only the third Mexican American to practice law in Texas (Olivas xi). Perales dedicated his life to Mexican American civil rights and empowering the working-class community through knowledge and education. In 1929, Perales co-founded of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC)–the first nationwide Mexican American civil rights organization, not to mention the largest and oldest US Latino political association. He served as the second LULAC national president from 1930 to 1931 (xiv). In addition to his work in the United States, Perales served as Nicaraguan Consul General for twenty-five years and as counsel to the Nicaraguan delegation to the United Nations in 1945. In addition, he helped draft the original Charter of the United Nations. Perales authored Are We Good Neighbors and two volumes of En defensa de mi raza. His writing stressed the need for anti-discrimination legislation and civil activism for the Latino community.

Alonso S. Perales Collection

The Alonso S. Perales Collection is Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s flagship online digital archive. In 2009, Marta Perales Carrizales and Raymond Perales donated their father’s extensive personal papers to the University of Houston’s Recovery Program. This collection, which measures over 40 linear feet, contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, civil rights writings, and foundational documents related to LULAC. The online digital collection includes a large sampling of these documents. To facilitate accessibility, the digital documents include full-text transcriptions and bilingual keywords for searches. In the future, more US Latino digital archives will be added to the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections (available at: usldhrecovery.uh.edu). The original Alonso S. Perales Papers are housed at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections.

Are We Good Neighbors? Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas

Screenshot of Are We Good Neighbors? : Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas. https://arcg.is/1C1bbv

Perales’ activism also included the empowerment of his community. He urged people to publicly share experiences of discrimination, including the names and addresses of businesses where they were refused service. Many of the testimonies sworn to him in his capacity as Notary Public appeared in his book, Are We Good Neighbors?

The digital mapping project, Are We Good Neighbors?, uses the information in these testimonials to locate these incidents on a map in an attempt to reveal the embodiment of racism. One after another, these accounts tell stories of everyday life: going out for dinner with family, spending time with friends, looking for employment, or moving to a new house. Yet, for people of Mexican descent, these activities were marked by disgust, hatred, shame, and even violence. This project highlights the personal history of racism, one that takes place in our own neighborhoods to real people, rather than distanced through abstract statistics.

Twitter: @AlonsoSPerales

The Alonso S. Perales Collection Twitter Bot (@AlonsoSPerales) also strives to bring attention to his activism. This Twitter account automatically posts quotations (in English and Spanish) from Perales’ writing and allows his voice to continue to advocate for education, equality, and justice.

The Perales Collection is extremely important for our understanding of the historical trajectory of US Latinx civil rights. The documents in this collection reveal the ways our community refused to remain silent, even in the face of persecution. Civil rights leaders such as Perales fought for justice long before the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The history embedded in this collection is not readily available in K-12 history books. We hope that digital projects such as these can empower our community through education and help Latina/o/x schoolchildren see themselves reflected in US history in a positive light.

Organizers

LULAC is the largest and oldest Hispanic Organization the United States. LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 1,000 LULAC councils nationwide.

Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (“Recovery”) is an international program at the University of Houston dedicated to locating, preserving, and disseminating Hispanic cultural documents of the United States written since colonial times until 1980. Recovery in the premier center for research on Latino documentary history in the United States.

Arte Público Press is the oldest and largest Hispanic publisher in the United States. Established in 1979, it is the principal provider of cultural materials on Latino life in the United States for general and educational audiences.

SERJobs is a nonprofit community organization that educates and equips people in the Texas Gulf Coast Region who come from low-income backgrounds or who have significant barriers to employment.

Further Reading

Olivas, Michael A. (ed.) In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals. Arte Público Press, 2012.

Orozco, Cynthia E. No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. University of Texas Press, 2009.

Saldaña, Hector. “Unsung Hero of Civil Rights: ‘Father of LULAC’ A Fading Memory.” Practicing Texas Politics, 2013.

Sloss Vento, Adela. Alonso S. Perales: His Struggle for the Rights of the Mexican American. Artes Gráficas, 1977.

Digital Hispanisms: Using Third World Feminism in DH

I gave the following talk on Jan. 5, 2019 at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention held in Chicago, IL.

This talk was part of a TC Digital Humanities sponsored roundtable on Digital Hispanisms with Alex Saum-Pascual (UC, Berkeley), Sylvia Fernández (U. of Houston), Nora Benedict (Princeton U), Vanessa Ceia (McGill U), Lorena Gauthereau (U. of Houston), Hilda Chacón (Nazareth College). This roundtable was designed to spark a conversation on the intersections between Digital Humanities (DH) and Hispanic Studies (HS). For all the speakers’ abstracts, please visit: https://mla.hcommons.org/groups/digital-humanities/forum/topic/mla19-582-roundtable-digital-hispanisms-2/

As we reflect on Digital Hispanisms in this roundtable, I want to briefly describe the types of theoretical frameworks and methodologies that emerge when engaging the digital humanities (DH) through US Latinx Studies. Specifically, I am interested in the groundwork laid by Chicana and Third World feminists. Rather than continuing to center hegemonic Anglophone theorists, I argue that by drawing from the lived experiences of Women of Color, we can shift the types of conversations taking place in the field of digital humanities. As a Woman of Color, I recognize that we cannot rely on hegemonic DH theory to acknowledge, much less accurately represent, our lived experiences and the digital stories we tell. As an example of DH discourse elaborated from the perspective of Third World feminism, I will discuss my mapping project, “Are We Good Neighbors?” and how my proposed theoretical framework highlights what is at stake in doing this type of DH: it’s a matter of humanizing a past that has all too often been silenced. Third World feminism accounts for the way that theory and lived experience meld, and stresses that the theoretical needs to be grounded in the flesh because our experiences cannot be separated from who we are.

Garcia, Adriana.  Liminal Incubation, 2012.

“Are We Good Neighbors?” is a story map that includes transcriptions of affidavits and maps incidents of discrimination against Mexican Americans in Texas during the 1940s. These affidavits are from the Alonso S. Perales Collection at the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. Perales was one of the first Mexican Americans to practice law in the US and one of the co-founders of the civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens (or LULAC) (Olivas xi). In addition to practicing law, he was also a diplomat, veteran, civil rights activist, and author of two books: En defensa de mi raza (In Defense of My People) and Are We Good Neighbors?, from which I drew the digital project’s name. As part of his activism, Perales encouraged the Mexican American community to report discrimination and to call out, by name, the public establishments in which these incidents occurred. As a result, his archival collection includes hundreds of affidavits and letters.

One after another, these accounts tell stories of the quotidian: going out for dinner with family, spending time with friends, moving to a new house, riding the bus to school, or even going to the barber shop for a haircut. Yet, for Mexican Americans in the 1940s, these quotidian activities are marked by disgust, hatred, shame, fear, and even violence. And these negative affects are felt and worn on the body. Mapping these instances gives a materiality to the offenses, geolocating them in neighborhoods and commercial centers still frequented today. When the bodies of those who experienced this discrimination are long gone, it is our bodies that can physically stand in these places.

Framed through the lens of Third World feminists, such as Sara Ahmed, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Cherríe Moraga, “Are We Good Neighbors?” reveals the personal history of racism, one that takes place in our neighborhoods to real people, rather than distanced through abstract statistics. What becomes apparent when mapping these accounts is the personal and normalized embodiment of racism in the US. The juxtaposition of these affidavits and maps call people to be witnesses through time and affectively embed the experience in its physical location. These locations are often places that we can imagine ourselves in. Remembering injustices through this type of witnessing makes people of color visible, and is, as Ahmed writes, “about claiming an injustice did happen; this claim is a radical one in the face of the forgetting of such injustices” (2004; 200).

Take for example the affidavit sworn by Amada B. Quesnot, the mother of five-year old Eugene Quesnot. On November 13, 1941, she attempted to take little Eugene to M&S Clinic for treatment yet was turned away because of her ethnicity. Amada writes,

The lady in charge in the Social Workers Room asked me if I was Latin American and when I replied in the affirmative she stated that no Latin American children were accepted for treatment at that Clinic.

(Quesnot qtd. in Perales 204)
Quesnot, Amada , “Affidavit sworn by Amada Quesnot to Alonso S. Perales,” Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections.

Turned away, Amada insists upon her own legitimacy in her letter, tracing it through her US citizenship and both her husband’s and older son’s military service. She was born here, she protests. But her brown skin is read as un-American; and the brown skin of her five-year old child is read as undeserving of medical attention. Her decision to write the letter affirms her need to do something, to plead for political action. She documents a struggle, a status quo that needs to change. Her lived reality is tied to this political desire. Cherrie Moraga’s theory in the flesh makes this connection; a theory in the flesh, she writes, is a theory in which “the physical realities of our lives–our skin color, the land of concrete we grew up on, our sexual longings–all fuse to create a politic born out of necessity” (19). Echoing Moraga’s (1981) argument that theory is fused to the body, Sara Ahmed states that:

The personal is theoretical. Theory itself is often assumed to be abstract: something is more theoretical the more abstract it is, the more it is abstracted from everyday life. To abstract is to drag away, detach, pull away, or divert. We might then have to drag theory back, to bring theory back to life.

(2017; 10)

Gloria Anzaldúa’s (1987) mestiza consciousness then weaves these two together. It is the thread that ties the theory to the flesh. Anzaldúa imagines the mestiza putting

history through a sieve…This step is a conscious rupture with all oppressive traditions of all cultures and religions. She communicates that rupture, documents the struggle. She reinterprets history and, using new symbols, she shapes new myths.

(Anzaldúa 104)

Mestiza consciousness as an approach to DH calls us to read for the silences in historical narratives, to discard the frameworks that marginalize the experiences of people of color, and to invent new theories and methodologies that center our lived experiences.

Turning to Third World feminism in DH, then, reminds us to bring theory back to life, to bring it back to the lived experience. “Doing DH” isn’t just about the final product, but also about the process of dragging theory back and embodying it. Moreover, shifting the loci of enunciation from the center to the margin, reimagines DH not just as a site of knowledge-production, but also as a site of decolonial resistance and social justice. Our digital work does not need to be reduced to mere zeros and ones or replicate the canonical archive of dead white men’s work, but instead can be a space to reclaim lost histories, reveal injustices, and demand that our voices be heard. Allow me to end with one last Ahmed quotation in order to highlight the importance of thinking through DH via Third World feminism; I ask that you reflect on digital scholarship and digitized archives as I read this: “Your texts are littered with love. Words can pulse with life; words as flesh, leaking; words as heart, beating.” (2017; 230). Thank you.

Works cited

Ahmed, Sara. Cultural Politics of Emotion. Routledge, 2014.

_____. Living a Feminist Life. Duke University Press, 2017.

Anzaldúa, Gloria E. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Aunt Lute Books, 1987.

Moraga, Cherríe and Gloria E. Anzaldúa. This Bridge Called My Back.Writings by Radical Women of Color. 4th ed., SUNY Press, 2015.

Olivas, Michael A. (ed.) In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2012.

Quesnot, Amada , “Affidavit sworn by Amada Quesnot to Alonso S. Perales,” Alonso S. Perales Collection. Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections.

________________________________________

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.

Delis Negrón abogando por el español en los Estados Unidos

Tomando en cuenta los últimos acontecimientos y el estado tumultuoso en el que se encuentra el país estadounidense, una cuestión muy importante es el uso de la lengua. La historia de reglamentos lingüísticos en los Estados Unidos ha sido una de imponer el uso del inglés y desvaluar los idiomas minoritarios (Balestra 35). Por esta razón la colección de Delis Negrón es tan significativa al resaltar cómo la comunidad hispana en los Estados Unidos ha luchado contra la estigmatización del idioma. Según Nicolás Kanellos (2000), periódicos han protegido la lengua, cultura, y derechos de una minoría étnica dentro de un sistema más grande que además de ignorar a la comunidad es hostil contra ella (5).

Periódicos como La Prensa[1] fueron pioneros en la lucha para estas comunidades; Kanellos argumenta que “many of its prominent writers and editorialists became leaders of Mexican /Mexican-American communities” (Kanellos 42), incluyendo a Delis Negrón, nacido en Puerto Rico, quien es un ejemplo de la solidaridad entre la comunidad hispana en el país.  A pesar de ser puertorriqueño sus esfuerzos y dedicación en cuanto a los derechos de la comunidad México-americana son loables. Durante su transcurso como director, editor, escritor y traductor en varias publicaciones periodísticas Negrón contribuyó a la manutención del valioso idioma que es el español.  Esta dedicación enfatiza el valor de su trabajo y el compromiso social que tenía con la comunidad hispana en los Estados Unidos. Los periódicos a los que contribuyó utilizaban la lengua española de varios modos. Algunos, como La Prensa, se publicaban completamente en español. Otros, como Laredo Times, eran publicaciones bilingües que incorporaban secciones en español o traducciones completas. El hecho de que periódicos como este siguen en producción, , como por ejemplo la Opinion[2] de Los Ángeles California, sugiere la importancia de la prensa hispana para Latinos viviendo en los Estados Unidos.

Como académica de estudios hispánicos, el haber colaborado en este proyecto fue una oportunidad para contribuir a esta resistencia contra la imposición del inglés, que se encuentra incluso en espacios donde se espera la inclusión del español y otras lenguas. Recientemente en un congreso de estudios latinos se cuestionó el que hubiera presentado en español, reflejando el pensamiento que ha predominado por décadas. Esta misma desvaluación se ve en los medios de comunicación que relatan esta retórica a diario.

Es por esta razón que el resaltar la contribución de Delis Negrón a una audiencia más amplia es muy importante. Este archivo digital tiene la capacidad de llegar a diversas comunidades, incluyendo monolingües y bilingües, para enfatizar y hacer ostensible la presencia intelectual de los Latinos en los Estados Unidos. De manera, recordando a nuestra sociedad la lucha continua por nuestros derechos, y los resultados de esta,  los que no debemos olvidar ni tomar en vano.

Balestra, Alejandra et al. Recovering the U. S Hispanic Linguistic Heritage: Sociohistorical Approaches to Spanish in the United States. Arte Público Press, 2008.

Delis Negrón Digital Archive. Arte Público Press & Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage, 2017. https://recoveryprojectapp.wixsite.com/negrondigitalarchive.

Kanellos, Nicolás y Helvetia Martell. Hispanic Periodicals in the United States, Origins to 1960: A Brief History and Comprehensive Bibliography. Arte Público Press, 2000. 

[1] Periódico fundado por Ignacio E. Lozano en 1913 que permaneció activo hasta 1963.  Kanellos describe el impacto que el periódico tuvo en la comunidad hispana “The Mexican community truly benefitted in that the entrepreneurs and businessmen did provide needed goods, information and services that were often denied by the larger society through official and open segregation. And, of course, writers, artists and intellectuals provided both high and popular culture and entertainment in a language not offered by Anglo-American society” (42-23).

[2] Otro periódico fundado por por Ignacio E. Lozano en 1926 que actualmente sigue en producción en Los Angeles, CA.


Isis Campos 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 one of the Project Collaborators on the Delis Negrón Digital ArchiveHer research interests include US Central American literature and the digital humanities.

UH Grad Students Collaborate on National Digital Project, “Torn Apart”

NEWS RELEASE

HOUSTON, TEXAS (September 27, 2018)– UH Hispanic Studies graduate students, Sylvia Fernández and Maira Álvarez, collaborated with leading digital humanities scholars on the creation of Torn Apart/Separados, a digital visualization project that emerges from the immigration crisis that started at the United States-Mexico border. Volume 1 of the project, released on June 25th, 2018, aggregates and cross-references publicly available data to visualize the geography of “zero tolerance” immigration policy in 2018 and immigration incarceration in the USA in general. This initial volume highlights the landscapes, families, and communities affected by the massive web of immigrant detention in the United States.

An article for WIRED magazine, “‘ICE Is Everywhere’: Using Library Science to Map the Separation Crisis,” recognized the Torn Apart model as “more than information […] a living resource, one the team hopes migrants will use to find their families and that researchers will build upon.”

The recently released Volume 2 explores the financial landscape of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the impact of its increased investment in detention, enforcement, and deportation of immigrant families. Torn Apart’s data analysis reveals that ICE-related government contract values have increased 987% since 2014 and have almost doubled in the past year. The data shows that 16 “fat cat” congressional districts in Virginia, New Mexico, Alaska, California, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Tennessee, Maryland, and New York received 88.53% of ICE contracts between 2014 and 2018 ($8.64 Billion of the total $9.76 Billion in awards).

Torn Apart began with an intense 6-day collaboration, which brought together a collective of academics, scholars, and researchers with extensive experience in teaching and writing about histories of immigration around the world. Collaborators include the Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities and Borderlands Archives Cartography, with additional contributions from 50 participants. (Full details available on the project’s Credits page.) “The interdisciplinary and collaborative work within this digital, activist, and mobilized humanities,” Fernández reflected, “offers the opportunity to create new ways of interpreting, visualizing, and documenting the histories of communities with a profound message towards social justice and equity in this world.”


Sylvia Fernández: is a Ph.D. Candidate in Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston and a Research Fellow with Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. Her research interest is on U.S. Latina/o Literature with a focus on U.S.-Mexico Border, Women’s, Gender and Sexualities Studies, Archives and Digital Humanities. She is co-creator of Borderlands Archives Cartography.

Maira Álvarez: is a Ph.D. Candidate and currently a Research Assistant for the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston. Her research interests lie in the study of U.S. Latino, U.S.-Mexico Border, and Latin American Literature as well as Women’s Studies, Latinx Art and Digital Humanities. She is co-creator of Borderlands Archives Cartography.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.