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.

Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

Houston Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

Last month, The Black Lunch Table (BLT) project teamed up with Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage/Arte Público Press to host a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon to create, update, and improve Wikipedia articles related to US Latinx authors, artists, academics, and organizations as well as people from the African Diaspora.

Students and scholars from across the country joined us in personal and virtually from the University of Houston, Pace University, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, the University of Texas-Arlington, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Texas A&M Prairie View University, Houston Community College, and The Colorado College.

33 beginners and experts alike worked together to add a grand total of 11, 400 words, edit 31 articles, create 192 edits, upload 3 commons files, and create 1 brand new article.

We look forward to hosting similar events in the future!

To read more about BLT, please visit Wikipedia: Meetup/BlackLunchTable/ListofArticles

¡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!

Personal Digital Archiving Conference

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

Next week, Recovery scholars will be presenting at the 2018 Personal Digital Archiving Conference, hosted by the University of Houston Libraries. This conference will include a range of presentations, including:

  • Examples of successful projects or learning experiences related to personal digital archives
  • Why personal digital archives matter to individuals, communities, and organizations
  • Distinctions between personal information management and the archive
  • Key threats to personal digital archives, including cost, disaster, technology change, and social threats
  • Applying selection criteria or other management tools for personal digital archives
  • The digital archive during a person’s life and after death
  • Management tools and techniques for personal digital archives

Drs. Gabriela Baeza Ventura, Carolina Villarroeal, and Lorena Gauthereau will be presenting a panel on “Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage” (scheduled for Monday, April 23, 3:45pm-5:00pm), which will focus on the ways that personal archives have helped fill in the gaps of mainstream history. In addition to giving an overview of our mission, they will discuss some of the personal archive collections that were donated to Recovery and how these collections have significantly contributed to the field of US Latina/o Studies, helped to highlight the role of Latina/os in the US, and provide a more robust historical narrative of local communities.

Recovery Graduate Research Assistants will be presenting at the conference as well. On Monday, April 23 at 5:00pm, Sylvia Fernández and Annette Zapata will present “Delis Negrón Digital Biography: From a Personal Archive to a Digital Project.”

The conference will be held at Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavillion University of Houston M.D. Anderson Library, 4333 University Drive, Houston, TX.

For more information and to register for the conference, please visit the PDA website: https://sites.lib.uh.edu/pda18/
(Registration required to attend.)

The full schedule is available here: https://sites.lib.uh.edu/pda18/schedule/

Public Humanities: Poetas Unidos

Oct. 18, 2017: Poetas Unidos, Houston, TX

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to speak on behalf of Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage at Poetas Unidos:  Celebration of Bilingual Poetry Houston Poetry Fest
& Mujeres Malas Reveal & Pop-up Art Show, hosted by Tony Díaz (El Librotraficante) and Lupe Mendez. It was great to see a huge crowd gathered in such a public show of support for US Latina/o poetry! (For the program line-up, click here.)

For those of you who were unable to attend, here are a few snippets from my speech at the event. Please continue to support your local artists, poets, writers, and community! We all need each other.


Selections from my public speech at “Poetas Unidos: Celebration of Biligual Poetry Houston Poetry Fest,” Houston, TX, 18 Oct. 2017.

I’m here to talk to you today about Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, an international program to locate, preserve, and disseminate the forgotten history of Latinas and Latinos in the United States. As Dr. Nicolas Kanellos, director and founder of Arte Público Press and Recovery (as we call it for short), has powerfully noted:

You cannot have empowerment of people if they are not in touch with their history. You cannot have progress in the United States if all segments of the society are not integrated and made to feel as valid and valuable as the other segments of the society.

…. the work of Recovery is more than just a job….This is personal because Recovery actively works to uncover my history. Our history. Yes, this is our history—it’s part of the larger fabric of American history itself. Latinas and Latinos have been writing everything from newspapers to books to short stories to poetry in the US for [centuries] [….]

Poetas Unidos, Houston, TX. Oct. 18, 2017

Some of you have been living on this land before it was called the United States of America. As the well-known activist chant said: “we didn’t cross the border, the bordered crossed us”—for many of you, the border crossed your family, it crossed your homes. It double-crossed your history. Some of you and your families did cross that imaginary line we call a border. I am proud to be the daughter of immigrants, who grew up on the US-Mexico border, who grew up speaking English, Spanish, and Spanglish and living in that in-between space. [….]

…even on the border, the history of US Latinos doesn’t make it into the school’s history books. As most of you know all too well, this isn’t uncommon. US Latina/os are left out of history and the literary canon. For the longest time, educators made the claim that Latinas and Latinos were excluded from the canon because they simply weren’t producing any written work. I don’t have to tell you all that this simply wasn’t true. The dominant culture interpreted Latinas and Latinos as illiterate, uneducated, and not fitting into the cultural map of the United States. [….]

Recovery seeks to fill in the gaps in US historical memory, to uncover our forgotten histories and give voice to the silenced. You’ve likely never heard of María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, a Californiana, for example, who was publishing novels in English as early as 1872. Recovery wants you to know her story and other Latina and Latino stories. We have recovered and digitized approximately 1,400 historical newspapers, in addition to hundreds of thousands of other books, manuscripts, photographs, and ephemera. Recovery has published or reprinted over 40 historical books and counting.

So, do Latinos write? Do Latinos have important things to say about where they’ve been and where they’re going? Some may say no, but the U.S. Latina/Latino archive begs to differ! There are many more stories left to be discovered—sometimes as manuscripts in someone’s basement, sometimes as oral cuentos told by our abuelitas and abuelitos. [….]

Poetas Unidos, Houston, TX. Oct. 18, 2017

Before Digital Humanities existed as an academic field, Recovery scholars were digitizing recovered material. It only made sense for us, then, to make a formal launch into the field. This brings me to the big question that everyone asks: what exactly are the Digital Humanities? The Digital Humanities, or DH for short, is a new way of conducting research. Using digital tools, for example, we can create online exhibits, plot the movement of immigrant and exiled authors on maps, and create interactive images that help us understand the data. We can share our history and our literature with the world in new and interactive ways. [….]

Our mission is to set up a place where scholars and students can learn new technologies that will help them establish a presence in the digital world to continue uncovering and teaching others about those silenced histories. We need to keep telling these stories, reminding people of our presence and our role here; we need to share both the ugly and the beautiful parts of our histories. We need to talk about who we are, what we do, how we live and learn and love. We need to talk about our experiences so that we always remember who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going.

Adelante, hermanas y hermanos!


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.