Working at Recovery: An Undergrad’s Perspective

By Katerin Zapata

Hi, my name is Katerin Zapata and I’m a Liberal Studies Major with minors in Creative Writing, Sociology, and Spanish. This is my second year as an undergraduate student at the University of Houston (UH) and I expect to graduate in 2021. Shortly after graduating from high school, I interned with Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage thanks to SERJobs for Progress’s summer internship program in 2019.  SERJobs is a nonprofit community organization that offers education and training opportunities.

In the summer of 2019, I assisted graduate student researchers in the creation of a Visual Bibliography of Hispanic Periodicals in the United States, a digital mapping project that visualizes the publication of Hispanic newspapers in the US dating from colonial times to the 1960s. My first day in the office was a culture shock, as I had never been in a place among professors, doctors, and scholars who spoke more Spanish than English. I had never been in an academic space in which I didn’t have to anglicize or shorten my name. I didn’t even know a center dedicated to the recovery of Hispanic newspapers, books, and academic work existed, much less only 5 minutes away from the neighborhood I’d grown up in.

Thanks to Dr. Carolina Villarroel and LULAC (the League of United Latin American Citizens), the following spring (2020), I was awarded a scholarship to work on digital projects related to Latino history. I gained an immense amount of experience using digital tools, such as Timeline JS, and doing research. In February 2020, I attended the Recovery Conference, my first academic conference. There, I presented my digital timeline project on the history of LULAC and met scholars of all disciplines. I even met LULAC historian, Dr. Cynthia Orozco. It was inspiring to meet her and many scholars like her who have been doing the work of digitizing and recovering history for a long time. 

President of the Houston East End Chamber of Commerce, Frances Castañeda Dyess (right), awards Katerin Zapata (center) a LULAC Scholarship at the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Conference as Arte Público Press Executive Editor, Dr. Gabriela Baeza Ventura (left) announces the award. (February 21, 2020, University of Houston Downtown.)

My experiences at Arte Público have changed the course of my studies. I started as a sociology major but Arte Público exposed me to different fields of study and helped me realize I could accomplish more than I dreamed. Another reason I love working at Arte Público and with the Recovery Program is because of the strong women who work there and mentor me; they are a powerhouse and have continuously supported my academic journey. There is no place like Arte Público and if you are interested in any humanities field and/or Hispanic recovery work then don’t hesitate to reach out, even as an undergraduate student. Though I am often the youngest person in the room and the least experienced, my ideas are valued, I am seen, and I am encouraged. 

I want to continue working with Recovery because, as a Salvadoran first-generation student, I realize the importance of uplifting voices that need to be heard. My hope is that through the support of the incredible staff and researchers at APP, I can develop as a writer, transform into a confident scholar in the digital humanities, and continue growing as a human being.

Further reading

For more information on SERJobs opportunities for young adults, please visit: https://serhouston.org/programs-and-services/youth/

Visual Bibliography of Hispanic Periodicals in the United States. Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. https://recoveryapp.github.io/index.html.


Katerin Zapata is an undergraduate at the University of Houston, where she is majoring in Liberal Studies and minoring in Creative Writing, Sociology, and Spanish. She is the 2020 Media History Digital Library intern at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (Recovery), funded by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). In 2019, she was the recipient of the LULAC Scholarship that funded her research and training at Recovery.

Reflections on APP Digital

By María Sánchez Carbajo

Green book cover
Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage, Vol. 1

This spring and summer, I had the opportunity to collaborate on the Arte Público Press Digital (an instance of Manifold Scholarship) to convert the first volume of Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage into a digital publication. My tasks included correcting typographic errors and identifying words (people, cities, historical titles of texts, historical events, etc …) to be hyperlinked. Selecting such words was crucial, especially considering one of Recovery Program’s mission statements: “give relevance, voice and agency to the individuals and historical events that have been deliberately hidden and removed from the history of what we know today as the United States.” As a result of the efforts of the Recovery Program team, keywords found in volume, like Chicano, Mexican-American, and Teatro Campesino, can now not only be read, but also connected to academic context provided by the work of researchers and scholars.

This is a great tool for Mexican American studies courses offered at colleges and universities nationwide, as well as for the Hispanic culture in general. Granting public access to the first volume of the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage will make a big difference in two important ways. First, all the contents and articles are immediately available to the general public, meaning that the content is readily accessible via the Internet. And second, as a result of the hyperlinks and new interactive features, such as group annotations, the learning process becomes more collaborative between educators and students. 

I was especially interested in Genaro M. Padilla’s “Recovering Mexican-American Autobiography;” Antonia I. Castañeda’s “Memory, Language and Voice of Mestiza Women on the Northern Frontier” and Rosaura Sánchez’s “Nineteenth-Century Californio Narratives.”  Padilla highlights the memories of the Mexicans who were colonized by the United States after 1848, which reveal the struggle, fear, resentment, and cultural clash they experienced. The recovery of such manuscripts by scholars of Latino history allow researchers and students to understand the historical presence of Latinos in what is now the US and to confirm the existence of a clear resistance against Anglo American social and cultural hegemony.

Castañeda’s essay describes how gender, social class, and race restrictions have greatly limited the presence of women in colonial literature. As the author states, because many women during colonial times were illiterate, there are very few documents written by them. Consequently, Castañeda shows how women expressed themselves by studying alternative sources, such as oral, visual and other non-written materials.

Sánchez’s article reveals the voices of Californios from the Bancroft Collection, located at the University of California, Berkeley. This collection was a huge historiography project undertaken by the Hubert H. Bancroft Publishing Company during the nineteenth century that had previously silenced the Californios perspectives. Manuscripts and interviews with Californios, who were converted from native inhabitants into conquered people, represented a dangerous counter hegemonic version of the Spanish and Mexican periods of California. Such testimonies  were not easily published at the time by the Anglo-American company.

Thanks to nonstop technological advances, spreading the word of the importance of the Hispanic culture in the history and cultural legacy of the United States is now a more attainable goal.

Resources

Arte Público Press Digital.

Gutiérrex, Ramón and Genaro Padilla, eds. Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage, vol. 1. Houston, Arte Público Press. Arte Público Press Digital. https://artepublicopress.manifoldapp.org/projects/recovery-vol-1


María Sánchez Carbajo is a PhD student in the Hispanic Studies Department at the University of Houston and a Research Fellow with Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. Her research interests include Latina women’s writings in newspapers published in the US, as well as the Spanish presence in Florida after the Spanish-American war (tobacco factories and “sociedades mutualistas” in Tampa). 

Intern Reflections on Archival Research and Jesús Galíndez Suárez

By Melanyn Cabrera, North Houston Early College High School

Seven weeks have passed since I started working as an intern for the Recovering the U.S Hispanic Literary Heritage Program and Arte Público Press. I can safely and surely say that I will leave with newfound knowledge and experience. Although my internship was virtual, I did not think it was any less rigorous. I took it as a serious job and dedicated my time to doing research that will assuredly cause impact by bringing the literature of disenfranchised Hispanic/Latino authors to mass audiences. 

At the beginning of my research agenda I had some troubles, but as I asked Dr. Carolina Villarroel and Dr. Lorena Gauthereau questions to clear my doubts; my troubles slowly began to cease. I wanted to be careful with how I input and handled data in the data spreadsheet I was assigned. I was also wary of the information I found online since I did not want to input false information. So, to avoid any mishaps I was careful from where and how I obtained data. When I obtained information about a person I would cross check the information with another source to be sure. If I was not sure of the information that I found, then I did not input it in the spreadsheet. Many times, the information was not directly given so I had to use context clues.

Through this research process I was able to get a sense of how journalists, writers, poets, and people from other professions were treated in the past centuries and compare it to the present. Not only was this internship a great opportunity to expand my knowledge but also to strengthen my research skills and work ethic.

Black and white photo of a man wearing a white coat
Jesús Galíndez Suárez, photo from EcuRed

While researching, I came across the writer Jesús Galíndez Suárez. I immediately became intrigued with his story when I read that he mysteriously disappeared. Galíndez Suárez was born in 1915 in Amurrio, Spain. Early in his life he was a part of the Basque Nationalist Party and a loyalist in the Spanish Civil War. He then moved to the Dominican Republic for 6 years. As he began to investigate Rafael Trujillo, a Dominican dictator–who was infamously known for being corrupt and brutal–and his government, he uncovered secrets and fled to New York in 1946 for his safety as he felt threatened. In New York he pursued a doctorate in Political Science and worked at Columbia University. Galíndez Súarez continued his investigation on Trujillo and soon published his findings in the Hemisphere’s best-known and widely circulated journals. For this reason, he became a target and enemy of Trujillo’s state. In 1956, he published his book titled The Era of Trujillo, a case study of the Spanish-American dictatorship. In the same year, just as negotiations for its publication in English had begun, Galíndez Súarez disappeared on the night of March 12.

Published investigations indicated Galíndez Súarez was drugged by Dominican agents and smuggled out of the United States illegally by a light plane piloted by also kidnapped Gerald Murphy, who also disappeared. It was in Dominican Republic where both Galíndez Súarez and Gerald Murphy were seemingly murdered: Suárez for being outspoken with regard to Rafel Trujillo’s dictatorship and Gerald Murphy for being a witness. To cover the apparent murder of Murphy, Trujillo’s men also murdered Murphy’s friend and fellow pilot, Octavio de la Maza Vásquez. The Military Intelligence Service of the Dominican Republic forged de la Maza Vásquez’s suicide note; the note insinuated that he had killed Murphy and himself to end their love affair. For some in the U.S Senate, their deaths or disappearances were clear indicators that the US government should withdraw their support of Trujillo. Trujillo’s image was further tarnished by the negative media coverage he received as the main suspect and cause of the three lost lives. Trujillo attempted to clear or lighten his image by offering large bribes to influential U.S citizens and spreading propaganda. Some may say Galíndez Súarez caused more impact when he disappeared then when he was alive, nonetheless he certainly caused an influential uproar.

I can say that Galíndez Súarez was incredibly brave for voicing out what many others surely wanted to reveal. Since the moment he began his investigation, he knowingly became a target. I can confidently say that there were many journalists and writers like Galíndez Súarez. They were conscious of the many risks their actions could have but continued in hopes of achieving reform. In current society, it is not as taboo or risky to reveal secrets or uncover what many want to keep in the shadows, especially elites, but there are still consequences. Bribery happens more often than death threats to prevent instigators from releasing information to the public but of course this depends on a country’s level of scrutiny. The more scrutiny a country has, the more secrets it covers, and the higher risks whistleblowers have vice versa. 

To end this blog, I would like to thank my two supervisors who provided me with the resources to allow my research agenda. I was able to expand my skill set and get a better understanding on how databases aid research. I will take everything I learned from this internship to my next. My path towards my ideal career began with this internship and will continue moving forward until I become the successful woman I expect myself to become.

Bibliography

Caudillos: Dictators in Spanish America. (1995). United Kingdom: University of Oklahoma Press.

Hall, M. R. (2000). Sugar and power in the Dominican Republic : Eisenhower, Kennedy, and the Trujillos. United Kingdom: Greenwood Press.

“Jesús Galíndez Suárez.” EcuRed. https://www.ecured.cu/. Accessed 24 Aug. 2020.


Melany Cabrera is a 2020 Bank of America Summer Intern at the University of Houston’s Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. She is a rising senior at North Houston Early College High School (NHECHS). She is interested in becoming a lawyer to help underrepresented communities. She applied to this internship to gain work experience for her future career path. 

The Bank of America internship program is a partnership between SERJobs and Bank of America to provide summer work experience for young professionals aged 16-24 who live in Houston. Arte Público Press is among several of the nonprofit organizations that have hosted summer interns.

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.