CMAS at 50: A Legacy of Scholarship, Teaching, and Service

Curated by Carla Alvarez, US Latina/o Archivist, Benson Latin American Collection

On Thursday, February 13, the Benson Latin American Collection and Latino Studies celebrated the opening of the archive of the Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) with a reception, exhibition, and a staged reading of some of the archive’s contents. The reading told the emotional and powerful story of the Center’s birth, in the voices of those who fought—sometimes at their own professional peril—for an institutional commitment to Mexican American Studies by the University of Texas.

The room was full, and emotions were palpable and visible. Audience and participants ranged from students to faculty to individuals whose history with CMAS extends back decades. Read an account of the event in the Daily Texan.


Portrait of Dr. Américo Paredes, beloved professor, folklorist, and CMAS director

Founded in 1970, the Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) at The University of Texas at Austin benefited from Chicano student activism of the 1960s. Members of the Mexican American Student Organization (MASO) and later the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) demanded equitable representation and resources be devoted to Mexican American studies on the UT campus. After years of activism, the Center was established. It stands as an institutional recognition of the importance of Mexican Americans and Latinos in the history, culture, and the politics of the United States.

Information about Dr. Américo Paredes from the CMAS 35th anniversary publication. “35 Years: The Center for Mexican American Studies” was compiled in 2005 by a group of J349T Oral History as Journalism students.

Since its founding, the Center has fostered Mexican American studies and Latino studies on campus and nationally through partnerships. A founding member of the Inter-UniversityProgram for Latino Research (IUPLR), CMAS has worked toward shaping Latino scholarship and to support the next generation of Latino studies scholars.

Entrance to the Center during the time when it was housed in the Gebauer Building, then known as the Speech Building. This is one of the earliest photographs of the Center, from the late 1970s.

For nearly thirty years, the Center operated an in-house publishing unit, CMAS Books, which began as a publisher of academic monographs, providing a means for affiliated faculty to share their research with other scholars, but blossomed into an imprint with a broader cultural and scholarly reach. CMAS Books published a series of monographs and several periodicals including journals and newsletters for the Center and sponsored entities like IUPLR.

“Noticias de CMAS” publicized the Center’s special events.

In addition to supporting Mexican American studies on campus and nationally, CMAS had another goal from the beginning—to establish a presence and engage with the larger community. This community engagement has evolved over the years and included partnerships with the Américo Paredes Middle School;La Peña, a community-based arts organization, the Serie Project and Sam Coronado Studio; and a Latino radio project, proudly launched in the early 1990s. That initial radio project eventually developed into the nationally syndicatedLatino USA. The Center has thus firmly established a legacy of expanding and enhancing knowledge of Mexican Americans’ and Latinos’ contributions to the history and culture of the United States.

Flyer promoting the CMAS 35th anniversary exhibit in the Office of the President.

The Center for Mexican American Studies will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2020–2021 academic year.The Center now exists as one of three units under Latino Studies at UT, a powerhouse of Latino thought and advocacy that also includes the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and the Latino Research Institute. Visit liberalarts.utexas.edu/latinostudies for updates on all anniversary festivities, including special events, public conversations, digital retrospectives, and interactive campus installations.

The Survival Guide for new African American and Mexican American students, published in 1993, was a collaboration between CMAS and the Center for African and African American Studies (CAAS), now the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies. The Guide was distributed on the UT campus and included articles by students, faculty profiles, information about CAAS and CMAS, a list of Mexican American/Latino and Black student organizations, as well as a directory of minority faculty and staff. Cover art by California artist Malaquías Montoya.

CMAS at 50 is on view through July 2, 2020, in the second-floor gallery of the Benson Latin American Collection, SRH Unit 1. To view the list of archival materials online, visit the Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) CMAS.

Reflections from World Digital Preservation Day: Introduction

Vea abajo para versión en español / Veja em baixo para versão em português

In honor of World Digital Preservation Day, members of the University of Texas Libraries’ Digital Preservation team have written a series of blog posts to highlight preservation activities at UT Austin, and to explain why the stakes are so high in our ever-changing digital and technological landscape. This post is part one in a series of five.

Introduction to Digital Preservation

BY DAVID BLISS, Digital Processing Archivist, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections; ASHLEY ADAIR, Head of Preservation and Digital Stewardship University of Texas Libraries

In recent decades, the archival field has been transformed by the rise of digital historical records. As computers of all kinds have worked their way into many areas of our professional and personal lives, collections of documents donated to archives in order to preserve individual and institutional histories have come to comprise both traditional paper records and those created using these computers. Digital records can be scans of paper or other objects, born-digital files comparable to paper records, such as Word or text documents, or entirely new kinds of objects, such as video games. Archivists are committed to preserving digital records, just like physical ones, for future generations to use and study. Digital preservation refers to the full range of work involved in ensuring digital files remain accessible and readable in the face of changing hardware and software.

A box of floppy disks, part of an archival collection held by UT Libraries

Unlike traditional physical media like paper, which can typically be kept readable for decades or centuries with proper housing and ambient conditions, digital files can be lost without periodic, active intervention on the part of archivists: legacy file formats can become unreadable on modern computers; hard drives and optical media can break or degrade over time; and power outages can cause network storage to fail. Digital archivists take steps to prevent and prepare for these contingencies.

There is no one perfect or even correct solution to the challenge of preserving digital files, so each institution may use different tools, standards, and hardware to carry out the work. Typically, however, digital preservation involves choosing suitable file formats, maintaining storage media and infrastructure, and organizing and describing digital objects in a standardized way that ensures future archivists and users can understand and access what has been preserved.

Cassette tapes to be digitized, containing recordings relevant to indigenous languages

Digital preservation represents a significant effort that cannot be carried out by a single person or group. At the University of Texas Libraries, dissemination of digital preservation knowledge and skills is a crucial part of digital preservation practice. Training and pedagogy spread digital preservation expertise within the organization and out to researchers and partners, allowing the Libraries to preserve an ever-growing amount of valuable data.

Introducción a la preservación digital

Para el Día Mundial de la Preservación Digital, los miembros del equipo de Preservación Digital de las Bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas han escrito una serie de entradas de blog que hacen destacar las actividades de preservación en la universidad, y para enfatizar la importancia de la preservación en un presente de cambio tecnológico constante. Este texto es el primero en una serie de cinco.

Traducido por Jennifer Isasi, Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation in Latin American and Latina/o Studies

En décadas recientes, el ámbito de los archivo se ha visto transformado con el aumento de los registros históricos digitales. A medida que las computadoras de todo tipo han pasado a formar parte de muchas áreas de nuestra vida profesional y personal, las colecciones de documentos donados a los archivos para preservar historias individuales e institucionales ahora presentan tanto los registros en papel tradicionales como los creados con computadoras. Los registros digitales pueden ser copias escaneadas de papel u otros objetos, archivos digitales nativos similares a los registros en papel, como documentos de Word o texto, o tipos de objetos completamente nuevos, como los videojuegos. Los archivistas están comprometidos a preservar los registros digitales, al igual que los físicos, para que las generaciones futuras los utilicen y estudien. Así, la preservación digital se refiere a la gama completa de trabajo involucrado en garantizar que los archivos digitales permanezcan accesibles y legibles ante el cambio de hardware y software.


Una caja de disquetes, parte de una colección de archivos de las bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas

A diferencia de los medios físicos tradicionales como el papel, que por lo general pueden ser preservados por décadas o siglos en condiciones de guardado adecuadas, los archivos digitales pueden perderse sin la intervención periódica y activa por parte de los archivistas: las computadoras modernas no pueden leer algunos de los formatos de archivo más antiguos, los discos duros o los medios ópticos se pueden romper o degradar con el tiempo y los cortes de luz pueden causar fallos en el almacenamiento en la red. Los archivistas digitales toman medidas para prevenir o prepararse para este tipo de imprevistos.

No hay una solución perfecta ni correcta para el desafío de preservar archivos digitales, por lo que cada institución puede utilizar diferentes herramientas, estándares y equipos para este trabajo. Por lo general, no obstante, la preservación digital implica elegir formatos de archivo adecuados, mantener medios de almacenaje y su infraestructura así como asegurar la organización y la descripción de los objetos digitales de una manera estandarizada que garantice que los futuros archivistas y usuarios puedan comprender y acceder al material preservado.

Fitas cassette que contienen grabaciones relacionadas con los lenguajes indígenas, y que serán digitalizadas

El trabajo y esfuerzo necesarios para la preservación digital no puede ser realizado por una sola persona o grupo. En el conjunto de bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas, la difusión del conocimiento sobre preservación digital es una parte crucial de la práctica de preservación. Mediante esfuerzos de capacitación y pedagógicos tanto dentro de la organización como entre investigadores y colaboradores, estas bibliotecas están logrando preservar una cantidad cada vez mayor de datos relevantes.

Introdução à preservação digital

Traduzido por Tereza Braga

Para o Dia Mundial da Preservação Digital, os membros do equipe de Preservação Digital das Bibliotecas da Universidade de Texas escreveram uma serie de entradas de blog que enfatizam as atividades de preservação na nossa universidad, para explicar a importancia da preservação no contexto de um presente de tecnología em fluxo constante. Este texto é o primeiro numa série de cinco.

O advento dos registros históricos digitais causou uma completa transformação do setor arquivístico nas últimas décadas. Computadores de todos os tipos estão cada vez mais presentes em cada vez mais aspectos da vida profissional e pessoal. Essa mudança também afeta as coleções de documentos que são doadas a instituições arquivísticas com o intuito de preservar histórias individuais e institucionais. Hoje em dia, uma coleção pode reunir tanto registros tradicionais em papel quanto registros criados por esses diversos computadores. O que chamamos de registro digital pode ser uma simples página ou objeto que tenha sido escaneado ou qualquer arquivo que já tenha nascido em forma digital e que seja comparável com um registro em papel como, por exemplo, um texto regidido em Word. Registro digital pode também significar uma coisa inteiramente nova como um videogame, por exemplo. Arquivistas são profissionais que se dedicam a preservar registros digitais para utilização e estudo por futuras gerações, como já é feito com os registros físicos. A preservação digital pode incluir  uma ampla variedade de tarefas, todas com o objetivo comum de fazer com que um arquivo digital se mantenha acessível e legível mesmo com as frequentes mudanças na área de hardware e software.


Uma caixa de disquetes, parte de uma coleção de arquivos mantida pelas bibliotecas da Universidade de Texas

Um arquivo digital é diferente do arquivo em papel ou outros meios físicos tradicionais, que geralmente pode ser mantido legível por muitas décadas ou mesmo séculos, se armazenado em invólucro adequado e sob as devidas condições ambientais. Um arquivo digital pode se perder para sempre se não houver uma intervenção periódica e ativa por parte de um arquivista. Certos arquivos em formatos mais antigos podem se tornar ilegíveis em computadores modernos. Discos rígidos e mídia ótica podem quebrar ou estragar com o tempo. Cortes de energia podem causar panes em sistemas de armazenagem em rede. O arquivista digital é o profissional que sabe tomar medidas tanto de prevenção quanto de preparação para essas e outras contingências.

Não existe solução perfeita, ou sequer correta, para o desafio que é preservar um arquivo digital. Diferentes instituições utilizam diferentes ferramentas, normas e hardware. De maneira geral, no entanto, as seguintes tarefas devem ser realizadas: escolher o formato de arquivo adequado; providenciar e manter uma mídia e infra-estrutura de armazenagem; e organizar e descrever os objetos digitais de uma maneira que seja padronizada e que permita a futuros arquivistas e usuários entender e acessar o que foi preservado.

Fitas cassette com conteúdo relacionado às idiomas indígenas, que serão digitalizadas

A preservação digital é um empreendimento importante que não pode ser executado por apenas um indivíduo ou grupo. Na UT Libraries, a disseminação de conhecimentos e competências de preservação digital é uma parte essencial dessa prática. Temos cursos de capacitação e pedagogia para disseminar essa especialização em preservação digital para toda a organização e também para pesquisadores e parceiros externos. É esse trabalho que capacita a Libraries a preservar um grande volume de dados valiosos que não pára de crescer.

Quantitative Criticism Lab, or What Happens When a Classicist and a Computational Biologist Walk into a Bar

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

The Quantitative Criticism Lab (QCL) was formed in 2014 as a collaboration between humanists, computer scientists and computational biologists. The project’s unique combination of expertise informs its innovative approach to the computational analysis of Latin literature. And I’m not just saying that as a research assistant for the project!

The lab is led by Pramit Chaudhuri, an Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin, and Joseph Dexter, a computational biologist and Neukom Fellow at Dartmouth. They recruited me before I knew what digital humanities was, though I was certain that I wanted to do something more with my Classics undergraduate degree other than teaching fifth graders “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in Latin (“Caput, umeri, genua and pedes”, if you were wondering). 

This digital Classics project uses machine learning, natural language processing and systems biology to study Latin literature and its influence. QCL uses a computational approach to explore the traditional study of “philology”, or the development and history of language in text. The lab’s first development was its tool, Fīlum (Latin for the thread of a web), an apt name given the tool’s purpose to reveal relationships amongst Latin texts by identifying intertextual references in Latin literature. 

For an example of intertextuality, in the epic poem the Aeneid, Vergil uses the phrase “immane nefas”, meaning “huge wrongdoing” to refer to the unspeakable horrors of the underworld. Years later, the author Lucan, in his epic, the Pharsalia, references and adapts that phrase to “commune nefas”, or “collective wrongdoing”, to blame an entire community for the horrors of civil war. Fīlum aids scholars in discovering, tracking, and discussing such connections. 

So, what makes Fīlum better than a ctrl+f approach? In the example above, a scholar would have to search many texts to even possibly discover Lucan’s reference; with Fīlum, they can search many texts simultaneously. Furthermore, Fīlum can even detect phrasing similar to the search query. 

QCL’s computational approach tabulates similarity, using the concept of “edit distance”, or the number of character changes through additions, deletions or substitutions in two words or phrases. For example, the edit distance of “kitten” and “sitting” has an edit distance of 3. You substitute “k” with “s”, “e” with “i”, and add a “g” – three changes in total. 

What if you have a feeling the phrase you want to use in Fīlum, might be in a different word order? With “Order-Free” searching, the tool searches for any arrangement of the words in a phrase. This is an especially valuable feature since Latin often refuses to follow a regulated pattern of word order.

With its search phrase, edit distance and order free option, Fīlum searches through a selected text or a user-selected corpora of Latin literature from the site. With a free account, users can create a search corpus from a library of texts or upload their own. 

The output cleanly displays results distinguished by each text’s author, work, and highlights the relevant words in each result. For added context, when selected, each result displays the previous and following lines from the text for context.

I have enjoyed both working on Fīlum and using the tool for my research. As QCL continues to improve the tool, I hope other classicists will appreciate not only its value but the interdisciplinary method that built it. 

If you are interested in the project and its study, please stay tuned to information about an upcoming QCL sponsored conference in April, here on the UT Austin Campus:

Digital Humanities Beyond Modern English: Computational Analysis of Premodern and Non-Western Literature https://qcrit.github.io/DHBME/

For further reading on topics like digital classics and text analysis, please see below:

Digital classics outside the echo-chamber teaching, knowledge exchange & public engagement / edited by Gabriel Bodard and Matteo Romanello.

Text Analysis with R for Students of Literature by Matthew L. Jockers.

Critics, compilers, and commentators : an introduction to Roman philology, 200 BCE-800 CE / James E. G. Zetzel.

Philology : the forgotten origins of the modern humanities / James Turner.

UT Library Libguide on Text Analysis by European Studies Librarian, Ian Goodale

Art Zines from the Russell Etchen Collection

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.


Zines are do-it-yourself publications used by different cultural groups to share ideas and information. The zine name and format emerged in the 1930s from fanzines for the science fiction community. This same zine format – small circulation, handmade, often photocopied– was used by activists to disseminate social and political views in the 1960s. From the 1970s-1990s punk rockers and feminist groups often adopted the zine format as a way to express their views within their communities. During subsequent decades the appeal of zines has only grown for makers and viewers alike.  These light-to-hold pages of images and text are cheap to produce and to purchase, even fun to trade.  They have never been more popular.

The Fine Arts Library began collecting zines in earnest in 2010 under the stewardship of former Fine Arts Head Librarian Laura Schwartz. The reasonable cost of zines made collecting possible and the FAL emphasis was given to zines that related to art and music, as well as to local and regional zines. Schwartz also cultivated relationships with local zine dealers, including Russell Etchen, the owner of the former Austin bookstore Domy Books. When he moved from Austin, Etchen generously gave a collection of 302 zines to the FAL.  

zine cover, man in glasses with blue tint, title "cederteg Nº2, Nicholas Haggard, 1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,11,12,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,36."

Among the zines in the Russell Etchen Collection are many created by artists. These zine artists were looking for a method to share work outside of traditional art world channels. Their artwork expresses every stage of the artistic process from preliminary sketches to carefully completed works of art. Although there are many themes that could be explored in the diverse, still-to-be cataloged, Etchen Collection, the exhibit, Art Zines From the Russell Etchen Collection, focuses on the contrasting ways in which six of these zine artists use the compositional devices of page layout, collage, and color to create and communicate. The exhibit will be of interest to any zine enthusiasts interested in do-it-yourself culture, as well as to scholars, artists, designers and art historians who can resource this distinctive zine collection for teaching and creative inquiry.

This is the first of three Omeka exhibits to focus on zines held in UT Collections. The zines for this exhibit were chosen by former Humanities Liaison Librarian for Fine Arts, Rebecca Pad. Print versions of these art zines from the Russell Etchen Collection are house in the Fine Arts Library.  Digitized copies of pages from these art zines, as well as more of the Etchen art zines, are to be found on Artstor under University of Texas – Art and Art History Visual Resources Collection

Sydney Kilgore is Media Coordinator for the Visual Resources Collection, Fine Arts Library.