The publishing industry of Cuba experienced a seismic shift in 1959 when Fidel Castro won a revolutionary war against dictator Fulgencio Batista. With this change, underground and subversive media creators of the Batista era became an important part of the new socialist culture. This helped to mobilize the masses in support of the new Castro government and against U.S. capitalistic ideology.
Cuban Comics in the Castro Era examines the art and history of Cuban comics after the successful 1959 revolution, highlighting the creators, characters, heroes, and anti-heroes of Cuba. It also touches on the triumphs and failures of the publishing industry and how Cuban artists today struggle to keep the genre alive.
These materials are part of the Caridad Blanco Collection of Cuban Comic Books, acquired in 2018. Blanco, a Havana-based artist and curator, collected over 700 examples of stand-alone comics and newspaper supplements created between 1937 and 2018.
The Birth of Cuba’s
Key to the process of planning a new nationalistic government was the cementing of a new socialistic cultural identity in the minds of the Cuban populace. Radio, television, and print media (including comics) helped to mobilize the masses.
A new world opened up for the creators of comics, who now had the singular purpose of supporting their new government while still appealing to their readers. In this early era, many of these readers were children, who continued to consume U.S.-created comic books and the ideals that went with them.
Widespread suspicion held that beloved American comics were imperialistic indoctrination tools for Cuban children. In response, the new Cuban government began utilizing comics as a means to teach values that aligned with revolutionary doctrine.
Cuban-created comics replaced American ones on the shelves. These works appealed to highly literate youth. Mixing adventure, comedy, and the ideological tenets of the new government, they portrayed revolution as necessary and exciting, especially for the country’s youth.
This exhibition was curated by Digital Repository Specialist Gilbert Borrego and is part of his fall 2019 Capstone Experience course in partial fulfillment of his MSIS, School of Information, The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to the physical exhibition, Borrego curated a richly illustrated online exhibition.
Gilbert Borrego is currently the Institutional Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks at UT Libraries. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from Stanford University and will soon complete his master’s in Information Studies at UT Austin. He is passionate about archives, libraries, museums, metadata, and history.
Aviso:La colección FromThePage de la Benson estará abierta para la transcripción y traducción colaborativa hasta el domingo 3 de noviembrede 2019. Consulte la lista de documentos y el guía para ver cómo puede ayudar.
El 21 de septiembre de 2019, LLILAS Benson y el Museo de Jazz de Nueva Orleans se unieron para hacer sus colecciones coloniales un poco más accesibles. Las dos instituciones coordinaron un evento conjunto de transcripción que convocó a miembros de la comunidad en persona en el Centro de História de Louisiana, y de forma remota a través de la página de Facebook de la Benson. Colaborativamente, los participantes transcribieron manuscritos españoles y franceses originales de 1559 a 1817, con el objetivo de hacer que estos documentos sean más útiles para profesores, estudiantes, investigadores e historiadores de genealogía.
FromThePage, una herramienta para la transcripción, traducción e indexación, permitió la colaboración a larga distancia. Durante un período de tres horas, los participantes hojearon la lista de manuscritos en ambos archivos y trabajaron juntos para descifrarlos y transcribirlos en la plataforma digital. Al punto intermedio del evento, el personal del Museo de Jazz nos mostró unos casos coloniales únicos en su archivo, transmitiendo en vivo a través de su página de Facebook, incluyendo una declaración de emancipación montada en tela dada a un hombre jamaicano llamado Santiago Bennet. Siguiendo su ejemplo, el personal de Estudios Digitales de LLILAS Benson (LBDS) compartió a través de la página del evento en Facebook algunos materiales notables de la Benson, incluyendo la colección digital de Relaciones Geográficas de Nueva España.
Al transformar las palabras de los notarios coloniales en formato digital, los estudiantes, investigadores y miembros de la comunidad estaban avanzando una larga iniciativa digital del Museo de Jazz y del Centro de História de Louisiana. A principios de la década de 2010, el Museo y el Centro, junto con muchos otros colaboradores de la comunidad, lograron la increíble hazaña de digitalizar unas 220,000 páginas de registros notariales de Louisiana colonial para crear una colección digital, www.lacolonialdocs.org. Jennifer Long, Michelle Brenner y Jenny Marie Forsythe, administradoras del proyecto “Transcribathon de Documentos Coloniales de Louisiana,” seleccionaron de este rico recurso para crear la colección FromThePage del museo, revelando detalles sobre la esclavitud, auto-liberación y rebelión, parentescos, redadas piratas, medicina colonial, fiestas de juego, disputas de herencia, conflictos matrimoniales y mucho más.
Para el evento conjunto, el personal de LBDS creó en FromThePage una colección de documentos escritos por, o sobre, las poblaciones indígenas en México desde los siglos XVI al XVIII en celebración del Año Internacional de las Lenguas Indígenas. El equipo tuvo bastante de dónde seleccionar: la Benson conserva numerosos archivos importantes que documentan la política, religión y cultura durante el período colonial español, incluyendo varios de los primeros libros publicados en las Américas (1544–1600) y los votos de profesión de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1669–1695), por nombrar algunos. Durante el fin de semana, un pequeño pero dedicado grupo de personas contestó la llamada de LLILAS Benson y se unió en línea. Colaboradores de ambas costas de los Estados Unidos y tan al sur como Perú colectivamente ofrecieron más de veinte horas de su tiempo para transcribir catorce documentos en la Benson.
El fin de semana del 18–19 de octubre, el Centro de Recursos de Idiomas (LRC) de la Universidad de Michigan ofreció algunas de estas transcripciones en su “Translate-a-thon,” un evento comunitario en donde fuentes primarias son traducidas para el beneficio de la comunidad local, nacional e internacional. Algunos voluntarios, uno de los cuales se enfoca en México de la época colonial, estaban encantados de ver documentos de la Benson y abordaron su traducción. Entre ellos estaba el decreto ilustrado, visto arriba, que ordenaba al repartidor de Tepozotlán asignar a seis indígenas para trabajar para los jesuitas, subrayando la importancia de la labor indígena en la construcción figurativa y literal del imperio español, y la propagación de la Iglesia Católica. Dado el éxito y el interés de la facultad de Michigan en este esfuerzo conjunto, el LRC y LBDS piensan continuar su colaboración para ampliar la accesibilidad y el uso de las fuentes primarias coloniales en la Benson.
El siguiente paso para la Oficina LBDS será de incorporar estas fuentes primarias transcritas y traducidas en clases de nivel preparatoria en el Estado de Texas y de licenciatura en la Universidad de Texas en Austin (UT). A principios de este año, LLILAS Benson estableció una iniciativa patrocinada por el gobierno federal con el Departamento de Currículo e Instrucción en el Colegio de Educación para diseñar lecciones de nivel secundaria en historia y geografía basadas en las ricas colecciones de la Benson. Agregando a estos esfuerzos pedagógicos, LBDS traducirá, dará contexto y promoverá el uso de estas fuentes coloniales en clases universitarias y proyectos digitales en UT y más allá.
Para aquellos que no pudieron participar en el evento, ¡aún pueden unirse al esfuerzo! La colección FromThePage de la Benson estará abierta para la transcripción y traducción colaborativa hasta el domingo 3 de noviembre. Consulte la lista de documentos y el guía para ver cómo puede ayudar.
Greg Lambousy (Director)
Jennifer Long (Administradora de Digitalización)
Bryanne Schexnayder (Técnica de Digitalización)
Michelle Brenner (Administradora de la Sala de Lectura, Museo de Jazz de Nueva Orleans y Centro de Historia de Louisiana)
Jenny Marie Forsythe (Co-Administradora del Proyecto “Transcribathon de Documentos Coloniales de Louisiana”)
Handy Acosta Cuellar (Doctorando, Universidad Tulane; Instructor de Español, Universidad Estatal de Louisiana)
Raúl Alencar (Estudiante de Posgrado, Universidad Tulane)
Haga clic aquí para obtener más información sobre los colaboradores del proyecto Transcribathon de Documentos Coloniales de Louisiana.
Julie C. Evershed (Centro de Recursos de Idiomas, Directora)
Traductores de documentos: Zhehao Tong, Marlon James Sales, y Olivia Alge
Albert A. Palacios (Coordinador de Estudios Digitales)
Joshua Ortiz Baco (Asistente Graduado de Investigación de Estudios Digitales)
Transcriptores en FromThePage (nombres de usuario): guillaume candela, Ken, Betty Cruz L, Matt H., Carolina Casusol, and Handy1985
Albert A. Palacios es Coordinador de Estudios Digitales de LLILAS Benson Colecciones y Estudios Latinoamericanos, La Universidad de Texas en Austin. Jenny Marie Forsythe es co-gerente del proyecto Documentos Coloniales de Louisiana Transcribathon. Julie C. Evershed es la directora del Centro de Recursos de Lenguaje, Universidad de Michigan.
Note: The Benson’s FromThePage collection will be open for collaborative transcription and translation until Sunday, November 3,2019. Check out the documents list and guide to see how you can help in translation and transcription of colonial documents.
On September 21, 2019, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and the New Orleans Jazz Museum joined forces to make their colonial collections a bit more accessible. The two institutions led a joint transcribe-a-thon that convened community members in person at the Louisiana Historical Center, and remotely through the Benson Latin American Collection’s Facebook page. Together, participants transcribed handwritten Spanish and French documents from 1559 to 1817, with the goal of making these records more useful to teachers, students, researchers, and family historians.
FromThePage, a transcription, translation, and indexing tool, enabled the long-distance collaboration. During a three-hour window, participants browsed the compiled list of manuscripts at both archives and worked together to decipher and transcribe them in the digital scholarship platform. At the halfway point, New Orleans Jazz Museum staff gave us a glimpse of unique colonial cases in their archive, including a declaration of freedom mounted on cloth for a Jamaican man named Santiago Bennet, and broadcast it live through their Facebook page. Following their lead, LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship (LBDS) staff shared through their Facebook event page some of the Benson’s notable holdings, including its digital collection of geographical descriptions and paintings, or Relaciones Geográficas, of New Spain.
As students, researchers, and community members retraced and rewrote the words of colonial notaries, they were also furthering a long-standing digital initiative of the New Orleans Jazz Museum and Louisiana Historical Center. In the early 2010s, the Museum and Center, along with many other community partners and advocates, accomplished the incredible feat of digitizing some 220,000 pages of notarial records from colonial Louisiana to create a digital collection, www.lacolonialdocs.org. Louisiana Colonial Documents Transcribathon Project Managers Jennifer Long, Michelle Brenner, and Jenny Marie Forsythe culled from this rich resource to create the Museum’s FromThePage collection, which reveals details about enslavement, self-liberation and rebellion, kinship connections, pirate raids, colonial medicine, gambling parties, disputed inheritances, marital strife, and much more.
For the joint event, LBDS staff curated a FromThePage collection of documents written by or about indigenous populations in Mexico from the 16th to the 18th centuries in celebration of the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The team had their work cut out for them: the Benson Latin American Collection preserves numerous significant holdings documenting politics, religion, and culture during the Spanish colonial period, including some of the earliest books published in the Americas (1544–1600) and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s vows of profession (1669–1695), to name a few. Throughout the weekend, a small but dedicated group of individuals answered LLILAS Benson’s call and joined online. Collaborators from both coasts of the United States and as far south as Peru collectively volunteered over twenty hours of their time and fully transcribed fourteen documents from the Benson.
During the weekend of October 19–20, the University of Michigan’s Language Resource Center (LRC) offered some of these transcriptions in their Translate-a-thon, a community-driven event aimed at translating materials for the benefit of the local, national, and international community. A few volunteers—one of whom had done research on colonial Mexico—were thrilled to see documents from the Benson and tackled their translation. Among these was the above decree ordering Tepozotlán’s royal administrator to assign six Natives to work for the Jesuits, underscoring the importance of Native labor in the figurative and literal construction of the Spanish Empire, and the propagation of the Roman Catholic Church. Given the success and Michigan faculty interest in this joint effort, the LRC and the LBDS Office plan to continue the collaboration to broaden the accessibility and use of the Benson’s early modern materials.
The next step at the LBDS Office is to incorporate these primary sources into Texas high school and UT Austin undergraduate curriculum. Earlier this year, LLILAS Benson initiated a Department of Education Title VI–funded partnership with the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction to design World History and Geography lesson plans around the Benson’s rich holdings. Building on these pedagogical efforts, LBDS staff will be translating, contextualizing, and promoting the use of these Spanish colonial documents in undergraduate classes and digital scholarship projects at UT and beyond.
For those who missed the event, you can still join the effort! The Benson’s FromThePage collection will be open for collaborative transcription and translation until Sunday, November 3. Check out the documents list and guide to see how you can help.
Greg Lambousy (Director)
Jennifer Long (Scanning Manager)
Bryanne Schexnayder (Scanner)
Michelle Brenner (New Orleans Jazz Museum & Louisiana Historical Center, Reading Room Manager)
Jenny Marie Forsythe (Louisiana Colonial Documents Transcribathon Project Co-Manager)
Handy Acosta Cuellar (PhD Candidate, Tulane University; Instructor of Spanish, Louisiana State University)
Click here for more information on Louisiana Colonial Documents Transcribathon Collaborators.
Julie C. Evershed (Director)
Translation collaborators: Zhehao Tong, Marlon James Sales, and Olivia Alge
Albert A. Palacios (Digital Scholarship Coordinator)
Joshua Ortiz Baco (Digital Scholarship Graduate Research Assistant)
FromThePage collaborators (usernames): guillaume candela, Ken, Betty Cruz L, Matt H., Carolina Casusol, and Handy1985
About the Authors
Albert A. Palacios is Digital Scholarship Coordinator at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, The University of Texas at Austin. Jenny Marie Forsythe is co-manager of the Louisiana Colonial Documents Transcribathon Project. Julie C. Evershed is Language Resource Center Director at the University of Michigan.
Each fall, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections invites graduate and undergraduate students from all departments and disciplines across the university to submit photographs to the Field Notes student photography exhibition. Thirty images are chosen for display in the Benson Latin American Collection. Through these images, student photographers document moments from their research on Latin America or US Latina/o communities.
In addition to showcasing student research, the exhibition awards prizes of $250 to two student photographers. The winning photos are chosen in a blind competition by a panel of faculty and staff.
Fall 2019 marks the tenth anniversary of the photography show, originally conceived by Adrian Johnson, librarian for Caribbean studies and head of user services at the Benson. In this Tex Libris post, we give a glimpse of this beautiful and varied exhibition, and invite readers to visit the Benson to view all of the photos.
Through her research with Mexican migrants in Austin, prize-winner Maribel Bello created the Facebook page Rancho Querido, which she calls “an emotional-visual-exchange bridge” for sharing of images showing everyday activities in Mexico. Her winning photo shows children playing hide-and-seek. Bello is a master’s student in Latin American Studies at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS).
In his untitled prize-winning photo (below), Arisbel López Andraca, a PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, depicts a religious procession in Havana, Cuba. López has been researching the visuality of “daily religious practices” in the streets of Havana, noting the considerable increase in the circulation of “dressed dolls” or “spiritual dolls” as representations of orichas, spiritual entities, or eggungun.
LLILAS PhD candidate Ricardo Velasco looks at “cultural initiatives for memory and reconciliation in the context of Colombia’s current transitional justice conjuncture.” He conducted ethnographic research in Comuna 13, he says, to inquire about “how youth visual culture has contributed to the transformation of what once was one of the urban epicenters of Colombia’s armed conflict.”
Pablo Millalen Lepin, a LLILAS PhD student, studies public policies toward indigenous people in his native Chile. His photo reflects the meaning of ranching and livestock ownership for Indigenous Mapuche families, for whom “the possession of an animal can be interpreted as part of the local economy, and/or the promise of future work, principally in the area of agriculture.”
To see and enjoy all of the photographs, visit the exhibition in the first-floor corridor of the Benson Latin American Collection during library hours. Exhibition runs through December 2019.
Feature image, top, taken in Boyacá, Colombia, by Sofia Mock, undergraduate in Plan II.
By Daniel Arbino, Librarian for U.S. Latina/o Studies
They are colorful, vibrant, tongue-in-cheek, eclectic, expressive, melancholic, and political. They are self-published, sold, traded, and given away. Extremely rare, but inexpensive. And now, they are on display. The University of Texas at Austin’s Latino Studies has a flashy new exhibition in the halls of the Gordon-White Building (GWB). Made up of self-published poetry, essays, photographs, short stories, and artwork, Dissent: Zine Culture (And the Voices You Wouldn’t Hear Otherwise) highlights the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection’s U.S. Latinx Zine and Graphic Novel Collection with over forty zines.
The term “zine” is derived from fanzine, a form of expression that started in the 1930s among science fiction fans. Zines took off in the 1960s among countercultures, particularly those invested in socio-political activism that may have identified with civil rights movements, the Chicano movement, Feminism, LGBTQ+, etc. From the 1970s to the 1990s, zines continued to grow, especially through punk communities. Now, zines are more popular than ever, with a variety of subject matter that can be disseminated using twenty-first-century technologies like social media or Etsy.
What makes zines so important is that they provide an outlet for groups that have been overlooked or silenced by mainstream society and, by extension, publishers. Through self-publishing, creators of cultural content have autonomy over their content and design. This would resonate with the intersectionality flourishing within Latinx communities.
The origins of the U.S. Latinx Zine and Graphic Novel Collection started in the summer of 2017 with the single purchase of Chifladazine at the Lone Star Zine Fest in Austin. Since then, the collection has grown in its size and uniqueness with additional purchases made on trips to San Antonio, New York City, and Albuquerque. Other zines have been purchased online over the span of two years. The collection currently consists of 259 zines, graphic novels, and chapbooks that focus on U.S. Latinx zine creators. Some Indigenous writers are included as well. The Benson’s oldest zine is from 1984, but the majority were published within the last decade.
One particular interest has been on different, but inclusive, Latinx voices, with a special privilege given to feminist and LGBTQ+ expressions. Within the collection, there zines about Xicana veganism, traditional knowledge systems, gentrification, immigration, and body positivity that dismantle ways in which mainstream society thinks about these topics. Their relevance underscores the fact that zines provide a documented record of opposition, hence the exhibition title.
Curated by Mallory Laurel, the Director of Outreach and Communications for Latino Studies, Dissent: Zine Culture (And the Voices You Wouldn’t Hear Otherwise) recognizes the power that self-publishing has as a means to challenge accepted mainstream ideas while attracting the attention of students with their eye-catching formats. The exhibit is thematically structured around seven different themes: health & body, love & relationships, politics & protest, place & identity, medicinal folklore, St. Sucia Zines, and zines that come in different shapes and sizes. Though each scope is different, all aim to enunciate new modes of representation; all refuse to accept silence.
While this particular collection is new, the Benson has a history of collecting ephemeral materials such as Puerto Rican graphic novels, Brazilian cordel literature, Cuban historietas, and cartoneras. Our goal is to offer a wide breadth of materials from Latinx and Latin American populations. To that extent, Latinx zines and graphic novels participate in a hemispheric attempt to use self-publication as a means to articulate perspectives on community and identity. In housing zines at the Benson, we show creators that we value their message, support and promote their work, and want them to succeed. To our patrons, we want to emphasize the inclusivity of our collection and of our space.
The Dissent exhibition will run until December 10, 2019. Patrons can visit the Benson Latin American Collection to access our other zines and should continue checking back periodically as the collection grows.
Durante el verano, LLILAS Benson y el Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI) en El Salvador agregaron otra iniciativa digital a su portfolio de colaboración. Desde 2012, las dos instituciones han trabajado juntos para digitalizar archivos relacionados a la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña (1980–1992), gracias al generoso apoyo de la Fundación Andrew W. Mellon. Continuando estos esfuerzos, esta nueva iniciativa también exploró el potencial de las humanidades digitales para destacar una de las colecciones más impresionantes de MUPI: los bordados testimoniales de refugiados salvadoreños.
Los testimonios sobre la violación de derechos humanos se presentan en diferentes formas, y el fundador y actual director de MUPI, Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi, ha procurado preservar la diversidad. Poco después de la firma de los Acuerdos de Paz de Chapultepec en 1992 que pusieron fin a la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña, Santiago dirigió una campaña para rescatar el patrimonio cultural creado antes, durante y después del conflicto armado. Esto ha incluido propaganda política, publicaciones y las grabaciones de la estación de Radio Venceremos. Desde su fundación formal en 1999, MUPI ha continuado esta preservación y ha expandido su enfoque para incluir varios temas sobre la cultura e historia salvadoreña.
La colección que ha crecido más recientemente, y el enfoque de esta nueva iniciativa, consiste de bordados testimoniales creados por campesinas salvadoreñas refugiadas en Honduras durante la guerra civil. Estas piezas fueron creadas para comunicar al mundo las experiencias vividas de los refugiados, y muchos de los textiles se enviaron a grupos y organizaciones de solidaridad en Europa y Canadá para ello. Gracias a una campaña internacional reciente, más de veinte obras han sido repatriadas y enviadas a MUPI. A través de talleres en las comunidades rurales de El Salvador, MUPI ha renovado el aprecio por esta tradición cultural, promoviendo el arte y los esfuerzos de repatriación a través de una exposición titulada Bordadoras de Memoria en la capital.
Ahora que los bordados están volviendo a casa, MUPI está utilizando tecnologías digitales para continuar el trabajo de abogar por los derechos humanos que estas mujeres comenzaron en la década de los 1980s. Para alcanzar y educar a un público más amplio e internacional, específicamente jóvenes descendientes de salvadoreños en los Estados Unidos, el Museo trabajó con el personal de Estudios Digitales en LLILAS Benson (LBDS) para recrear Bordadoras de Memoria en línea. En junio, el equipo de LBDS viajó a San Salvador y capacitó al diseñador gráfico de MUPI, Pedro Durán, en el uso de la plataforma Omeka para que pudiera reconcebir la exhibición digitalmente, utilizando fotografías preliminares de los bordados. El equipo también aprovechó la oportunidad para hablar sobre otras herramientas de código abierto que el personal de MUPI puede usar en su trabajo con jóvenes locales.
La visita también lanzó otro proyecto archivístico pos-custodial para ambas instituciones. Dado el tamaño de algunas obras (la pieza que se muestra arriba es más de 2.5 metros de largo), el proyecto requirió un flujo de trabajo completamente diferente en la digitalización y entrenamiento en nuevos equipos. Capacitados por el personal de archivos pos-custodiales (PC) de la Colección Latinoamericana Benson, el equipo de LBDS trabajó con el personal de MUPI para iniciar la digitalización y la descripción archivística de los bordados. El equipo de PC espera incorporar la colección al portal Latin American Digital Initiatives a finales de este año, así que estense atentos.
Over the summer, LLILAS Benson and El Salvador’s Museum of the Word and the Image (often referred to by its acronym, MUPI, for Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen) added yet another digital initiative to their long-standing partnership. Since 2012, the two institutions have worked closely to digitize archival materials related to the Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992), thanks to the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. While continuing these efforts, this time around the collaboration explored the potential of digital humanities tools to showcase one of MUPI’s most visually compelling collections—embroidered refugee accounts.
Testimonies of human rights violations come in different forms, and MUPI’s founder and current director, Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi, has actively sought to preserve the diversity. Soon after the signing of the 1992 Chapultepec Peace Accords that ended the Salvadoran Civil War, Santiago directed a campaign to rescue cultural heritage created prior to, during, and after the armed conflict. This has included political propaganda, periodicals, and the Radio Venceremos station recordings. Since its formal foundation in 1999, MUPI has continued this preservation and expanded its collecting and educational scope to include various topics in Salvadoran culture and history.
Its most recent growing collection—and the focus of this newest collaboration—consists of remarkable embroidered testimonies created by refugee Salvadoran peasant women in Honduras during the civil war. These pieces were meant to communicate to the world the refugees’ lived experiences, with many of the textiles being sent to solidarity groups and organizations in Europe and Canada at the time. Thanks to a recent international campaign, over twenty artworks have been repatriated and sent to MUPI. Through community workshops in El Salvador’s countryside, MUPI has striven to renew appreciation for this cultural tradition, promoting the art form and subsequent collecting efforts through an exhibition titled Embroiderers of Memories in San Salvador.
Now that the testimonies are making their way back home, MUPI is using digital technologies to continue the advocacy work these women began in the 1980s. In an effort to educate a broader and international audience, specifically El Salvadoran-descendant youth in the United States, the Museum worked with LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship (LBDS) staff to recreate Embroiderers of Memories online. This past June, the LBDS team went to San Salvador and trained MUPI exhibition designer Pedro Durán on how to create digital exhibitions in LLILAS Benson’s Omeka platform so that he could reconceive his design online using working scans of the embroidery. The LBDS team also took the opportunity to introduce MUPI staff to other open-source digital humanities tools that could enrich MUPI’s active engagement with local youth groups.
The visit also launched another post-custodial archival project for both institutions. The initiative required an entirely different approach to digitization and new equipment training, considering the size of some of these artworks; for example, the piece pictured at the beginning of this blog was over 8 feet long. Pre-trained by the Benson’s post-custodial (PC) staff, the LBDS team worked with MUPI staff to start the archival-quality digitization and item-level description of the embroidery collection. The PC team hopes to incorporate the collection into LLILAS Benson’s Latin American Digital Initiatives later this year, so stay tuned.
Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen
Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi (MUPI Director)
Carlos Colorado (Digitization Coordinator)
Pedro Durán (Graphic Designer)
Jakelyn López (Archive Coordinator)
Dr. Jennifer Isasi (CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow)
Albert A. Palacios (Digital Scholarship Coordinator)
In a keynote speech to the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), delivered on June 27 at the University of Texas at Austin, Guatemalan human rights activist Gustavo Meoño, former director of the AHPN, revealed some of the most recent events undermining the archive, including a drastic reduction of staff and an imminent takeover by the country’s Ministry of Culture, both of which have serious implications for the AHPN’s operation and integrity.
The significance of this news cannot be overstated. The AHPN contains records of Guatemala’s former National Police dating back more than a century. Its contents relating to the country’s 36-year armed conflict have been crucial in uncovering the fate of tens of thousands of Guatemalans during the most violent years of civil strife. “Since its discovery in 2005, the AHPN has played a central role in Guatemala’s attempts to reckon with its bloody past,” according to the National Security Archive, an NGO in Washington DC that advocates against government secrecy. The records “have been relied upon by families of the disappeared, scholars, and prosecutors. The institution has become a model across Latin America and around the world for the rescue and preservation of vital historical records,” an article dated May 30, 2019, states.
AHPN has become a model for the rescue and preservation of vital historical and human rights records.
Meoño served as director of the AHPN from 2005 until his abrupt removal in August 2018 at the hands of the Guatemalan government and the United Nations Development Office; he subsequently fled with his family to Argentina amid death threats and intimidation. In the weeks since his announcement in Austin, the fate of the AHPN has become even more uncertain. On July 10, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, which now oversees the archive, dismissed Anna Carla Ericastilla, longtime director of Guatemala’s national archive, the Archivo General de Centro América (AGCA, AHPN’s parent archive), amid accusations that she had illegally allowed access to the archive to entities outside the country, such as the University of Texas at Austin, and that she had collected donor contributions to pay archive personnel unbeknown to the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
According to the AHPN website hosted by the University of Texas Libraries, “The AHPN Digital Archive is a collaborative project of the University of Texas’ Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, and Benson Latin American Collection, with the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional de Guatemala.” As faculty directors of the aforementioned institutions made clear in a recent letter to Guatemala’s minister and vice-minister of Culture and Sports, the collaboration with the AHPN and its parent archive, the AGCA, “has always been open, public, and fully in compliance with the laws of Guatemala and the United States.”
Documents from the AHPN have been used in 14 trials prosecuting human rights abuses, said Meoño. These include the 1980 burning by police of the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City with 37 Indigenous protestors shut inside; and the 1981 abduction, rape, and torture of Emma Molina Theissen along with the subsequent forced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio. Preservation efforts have prioritized documents from the worst years of government-sponsored terror, 1975–1985, according to Meoño. All told, there were almost 200,000 victims of the armed conflict, including the disappeared. “Indeed, it may be the Police Archive’s crucial contributions to human rights trials that caused the government of President Jimmy Morales to seek to control the repository and fire its director,” wrote the NSA last August.
The fate of the AHPN has particular resonance for The University of Texas at Austin, and in particular, for LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and the UT Libraries, who, through their partnership with the AHPN, have successfully secured and posted online digital copies of one-third of the more than 60 million documents in the archive—an estimated 8 linear kilometers of material. Preservation of the archive’s contents has been paramount since the documents were discovered, haphazardly stored, by the Guatemalan Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor (Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos, or PDH) in filthy, rat-infested buildings that were part of a sprawling police base located in a Guatemala City neighborhood.
Guatemala will elect a new government in August. The AHPN’s Texas partners will be among the international community of human rights advocates watching closely to see what that bodes for the AHPN and the future of truth and restorative justice in Guatemala.
White, heterosexual men have long dominated archival records. However, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection has a new archival exhibition that indicates the times are changing.
The Benson Collection is pleased to commemorate the acquisition of the Alicia Gaspar de Alba Papers in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room on Thursday, May 2, at 4 p.m., with a visit from the author herself. During the presentation, Gaspar de Alba will read from her published creative writings as well as participate in a discussion with Mexican American and Latina/o Studies faculty member and community activist Lilia Rosas. Additionally, a selection of the Alicia Gaspar de Alba papers will be on view in an exhibition titled “This is about resistance”: The Feminist Revisions of Alicia Gaspar de Alba. The Benson acquired these papers in fall of 2017 through a generous donation from the notable Chicana feminist scholar, professor, and author.
The exhibit highlights the intersections of Gaspar de Alba’s scholarly and creative endeavors. Early poetry, essays on identity as a queer Chicana feminist, journal entries, research notes for novels and scholarly work like Desert Blood (2005) and Making a Killing (2010), correspondence with UT Press, novel manuscripts, and photographs will all be on display for visitors.
Gaspar de Alba is a native of El Paso/Ciudad Juárez, but has lived for over twenty-five years in Los Angeles, where she is a founding faculty member and former chair of the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies. She is currently the Chair of the LGBT Studies Program and has affiliate status with the English Department. A celebrated writer and scholar, she has won various awards, including the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery Novel (Desert Blood) and the American Association of Higher Education Book Award for [Un]framing the “Bad Woman” (2015).
This event is co-hosted by the University of Texas Libraries and LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, who gratefully acknowledge the following co-sponsors: the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.
About the Benson Latin American Collection
The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection is one of the foremost collections of library materials on Latin America worldwide. Established in 1921 as the Latin American Library, the Benson is approaching its centennial. Through its partnership established with the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies in 2011, the Benson continues to be at the forefront of Latin American and U.S. Latina/o librarianship through its collections and digital initiatives.
A packed house at the Benson Latin American Collection was treated to a stunning set of music for the 17th annual ¡A Viva Voz! Celebration of Latina/o Arts and Culture, held April 4.
To be in the audience for “Cantos y Cuentos,” with singer-songwriters Tish Hinojosa and Lourdes Pérez, was to be drawn into an intimate conversation, an evening of poetry and song and sentiment that was poignant and personal, and at times delightfully humorous.
“Embodied in you is the history of thousands and thousands of years and hours of work and activism and human rights and cultural work, so I want to give you a round of applause for being here with us tonight,” said Pérez, before opening the concert with her song “Remolinos.”
In a set that was arranged song-swap style, Hinojosa followed with “Amanecer,” a love song written for her mother.
The emotional range of the concert was among the details that made it remarkable. One of the most touching songs of the evening was Hinojosa’s “The West Side of Town,” the tale of her parents, Felipe and María, which she wrote for her children so that they would learn about their grandparents, both of whom died before Hinojosa’s children could know them. Following that number, Pérez turned to her friend and said, “Tish, that’s a beautiful song, and I just wanted to tell you … I admire you, your beautiful voice, your songwriting—your beautiful songwriting—and I look up to you. Thank you for everything you’ve done in your life and your career.” These words, and this moment of one performer responding to the other, capture the authenticity of the evening.
Pérez’s wonderful sense of humor was on display with the songs “Héroe” (about a messenger dog, written in the poetic form known as décimas) and “A tu amor renuncio” (I Resign from Your Love—a breakup song for the digital age). In introducing the lovely “Roses Around My Feet,” Hinojosa claimed it was as close as she could come to a breakup song; the lyrics were inspired by the saying “No me estés hechando flores”— don’t be a flatterer—taught to her by her mother.
“Carrusel,” by Pérez, stood out as a stirring commentary on our time: “Diez mentiras repetidas son igual a una verdad” (“A lie, repeated ten times, equals the truth,” she translated.) In the haunting refrain, Pérez sings, “¿Qué veo? Nada. ¿Qué oigo? Nada. Y, ¿qué hago? Nada.” (What do I see? Nothing. What do I hear? Nothing. And what do I do? Nothing.)
The artists closed the concert with two duets, Hinojosa’s tender and enduring “Manos, Huesos, y Sangre,” written for Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and Pérez’s anthem-like “Tengo la vida en las manos” (I Have Life in My Hands).
Before teaching the chorus of “Tengo la Vida” to the audience, Pérez spoke: “We still have the opportunity of creating spaces of freedom of speech. Who would have known that it was so threatened?” And she acknowledged the importance of places like LLILAS Benson, and of “this opportunity to celebrate life, to go into institutions of higher learning to tell our stories, and to straighten up the story that is being told” about us. (Adding another dimension to this statement, Hinojosa’s archive is housed at the Benson Latin American Collection.)
I have life, I have life,
I have life in my hands.
It is a consequence of being a woman.
It is a consequence of being human.
And then we all sang,
Tengo la vida, tengo la vida, tengo la vida en las manos.
Es consecuencia de ser mujer, es consecuencia de ser humano!