Category Archives: Collections Highlight

Exhibition: Cuban Comics in the Castro Era

Based on exhibition text by Gilbert Borrego

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.

Fidel Castro understood that media and graphic art could guide ideology and could be used as an educational tool because he knew that it had already being used before in Cuba. Castro portrait, “Zunzún” no. 2, 1980. Benson Latin American Collection.

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.

Nikita Khrushchev and Dwight D. Eisenhower on the cover of “Zig-Zag,” no. 1079, August 1959. Benson Latin American Collection.

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 Revolutionary Comics

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.

“Historietas de Elpidio Valdés,” Juan Padrón Blanco, 1985. Benson Latin American Collection.

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.

Julio Mella was among Cuban figures lauded for heroism or espousing socialistic ideals. “[Revolucionarios],” “Mella Suplemento,” no. 60, undated. Benson Latin American Collection.

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.

“Jóvenes Rebeldes,” “Mella,” no. 201, 1962. Benson Latin American Collection.

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.

About the Curator

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.


Cuban Comics in the Castro Era will be on view in the Benson Latin American Collection main reading room, December 6, 2019–March 1, 2020.

Read more about the Caridad Blanco Collection of Cuban Comics in LLILAS Benson Portal.

Chicana Feminist Scholar and Writer Alicia Gaspar de Alba to Read at Archive Exhibit

BY DANIEL ARBINO

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.

Notes for Gaspar de Alba’s first book-length academic publication, "Chicano Art: Inside/Outside the Master’s House" (1998)
Notes for Gaspar de Alba’s first book-length academic publication, “Chicano Art: Inside/Outside the Master’s House” (1998)

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).

The acquisition of the Gaspar de Alba papers further strengthens the Benson’s holdings in U.S. Latina feminism and literature, which also include the Gloria Anzaldúa Papers, the Carmen Tafolla Papers, and the Estela Portillo Trambley Papers.

Gaspar de Alba at the San Jerónimo Convent in Mexico City
Gaspar de Alba at the San Jerónimo Convent in Mexico City

Attend The Event

View the event here: https://www.lib.utexas.edu/events/270

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.

Collections Highlight: The (Digitized) Letters of Dr. Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel

Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel. From a photograph in Ferguson, 1981, courtesy BEG.
Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel. From a photograph in Ferguson, 1981, courtesy BEG.

In a project to capture a discrete collection at one of the university’s CSUs, faculty and staff from the Jackson School of Geosciences and the College of Natural Sciences worked with UT Libraries staff to get a collection of over 6000 letters added to Texas ScholarWorks, the university’s digital repository.

The letters are to and from Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel, a faculty member in the Department of Geology from 1948-54 who was a notable authority in the field of Tertiary stratigraphy and paleontology, representing a partial record of a career that spanned over 50 years.

The letters cover subject matter both professional and personal, and provide insight into Stenzel’s methodology, specific projects and relationships with his peers both here and abroad.

Stenzel was born in Poland in 1899, and attended Schlesische Freidrich Wilhelms University in Breslau beginning in 1918, where he majored in paleontology and geology with a minor in physics and mathematics. He received his doctorate in 1922, with a concentration on petrofabrics under the supervision of noted German geologist Hans Cloos.

Letter to H.B. Stenzel from Hans E. Cloos on 1921-09-12.
Letter to H.B. Stenzel from Hans E. Cloos on 1921-09-12.

Stenzel emigrated to the U.S. in 1925, and after being denied a position in petrology at Texas A&M, changed his specialization to Tertiary stratigraphy and paleontology to secure a second opening at the university. He taught there until 1934, when he joined the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, a research unit at the University of Texas at Austin, and took his faculty position at UT in 1948.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Stenzel had 92 works published on petrology, paleontology and stratigraphy of the Lower Tertiary of the Gulf Coast. His most well known publications include the 1949 work Successful speciation in paleontology: The case of the oysters of the Sellaeformis stock (adaptations of species) and the 1971 work: Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (Oysters).

Letter to H.B. Stenzel from S.J. Olsen on 1961-10-16.
Letter to H.B. Stenzel from S.J. Olsen on 1961-10-16.

Stenzel’s collection of letters includes correspondence with a number of recognized authorities in paleontology, including Preston Cloud, Leslie Reginald Cox, Myra Keen, Stanley John Olsen, Katherine Van Winkle Palmer, and Remington Kellogg. Stenzel corresponded with many people across his profession, as well as students and those he mentored.

His collection of letters and exchanges have been digitized and stored for viewing on Texas ScholarWorks. Each file has a PDF view of the original letter as well as metadata, including keywords and dates of the original correspondence, if noted.

This effort was advanced by the late Ann Molineux, a curator for the Texas Natural History Collections, who developed much of the metadata for this project, and Gilbert Borrego, who provided support and guidance for the technical processes.

 

 

Collection Highlight: Recent World War Map Gifts

Lt. Roy J. Beery in France.
Lt. Roy J. Beery in France.

The notoriety of the online Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection has afforded us many amazing gifts. Two recent gifts are particularly notable. The family of UT alumni Roy J. Beery graciously gifted us with the maps he used when he served in the World War II Invasion of Normandy. And the Army Heritage Center gifted maps and other materials that Colonel Roland T. Fenton, who served in machine gun battalions in World War I and World War II, used during his service. The fact that these maps survived the treacheries of war is amazing. We are lucky to be able to preserve and share them with generations to come.

Generally we hope for maps in pristine condition, but in this case the wear and writing are an important part of the story. This is the map used by U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Commander Roy Beery while on sea duty in the Atlantic amphibious force during the assault on the Coast of Normandy, France.

Map used by U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Commander Ron Beery while on sea duty in the Atlantic amphibious force during the assault on the Coast of Normandy, France.
Map used by U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Commander Roy Beery while on sea duty in the Atlantic amphibious force during the assault on the Coast of Normandy, France.

(Detail) This detail not only shows the strategic overprint it has handwritten notes, presumably Lt. Commander Beery’s. Notice all of the overprint information specific to the invasion and ground combat.
(Detail) This detail not only shows the strategic overprint it has handwritten notes, presumably Lt. Commander Beery’s. Notice all of the overprint information specific to the invasion and ground combat.

(Detail) It was made by the British War Office’s Geographical Section, General Staff (G.S.G.S.). Note the parts of the legend that are specific to combat.
(Detail) It was made by the British War Office’s Geographical Section, General Staff (G.S.G.S.). Note the parts of the legend that are specific to combat.


As part of the 103rd Machine Gun Battalion, (then) Lt. Fenton was on the front lines of WWI. The gift materials that belonged to him consist of trench maps, front line maps, and the following long distance firing range calculator for Hotchkiss machine gun.

Long distance firing range calculator for Hotchkiss machine gun.
Long distance firing range calculator for Hotchkiss machine gun.

 

This Sketch Map shows the trenches in the Meuse region of France. The red represents the Allied Forces and the blue German.

This Sketch Map shows the trenches in the Meuse region of France. The red represents the Allied Forces and the blue German.
Sketch Map of the trenches in the Meuse region of France.

(Detail) There’s just one paragraph explaining what the lines mean.
(Detail) There’s just one paragraph explaining what the lines mean.

 

In WWI the strategic overprint was often printed on an existing topographic map, rather than a map created specifically for combat.  This “Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line” is one such map.

The terrain of this area was important to combat and affected the outcome of battles, knowing the topography was vital.

Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line.
Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line.

(Detail) Many of Col. Fenton’s maps were printing at the U.S. Army, Base Printing Plant in Langres, France, just 125 miles from the front.
(Detail) Many of Col. Fenton’s maps were printing at the U.S. Army, Base Printing Plant in Langres, France, just 125 miles from the front.

(Detail) Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line.
(Detail) Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line.

 

During the month of November we as a nation honor our military veterans. We can’t think of a better way for The University of Texas Libraries to honor their legacy than by telling their stories and making these materials that clearly meant something to them available to researchers for generations to come. Keep an eye on our website for more in depth profiles of these men and the maps they used. Thank you all for your service.