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.
Friend of the University of Texas Libraries and Art History Professor Eddie Chambers has curated a collection of publications for a display in the reading room at the Fine Arts Library.
Chambers’ exhibit — “Recognizing the History of Black Magazine Publishing in the US” — features selections from his personal collection that represent the burgeoning of an independent press which spoke to the experience of African Americans in the late 20th Century, and includes examples from the period of the publications Ebony, Ebony Jr!, Jet, Black World, Negro Digest and Freedomways.
Professor, Art History: I have over the years collected, for research
purposes, various magazines and journals, going back a number of decades. These
magazines and journals have particular relevance to African American history,
culture, politics, identity, and so on. Some of these I’ve assembled for the
current FAL display. I am always attracted to vintage, archival items such as
these as they enable us to get a direct feel, not only of the graphics and
aesthetics of the times during which they were published, but in reading their
texts, we get a direct sense of arguments, reportage and opinions, again,
from the respective times.
As with so many things that carry an ‘African American’
prefix, we can perhaps trace the establishment of the Black press to a
reluctance by the white-dominated media to pay proper and respectful attention
to the agendas of African Americans. Magazines such as Ebony were
important for a wide range of reasons including the readership’s ability to
keep apprised of the ins and outs of Black celebrity lives, the ins and outs of
the struggle for civil rights, going back many a decade, and the ins and outs
of stories and issues that lay at the heart of African American existence. With
the spectacular growth of the internet, the publishing media is in general, in
various levels of retreat. This applies also to the Black press and the display
points to the ways in which magazines published weekly or monthly were such an
important and necessary means by which African Americans gleaned a wide range
of information. And in Ebony magazine, the adverts are as
entertaining as can be! It’s not hard for us to be inclined to the view that
contemporary issues are different from those people thought about and acted on
in decades gone by. Seeing magazines such as these, we might think, or realize,
that issues we are concerned with or interested in at the present time, go back
years, and decades.
Where are the materials from?
EC: I have collected the materials over the course of a number of years. Most of the material relates to some or other aspect of my research. For example, I recently acquired a copy of an Ebony issue that trailed on its front cover a feature on the quest for a Black Christ. Sourcing this came about because I am editing a volume – the Routledge Companion to African American Art History – which contains a text by a scholar, looking at visualizations of Christ and Christianity by African American artists. I wanted to double-check quotations by her, from this Ebony issue, in her essay. Material such as these magazines and journals are not frequently available to researchers and scholars, without considerable effort, so I find myself constantly sourcing such material. Having acquired items, I am always keen to share the material, which is why I periodically undertake displays such as this, in the Fine Arts Library (FAL). Right now, I have different archival material loaned out for exhibits that are currently on view at both the Blanton Museum and the Christian Green Gallery, here at UT Austin.
What do you see as the major impacts of the selected publications?
EC: The types of
materials on view represent some of the sources African Americans had to turn
to, in order to read stories that reflected themselves. Television was of
course very poor at offering anything that was not considered of primarily
mainstream (i.e. white) interest. Black publishing — and the adverts it carried
— offered a vital route through which African Americans could source hair care
products or, more generally, see adverts that featured people who looked like
them. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
These magazines were also an environment that stimulated and
gave work to Black journalists at a time when the mainstream media was
frequently reluctant to. Photographers, typesetters, journalists, sub editors,
layout artists, etc., all professionally benefitted from the Black press. We
might think that in the modern age, people’s attention spans might be somewhat
skewed or compressed, but the stories presented in some of these Black
magazines enabled substantial, engaged, complex stories to be told, as well as
the lives, loves, and ups and downs of Black celebrity life, to be digested. Of
course, a pocket-sized magazine such as Jet offered its
readers information in decidedly bite-sized chunks.
The perpetual, systemic framing of African Americans within
the white dominated media was one of them as being ‘problems’. African
Americans tended to realize that the framing of them as having problems
was but a short hop skip and jump away from them being problems.
The formidable perception, framed and maintained by the white controlled media,
of America having first, Negro, then Afro American, then African American problems was
more than enough to persuade African Americans of the need to maintain, for
their own sense of self, a Black press that respected the multi-dimensionality
of their selfhood. The Black press enabled African Americans to see themselves
not as cardboard cutout problems, but as complex human beings who existed in
Of course, it must be added that African Americans relied on
the Black press to carry nuanced, informed analyses of the problems they had. In
this sense, a profound manifestation of empathy existed between the Black press
and its clientele.
How did this era of the Black press influence the representation of African Americans in modern media?
EC: Modern media
is of course vastly different from publishing in decades gone by. One of the
biggest influences is perhaps the ways in which white-controlled media has
diversified, to an extent, its content. Quite rightly, we expect the New
Yorker, the New York Times, and a slew of other media to
carry stories that speak to the country’s diversity, including of course, that
of the African American demographic. Diversified media content has in its own
way perhaps worked to lessen the impact and importance of a distinctly African
American branch of publishing.
There is of course still huge amounts of work to be done,
but at the present time, the wholesale exclusion of African Americans from
mainstream media, as was the case in decades gone by, is arguably less of an
issue at the present time.
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.
There’s still time left in the summer to take in a few books and an exhibit currently on view at the Perry-Castañeda Library has some suggestions to offer.
“Vacation in a Book” features staff-selected volumes with a broad travel theme for your summer leisure reading pleasure. Staff offer recommendations for everything from a 16th century travelogue to fantasy stories in which the characters travel to another land.
Graduate research assistants in Teaching and Learning Services Ginny Barnes and Natalia Kapacinskas supplemented recommended items with other adventurous materials from the Libraries’ collections (including an oddity about cats in Istanbul available through our Kanopy streaming service).
As with all of our displays, “Vacation in a Book” highlights our deep circulating collections, this time in a fun and summery way to highlight the varied interests of our staff.
On view on the third floor of PCL through August 3.
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.
“You girls and guys are outstanding, and I pray that you all continue to believe in expanding the minds of us easily forgotten because sometimes it’s books that begin new journeys or just plain, old relief from the journey we chose to walk.” –testimonial from Daniel, an Inside Books Project recipient (via KUT.org)
For those who’ve lost their freedom, the seemingly small act of reading a book can be a lifeline to hope from inside prison.
A new exhibit in the Scholars Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library examines the work of a local nonprofit and the positive impact that work is having on the lives of incarcerated individuals.
The Inside Books Project (IBP) is books-to-prisons collective founded in Austin in 1998. People incarcerated throughout Texas send requests to IBP for free literature, and volunteers respond with a package of books and personalized letter. In exchange, many recipients have sent art, poetry, prose and other narrative materials testifying to their experiences in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. This ever-growing archive of materials is held at the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) and a digital collection is in progress at insidebooksproject.omeka.net
The IBP Archive Project is coordinated by aems emswiler, a student in the dual Information School (MSIS) and Women’s and Gender Studies (MA) programs at UT. aems has worked with IBP since 2012 and as an Archival Fellow at the Texas After Violence Project since 2017.
The exhibit was installed by UT Information School students and Society of American Archivists (UT-SAA) members aems emswiler and Alyssa Anderson, and long-term preservation of the collection is supported by a UT Student Government Excellence Fund Grant. It will be on view in the Perry-Castañeda Library during regular hours through February 22.
Interested in learning more about the archive project or possibly being involved? contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. There are volunteer and internship opportunities for iSchool studies, in particular SAA-UT members, archives track students, and students who are invested in diversity, inclusion, and social justice in archives.
Maybe it’s the shorter days, but the fall semester seemed to fly by. Despite the fact that an entire term goes by in a blink, progress doesn’t stall here at the Libraries.
The start of the semester was heavily influenced by milestones related to the Benson Latin American Collection. The Benson got its own book in early August (published by UT Press) documenting the institution’s storied collections and history, and ended the month with “An Evening of Discovery,” an event to launch a fundraising campaign for the Benson’s 100th anniversary (in 2021) featuring noted journalist Enrique Acevedo (Univision, Fusion) speaking on the currency of Latin American culture, with additional remarks by former UT President Larry Faulkner and Dr. Adriana Pacheco Roldán. The event generated almost $100,000 for the Dr. Fernando Macías and Dr. Adriana Pacheco Benson Centennial Endowment.
The Libraries hosted its annual tailgate in early September for the Longhorn victory over Tulsa with a family-friendly recharge space that hosted over 300 visitors. Special thanks to partners at the Blanton Museum of Art, Center for Mexican American Studies and LLILAS Benson, and supporters Austin’s Pizza, Austin Eastciders, Dripping Springs Vodka, KIND, Republic Tequila and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
The Benson welcomed Edmund W. Gordon, the renowned psychologist, professor, researcher and expert in education access for historically disadvantaged populations, for the opening of his archive and an exhibit on his career and contributions. The event — “Life, Leadership, and Learning: From the Archive of Edmund W. Gordon” — was hosted by Black Diaspora Archivist Rachel Winston with friends, family and students present for testimonials of Gordon’s impact and a moving speech by Gordon himself.
A couple of open house events later in the month served to launch space enhancements promised to our patrons in the previous year. The first, at the Fine Arts Library, made good on a commitment to improve the research experience for users in the College of Fine Arts with an array of changes to the location’s fifth floor. A collections area was cleared to make room for additional stacks space to accommodate additional books, and along with furniture and aesthetic upgrades, the underperforming wifi was brought up to standards. Provost Maurie McInnis joined appreciative members of the CoFA community and representatives from the Libraries to christen the space in early October.
A second opening — also presented with the help of Provost McInnis — highlighted the expansion of the PCL’s most popular community study area. The Collaborative Commons on the library’s 5th floor doubled in size to provide students with a vast improvement over the anachronism they’d been thus subjected to: new modular furniture, carpet and color schemes from this century and enough outlets to accommodate backpacks full of personal devices.
In mid-October, Provost McInnis announced the Task Force on the Future of the UT Libraries, a strategic outcome of campus dialogue which had been in development since last spring. The task force will collect input and hold ongoing conversations with stakeholders in order to develop a shared vision for the future of libraries on the Forty Acres. The launch of the task force was followed shortly by a town hall featuring the co-chairs Dean Michelle Addington of the School of Architecture and Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries Lorraine J. Haricombe, along with guests James Hilton, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, and Anne Kenney, former University Librarian at Cornell University and consultant to the task force.
And in November, the Libraries paid tribute to the legacy of former director Harold Billings in the form of an exhibit detailing his career work in bringing the institution into the digital age. An intimate reception was hosted for family and friends, and graduate research assistants Virginia Barnes and Rachael Zipperer (School of Information) discussed their experience in developing the exhibit and it’s accompanying online timeline, “The Tomorrow Librarian: Harold Billings’s Legacy, 1978-2003.”
Now we take a much-deserved break to recuperate for the next semester of work, and hope you’ll do the same. Best wishes for your holidays from the University of Texas Libraries!
“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.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, many in the Latinx community are gearing up to celebrate both Christmas as well as Las Posadas. A lesser known celebratory act performed during the holiday season are the plays known as pastorelas. Pastorelas can be traced back to the 16th Century when Franciscan monks leveraged the strong artistic culture of the Mexica people in Tenochtitlan to evangelize them by incorporating Christian ideals into their performance tradition.
Historically, pastorelas have told the story of how Satan attempted to thwart the travels of the shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem in search of the baby Jesus. While pastorelas have maintained the general premise of good vs. evil, the roles of what constitutes both the good and the evil have changed to encompass contemporary issues that have faced the Latinx communities. Immigration, racism, politics, and a plethora of other topics have been incorporated into pastorelas to transmit opinions and ideas to audiences, both religious and secular.
Please visit the digital exhibit to see the beautiful illustrations in “el Triunfo” as well as some of the other spectacular rare books available to view from the Benson Collection. Also, peruse Zayas’ entire book, which has been digitized and can be viewed at Texas ScholarWorks.
Gilbert Borrego is the Digital Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks, UT’s institutional repository (IR).
The Benson Latin American Collection is proud to host Field Notes: The 9th Annual LLILAS Benson Student Photography Exhibition. Thirty prints that comprise the show will adorn the Benson’s first-floor gallery through January.
Each fall, LLILAS Benson invites graduate and undergraduate students from all departments and disciplines to submit photographs to the exhibition. Through these images, student photographers document moments from their summer research on Latin America or US Latina/o communities.
A panel of faculty and staff judges chooses two outstanding images from the collection. This year, the prize-winning photographers are Jesús Nazario (MA student, LLILAS) and Monika Husodo (BA student, Architectural Interior Design).
The exhibition is free and open to the public during library hours. View the entire photo album on Facebook.
Featured: “Mecatla,” by Jesús Nazario. This prize-winning photo was taken in The Land of Fresh Water, Guerrero, Mexico.
Few can claim a career as long or legacy as lasting as Harold Billings. He began working for the University of Texas Libraries as a cataloger in 1954 while still pursuing his Master’s in Library Science and by 1978 was the director of the general libraries. He remained in that position until his retirement in 2003. Throughout his career Billings was able to navigate the immense changes in technology and constant challenge of keeping faith in value of libraries. Billings achieved this by inviting innovations that others of his time resisted. As a result of his leadership, UT Libraries thrived, growing its collections, introducing new digital services, and building its reputation as one if the highest ranking research libraries in the nation.
Today, technology and UT Libraries seem inextricably intertwined as students conduct research using their access to hundreds of online databases, use software in the computer labs, and create 3-D printed projects in the Foundry makerspace. When Billings first entered the field, libraries looked and functioned very differently. Throughout his career, Billings pushed UT libraries toward incorporating innovative technology from early searchable databases and the online card catalog to resource sharing and partnership with other libraries through TexShare.
While leading the general libraries forward in incorporating new technologies, Billings simultaneously continued to build the print and research collections at UT Libraries. A literary scholar himself, Billings’ love of research and books carried over into his many roles over his career at UTL. He maintained a close relationship with Harry Ransom, acquiring collections for the Center, and corresponded with several authors both regarding his own scholarship and to help bring literary collections to UT. The general libraries also saw tremendous growth of their collections over his career, from acquiring their 1 millionth volume while Billings was still a cataloger to holding over 7 million volumes by the end of his tenure as director.
Billings’ love of books, research, and collecting extended beyond his role at UT. Inspired by his admiration for and friendships with writers and artists, Billings published literary works and criticism throughout his career and well after. Some of these publications include a biography of one of his favorite poets, Edward Dalhberg, and Texas Beast Fables, a bestiary of Texas folklore. Billings also built a personal collection of art favoring local artists as well as Newcomb pottery and Elvis memorabilia. From his early education through his retirement, two facts are undeniable: Harold Billings loved libraries and he loved Texas.
An exhibit highlighting these aspects of Billings’ career and life will be on display in the Scholars Commons beginning November 1st, and an online component can be viewed on Scalar. Borrowing the title of his 1995 essay on the future of libraries, we’ve given the exhibit a name that we think embodies Billings’ role as an innovative leader in the field: The Tomorrow Librarian.
Virginia Barnes and Rachael Zipperer are graduate research assistants from the university’s School of Information.