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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“I am a Libra (Virgo cusp) with VI — The Lovers destiny”: Celebrating the Birth and Life of Gloria Anzaldúa by Julia Davila Coppedge
Image of Gloria Anzaldúa by Annie F. Valva.
Seventy-seven years ago, on September 26th, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa was born to migrant farmers Urbano and Amalia Anzaldúa in Raymondville, Texas. As the oldest of four, she helped work on ranches and farms to help support her family. It was during this time in the Valley that she first learned about discrimination against Mexican Americans. Anzaldúa would later leave South Texas, living in other parts of the state, and in Indiana and California. She would also spend a large part of her career traveling internationally. But, her experiences growing up in the borderlands would influence her writing for the rest of her career, as she alludes to, when states that “I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry ‘home’ on my back.”
a self-described “tejana patlache (queer) nepantlera spiritual activist.” Her contributions to U.S. American
literature, U.S. feminisms, queer theory, postcolonial theory, and Chicana/o
Studies cannot be overstated. Anzaldúa
won many awards in her lifetime including the National Endowment for the Arts
Fiction Award (1991) and the Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award (1991).
Anzaldúa died on May 15, 2004 due to
Diabetes-related complications. It is fitting we celebrate Anzaldúa’s life in
the middle of Hispanic Heritage
Month, which is observed September 15th – October 15th.
at UT Austin
received her master’s degree in English and Education in 1972 at UT and
returned in 1974 to pursue a PhD in Literature. In the foreword to the third
edition of This Bridge Called My Back:
Writings By Radical Women of Color, she reflected on her stuggles at UT: “As a
Chicana, I felt invisible, alienated from the gringo university and
dissatisfied with both el movimiento Chicano and the feminist movement…I
rebelled, using my writing to work through my frustrations and make sense of my
While at UT
Austin, Anzaldúa also taught a class called “La Mujer Chicana.” During this
time she struggled to find materials that reflected the experiences of her
students, which drove her to edit the anthology.
“When Borderlands was published there was
hardly a public discourse addressing multiculturalism. Anzaldúa’s persistent
mixing of cultures, languages, and even writing genres, as exemplified in the
structure and content of Borderlands,
was blasphemous. The ‘cultural wars’ were in full force inside and outside the
academy. The 1980s and early 1990s was an era of the mainstream academics
fighting to preserve the Western canon and of political mobilization by
conservatives to add an amendment to the Constitution establishing English as
the official language of the United States…. Under these historical conditions
the publication of Borderlands was an act of courage was well as innovative
intervention to continue advocating for cultural diversity, the inclusion of
sexuality in all academic and political production, and a call to social
justice based on inclusion rather than exclusion.”
2012, twenty-five years after it was published, Borderlands was banned in the Tucson Unified School System in
Arizona, as a part of a law banning Mexican American Studies in public schools.
Pérez and Cantú said the ban “affirms the value of the work even as it attempts
to deny it.” This policy was lifted in 2017 after a federal judge in Arizona ruled
In 2001, just
three years before she died, Anzaldúa
reflected on the work of feminists of color in the foreword to the third
edition of This Bridge Called My Back,
saying “Yes, collectively we’ve gone far.” She continued, “But we’ve lost
ground–affirmative action has been repealed, the borders have been closed,
racism has taken new forms and it’s as pervasive as it was twenty-one years
ago.” Eighteen years later the fight of People of Color, the LGBTQIA+
community, and working class people continues.
Emma Pérez says of Anzaldua’s work, “Long after the end of this century, her philosophy will endure. Gloria was an unassuming philosopher-poet whose words will inspire generations. She articulated our past to make sense of our present…She looked to the past to excavate hope for the future.”
This hope is
reflected in Gloria Anzaldúa’s words, which inspire us today and are a
testament to her lasting impact and legacy:
Lee Benson Latin American Collection is home to the personal archive of Gloria
Anzaldúa, which contains “personal
and biographical materials, correspondence, written works, research materials,
photographs, audiovisual materials, and artifacts” documenting her life and
“The Benson Collection is also composing a complete
bibliographic list of Anzaldúa’s personal library of more
than 5000 books. This is an ongoing project, and interested researchers should
contact the rare books
reading room for this information.”
“Inez Hernandez Tovar and Gloria Anzaldúa discuss
the political context and cultural work of Chicana writers. They explain that
the Chicano movement provided some Chicano and Chicana writers the support and
forums necessary to share their work. While mainstream publishing presses
ignored minority voices, Chicanos and other groups were creating their own
journals. These journals helped legitimate bilingualism among Chicanos as a
vehicle of Chicano expression. Chicanas and Chicanos felt free to publish works
written in a mixture of Spanish and English that reflected the language(s) they
felt most comfortable in.”
“In this memoir-like collection, Anzaldúa’s powerful
voice speaks clearly and passionately. She recounts her life, explains many
aspects of her thought, and explores the intersections between her writings and
postcolonial theory. For readers engaged in postcoloniality, feminist theory,
ethnic studies, or queer identity, Interviews/Entrevistas will be a key
“This reader–which provides a representative sample
of the poetry, prose, fiction, and experimental autobiographical writing that
Anzaldúa produced during her thirty-year career–demonstrates the breadth and
philosophical depth of her work. While the reader contains much of Anzaldúa’s
published writing (including several pieces now out of print), more than half
the material has never before been published. This newly available work offers
fresh insights into crucial aspects of Anzaldúa’s life and career, including
her upbringing, education, teaching experiences, writing practice and
aesthetics, lifelong health struggles, and interest in visual art, as well as
her theories of disability, multiculturalism, pedagogy, and spiritual
“Ever since she can remember, Prietita has heard
terrifying tales of la llorona — the legendary ghost woman who steals children
at night. Against a background of vibrant folk paintings, Gloria Anzaldúa
reinterprets, in a bilingual format, one of the most famous Mexican legends. In
this version, Prietita discovers that la llorona is not what she expects, but
rather a compassionate woman who helps Prietita on her journey of
“Named for the Nahuatl word
meaning “their soul,” IMANIMAN presents work that is sparked from the
soul: the individual soul, the communal soul. These poets interrogate,
complicate, and personalize the borderlands in transgressive and transformative
ways, opening new paths and revisioning old ones for the next generation of
spiritual, political, and cultural border crossers.”
“The inspirational writings of
cultural theorist and social justice activist Gloria Anzaldúa have empowered
generations of women and men throughout the world. Charting the multiplicity of
Anzaldúa’s impact within and beyond academic disciplines, community trenches,
and international borders, Bridging presents more than thirty reflections on
her work and her life, examining vibrant facets in surprising new ways and
inviting readers to engage with these intimate, heartfelt contributions.”
“Mexican and Mexican American
women have written about Texas and their lives in the state since colonial
times. Edited by fellow Tejanas Inés Hernández-Ávila and Norma Elia Cantú,
Entre Guadalupe y Malinche gathers, for the first time, a representative body
of work about the lives and experiences of women who identify as Tejanas in
both the literary and visual arts.
The writings of more than fifty
authors and the artwork of eight artists manifest the nuanced complexity of
what it means to be Tejana and how this identity offers alternative
perspectives to contemporary notions of Chicana identity, community, and
This volume was dedicated
principally to Gloria Anzaldúa.
“Delgadillo analyzes the role of
spiritual mestizaje in Anzaldúa’s work and in relation to other forms of
spirituality and theories of oppression. Illuminating the ways that
contemporary Chicana narratives visualize, imagine, and enact Anzaldúa’s theory
and method of spiritual mestizaje, Delgadillo interprets novels, memoir, and
documentaries. Her critical reading of literary and visual technologies
demonstrates how Chicanas challenge normative categories of gender, sexuality,
nation, and race by depicting alternative visions of spirituality.”
“This collection of essays,
poetry, and artwork brings together scholarly and creative responses inspired
by the life and work of Gloria Anzaldúa. The diverse voices represented in this
collection are gathered from the 2007 national conference and 2009
international conference of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa
(SSGA). More than 30 scholars, activists, poets, and artists contributed to EL
MUNDO ZURDO, whose release coincides with the SSGA’s second annual
international conference in San Antonio, Texas.”
“A collection of diverse essays
and poetry that offer scholarly and creative responses inspired by the life and
work of Gloria Anzaldúa, selected from the 2015 meeting of The Society for the
Study of Gloria Anzaldúa.”
“As self-identified lesbians of
color, Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde negotiate diverse,
sometimes conflicting, sets of personal, political, and professional worlds.
Drawing on recent developments in feminist studies and queer theory, AnaLouise
Keating examines the ways in which these writers, in both their creative and
critical work, engage in self-analysis, cultural critique, and the construction
of alternative myths and representations of women.”
Julia Davila Coppedge is the LLILAS Benson User Services GRA. She conducts in-person and online reference requests for patrons using library materials from the Special Collections and circulating collection. Julia is also a 2nd year Master of Science in Information Studies Candidate at UT Austin.