Category Archives: Archives

Papers of Celebrated Author, Poet, and Activist Jorge Argueta Come to the Benson

BY ANA A. RICO

The Benson Latin American Collection is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Jorge Tetl Argueta Pérez Papers. This collection captures the personal history of Argueta’s work as an award-winning children’s book author, poet, activist, organizer, cultural worker, teacher, and publisher. It includes manuscripts, books, journals, original artwork, correspondence, photographs, posters, and newspapers.

A smiling man with dark hair and mustache, black cowboy hat, red t-shirt illustrated with two Indigenous figures, faces the camera on the left side of the frame. In the background, a long avenue at the end of which is the U.S. Capitol.
Jorge Argueta in Washington, DC, ca. 2000. Photographer unknown.

Jorge Argueta was born in El Salvador and is of Pipil-Nahua descent. In the early 1980s, he immigrated to San Francisco during the Salvadoran Civil War. This experience influenced his early poetry, before he began writing children’s books. He is currently the Poet Laureate of San Mateo County, California, and is active in both San Mateo County and the Mission District community of San Francisco.

Two abstract multicolor drawings in crayon are side-by-side. Each one has a short handwritten poem scrawled next to the drawing.
Poems and artwork by Jorge Argueta, created shortly after arriving in the U.S., 1980s

Known as a performer and event organizer, Argueta works to promote multicultural children’s literature through events such as reading series, poetry festivals, and street fairs. He has held positions in notable San Francisco organizations, such as the de Young Museum of San Francisco, where he was a Poet-in-Residence for the Poets in the Galleries Program. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of Acción Latina and a curator of the Mixed Poetry Series. He is an editor at Luna’s Press Books and is co-owner of Luna’s Press Bookstore in San Francisco.

Colorful poster advertising performances of the opera Xochitl and the Flowers, libretto based on a book by José Argueta
Poster advertising performances Xochitl and the Flowers, an opera whose libretto is based on a book by Jorge Argueta

His impact does not stop in California, however. He established a children’s library, La Biblioteca de los Sueños, in 2016. A lifelong dream of his, the library now stands in Santo Domingo de Guzmán, his hometown. He also started The International Children’s Poetry Festival in Manyula, El Salvador, which has occurred every November since 2010. Argueta’s dedication to children’s literacy and literature has had a tremendous impact on both of his communities.   

Colorful cover of the children's book Alfredito Flies Home. We see a boy from the back. He is wearing a red long-sleeved shirt and blue pants. He is in a yard with green grass, a fence, and there is a football on a small area of concrete near the grass. He is making airplane shape with arms. The title of the book is written on a luggage tag.
Children’s book by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Luis Garay, published in 2007

Argueta’s work is recognized nationally and internationally. He has received the Américas Book Award, NAPPA Golden Award, Lee Bennett Hopkins Award, and Salinas de Alba Award, and his books are featured in the likes of the USBBY Outstanding International Books List, Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books, and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices. He continues his commitment to spreading multicultural children’s literature through classroom visits, earning the gratitude of young readers across the country and much thank-you correspondence from his visits. Although he is a prominent figure in bilingual children’s books, he also aims to reach older audiences through poetry and a memoir published in 2017.

This collection is an invaluable addition to the Benson. Its addition complements current collections such as the Carmen Lomas Garza Papers and Artworks, the Carmen Tafolla Papers, as well as the Benson’s Central American collections that feature Miguel Ángel Asturias, Ernesto Cardenal, and Pablo Antonio Cuadra.


Ana A. Rico is a master’s student at the School of Information and the Collection Development GRA at the Benson Latin American Collection.

Benson Exhibitions Focus on Chile

Two upcoming exhibitions at the Benson Latin American Collection will focus on Chile in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the violent coup that overthrew the government of democratically elected president Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.

In addition, a LLILAS Benson special event, “Chile 50 Years after the Military Coup: Testimonies and Remembrances,” taking place Tuesday, September 12, features a panel of Chileans, some of whom lived through the 1973 coup, moderated by Professor of History Joshua Frens-String. The event and the exhibitions are free and open to the public.

A second public event, organized by LLILAS Benson and the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, is titled “Before and After Chile 1973: Recovering a More Just Future.” It will take place in the Benson’s 2nd floor conference room on Thursday, October 19, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Battle for Chile: Cold War, Coup, and the Court of Public Opinion

From September 11, 2023, through April 30, 2024, the Hartness Reading Room Gallery at the Benson Latin American Collection will host an exhibition that focuses on Chilean politics and activism in the late 1960s through the mid-1980s.  

Centered on Chilean and non-Chilean individuals and entities trying to influence public and international opinion, Battle for Chile shows the country as one center of an international clash between capitalism and socialism. It focuses in particular on the high-stakes fight for international opinion as the post-coup regime continued to commit unspeakable atrocities under the guise of fighting global communism.  

On a bright red background, white silhouettes outlined in black suggest people running or fighting. The words Battle for Chile appear in bold lettering on this poster advertising an exhibition.
Battle for Chile exhibition poster

Reports and telegrams from the George Lister Papers show U.S. government concern over Salvador Allende’s candidacies and eventual election as well as an account of the coup in process. Sepa, an anti-Allende publication, declares his presidency illegitimate and seems to call for a military overthrow. Material distributed by the Pinochet regime and aimed at international audiences promotes reports of economic progress. Chilean and non-Chilean activists in the post-coup era work to share news of human rights violations. Anti-Pinochet and pro-Allende activists accuse the United States and other governments and corporations of creating the conditions leading to the coup or even supporting it. Transnational socialist organizations, often based in Cuba, capitalize on atrocities to build support for their cause through captivating posters and publications.  

Battle for Chile is an opportunity to see some of the Benson’s extensive collection of political ephemera and rare magazines as well as selections from archival collections.

— D Ryan Lynch, Head of Special Collections & Senior Archivist, Benson Latin American Collection

Walls That Speak: Street Art and Activism in Chile

On October 18, 2019, demonstrations erupted in the streets of Chile’s capital Santiago in reaction to an increase in subway fares, along with concerns about the cost of living and social inequality. Massive protests spread across the nation, some peaceful and some devolving into vandalism. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Sebastián Piñera. This social uprising is now recognized as the most significant in the country since the end of its dictatorship almost three decades ago.  

Chilean street artists emerged as participants and instigators, utilizing city walls as a canvas to express demands of the movement as well as document intergenerational trauma connected to Augusto Pinochet’s 1973–1990 dictatorship. Their artwork soon became visible on social media and served as a supportive backdrop for the Chilean demonstrators. Among those artists was Maurice Huenún, aka Pikoenelojo Stencil, who, like his peers, provided a visual narration of the protestors’ grievances and hopes for the future. His stencils explore themes of social justice, human rights, environmental concerns, political corruption, inequality, gender, anti-establishment sentiments, and reflections on local or global events. 

Against a white background, the words "Walls That Speak" appear in bold black with the letters looking slightly worn. There is a large stenciled image of a soldier holding a rifle or bayonet at the end of which is a bloodied brain. This poster advertises an exhibition of stencil street art.
Walls That Speak exhibition poster featuring art by Pikoenelojo Stencil

Walls That Speak: Street Art and Activism in Chile, a fall 2023 exhibition at the Benson Latin American Collection, highlights a recent acquisition of Pikoenelojo Stencil’s work, showcasing 12 original stencil artworks crafted by this prominent Chilean street artist. The works address topics such as criticism of Piñera’s policies, privatization, international corporations, the Pinochet dictatorship, systemic police repression, criticism of Christian dogma, among other topics. The collection provides a powerful visual narrative of the violent events that occurred in October 2019 while shedding light on the enduring legacy of Chile’s painful dictatorial past.  

— Veronica Valarino, Curator of Exhibitions, Benson Latin American Collection 

If you go . . .

The exhibitions at the Benson Latin American Collection are free and open to the public during library hours, which are Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Benson is located at 2300 Red River Street.

Benson Publishes Early-20th-Century Mexican American Newspapers Associated with Jovita Idar

By Ryan Lynch and Carla Alvarez

On Monday, August 14, the U.S. Mint released a quarter commemorating Mexican American journalist and activist Jovita Idar (b. Laredo, 1885–d. San Antonio, 1946) as part of its American Women Quarters program. In conjunction with this release, the Benson Latin American Collection recently published three issues of two newspapers that are associated with Idar. Together, these publications represent some of the earliest examples of Mexican American journalism. 

Learn about the Federico Idar and Idar Family Papers

The newly published items include two extremely rare issues of Evolución, a newspaper founded by Idar in 1916 and published until 1920. These issues document international and regional events such as the Mexican Revolution and World War I, as well as local topics such as containment of the flu outbreak in Nuevo Laredo and regional union organizing. There is also a single issue of El Progreso, a Laredo-based newspaper operated by the Idar family. 

Yellowed front page of a Spanish-language newspaper titled Evolución. There are various headlines relating to World War I, and one image.
Restored copy of “Evolución,” a daily paper published in Laredo, Texas Benson Latin American Collection Available online at https://collections.lib.utexas.edu/catalog/utblac:b17abce6-b75f-4e8b-80be-248f5d05f484

The Benson has received several requests for material related to Idar during the COVID shutdown and in recent months. In 2020, a cell phone snapshot of the October 26, 1918, issue of Evolución appeared in an episode about Jovita Idar on the PBS show Unladylike. Aware of the significance of these newspapers, Benson Special Collections staff sent them for conservation treatment and digitization as soon as possible.

El Progreso is at the heart of a story about Jovita Idar standing up to the Texas Rangers, who wanted to shut down her family’s paper. According to an oral history with descendant Aquilino Idar and his wife Guadalupe, when the Texas Rangers showed up at the El Progreso print shop, Jovita stood at the door and refused entry. The Rangers left but returned early the next morning and used hammers to destroy the press (oral history held by UT San Antonio Special Collections).

Yellowed front page of the Spanish-language newspaper "El Progresso," dated October 29, 1914. Main headline refers to World War I and the march of the Germans. The page includes several black-and-white photographs related to news stories, including one of two women on horseback.
Issue of “El Progreso,” an independent daily newspaper published in Laredo by the Idar family. Benson Latin American Collection. The entire issue is available online at https://collections.lib.utexas.edu/catalog/utblac:fdca5830-7f96-459d-9ead-807cd14d0a57

The two issues of Evolución recently received conservation treatment as part of the UT Austin Campus Conservation Initiative (CCI). The program, backed by Provost Sharon Wood, allows paper conservator Rachel Mochon to treat items from the Benson and other campus entities, including the Harry Ransom Center, the Briscoe Center for American History, and the Blanton Museum of Art.

Yellowed close-up of the top half of a front page of the Spanish-language newspaper Evolución, dated Laredo, Texas, Sábado 26 de Octubre de 1918. A large vertical crease down the middle shows where the once-torn item has been restored.
This issue of the Spanish-language newspaper “Evolución” was restored by the UT Austin Campus Conservation Initiative. The large vertical crease down the middle shows where the once-torn item has been restored. Benson Latin American Collection.

Other Benson items that have received treatment include a sixteenth-century land claim produced by an Indigenous community in Mexico, one of the first dictionaries of an Indigenous language published in the Americas, and a scrapbook from a Brazilian mining operation.

Yellowed front page of a Spanish-language newspaper titled Evolución. A large crease down the center shows where the torn page was restored by the UT Austin Campus Conservation Initiative.
Front page of Evolución, recently restored by the UT Austin Campus Conservation Initiative. Benson Latin American Collection. Available online at https://collections.lib.utexas.edu/catalog/utblac:46cf1f06-cf99-4a87-9aa0-f67128a77855

Related Resources

AILLA Road Trip: Teaching about the Indigenous Language Archive in Rural Oaxaca

BY EDEN EWING

When I arrived in San Marcos Zacatepec in rural Oaxaca, it was dark outside. A kind Chatino-speaking woman cooked me food: chicken soup with homemade tortillas. Dr. Anthony Woodbury from the UT Department of Linguistics and I had been traveling since early that morning, first arriving in Mexico City from Austin and then Puerto Escondido after a several-hour layover. We had to take a bus for several more hours to get to San Marcos Zacatepec, a town in the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountains and the first I would visit during my trek. This was the setting for the community outreach and research work I would be undertaking during spring break.

The Chatino-speaking region of Oaxaca is breathtakingly beautiful. All three communities that I visited are nestled in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range. Zacatepec is at the lowest altitude of all the Chatino-speaking communities that I visited, so it can get fairly hot during the day. However, San Juan Quiahije, another Chatino community, is several thousand feet higher up the mountain—cooler during the day and quite cold at night.

A sweeping line of mountains brownish-green, clouds of white, blue, and gray, with blue sky in the distance.
Although it wasn’t as lush as San Marcos Zacatepec, there was a beautiful view of the mountains from my balcony in San Juan Quiahije.

I am a dual-degree master’s student in Latin American Studies and Information Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, working to become an academic librarian with a subject specialty in Latin American and Indigenous Studies. I had come to Oaxaca with a clear goal in mind: to teach several workshops on archival access and navigation for the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), a digital archive at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. Dr. Susan Kung, AILLA’s coordinator, invited me to take part in a project with Dr. Emiliana Cruz, professor of anthropology at CIESAS–Mexico, and Dr. Anthony Woodbury, professor of linguistics at UT Austin. As part of the project, I spent my spring break in three Chatino-speaking villages: San Marcos Zacatepec, San Juan Quiahije, and San Miguel Panixtlahuaca. Several local language activists and teachers in the community wanted to be able to use the materials in AILLA to learn Chatino and listen to oral histories and stories in the language.

I agreed to go without hesitation, thrilled to participate in a project that brings together archivists, academics, and Indigenous community members around cultural materials represented in AILLA’s collections. I had hoped that, by getting access to these materials, Indigenous communities might be able to use them for projects related to the revitalization of their language and traditional cultural practices.


The Chatino Language Documentation Project is the subject of this 2015 article in Life & Letters magazine, which features reflections from several linguist researchers.


I soon learned that each town experienced different issues regarding their fluency in the Chatino language and ability to access AILLA. The vast majority of the population speaks a variant of Eastern Chatino, a language represented by several collections in the archive. San Marcos Zacatepec, however, differed significantly from the other two towns: For one, it is a very small village with poor internet access. Secondly, most of the community members no longer speak Chatino. There are only about 300 speakers left in the town and all of them are elderly. In contrast, the language proficiency is strong in both San Juan Quiahije and San Miguel Panixtlahuaca. While the primary issue in Zacatepec was access to the internet, there did appear to be a connection between a lack of ability to speak Chatino and the teachers having less interest in accessing the archive to find materials to use with schoolchildren.

A pale-gray wall is in the foreground. Painted on the wall is a simple rainbow with dark-gray clouds at each end. On either side of the rainbow, small blocks of different colors are painted, each with a word next to it in black lettering. In the background there is a red brick building with black wrought-iron gates in an archway. A few people are also visible in the background.
San Miguel Panixtlahuaca has educational murals in the center of town. This one shows a rainbow with the names of different colors in Chatino.

Community Workshops & the Technology Gap

In total, I taught five workshops on how to access and navigate AILLA in various spaces for different audiences: one small-group workshop at a community member’s house and another at a middle school in San Marcos Zacatepec; one each at a middle and a high school in San Juan Quiahije; and a final one at a public library in San Miguel Panixtlahuaca. Two of the workshops were conducted by myself and the other three were conducted with Dr. Cruz.

Each workshop had its own dynamic. For the first workshop we conducted in San Marcos Zacatepec, we played a game during which an older speaker would say a word in Spanish and the children had to say the word in Chatino. Some of the kids actually knew more Chatino than I thought they did, but it still felt like older members of the community were more invested in what was happening than the children were. In addition, without an internet connection or access to a space for our projector, it was not possible to demonstrate the use of the archive.

The second workshop in San Marcos Zacatepec was held at a private home with a small group of people. This session included Christian, a ten-year-old who brought his Chatino de Panixtlahuaca writing workbooks with him. Everyone was serious about learning how to use the archive and engaged throughout the session. I even saw one person making a PowerPoint with AILLA instructions as I walked the group through how to register for an account and navigate the Chatino language collections.

A boy looks at a cell phone. To his right, the author stands, pointing at something on the phone's screen. In the background there are visible two men, trees, and part of a red house.
I taught Christian how to look at the AILLA collections of many different languages across Latin America.

Unexpectedly, the experience gave me insight on how to effectively organize workshops that connect communities to information resources, a key skill for any academic librarian. Although Dr. Cruz was with me at the middle school in San Juan Quiahije, I taught the workshop at the high school there by myself. This meant coordinating a session with around 40 high school students by myself. This was the first time I had taught a workshop to such a large group of people. It was challenging and I was a little nervous, but the experience was exactly what I needed to become a better information professional.

One issue that became glaringly clear was that technological requirements can be a huge barrier to access for rural Global South communities. In the middle school in San Marcos Zacatepec, there was no internet, so we were not able to actively demonstrate the archive. Although San Juan Quiahije and San Miguel Panixtlahuaca had much better internet, we still experienced technological problems. For example, in San Juan Quiahije, we quickly found out that a majority of the middle school students did not have email addresses, so we had to spend part of the workshop teaching them how to make Gmail accounts. At the high school in San Juan Quiahije, there were issues with power outlets not working. I learned that archivists need to be prepared for anything, be creative, and really reflect on the sort of technology that a community might have access to.

Exterior wall of a building with a brightly painted mural on one part. The mural shows a scene with fruits, vegetables, and trees on green land, with darker-green mountains in the background and a blue sky beyond it. Objects on the mural have white numbers painted near them. Below the painting there is a list of numbers with words, painted in black. Each word is the Chatino term for its corresponding image in the painting.
Murals with the names of fruits and vegetables were on the walls at the Chatino Culture Museum in San Miguel Panixtlahuaca.

The Need for Continuity

Despite the numerous technological problems, this project provides us with a positive example of how archives can engage with communities whose materials are represented in AILLA’s collections. As I reflected on my experience, I realized that this cannot be the end of our relationship with the Chatino-speaking community. Rather, to ensure that these efforts are successful, this should be seen as the beginning of many more projects along these lines. The experience vindicated my belief that communities whose materials are represented in archives must have access to them, and that we should do whatever we can to facilitate that access.

LLILAS Benson is a proponent of projects that emphasize horizontal relationships with the communities and organizations represented in its archives and collections. As such, LLILAS Benson’s digital resources and digital initiatives hold a great deal of promise for future collaboration of this kind.


Eden Ewing is a dual-degree master’s student at LLILAS and the iSchool.


Related Links

Making Books and Tools Speak Chatino: Interview with Hilaria Cruz*

How Languages Get Writing Systems: An Interview with Hilaria Cruz

* Dr. Hilaria Cruz a Chatino-speaking linguist, is the sister of Dr. Emiliana Cruz and a UT Austin alumna.

Libraries Partners in Exhibition Celebrating Black Classicists

The University of Texas Libraries is collaborating with other local heritage institutions to highlight the contributions of Black historians to the study of antiquity.

“Black Classicists in Texas” is a free public exhibition, celebrating the life and work of classicists of color in Austin and Central Texas. In 1900, Reuben Shannon Lovinggood, the Chair of the Greek and Latin Department at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, made an impassioned argument against those who minimized the value of liberal education, especially Classics, for Black people. In the same year, Lovinggood became the first president of Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University), and a pillar of the Austin Black community.

But he was not the only one.

The exhibition tells the story of Central Texas’ early educators of color and their passion for the study of antiquity. Explore images, archival materials, interviews, and current scholarship to find out more about Lovinggood, L.C. Anderson, H.T. Kealing and their vibrant community of scholars, students and public intellectuals. Learn about Classics and its place in historic debates on Black self-determination, and find out more about classical education in Austin today.

This exhibition is a collaboration between the Department of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas Libraries, the Black Diaspora Archive at the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, the Downs-Jones Library at Huston-Tillotson University, and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.Visit the three exhibition sites at the Benson Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, Huston-Tillotson University, and the Carver Museum.

For more information on the exhibitions, including a self-guided tour and additional resources, visit the Black Classicists in Texas website at https://bcatx.org/.

“Black Classicists in Texas” will be on view through December 22, 2023.


Over the past year, Adriana Cásarez, U.S. Studies and African Studies Librarian, played a key role in coordinating the “Black Classicists in Texas” exhibition project, and worked in partnership with Libraries’ colleagues Rachel E. Winston, Dr. D Ryan Lynch, Dr. Lorraine J. Haricombe, Shiela Winchester, Mary Rader, and Aaron Choate.

Casarez was interviewed about the exhibit on the Texas Standard, which you can listen to here.

The Missing Link: Peer Learning for Linked Data

Over the last decade, there has been a proliferation of initiatives by GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) using Linked Open Data technologies to enhance access to their collections. From nation-wide collaborative campaigns, such as the Program for Cooperative Cataloging Wikidata Pilot, to paradigm-shifting implementations, such as the transition of the Library of Congress cataloging operations to a hybrid MARC and BIBFRAME environment, the growing availability of tools, ontologies and platforms are finally allowing cultural heritage institutions to explore the promises of linked data.

Librarians and archivists see the potential in Wikidata as a pragmatic solution for managing local authorities in a linked data environment; Wikidata is increasingly used for research and increasingly integrated into software applications, including Library Service Platforms like Alma/Primo.

The UT Linked Data Learning Group, an informal community of practice at The University of Texas at Austin, composed of professional staff working in archives and libraries, convenes monthly to address the need for pragmatic ways to integrate linked data into routine workflows. We collaborate to build knowledge, skills, and institutional support for linked data initiatives in our respective institutions.

In 2022, group efforts focused on building knowledge and skills around Wikidata. Some members of the UT Linked Data Learning Group have been exploring and using Wikidata in various projects in recent years. This group aspired to leverage those members’ knowledge and skills to train other staff through a hands-on peer learning experience, with intentions to expand awareness and surface opportunities for integrating Wikidata into existing and future work. To that end, group members designed and delivered a 2-day virtual Wikidata Workshop on January 12-13, 2023.

Workshop Outcomes

Goals achieved:

  • Staff familiarity with Wikidata and Linked Data
  • Enhanced linked data ecosystem relevant to Texas Cultural Heritage
  • Expanded impact of Handbook of Texas diversification efforts (adding & enhancing Wikidata entries about Texas women)

Building a community of practice – campus representation among 36 registrants:

  • UT Libraries Content Management unit
  • UT Libraries Access Systems unit
  • UT Libraries Branch & Borrower Services unit
  • UT Libraries Stewardship department
  • UT Libraries Alexander Architectural Archives
  • UT Libraries Benson Latin American Collection
  • Harry Ransom Center
  • Briscoe Center for American History
  • Tarlton Law Library
  • Texas Digital Library
  • School of Information

Hands-on peer learning to build new skills:

  • 21 active editors contributed to Wikidata throughout the workshop. Some continued with contributions after the workshop.
  • 31 new items created in Wikidata for entries represented in the Handbook of Texas
  • 74 existing Wikidata items updated with data from the Handbook of Texas
  • 835 new references for Wikidata statements citing the Handbook of Texas as a source
Infographic of workshop outcomes

Individuals involved in designing and delivering the workshop: Melanie Cofield, Head of Access Systems, University of Texas Libraries (UTL); Brenna Edwards, Manager for Digital Archives, Harry Ransom Center; Paloma Graciani-Picardo, Metadata Librarian and Head, Printed & Published Media, Harry Ransom Center; Katie Pierce Meyer, Head of Architectural Collections, UTL; Michael Shensky, Head of Research Data Services, UTL; Yogita Sharma, Alexander Architectural Archives team member, UTL; and Elliot Williams, former DPLA Metadata Aggregation Outreach Coordinator for Texas Digital Library.

Los del Valle Oral Histories Available at Libraries’ Collections Portal

The Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin has made a significant oral history archive featuring voices of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and Northern Mexico available online through the Libraries’ Collections Portal.

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley history professor Manuel F. Medrano launched the Los del Valle Oral History Project in 1993 with the goal of collecting and preserving historical memories in the Rio Grande Valley, a region that has been historically underrepresented in archival and published research. Many of the original interviews were broadcast in edited form on local public access television. The collection of nearly 300 videos was transferred to the Benson Latin American Collection in 2015.

Raw footage of an interview with Dr. Américo Paredes, 1995. Dr. Paredes discusses how his parents came to Brownsville, his advice for writers, and the publication of his dissertation \With a Pistol in His Hand.

“By making the Los del Valle Oral History Project fully available online, the Benson highlights the immense intellectual and cultural contributions of the people of the lower Rio Grande Valley to the state of Texas,” says John Morán González, J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English Literature and former director of the university’s Center for Mexican American Studies. “Scholars, students, and the general public now have access to key figures and ideas that will surely enrich our understanding of this unique borderlands region.”

Los del Valle (Spanish for “those of the Valley”) is a term used to describe Mexican Americans who live in the rural South Texas, especially those in Hidalgo, Starr and Cameron Counties. These predominantly Mexican American communities, some of which predate the modern border between Mexico and the United States, represent a vibrant culture along this historically fluid border. Interviewees come from both sides of the modern border, and include writers Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, Carmen Tafolla and Oscar Cásares; scholar and folklorist Américo Paredes; educator Juliet Garcia; artist Carmen Lomas Garza; and accordionist Narciso Martínez. Other subjects include shrimp boat workers, Charro Days participants, World War II veterans and filmmaker Gregory Nava. These interviews cover a wide range of topics, from the early days of settlement in the region to the Chicano Movement and beyond.

An interview with Carmen Lomas Garza, a Chicana artist born in Kingsville, Texas, who talks about her art career. Lomas Garza talks about racial discrimination toward Mexican American families, and shares the influence and involvement of the Chicano movement in her life.

“Professor Manuel Medrano and his team have gifted us with an important resource that helps us understand the history of the Rio Grande Valley. By doing so, it places the RGV in the context of Texas and, more broadly, the U.S.,” says Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, director of the Voces Oral History Center and the Center for Mexican American Studies.

“Oral history is key in documenting the perspective of the Latino community—too few Latinos/as will leave diaries, letters, and other records to a publicly accessible archive,” says Rivas-Rodriguez. “But even in the case of people like Américo Paredes, who did in fact leave his papers at the Benson, oral history provides context that would otherwise be unattainable.”

Interviews with Members of the 124th Cavalry Regiment at the 30th Annual Reunion. Interviews with members of the 124th Cavalry Regiment and their wives about their background, their memories of World War II, and what the reunion means to them.

Learn more about the specific holdings in the Los del Valle Oral History Project at Texas Archival Resources Online, or browse the online collection in the Libraries’ Collections Portal.

Los del Valle Oral History Project Archive was digitized with funds from the Latin American Materials Project (LAMP), Center for Research Libraries.

Librarians Contribute to New Podcast Series about Archival Materials and Counter Narratives

On Wednesday, 29 March 2023, the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Heritage at Rare Book School launched Counter Narratives in Practice, a podcast series about multicultural heritage collections, storytelling, and representation in galleries, libraries, archives, museums, and beyond. This podcast is part of a larger project that highlights the work of the RBS Cultural Heritage Fellows.

The Fellows, led by book historian Allie Alvis, worked together from across the U.S. to tell stories about the archival materials in their collections and how those stories can prompt thinking about counter narratives in professional practice.

The University of Texas Libraries’ Liaison for Middle Eastern Studies Dale Correa and Black Diaspora Archivist Rachel Winston are contributors to the project.

The podcast episodes, which are now all available, include:

Archiving Political Histories that Shape Education and Disconnection and Accessibility in the Archive
Guests highlight the roles of Indigenous advocacy, settler colonialism, disability, and accessibility in archival collections.

We Were Never Silent: Immigrant Narratives & Caribbean Print Culture as Counter Narrative and We Were Never Silent: Bilingual Text in the Ottoman Empire & Pidgin English in Chinese Text as Counter Narratives
Guests explore immigration, oral history, and music as they relate to formal and informal institutions of memory.

Hidden Histories: African American, Asian American, and Afro-Asian Relationality and Hidden Histories: Immigrant Farm Workers and Black Intellectual Histories
Guests discuss Florida Farmworkers, Covid-19, and the importance of documenting marginalized stories.

The Cultural Heritage Fellows Podcast Team are:

Ellen-Rae Cachola, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Law Library

Talea Anderson, Washington State University

Azalea Camacho, California State University, Los Angeles

Sandy Enriquez, University of California Riverside

Amalia Medina Castañeda, California State University, Dominguez Hills

Milton Machuca-Galvez, University of Kansas

Dale J. Correa, University of Texas at Austin

DeLisa Minor Harris, Fisk University

Rachel E. Winston, University of Texas at Austin

Suzanne Im, University of California, Irvine

Meaghan Alston, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, University of Florida

Jina DuVernay, Gwinnett County Public Library

Victor Betts, North Carolina State University Libraries

Patrice Green, Penn State University Libraries

Annual ¡A Viva Voz! Event to Feature Chicana / Tejana Artist Santa Barraza, Exhibition Opening

The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection is proud to host the 21st Annual ¡A Viva Voz! Celebration of U.S. Latino/a/x Culture, featuring a conversation with Chicana/Tejana artist Santa Barraza.

Santa Barraza, courtesy Juan Johnson Lopez

A native of Kingsville, Texas, Santa Barraza is a contemporary artist and founder of Barraza Fine Art, LLC, a gallery and studio committed to furthering the appreciation of the visual arts in the borderlands and among isolated, rural populations.

Barraza’s artwork is in the permanent collections of museums in Texas, California, and Maine; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; France; Germany; and Spain. Most recently, her work is on view in the art museums of Denver, Albuquerque, and San Antonio as part of Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche; the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin for Chicano/a Art, Movimiento y Más en Austen, Tejas, 1960s–1980s; and for the Art in Embassies exhibition organized in Mexico City by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar.

The ¡A Viva Voz! event also marks the opening of the exhibition Legacies of Nepantla: Artists Affirming Identity and Existence, curated by Maribel Falcón, the Benson’s U.S. Latina/o/x Studies Librarian. The exhibition showcases work that is part of the Benson’s archival holdings. It will be on view in the Benson’s Ann Hartness Reading Room through mid-August 2023.

“The exhibition showcases work from women whose myriad identities include Chicana, Native American, Tejana, and Latina, in addition to mothers, sisters, organizers, artists, activists, teachers, and students,” said Falcón. “Many of the featured artists are established as leaders in their communities and recognized as pillars of the Chicano/a art world, such as Santa Barraza, Carmen Lomas Garza, Patssi Valdez, Yreina D. Cervántez, Ester Hernandez, Irene Pérez, and Alma López.”


If You Go ¡A Viva Voz! takes place in the Benson Latin American Collection (2300 Red River Street, SRH 1) on Thursday, April 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. Light refreshments provided by The Local Explorer Mezcal and La Cocina de Consuelo; vinyl sounds by Chulita Vinyl Club. 

Due to an event at the Moody Center, parking is limited. We encourage attendees to use alternative forms of transportation. City of Austin street parking is available on Dean Keaton and on Red River north of Clyde Littlefield.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Susanna Sharpe.


Image: Cihuateteo con Coyolxauhqui y La Guadalupana, Santa Barraza, 1996

The John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building Archive

BY JEREMY THOMPSON

The Black Diaspora Archive (BDA) at The University of Texas at Austin documents the Black experience in the Americas and the Caribbean through the voices and stories of those who have championed the Black spaces that we use and benefit from today. Diaspora is defined as the “dispersion of any people from their original homeland,” and often when evoked with the Black experience in America, means the historical movement and displacement of Africans from their native homeland.

For the Black community in Austin, diaspora is a much more recent and closer-to-home event as its established Black communities are under threat of disappearing. Through the use of oral histories, the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building Archive tells the story of the herding of the Black community into East Austin, the Black establishments and schools that grew during this time, and the subsequent displacement that has occurred in recent times. While much has changed for the Black community in East Austin, one building has stood in service of its community while enduring its own share of transformation. 

Line drawing of a one-story building facade in white on a solid orange background; white lettering says The John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building.
Image used to herald the opening of the newly renovated Chase Building

The building at 1191 Navasota Street in East Austin was built in 1952 to house what was then the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas (CTSAT). The CTSAT commissioned the building to serve as its headquarters and tapped John Saunders Chase as the architect to design the building. Chase was the first African American to graduate from the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture and first to become a licensed architect in the state of Texas. The building that Chase designed would serve the CTSAT for 14 years before the association voluntarily dissolved in 1966 to merge with the Texas State Teachers Association. In 1968, the building was purchased by Dr. Ella Mae Pease and would become the House of Elegance. Now a beauty salon, the building served as a social hub for Black community in East Austin and a focal point for social events that Pease would facilitate. During its time as the House of Elegance, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Photograph of a one-story building with some brick on the facade. A small sign on the building reads House of Elegance in cursive writing.
The House of Elegance pictured at the end of its reign

After decades of service, the building was purchased in 2018 by the University of Texas at Austin and christened the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building. Dr. Suchitra Gururaj, Assistant Vice President for Community and Economic Engagement, explains the decision to purchase the building:

“The idea for renovating the building came about in 2017, when House of Elegance owner, Pearl Cox, decided to sell the property. Former UT President Greg Fenves saw an opportunity to bring prominence to the university with the purchase of the first property designed by John S. Chase, the first Black/African American graduate of UT’s School of Architecture. When the purchase was made, we proposed that the space be repurposed as our next Center for Community Engagement (CCE) of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE). We consider the CCE to be the ‘front porch’ of our university, inviting community members and residents to connect with a large, decentralized, and often intimidating university that has not always welcomed people from diverse communities. In re-creating the Chase Building, we were not only able to celebrate Mr. and Mrs. Chase’s legacy but also to create a new life for the building that represented the intersection of diversity and community engagement. Like successful community engagement practice, our process of renovation was also collaborative, drawing on the mentorship of Donna Carter and relying on the expertise of Dorothy Fojtik and Nathan Goodman at UT Project Management and Construction Services. Over the period of the renovation, the project transformed from a simple university construction project into a true labor of love.”

Donna Carter, the first African American woman to become a licensed architect in Austin, led the effort to renovate the Chase Building. In 2022, the Chase Building reopened as the base for the Center of Community Engagement (CCE). This department within UT’s Division of Diversity for Community Engagement works to deploy university resources to foster connections with the community and meet community needs. In an effort to document the change that the Chase Building and East Austin have undergone over the years, the CCE began to conduct interviews with community members in 2019 and 2020 centering around the Robertson Hill neighborhood, the area that was home to the building. This project was advocated for by the Robertson Hill Neighborhood Association, which also suggested community members to interview for this project. The product of these interviews is the collection of oral histories and photographs that make up the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building Archive. Housed in the BDA’s archival collection, these oral histories cover a range of topics including education, churches, and race and the City of Austin.

A black-and-white photo of Black boys and girls of various ages, as well as a male and female adult, who are posed for a school photo.
Archival photograph depicting a class from Blackshear Elementary

The Chase Building Archive consists of nine interviews with members of the East Austin community who have witnessed the change in the area. In her oral history, Mrs. Patricia Calhoun reminisces about growing up in the Robertson Hill neighborhood. She speaks about the streets that she grew up on that still remain today and the establishments in the community that do not. When talking about the importance of Black stories, Calhoun states, “Our stories are important to us because we’ve been here for generations, and yet the community is changing so rapidly that we could be erased without a thought.” This sentiment about the transformation of East Austin and the diminishing presence of its original community is observed throughout the collection. Mr. Clifton Vandyke Sr. jokingly remarks during his interview that “if we aren’t careful, this will be just like visiting a museum where people will come and say this is where African Americans used to live.” These quotes can be found on one of the four curated vignettes, “Storytelling and History,”  that weave together common themes found throughout the assorted oral histories.

An older Black gentleman in a blue short-sleeved shirt, is seated on a comfortable living room chair. The photo is taken through the lens of a video camera, and the viewer of the camera is also visible.
Mr. Clifton Vandyke Sr. seen through the camera lens during his oral history interview

Another vignette that can be found in the collection revolves around education and its importance with the community. Memories of attending schools like Blackshear Elementary School, Kealing Middle School, and Huston-Tillotson University testify to the many outlets available for education and the community’s pursuit of it. Ms. Lydia Moore spoke about the opportunity to choose which school she could attend after desegregation: “We had been told we would be the first group to have that opportunity to go anywhere we wanted to, but that we’d be ready. We need not be afraid. We need not feel inferior. But we would be ready.” 

The thirst for education within the community sprouted from wanting not only to survive, but thrive in the world. The sentiment of wanting to thrive in East Austin is shared throughout the collection and can also be found in CCE’s efforts to collaborate with the community from the Chase Building. Stephanie Lang, Director for community-facing programs at CCE, expresses the aim of this collection: “As historic East Austin continues to change rapidly, the amazing legacy of these communities are at risk of erasure. This archive is but one of the many efforts being done to preserve these stories and provide a way for many generations to access, reflect on, and honor this important history.” 

Two women pose together in a home, with a kitchen in the background. On the left is a younger Black woman with long dreads, glasses, and red lipstick who is wearing a red-white-and-black scarf; on the right an older Black woman in a bright blue top and dark blue blazer. Both are smiling.
Mrs. Vonnye Rice Gardner (right) poses with Stephanie Lang, who worked as the interviewer for the project

Rachel Winston, Black Diaspora Archivist and steward of the BDA, states, “As we celebrate the legacies of John and Drucie Chase, the work of CCE, and the history of the Chase building, it is necessary to also recognize the local community that has made all of this possible. The interviews in this collection offer an incredible glimpse into the lives and experiences of Austinites from historic, Black East Austin.” 

The John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building Archive is stewarded by the Black Diaspora Archive and can be accessed through a variety of avenues. The oral histories and photographs can be accessed online via the University of Texas Libraries Collections portal, here. The analog artifacts of the collection have been described in the collection’s TARO finding aid and can be requested in the Benson Latin American Collection’s rare books and manuscripts reading room. For more in-depth history about the Chase Building, visit CCE’s showcase on it and their series of videos centered around the building and its surrounding communities. Collections like the Chase Building Archive provide us the opportunity to learn how Black communities and spaces come about, and warn us about the diaspora that looms with their absence. 


Jeremy Thompson is a Diversity Resident Librarian at the University of Texas Libraries.