Each fall, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections invites graduate and undergraduate students from all departments and disciplines across the university to submit photographs to the Field Notes student photography exhibition. Thirty images are chosen for display in the Benson Latin American Collection. Through these images, student photographers document moments from their research on Latin America or US Latina/o communities.
In addition to showcasing student research, the exhibition awards prizes of $250 to two student photographers. The winning photos are chosen in a blind competition by a panel of faculty and staff.
Fall 2019 marks the tenth anniversary of the photography show, originally conceived by Adrian Johnson, librarian for Caribbean studies and head of user services at the Benson. In this Tex Libris post, we give a glimpse of this beautiful and varied exhibition, and invite readers to visit the Benson to view all of the photos.
Through her research with Mexican migrants in Austin, prize-winner Maribel Bello created the Facebook page Rancho Querido, which she calls “an emotional-visual-exchange bridge” for sharing of images showing everyday activities in Mexico. Her winning photo shows children playing hide-and-seek. Bello is a master’s student in Latin American Studies at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS).
In his untitled prize-winning photo (below), Arisbel López Andraca, a PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, depicts a religious procession in Havana, Cuba. López has been researching the visuality of “daily religious practices” in the streets of Havana, noting the considerable increase in the circulation of “dressed dolls” or “spiritual dolls” as representations of orichas, spiritual entities, or eggungun.
LLILAS PhD candidate Ricardo Velasco looks at “cultural initiatives for memory and reconciliation in the context of Colombia’s current transitional justice conjuncture.” He conducted ethnographic research in Comuna 13, he says, to inquire about “how youth visual culture has contributed to the transformation of what once was one of the urban epicenters of Colombia’s armed conflict.”
Pablo Millalen Lepin, a LLILAS PhD student, studies public policies toward indigenous people in his native Chile. His photo reflects the meaning of ranching and livestock ownership for Indigenous Mapuche families, for whom “the possession of an animal can be interpreted as part of the local economy, and/or the promise of future work, principally in the area of agriculture.”
To see and enjoy all of the photographs, visit the exhibition in the first-floor corridor of the Benson Latin American Collection during library hours. Exhibition runs through December 2019.
Feature image, top, taken in Boyacá, Colombia, by Sofia Mock, undergraduate in Plan II.
By Daniel Arbino, Librarian for U.S. Latina/o Studies
They are colorful, vibrant, tongue-in-cheek, eclectic, expressive, melancholic, and political. They are self-published, sold, traded, and given away. Extremely rare, but inexpensive. And now, they are on display. The University of Texas at Austin’s Latino Studies has a flashy new exhibition in the halls of the Gordon-White Building (GWB). Made up of self-published poetry, essays, photographs, short stories, and artwork, Dissent: Zine Culture (And the Voices You Wouldn’t Hear Otherwise) highlights the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection’s U.S. Latinx Zine and Graphic Novel Collection with over forty zines.
The term “zine” is derived from fanzine, a form of expression that started in the 1930s among science fiction fans. Zines took off in the 1960s among countercultures, particularly those invested in socio-political activism that may have identified with civil rights movements, the Chicano movement, Feminism, LGBTQ+, etc. From the 1970s to the 1990s, zines continued to grow, especially through punk communities. Now, zines are more popular than ever, with a variety of subject matter that can be disseminated using twenty-first-century technologies like social media or Etsy.
What makes zines so important is that they provide an outlet for groups that have been overlooked or silenced by mainstream society and, by extension, publishers. Through self-publishing, creators of cultural content have autonomy over their content and design. This would resonate with the intersectionality flourishing within Latinx communities.
The origins of the U.S. Latinx Zine and Graphic Novel Collection started in the summer of 2017 with the single purchase of Chifladazine at the Lone Star Zine Fest in Austin. Since then, the collection has grown in its size and uniqueness with additional purchases made on trips to San Antonio, New York City, and Albuquerque. Other zines have been purchased online over the span of two years. The collection currently consists of 259 zines, graphic novels, and chapbooks that focus on U.S. Latinx zine creators. Some Indigenous writers are included as well. The Benson’s oldest zine is from 1984, but the majority were published within the last decade.
One particular interest has been on different, but inclusive, Latinx voices, with a special privilege given to feminist and LGBTQ+ expressions. Within the collection, there zines about Xicana veganism, traditional knowledge systems, gentrification, immigration, and body positivity that dismantle ways in which mainstream society thinks about these topics. Their relevance underscores the fact that zines provide a documented record of opposition, hence the exhibition title.
Curated by Mallory Laurel, the Director of Outreach and Communications for Latino Studies, Dissent: Zine Culture (And the Voices You Wouldn’t Hear Otherwise) recognizes the power that self-publishing has as a means to challenge accepted mainstream ideas while attracting the attention of students with their eye-catching formats. The exhibit is thematically structured around seven different themes: health & body, love & relationships, politics & protest, place & identity, medicinal folklore, St. Sucia Zines, and zines that come in different shapes and sizes. Though each scope is different, all aim to enunciate new modes of representation; all refuse to accept silence.
While this particular collection is new, the Benson has a history of collecting ephemeral materials such as Puerto Rican graphic novels, Brazilian cordel literature, Cuban historietas, and cartoneras. Our goal is to offer a wide breadth of materials from Latinx and Latin American populations. To that extent, Latinx zines and graphic novels participate in a hemispheric attempt to use self-publication as a means to articulate perspectives on community and identity. In housing zines at the Benson, we show creators that we value their message, support and promote their work, and want them to succeed. To our patrons, we want to emphasize the inclusivity of our collection and of our space.
The Dissent exhibition will run until December 10, 2019. Patrons can visit the Benson Latin American Collection to access our other zines and should continue checking back periodically as the collection grows.
Durante el verano, LLILAS Benson y el Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI) en El Salvador agregaron otra iniciativa digital a su portfolio de colaboración. Desde 2012, las dos instituciones han trabajado juntos para digitalizar archivos relacionados a la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña (1980–1992), gracias al generoso apoyo de la Fundación Andrew W. Mellon. Continuando estos esfuerzos, esta nueva iniciativa también exploró el potencial de las humanidades digitales para destacar una de las colecciones más impresionantes de MUPI: los bordados testimoniales de refugiados salvadoreños.
Los testimonios sobre la violación de derechos humanos se presentan en diferentes formas, y el fundador y actual director de MUPI, Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi, ha procurado preservar la diversidad. Poco después de la firma de los Acuerdos de Paz de Chapultepec en 1992 que pusieron fin a la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña, Santiago dirigió una campaña para rescatar el patrimonio cultural creado antes, durante y después del conflicto armado. Esto ha incluido propaganda política, publicaciones y las grabaciones de la estación de Radio Venceremos. Desde su fundación formal en 1999, MUPI ha continuado esta preservación y ha expandido su enfoque para incluir varios temas sobre la cultura e historia salvadoreña.
La colección que ha crecido más recientemente, y el enfoque de esta nueva iniciativa, consiste de bordados testimoniales creados por campesinas salvadoreñas refugiadas en Honduras durante la guerra civil. Estas piezas fueron creadas para comunicar al mundo las experiencias vividas de los refugiados, y muchos de los textiles se enviaron a grupos y organizaciones de solidaridad en Europa y Canadá para ello. Gracias a una campaña internacional reciente, más de veinte obras han sido repatriadas y enviadas a MUPI. A través de talleres en las comunidades rurales de El Salvador, MUPI ha renovado el aprecio por esta tradición cultural, promoviendo el arte y los esfuerzos de repatriación a través de una exposición titulada Bordadoras de Memoria en la capital.
Ahora que los bordados están volviendo a casa, MUPI está utilizando tecnologías digitales para continuar el trabajo de abogar por los derechos humanos que estas mujeres comenzaron en la década de los 1980s. Para alcanzar y educar a un público más amplio e internacional, específicamente jóvenes descendientes de salvadoreños en los Estados Unidos, el Museo trabajó con el personal de Estudios Digitales en LLILAS Benson (LBDS) para recrear Bordadoras de Memoria en línea. En junio, el equipo de LBDS viajó a San Salvador y capacitó al diseñador gráfico de MUPI, Pedro Durán, en el uso de la plataforma Omeka para que pudiera reconcebir la exhibición digitalmente, utilizando fotografías preliminares de los bordados. El equipo también aprovechó la oportunidad para hablar sobre otras herramientas de código abierto que el personal de MUPI puede usar en su trabajo con jóvenes locales.
La visita también lanzó otro proyecto archivístico pos-custodial para ambas instituciones. Dado el tamaño de algunas obras (la pieza que se muestra arriba es más de 2.5 metros de largo), el proyecto requirió un flujo de trabajo completamente diferente en la digitalización y entrenamiento en nuevos equipos. Capacitados por el personal de archivos pos-custodiales (PC) de la Colección Latinoamericana Benson, el equipo de LBDS trabajó con el personal de MUPI para iniciar la digitalización y la descripción archivística de los bordados. El equipo de PC espera incorporar la colección al portal Latin American Digital Initiatives a finales de este año, así que estense atentos.
In a keynote speech to the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), delivered on June 27 at the University of Texas at Austin, Guatemalan human rights activist Gustavo Meoño, former director of the AHPN, revealed some of the most recent events undermining the archive, including a drastic reduction of staff and an imminent takeover by the country’s Ministry of Culture, both of which have serious implications for the AHPN’s operation and integrity.
The significance of this news cannot be overstated. The AHPN contains records of Guatemala’s former National Police dating back more than a century. Its contents relating to the country’s 36-year armed conflict have been crucial in uncovering the fate of tens of thousands of Guatemalans during the most violent years of civil strife. “Since its discovery in 2005, the AHPN has played a central role in Guatemala’s attempts to reckon with its bloody past,” according to the National Security Archive, an NGO in Washington DC that advocates against government secrecy. The records “have been relied upon by families of the disappeared, scholars, and prosecutors. The institution has become a model across Latin America and around the world for the rescue and preservation of vital historical records,” an article dated May 30, 2019, states.
AHPN has become a model for the rescue and preservation of vital historical and human rights records.
Meoño served as director of the AHPN from 2005 until his abrupt removal in August 2018 at the hands of the Guatemalan government and the United Nations Development Office; he subsequently fled with his family to Argentina amid death threats and intimidation. In the weeks since his announcement in Austin, the fate of the AHPN has become even more uncertain. On July 10, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, which now oversees the archive, dismissed Anna Carla Ericastilla, longtime director of Guatemala’s national archive, the Archivo General de Centro América (AGCA, AHPN’s parent archive), amid accusations that she had illegally allowed access to the archive to entities outside the country, such as the University of Texas at Austin, and that she had collected donor contributions to pay archive personnel unbeknown to the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
According to the AHPN website hosted by the University of Texas Libraries, “The AHPN Digital Archive is a collaborative project of the University of Texas’ Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, and Benson Latin American Collection, with the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional de Guatemala.” As faculty directors of the aforementioned institutions made clear in a recent letter to Guatemala’s minister and vice-minister of Culture and Sports, the collaboration with the AHPN and its parent archive, the AGCA, “has always been open, public, and fully in compliance with the laws of Guatemala and the United States.”
Documents from the AHPN have been used in 14 trials prosecuting human rights abuses, said Meoño. These include the 1980 burning by police of the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City with 37 Indigenous protestors shut inside; and the 1981 abduction, rape, and torture of Emma Molina Theissen along with the subsequent forced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio. Preservation efforts have prioritized documents from the worst years of government-sponsored terror, 1975–1985, according to Meoño. All told, there were almost 200,000 victims of the armed conflict, including the disappeared. “Indeed, it may be the Police Archive’s crucial contributions to human rights trials that caused the government of President Jimmy Morales to seek to control the repository and fire its director,” wrote the NSA last August.
The fate of the AHPN has particular resonance for The University of Texas at Austin, and in particular, for LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and the UT Libraries, who, through their partnership with the AHPN, have successfully secured and posted online digital copies of one-third of the more than 60 million documents in the archive—an estimated 8 linear kilometers of material. Preservation of the archive’s contents has been paramount since the documents were discovered, haphazardly stored, by the Guatemalan Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor (Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos, or PDH) in filthy, rat-infested buildings that were part of a sprawling police base located in a Guatemala City neighborhood.
Guatemala will elect a new government in August. The AHPN’s Texas partners will be among the international community of human rights advocates watching closely to see what that bodes for the AHPN and the future of truth and restorative justice in Guatemala.
LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections is proud to present “Cantos y Cuentos: An Evening with Tish Hinojosa and Lourdes Pérez” for the 17th annual ¡A Viva Voz! Celebration of Latina/o Arts and Culture, coming to the Benson Latin American Collection, 2300 Red River Street, on Thursday, April 4, 2019, at 7 p.m.
In “Cantos y Cuentos,” San Antonio native Tish Hinojosa and Puerto Rican–born Lourdes Pérez will share the stage for song and conversation, giving the audience a front seat to the stories and histories behind each composer’s music, and glimpse of a friendship that spans many years.
Hinojosa is one of 13 children born to immigrant parents. The Southwest has been a focal point for her songwriting in English and Spanish, in styles ranging from Tejano to singer-songwriter folk, border music, and country. In a career spanning more than three decades, she has toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe, recorded in English and Spanish as an independent artist for major record labels, and has been a featured artist on Austin City Limits and A Prairie Home Companion. Hinojosa was praised by the Chicago Tribune as “a first-class songwriter,” and her supple voice lends itself well to a variety of genres. Her most recent album, West, includes new originals and an eclectic mix of covers.
Hinojosa was an invited performer at the White House at the invitation of President Bill Clinton and then First Lady Hillary Clinton. She has performed with Joan Baez, Booker T. Jones, Flaco Jimenez, Pete Seeger, and Dwight Yoakam. The Benson Latin American Collection is the repository of Hinojosa’s archive.
When she began touring in the early 1990s, Lourdes Pérez was one of the only out Latina lesbians in the music world. Known for her soulful contralto voice, she takes on difficult topics in her songs, such as war and social justice, but also pens beautifully crafted lyrics on a range of topics. She is one of the few female writers of décimas, a form of Spanish poetry. Pérez’s performances have taken her to war zones and contested areas such as Chiapas and Palestine, and she has collaborated onstage and off with songwriters and performers in those areas and others, including translating lyrics from Arabic into Spanish.
In 2006, Pérez was one the first five artists in the US to be awarded a United States Artists Fellowship for Music, naming her “one of the finest living artists in the country.” Pérez is also a poet and oral historian. Her most recent project, Still Here: Homenaje al West Side de San Antonio, is a book and CD with original compositions by Pérez, performed by a variety of artists, inspired by oral histories of some of San Antonio’s most revered elders. The release of the project included a multimedia performance.
Along the Pacific coast of Colombia lies the vibrant and growing seaport city of Buenaventura. The city also serves as home to a large portion of Colombia’s Afro-descendant communities. Colombia, with one of the largest populations of Afro-descendant peoples in Latin America, serves as home to countless Afro-Colombians, a large number of whom live in coastal regions or rural areas, and more recently in urban spaces—a result of ongoing displacement.
This past October, the LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives unit at The University of Texas at Austin launched the second of three post-custodial projects with new partners, the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), specifically focused on the records held at the Buenaventura office serving the Palenque Regional El Kongal. These materials, held for over two decades by PCN, represent a crucial addition not only to human rights documentation of Colombia’s ongoing war and drug-trafficking related conflicts, but also as testament of resilient efforts by Afro-descendant Colombian communities to define and secure recognition and ethno-racial rights in Colombia. Preliminary selection of potential records to be digitized included photographs of cultural events and community mapping gatherings, notable agendas from previous national asambleas (assemblies), and collaborative environmental and humanitarian reports related to Afro-Colombian community issues.
As part of the recently awarded Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant titled “Cultivating a Latin American Post-Custodial Archival Praxis,” LLILAS Benson’s post-custodial team coordinated a weeklong training in Colombia. As part of the project’s structural support, LLILAS Benson representatives delivered digitization equipment, facilitated financial resources to pay digitization technicians, and developed custom step-by-step guides on how to successfully complete the PCN digitization project. The trainings, held at the offices of PCN and led by Latin American Metadata Librarian Itza Carbajal and LLILAS PhD candidate Anthony Dest, covered multiple topics, including how to scan historic materials using professional equipment, identifying and documenting metadata about collection materials such as photographs, and brainstorming future visions for PCN’s historic archival collections.
Throughout the training, LLILAS Benson and PCN team members reviewed and conducted preliminary scans and developed descriptions for a variety of records, including photographs of early PCN community events, reports on living conditions of Afro-Colombians in the region, and organizational planning documents for mobilization. After the weeklong training ended, the LLILAS Benson project team returned to the United States, leaving the PCN digitization team to begin their critical work.
In the LLILAS Benson post-custodial model, archivists work alongside partners from other sectors to preserve and manage their archival materials, often including the digitization of physical archives in order for the materials to remain in their original home. The digital copies then take on the role of scholarly resources made available to researchers, students, faculty, and the general public.
While LLILAS Benson has been implementing post-custodial methods for over a decade, this grant project focuses on formalizing approaches to working with Latin American partners. In 2014, LLILAS Benson received a planning grant from the Mellon Foundation that introduced our first three archival partners, all concentrated in Central America, for the Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI). This recent grant continues the work of the planning grant with the inclusion of new partners from Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. Digitization projects are already under way in Mexico and Colombia, and the LLILAS Benson post-custodial team looks forward to beginning work with the Brazilian partner in early 2019 and finalizing the first phase of the overall grant project.
LEER EN ESPAÑOL
A lo largo de la costa pacífica de Colombia se encuentra la creciente ciudad de Buenaventura. Esta ciudad también es hogar a una de las mayores poblaciones de afrodescendientes en toda América Latina. Los afrocolombianos viven mayormente en las regiones costeras y las zonas rurales, pero recientemente han venido a vivir más en espacios urbanos—un resultado del desplazamiento.
Este pasado octubre la unidad de iniciativas digitales de LLILAS Benson, Universidad de Texas en Austin, lanzó el segundo de tres proyectos pos-custodiales con nuestros nuevos compañeros, el Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN). Este proyecto se enfoca en los materiales históricos sobre el trabajo del Palenque Regional El Kongal de PCN, que se encuentran almacenados en la oficina de Buenaventura. Estos materiales, guardados por más de dos décadas, representan una adición esencial al cuerpo de documentos reunidos por LLILAS Benson sobre los derechos humanos. Éstos incluyen no sólo documentos de la guerra civil y los conflictos relacionados con el tráfico de drogas en Colombia, sino también testimonios del esfuerzo de las comunidades afrocolombianas para definir y asegurar el reconocimiento y los derechos etno-raciales en Colombia. La selección preliminar de materiales para digitalizar incluye fotografías de eventos culturales y reuniones para crear mapas comunitarios, agendas de asambleas nacionales anteriores, así como informes ambientales y humanitarios sobre las comunidades afrocolombianas.
Como parte de una subvención de la Fundación Andrew W. Mellon para el proyecto “Cultivating a Latin American Post-Custodial Archival Praxis” (Cultivando una praxis archivística pos-custodial en la América Latina), el equipo de LLILAS Benson coordinó un entrenamiento de duración de una semana para garantizar el éxito del proyecto. El entrenamiento incluyó la entrega de equipos de digitalización, la facilitación de recursos financieros para pagar a los técnicos, así como un repaso de los guías para completar el proyecto de digitalización de PCN. Se llevó a cabo en las oficinas de PCN en Buenaventura y fue dirigido por Itza Carbajal, bibliotecaria de metadatos de América Latina, y Anthony Dest, candidato al doctorado del Instituto de Estudios Latinoamericanos Teresa Lozano Long (LLILAS).
El entrenamiento abarcó varios temas: instrucciones para escanear materiales frágiles, cómo identificar y evaluar metadatos de materiales visuales como fotografías, y cómo planear el futuro del archivo histórico de PCN. Juntos, los representantes de LLILAS Benson y PCN revisaron y crearon metadatos para una serie de materiales que incluyeron fotografías de eventos de PCN, informes sobre las condiciones de vida de los afrocolombianos de la región, y documentos administrativos sobre varios esfuerzos de movilización comunitaria. Al completar el entrenamiento, los representantes de LLILAS Benson volvieron a los Estados Unidos dejando el equipo de digitalización de PCN para comenzar su trabajo importante.
En el modelo pos-custodial de LLILAS Benson, los archiveros trabajan junto a sus socios en otros sectores para conservar y administrar sus materiales históricos. Esto muchas veces incluye la digitalización de los materiales físicos para que éstos permanezcan en su lugar de origen. Las copias digitales entonces asumen el papel de recursos académicos que están disponibles a investigadores, estudiantes, profesoras y el público.
Si bien LLILAS Benson ha implementado los principios pos-custodiales por más de una década, este proyecto se concentra en formalizar el modelo de trabajo con organizaciones en la América Latina. En el año 2014, LLILAS Benson recibió una concesión de planificación (planning grant) de la Fundación Mellon que introdujo nuestros tres primeros archivos socios, todos basados en Centroamérica; el resultado fue Iniciativas Digitales Latinoamericanas (LADI). La concesión reciente nos permitirá continuar el trabajo de la concesión anterior, ya incluyendo nuevos socios no sólo en Colombia sino también en México y Brasil. Con los proyectos ya lanzados en México y Colombia, esperamos con mucho interés lanzar el trabajo en Brasil al comenzar el año 2019.
“The first time I walked into the fourth floor of the Nettie Lee Benson library, as a recently admitted PhD student, tears ran down my cheeks. I remember that moment, when I was there, alone, looking at that iconic corridor with hundreds of shelves and thousands of books. My tears were for excitement because I understood that that place was going to be a second home for me for many years to come.”
With these heartfelt words, spoken at a September 6 dinner announcing the centennial campaign for the Benson Latin American Collection, Adriana Pacheco Roldán exhorted assembled guests to join her in a project involving both the heart and the preservation of memory. Pacheco is chair of the International Board of Advisors established by University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves. She and her husband, Fernando Macías Garza, both hold doctorates from Texas. The couple has donated $50,000 to establish the Benson Centennial Endowment, which officially kicks off the countdown to the collection’s 2021 Centennial.
Pacheco was a keynote speaker at An Evening of Discovery, a gala dinner hosted by the University of Texas Libraries and the Provost’s Office to officially kick off the Benson Centennial campaign. As is fitting for a PhD in literature, she began her speech by evoking Aureliano Buendía, the patriarch of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, who “fought against the plague of memory loss suffered by all inhabitants of Macondo” by labeling every object he could. “For almost 100 years, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection has been a place to keep our memories and our heritage,” said Pacheco.
Yet the recent tragic loss at Brazil’s National Museum of virtually all of its contents means that we must take responsibility for protecting the treasures of the Benson, Pacheco continued. Again invoking family and generational ties, she laid out a challenge to the assembled guests: “As we say in Spanish, you are the padrinos, the godfathers and godmothers, of the Benson Centennial Endowment launch, and I invite you to join our efforts: Give now, give today, give later, find somebody willing to give, promote, spread the word, come and visit, join the events, make the Benson Collection part of your lives.”
Four Centuries of Rare Documents Will Be Digitized
August 8, 2018, was an auspicious day for students of Mexican history. An agreement signed between LLILAS Benson and the Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Estado de Puebla marks the official start of a project to digitize a large collection of archival materials from the Fondo Real de Cholula. Funding for the project comes from a Mellon Foundation grant obtained by LLILAS Benson.
The archives in question, which originate in the Mexican town of Cholula, Puebla State, consist of approximately 200 boxes and span some four centuries, from the 1500s to the late nineteenth century. Once digitized, they will be made available to researchers on an open-access platform by the Benson Latin American Collection and the University of Texas Libraries. The materials document, among other things, how Indigenous residents of Cholula navigated colonial judicial structures unique to their special juridical status.
A Rich Trove of Information
The materials will provide a rich trove of information about the colonial period, referred to in Mexico as la época novohispana. Cholula was one of only nine locations to be designated a ciudad de indios (in contrast, there were 21 ciudades de españoles). Ciudades de indios had a different justice system than others. Indigenous people paid their tribute directly to the king instead of to a colonial intermediary; they enjoyed certain privileges, and they maintained a fully functioning Indigenous cabildo, or council, which ruled alongside the Spanish one. “This allowed for a degree of Indigenous autonomy and exercise of special privileges in the new colonial context,” explains Professor Kelly McDonough of the UT Austin Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
LLILAS Benson might never have known about the collection in question had it not been for McDonough, who identified the collection as a good candidate for digitization. She emphasizes that the digitization of ciudad de indios documents has immense historical significance: “It’s the first time we will be able to understand what Indigenous justice meant in place with a very specific juridical designation and relationship with the king of Spain. We believe that the other eight judicial archives from ciudades de indios burned in the Mexican Revolution.”
“The chronological range of the collection will allow scholars to study how Indigenous practices adapted to Spanish rule, how new practices developed over the course of the early-modern period, and how both Indigenous and Spanish practices further adapted to modern political and legal structures in the nineteenth century,” adds LLILAS Benson digital processing archivist David Bliss.
The Digitization Process
A team of three historians from Puebla and Cholula will work in Puebla to digitize the collection, creating two digital copies—one to remain in Puebla and the other to be sent to Austin for preservation and online publication. In addition, all of the digitized materials will be extensively described using a metadata template developed by LLILAS Benson and its Puebla partners. The historians involved in the project are experts in sixteenth-through-nineteenth-century Cholula.
Dra. Lidia Gómez García of Facultad de Filosofía y Letras at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) was instrumental in keeping interest in the project going amid inevitable delays. Together, she and McDonough helped choose the personnel to carry out the important work of digitization and creating of metadata for the collection. LLILAS Benson Director Virginia Garrard relates that the team working with the archives in Puebla feels a deep and personal connection with the material; the fact that they are rescuing their own patrimony from decay is immensely meaningful to them.
Last June 2018, Bliss and LLILAS Benson archivist Dylan Joy conducted a training workshop in Puebla for the digitization team. The team will carry out the project using a DSLR camera and two laptops, as well as the digital photography program Adobe Lightroom. The equipment, purchased by LLILAS Benson with Mellon grant funds, will be donated to the Puebla archive at the conclusion of the project, which is set for early May 2019. Bliss estimates that the project will digitize some 45,000 pages of documents.
The final, digitized documents will be ingested into the Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI) platform, allowing researchers to form connections between the Fondo Real de Cholula documents and other collections on the platform.
A Groundbreaking Collaboration
Director Garrard, herself a historian, hails this project for bringing to light lesser-known historical actors. “This collaboration represents the lives and voices of groups traditionally omitted from the historical record,” she said. “The signing event highlighted the power of close and horizontal relationships between our two institutions, so clearly evident in the presentations of the young Mexican technical specialists and students who described for us their work with the documents, both as material artifacts and as historical sources.”
Quoted in Puebla’s El Popular, Héctor Sánchez Sánchez, presiding magistrate of the Tribunal Superior de Justicia, noted Puebla’s pride in the collaboration: the digitization of Fondo Real de Cholula is the first digitization project at an institution in the Mexican justice system. “Even more so for those of us who are part of this institution,” said Sánchez, “[the rescue of] this archive can achieve a change in the way we understand history.”
Included in the exhibit are examples of the exceptional Relaciones Geográficas, elaborate surveys from Latin America requisitioned by King Philip II of Spain in the 16th Century that provide detailed demographic, geographic and sociopolitical information on Spanish colonial life in regions and towns controlled by the crown, many featuring hand-drawn maps that range from simplistic to elaborate.
Mapping Mexican Historyis on view on the 2nd floor of the Faulk Central Library (800 Guadalupe) through October 15. Check the website for hours, or contact the Austin Public Library at 512-974-7400 for more information.