Category Archives: Benson Latin American Collection

Collecting the Black Experience

A year ago, Rachel E. Winston joined the staff of the Benson Latin American Collection, taking on an entirely new post with the library as its Black Diaspora Archivist. The position is still one of few of its kind in the world, representing heightened attention in academia on diversity area studies, and a desire to collect the cultural history of an underserved population.

As African & African American Studies has joined the predominant fields at the university, the need for bibliographer support from the Libraries became increasingly clear. Winston’s work will involve enhancing existing resources at the Benson related to the African Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean, but will also push her to work with campus faculty and researchers to develop new collections in support of scholarly currents.

“I think in our present moment, black scholarship and the term ‘Black Diaspora’ has gained a lot of prominence mainly because we’ve reached a point where it can’t be ignored anymore,” says Winston. “So, the presence of black people, the contributions of black people, the impact of black people and black labor in societies worldwide has been there, has happened, but has been erased, has been ignored, has been forgotten and has been left out — intentionally and unintentionally — and so I think we’ve reached a point where the silence has become loud. People see the gaps and see the voids and there’s been more of a concerted effort to address that and to fill it.”

Winston’s initial focus has been on the work of processing a large set of materials given to the university by Dr. Edmund W. Gordon and Dr. Susan Gordon, which arrived at the university around the same time she joined the Libraries.  “Black intellectuals are underrepresented in archives. This project says that we value the contributions of Black intellectuals, professionals, and artists, and that we will promote their use. I can’t think of a better fit for our first Black diaspora collection.”

Through almost a century of collecting in Latin American, the Benson naturally amassed materials related to the Black Diaspora, but Winston’s presence will allow for the development of a more cohesive approach to building upon those existing resources and the research that has already sprung from them.

“I think as time goes on, we’ll begin to see Black Studies integrated much more throughout different disciplines. Black Studies itself will continue to be necessary. There’s such important work that’s being done. But I do think that the black presence throughout different disciplines will become more recognized and more commonplace. We’ll be able to really take the conversation further in a lot of places. It will be accepted, and we can go from there.”

Winston isn’t taking the work for granted. Taking on a nascent area of study that has been historically marginalized presents challenges in a variety of areas, including the development of a collections strategy, targeting and locating relevant materials and finding the financial support to build an archive.

The Black Diaspora archive recently received a boost in the form of an endowment provided by civic-minded Austinites Darrick and Chiquita Eugene. Their support will aid Winston at a time when budgets might not favor new initiatives, but she feels the significance of the task ahead of her.

“It’s hard work. It’s important work. But I foresee that the impact of black people and the contributions of black people will be much better known.”

Collections Highlight: Carlos Villalongín Dramatic Company

From the Carlos Villalongin Dramatic Company Records. Benson Latin American Collection.
From the Carlos Villalongín Dramatic Company Records. Benson Latin American Collection.

Founded in Jalisco, Mexico in 1849, the Carlos Villalongín Dramatic Company (also known as Compañía Cómico Dramática) was headed by Mexican actor and director Carlos Villalongín, and featured members of his family, as well as the families of Encarnacíon Hernández and Cristóbal Berrones. The troupe was based primarily in Nuevo León, but toured extensively through northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S. for many years, producing a repertoire of tragedies, dramas and comedies that gained popularity in Mexico City.

Carlos Villalongin, 1902. From the Carlos Villalongín Dramatic Company Records. Benson Latin American Collection.
Carlos Villalongin, 1902. From the Carlos Villalongín Dramatic Company Records. Benson Latin American Collection.

The company was contracted in 1911 by the Teatro Aurora — a theater on the second floor of a converted saloon in San Antonio — and earned such popularity that their initial 9-month residency was extended to a year and a half. Villalongín made the decision to remain in San Antonio upon the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, then made subsequent tours through south Texas before finally retiring in 1924.

The archive from the company, which resides at the Benson Latin American Collection, consists of plays and promptbooks, photographs, broadsides and ephemera, including 163 volumes of plays and promptbooks in printed or manuscript form; programs, promotional fliers, and tickets; and photographs showing Mexican and Mexican American stage actors and directors, including members of the Villalongín and Hernández and families.

Collections Highlight: The Memoirs of Santa Anna

Antonio López de Santa Anna. “Mis memorias, escritas de mi puño y letra sin ayuda de nadie,en mi último destierro,” 1872. Paper, 12 x 7 in. Genaro Garcìa Collection, Benson Latin American Collection.
Antonio López de Santa Anna. “Mis memorias, escritas de mi puño y letra sin ayuda de nadie,en mi último destierro,” 1872. Paper. 12 x 7 in. Genaro Garcìa Collection,
Benson Latin American Collection.

Mexican politician and general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna wrote these memoirs during his final exile in Havana in 1872.

Sometimes referred to as “the Napolean of the West,” Santa Anna — who served as president of Mexico in multiple, non-consecutive terms — is infamous for losing control of Texas and the extensive territories of the U.S. Southwest in 1836.

Collections Highlight: Port of Acapulco, 1638

Alejandro Ruffoni  Puerto de Acapulco en el Reino de la Nueva Expaña en el Mar del Sur 1628 lithograph 17 x 22 in. Genaro García Collection Benson Latin American Collection
Alejandro Ruffoni
Puerto de Acapulco en el Reino de la Nueva Expaña en el Mar del Sur
1628
lithograph
17 x 22 in.
Genaro García Collection
Benson Latin American Collection

A facsimile reproduction made in the Florentine workshop of Alejandro Ruffoni of an original early 17th Century drawing of the Port of Acapulco by Dutch engineer Adrian Boot. The reproduction was commissioned by Mexican historian Francisco del Paso y Troncoso.

The panoramic shows the port and fortification at Acapulco, with depictions of the natural flora and geography of the region.

The artwork is part of the Genaro García Collection at the Benson Latin American Collection.

 

The Art of Carmen Lomas Garza

Tamalada 2003 (2003) by Carmen Lomas Garza. IRIS giclée digital print on paper, 4/180. Benson Latin American Collection.
Tamalada (2003) by Carmen Lomas Garza.
IRIS giclée digital print on paper, 4/180. Benson Latin American Collection.

Born in 1948, much of Carmen Lomas Garza’s work reflects upon her formative years in Kingsville, Texas. Drawing on her experiences in a close-knit Mexican-American community, Garza’s work focuses on memories of everyday life with her family and her community.

In 2009, Garza was the featured artist for the Benson Latin American Collection’s annual ¡A Viva Voz! celebration of Latino culture where she talked about her life, her art and her influences — an event that was accompanied by an exhibition of 20 original serigraphs of her work.

Thanks in part to a generous donation by the Libraries’ own Linda Abbey and her husband Mark Hayward, the Benson was able to acquire those works of art in giclée, lithograph and serigraph form to join Lomas Garza’s archive as part of the permanent collections at the library.

Carmen Lomas Garza with Librarian Margo Gutiérrez.
Carmen Lomas Garza with Librarian Margo Gutiérrez.

The Libraries and García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez working on “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Credit: Guillermo Angulo/Harry Ransom Center

As the university wraps up this year’s Fleur Cowles Symposium “Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy,” it’s worth noting the Libraries (specifically the Benson Latin American Collection and LLILAS Benson) involvement in support of the noted Colombian author’s archive at the Harry Ransom Center.

The Benson’s Mexican materials bibliographer Jose Montelongo accompanied Ransom Center director Stephen Ennis on a trip to Mexico City, where García Márquez spent his final years, to review the archive materials, and upon the announcement of the acquisition, Montelongo responded to media inquiries providing perspectives on the importance of the archive to the university and researchers, and on the author’s station in the literary canon.

As the premiere Latin American special collection in the western hemisphere, the Benson will provide the complementary resources and support for researchers who come to Austin to utilize the García Márquez archive, further strengthening the partnership between the two institutions.

An article by the Austin-American Statesman on the recent opening of the archive drives home the importance of the relationship between the Ransom Center and the Benson.

Listen to a Public Radio International interview with Jose Montelongo on the acquisition of the archive of Gabriel García Márquez:

 

Literature on a String

Wood, Paper, String exhibit.

Modern forms of independent publishing like zines owe a debt not only to the likes of Thomas Paine, but also to popular types of cultural or regional publications that emerged from a desire to capture an otherwise oral tradition for both broader diffusion and preservation.

The Brazilian literatura de cordel — literally “string literature” from the way that street vendors suspended the chapbooks — is a notable example of a form that gained traction due to its relatively low impact production requirements and visual appeal.

Mostly in the form of quartos, cordels are small chapbooks or pamphlets containing folk novels, poems and/or songs, and usually decorated by woodcut prints that became prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly in the northeastern region of Brazil.

The Benson Latin American Collection recently opened an exhibit of cordel literature drawn from its collections, curated by Julianne Gilland with assistance from Teresa Wingfield and Carla Silva-Muhammad.

Wood, Paper, String highlights the art and history of the Brazilian popular literary. Featuring recent Benson Collection acquisitions, the exhibition explores cordel’s evolution from traditional to contemporary themes and showcases the woodcut illustration that is an iconic visual element of the genre.

Wood, Paper, String runs at the Benson Collection in the second floor gallery space through January 31, 2016, and is open to the public during regular hours.

Herzstein Legacy Survives in Benson Collection

Robert E. Herzstein
Robert E. Herzstein

Attorney Robert E. Herzstein recently passed away at the age of 83.

Herzstein served as lead counsel to Mexico in negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which went into effect in 1994.

The Benson Latin American Collection holds the Robert E. Herzstein Records of the Mexico­–U.S. Business Committee. These materials, consisting of 14.5 linear feet of press clippings, industry testimony, and U.S. government policy advisory reports, document NAFTA’s development and implementation during the years 1991–1996.

Read more about Herzstein’s contributions and collection at the Benson website. 

Plaques Unveiled to Honor Lozano Long and Benson

LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections celebrated the memory of Dr. Nettie Lee Benson and the achievements and generosity of Dr. Teresa Lozano Long at the unveiling of two bronze plaques in Sid Richardson Hall honoring the influential women on Friday, March 6.

LLILAS Benson director Charles Hale provided a warm introduction to attendees, and UT president Bill Powers followed, remarking with admiration of the late Nettie Lee Benson, a librarian and a scholar, whose vision and tenacity built the Benson Collection into one of the world’s premiere collections of Latin American materials. Powers also spoke to the significant contributions — material and intellectual — that Lozano Long and her husband Joe Long have made to Latin American scholarship and to The University of Texas at Austin.

The Longs shared the ceremony with family and friends, and Benson was represented in attendance by her three nephews, Bill, Doug and Joe Benson.

See more photos of the event from the Austin American-Statesman.

Chat with a Rwandan Youth Leader

Aegis Trust Youth Ambassador Dydine Umunyana. Photo by Christian Kelleher.
Aegis Trust Youth Ambassador Dydine Umunyana. Photo by Christian Kelleher.

For a little over two weeks in January and February, UT Libraries was the home base for a visit by Rwandan Dydine Umunyana who works with Aegis Trust, a project partner with the Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative. HRDI project manager and Benson Collection archivist Christian Kelleher sat down with Dydine to ask her about her work in the U.S.

We’re so excited to have you here, Dydine. Can you tell me what brought you to the U.S.?

I came to the U.S. to advocate for young people from my country and to bring awareness to youth internationally as a Youth Ambassador for Peace from Aegis Trust, a nonprofit organization that combats genocide around the world. Aegis is based in England where they run the National Holocaust Center and Museum, and they help manage the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda.

UT Libraries connected to Aegis Trust and the Kigali Genocide Memorial through our partnership to preserve documentation of the 1994 Genocide. How did you first get involved with Aegis Trust?

In 2009, I was selected as one of 30 influential students at my high school and they brought us to the Kigali Genocide Memorial to learn the real history of my country and to go through their peace-building education program. The goal of the peace-building education program is to learn from the past, to help to stop cycles of hatred and be able to build the future. A few years later, as a result of what I had learned from the peace-building education program, I started a nonprofit company Umbrella Cinema Promoters that educates young women in Rwanda to share their own stories through film. We had a workshop in 2013 and launched the organization then, and that’s when I reconnected with Aegis Trust and was appointed a Youth Ambassador.

Tell me more about your filmmaking work!

After my high school I wasn’t able to continue my university studies, as so many young people in Rwanda. I had experience as a singer and songwriter, and I was asked to compose a song for a short film. I had to spend a week in the studio composing the song and learning the story of the film, and I also learned how they were doing things about filming and scriptwriting and I became so much interested in how they were making the film. So I went home and began writing a script for my own short film. In Rwanda you can’t do shooting of a film without permission from the government, so I went to the Ministry of Sport and Culture for a recommendation letter but they refused because I didn’t have a company that I worked for. I got the idea that I probably wasn’t the only young person who had ideas but no organization for support, so I decided I should start my own nonprofit company for that purpose, to encourage and empower young women to tell their own stories. I met some students from USC who were in Rwanda and they asked if I had a project and I took my script and called all my friends and we shot my first short film about the problem of HIV in Rwanda.

What have you done during your time visiting the University of Texas?

I’ve done a lot! I toured UT and it was tiring because of how big it is. I’ve been here for more than two weeks and I have had so many meetings engaging and bringing awareness about what’s going on in post conflict countries. I met with students in the White Rose Society at Texas Hillel and from Amnesty International, and with professors in so many departments like Women’s and Gender Studies and Theater and more. And I’ve spent a lot of time in the library because of the partnership between you and Aegis Trust and the Rwanda Genocide Archive.

And beyond UT, what have been some of the things you’ve done in Austin?

I met with Greg Kwedar who is producer of an amazing film Rising From Ashes about the Rwanda cycling team. I’ve experienced different food like barbecue and how Texans are so proud, and with [retired Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries] Fred and Jean Heath I visited the Capitol building and learned about La Belle and the history of Texas at the Bullock Museum with the giant star. One day in the night I watched Selma, which was a great film for me to see how you can resolve conflict without fighting and I think it should be screened everywhere in the world, and in the morning went to the LBJ Library and saw how was America at that time. I didn’t even know there were libraries for presidents and I was able to listen to his calls with Martin Luther King and others!

Learn more about Dydine on her blog http://dydineadventures.com/, and Aegis Trust at http://www.aegistrust.org/.