“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, many in the Latinx community are gearing up to celebrate both Christmas as well as Las Posadas. A lesser known celebratory act performed during the holiday season are the plays known as pastorelas. Pastorelas can be traced back to the 16th Century when Franciscan monks leveraged the strong artistic culture of the Mexica people in Tenochtitlan to evangelize them by incorporating Christian ideals into their performance tradition.
Historically, pastorelas have told the story of how Satan attempted to thwart the travels of the shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem in search of the baby Jesus. While pastorelas have maintained the general premise of good vs. evil, the roles of what constitutes both the good and the evil have changed to encompass contemporary issues that have faced the Latinx communities. Immigration, racism, politics, and a plethora of other topics have been incorporated into pastorelas to transmit opinions and ideas to audiences, both religious and secular.
Please visit the digital exhibit to see the beautiful illustrations in “el Triunfo” as well as some of the other spectacular rare books available to view from the Benson Collection. Also, peruse Zayas’ entire book, which has been digitized and can be viewed at Texas ScholarWorks.
Gilbert Borrego is the Digital Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks, UT’s institutional repository (IR).
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.
Featured photo: Howard Reid’s collection of research materials from his ethnographic field work with the Hup in Brazil; photo: S. Kung
Susan Kung, manager of the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), kicked off work on the new National Endowment for the Humanities grant, Archiving Significant Collections of Endangered Languages: Two Multilingual Regions of Northwest South America (PD-260978-18, Co-PIs Patience Epps and Susan Kung) with a seven-week trip to the UK and France to acquire and begin the work of digitizing three of the eight collections included in the grant.
Kung’s work in the UK relied heavily on collaboration with the Endangered Language Archive (ELAR) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. ELAR, like AILLA, is a digital repository that specializes in providing online access to, and long-term preservation of, multimedia materials in and about endangered indigenous languages. Kung’s trip started in London with a series of meetings at SOAS, where she helped to provide training to researchers in language documentation, archiving, and preservation methodologies, and helped ELAR’s staff plan for its imminent data migration.
From there, Kung headed to Cajarc in the southwest of France to work with Dr. Elsa Gomez-Imbert, a retired researcher from the French National Research Center who conducted linguistic fieldwork in the Colombian Vaupés from 1973 to 2010 on several different languages of the region, including Tatuyo, Barasana, Karapana, Eduria, Bará, and Makuna, all of which are members of the Eastern Tukanoan language family.
Kung and Gomez-Imbert spent four days compiling metadata and creating an inventory of Gomez-Imbert’s audio tapes and slides, all of which Kung then transported to London for digitization at SOAS.
Back in London, Kung spent a day doing similar work with Dr. Howard Reid, an anthropologist, documentary filmmaker for the BBC, and chair of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Film Committee, who lived with the hunter-gatherer Hup people in the Amazon basin in 1974–76.
Kung finished up the acquisition part of her trip with four days of inventory and metadata work with Dr. Stephen Hugh-Jones, Emeritus Research Associate at the Cambridge University Department of Social Anthropology, at his office in King’s College, Cambridge. Hugh-Jones and his wife, Christine Hugh-Jones, lived with the Barasana people in the Colombian Vaupés in 1968–1971 and again in 1978–1979, along with their two young children on the second occasion. Over the course of 50 years, Hugh-Jones has worked with Barasana, as well as the Bará, Eduria, Makuna, and Tatuyo people in the Colombian Amazon. His research has included ritual, symbolism and mythology, shamanism, kinship, architecture, barter and gift exchange, food and drugs, and ethno-education.
The Hugh-Jones collection consists of born-digital and analog (cassette and open reel) audio recordings, 45 field notebooks, manuscript transcriptions of recordings, photographs and negatives, and an unprecedented accumulation of indigenous artworks. Kung, along with Bernard Howard, the sound technician for the SOAS Linguistics Department, spent three weeks digitizing these collections at SOAS, where Howard concentrated on digitizing the 137 audio tapes (cassettes and open reels) and Kung focused on scanning slides and paper documents.
When it was time for Kung to return to Austin in mid-October, she and Howard had completely finished digitizing two of the three collections—those of Elsa Gomez-Imbert and Howard Reid—and Kung had finished digitizing the indigenous art compiled by the Hugh-Joneses.
Before returning home, Kung returned Reid’s and Gomez-Imbert’s collections to them, and shipped the remainder of the Hugh-Jones collection to AILLA, where it will be digitized during this academic year and then returned to the Hugh-Joneses. Once all the digital files from all three collections have been curated in collaboration with the Gomez-Imbert, Reid, and Hugh-Jones, they will be ingested into AILLA and available for public viewing.
The Benson Latin American Collection is proud to host Field Notes: The 9th Annual LLILAS Benson Student Photography Exhibition. Thirty prints that comprise the show will adorn the Benson’s first-floor gallery through January.
Each fall, LLILAS Benson invites graduate and undergraduate students from all departments and disciplines to submit photographs to the exhibition. Through these images, student photographers document moments from their summer research on Latin America or US Latina/o communities.
A panel of faculty and staff judges chooses two outstanding images from the collection. This year, the prize-winning photographers are Jesús Nazario (MA student, LLILAS) and Monika Husodo (BA student, Architectural Interior Design).
The exhibition is free and open to the public during library hours. View the entire photo album on Facebook.
Featured: “Mecatla,” by Jesús Nazario. This prize-winning photo was taken in The Land of Fresh Water, Guerrero, Mexico.
“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.”
In 1920, Regent H. J. Lutcher Stark and Historian Charles Wilson Hackett, representatives of The University of Texas attending President Álvaro Obregón’s inauguration in Mexico City, were transfixed by the sight of the first edition in Spanish of Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s True History of the Conquest of New Spain (1632). There, in a bookstore window, was the eyewitness account by a conquistador of the early Spanish adventures in Mexico. That single purchase led to the eventual acquisition in 1921 of the Genaro García library, an exquisite collection of print, manuscript, and photographic materials for the study of Mexico, the Americas, the West Indies, and Spain. García was regarded during his life as one of the Mexico’s foremost educators, historians, editors, and bibliophiles, whose 25,000-volume library was widely used by researchers seeking information on Mexico’s past.
Upon its arrival in Austin, the García Library was immediately made available to the university’s students and faculty under the able administration of Lota May Spell, noted historian, educator, and musician. The expanding role of Spanish language and culture in U.S. higher education by the 1920s, moreover, helped advance the idea of developing a library at The University of Texas whose mission would encompass all of Central and South America. The end of Dr. Spell’s tenure as curator of the García Library coincided with the University Library’s proposal to create a Latin American Collection in 1926 headed by Carlos E. Castañeda. After his arrival on campus in 1927, the library grew through purchase; assiduous gifts and exchange programs with many Latin American governments, academic societies, and cultural organizations; and the receipt and purchase of specialized research libraries and manuscript collections.
Message from Melissa Guy, director, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection
We are deeply saddened by the destruction of the National Museum of Brazil, in which so many irreplaceable treasures were lost. We stand in solidarity with the museum’s employees, the people of Rio de Janeiro, and the people of Brazil as they mourn the loss not only of a collection of immeasurable value, but also of a splendid historic building. As we consider this devastating event, we are grateful that there was no loss of life in the fire. As a collection committed to preserving and sharing knowledge about Latin America, we will seek ways to support the scholars, curators, and other museum employees who have acted as stewards of these precious materials and have used them to teach others.
Mensagem de Melissa Guy, diretora, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection
Estamos profundamente consternadxs com a destruição do Museu Nacional no Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, e com ela a perda de riquezas e patrimônios irreparáveis. Manifestamos total solidariedade com xs funcionárixs do museu, com a população do Rio de Janeiro e do Brasil, em luto pela perda não só de coleções de valores incomensuráveis, mas também de seu esplêndido prédio histórico. Ao ponderarmos sobre este acontecimento devastador, conforta-nos saber que nenhuma vida foi perdida no incêndio. Enquanto coleção comprometida em preservar e dividir conhecimentos a respeito da América Latina, buscaremos maneiras de apoiar acadêmicxs, curadores, e demais funcionárixs do museu, que agiram como guardiões de tais materiais preciosos, usando-os para ensiná-los a outrxs.
The Benson Latin American Collection is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Catalina Delgado-Trunk Papers. Delgado-Trunk is a Mexican-born artist known for her work in the intricate papel picado art form. The contents of the papers include correspondence, program materials, press releases, news clippings, exhibit slides, and files. Undoubtedly, the true gems of the acquisition are the approximately 250 sketches, drawings, and drafts that Delgado-Trunk created to document her process as an artist.
Delgado-Trunk is no stranger to The University of Texas at Austin. She earned her BA in French with a focus on literature here in 1965, and the city holds a special place in her heart, for it is in Austin that she met her husband Jim, then a student at St. Edward’s University. After graduating, Delgado-Trunk pursued a career in teaching French and ballet while raising two children at home. However, her decision to reenroll in a visual arts program at the age of 49 is what set her on a path of artistic self-discovery that would reconnect her to her childhood in Mexico City.
Since then, the artist has become world-renowned for her expertise in papel picado, the rich Mexican tradition of elaborate and decorative paper cutting with roots in the Aztec use of a rough paper called amatl. The art form took off with the introduction of a thin tissue paper from the Philippines that arrived during the colonial era.
The process of creating high-end papel picado is painstaking and intense. Delgado-Trunk employs a strict routine that consists of researching the Mesoamerican subject matter through countless books, sketching rough drafts on graph or clear print paper, copying the final drawing onto an architectural copy machine, stapling the copy-paper drawing to a final sheet, and then using an x-acto knife to cut out the negative space. The x-acto knife portion alone can last 10 to 40 hours. Finally, she glues the cutout work to an acid-free fine art paper background.
Papel picado interests Delgado-Trunk for its cultural synthesis. Asian, indigenous, Iberian, and African influences all worked together to foster the art form through goods, trade routes, and subject matter. Delgado-Trunk, who grew up in Mexico during the 1940s and 1950s, an era marked by the promotion of cultural syncretism as found in the artwork of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, pays homage to this period through her pieces. For two decades now, the artist has made works that blend pre-Columbian stories and images with subjects from the contemporary world, such as Mexican Catholic iconography. Camino al Mictlán and Las Tres Catrinas are two examples of her fascination with indigeneity in Mexico, while Mestizaje highlights the cultural syncretism between indigenous and European groups.
Aside from her own pieces, Delgado-Trunk has been instrumental in passing on her knowledge to younger generations through workshops and classroom visits, particularly in New Mexico, where she now resides. Her papers include many thank-you cards from students and teachers whose lives she has affected. Her impact has been noticed: among her many awards are the 2015 Annual New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, a 2013 Acknowledgment and Recognition by the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners in New Mexico, and a 2005 Award of Excellence from the New Mexico Committee of Women in the Arts. She has also exhibited her works in places as prestigious as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.
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.”
Nota editorial: Citamos un reportaje del Archivo de Seguridad Nacional (National Security Archive) de George Washington University: “El renombrado Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional de Guatemala (AHPN) se encuentra en crisis después de que su director, Gustavo Meoño Brenner, fue despedido de manera súbita, resultado de una serie de acciones orquestradas por el gobierno guatemalteco y una oficina de las Naciones Unidas. Estas mismas acciones dejaron el personal del archivo, más de 50 personas, bajo contrato provisional, y transfirió la responsabilidad por el archivo al Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, quitándola del archivo nacional, donde ha residido desde el 2009.”
Esta situación materializó el 3 de agosto, una semana después de un seminario patrocinado por LLILAS Benson Colecciones y Estudios Latinoamericanos y el Centro Rapoport para los Derechos Humanos y la Justicia, que tuvo lugar en AHPN. Bajo el título “Archivos y derechos humanos: experiencia de colaboración entre el AHPN y la Universidad de Texas,” el seminario ofreció la oportunidad de reflexionar sobre los siete años de colaboración entre la Universidad de Texas y el AHPN.
Dado las novedades inquietantes sobre el AHPN, la Dra. Virginia Garrard, directora de LLILAS Benson, dijo, “LLILAS Benson afirma su compromiso a AHPN y su apoyo por la preservación de esta colección histórica, la cual es fundamental para la búsqueda de la justicia, el rescate de la memoria histórica en Guatemala y al resguardo de la historia nacional guatemalteca desde el siglo XIX.”
El personal de LLILAS Benson Colecciones y Latinoamericanos y el Centro Rapoport para los Derechos Humanos y la Justicia viajó a la Ciudad de Guatemala para participar en un seminario sobre la alianza entre la Universidad de Texas y varias instituciones guatemaltecas que trabajan con archivos.
El evento tuvo como título “Archivos y derechos humanos: experiencia de colaboración entre el AHPN y la Universidad de Texas,” y se realizó el 27 de julio en el Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (AHPN), que se ubica en un hospital inacabado en donde, en 2005, se descubrieron más de ochenta millones de archivos pertenecientes a la Policía Nacional, bastantes de ellos encontrados en estado precario. Durante más de diez años, un equipo de archiveros guatemaltecos ha trabajado intensivamente para preservar, organizar y dar acceso a esta colección en riesgo.
Durante el seminario, los participantes reflejaron sobre la alianza de más de siete años entre el AHPN y la Universidad de Texas. Esta alianza ha permitido la fundación de colaboraciones digitales, académicas y pedagógicas, incluyendo la introducción, en 2011, de un acervo digital alojado por el sistema de bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas.
Los anfitriones del seminario fueron Gustavo Meoño, director del AHPN, y Anna Carla Ericastilla, directora del Archivo General de Centroamérica. Virginia Garrard, la directora de LLILAS Benson; Dan Brinks, el co-director del Centro Rapoport; y Theresa Polk, la directora del programa de materiales digitales de LLILAS Benson; y fueron quienes expusieron sobre la historia de la alianza internacional y su importancia para la recuperación de la memoria histórica y la búsqueda de democracia y justicia transicional en Centroamérica.
Giovanni Batz, Brenda Xum, María Aguilar, and Hannah Alpert-Abrams—todos ex-alumnos y ex-alumnas de LLILAS Benson—hablaron sobre el impacto del archivo tanto en sus carreras como en su entendimiento de la historia de Guatemala. Especialmente conmovedores fueron los comentarios de ex alumnos guatemaltecos de la Universidad de Texas cuya comprensión de su patrimonio cultural fue moldeada por el estudio del AHPN. Como comentó Brenda Xum, “los archivos cuentan una historia humana.”
Dos socias del archivo, Enmy Morán y Tamy Guberek, ofrecieron una visión para el futuro de AHPN, incluyendo nuevas técnicas en la preservación de los archivos y nuevos métodos cuantitativos para descubrir las historias contenidas en ellos.
Alrededor de 75 investigadores, archivistas, estudiantes y miembros de la comunidad asistieron al evento, que fue abierto al público. Estos participantes tuvieron la oportunidad de hacer preguntas. Entre ellas, hubo preguntas sobre los desafíos de la preservación digital, la dificultad de acceder la información archivística y las cuestiones éticas implícitas en publicar información delicada en línea.
Durante una tarde bastante cálida, los participantes comentaron sobre la manera en que la conferencia reanimó su interés en las investigaciones archivísticas y la historia guatemalteca. Al final, una participante se paró de pié para felicitar a las personas miembras del panel durante el evento. “Antes, realmente no conocía este archivo,” dijo. “Tampoco sabía sobre su importancia en la historia de mi país.”
El seminario “Archivos y derechos humanos: experiencia de colaboración entre AHPN y UT Austin” fue patrocinado por el Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (AHPN), LLILAS Benson Colecciones y Estudios Latinoamericanos y el Centro Rapoport para los Derechos Humanos y la Justicia.
Hannah Alpert-Abrams, PhD, es becaria posdoctoral CLIR en LLILAS Benson Colecciones y Estudios Latinoamericanos. Traducido del inglés por Hannah Alpert-Abrams y Susanna Sharpe.