Tag Archives: Mexico

Héctor Sánchez Sánchez of Tribunal Superior de Justicia, Puebla, and Virginia Garrard, director, LLILAS Benson, with the newly signed agreement

LLILAS Benson Partnership with Puebla Archive to Yield Rich Results

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.

Professor Kelly McDonough (second from left), LLILAS Benson director Virginia Garrard (third from left) , Lidia Gómez García (second from right) and members of the Puebla team celebrate the agreement
Professor Kelly McDonough (second from left), LLILAS Benson director Virginia Garrard (third from left) , Lidia Gómez García (second from right) and members of the Puebla team celebrate the agreement

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.

Benson Collection archivists Dylan Joy (l) and David Bliss conducted a digitization training in Puebla earlier this year
Benson Collection archivists Dylan Joy (l) and David Bliss conducted a digitization training in Puebla earlier this year

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.

A member of the digitization team shows examples of the decayed state of some of the Cholula archives
A member of the digitization team shows examples of the decayed state of some of the Cholula archives

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.”

Sánchez and Garrard sign the historic agreement between Puebla High Court (TSJ) and LLILAS Benson
Sánchez and Garrard sign the historic agreement between Puebla High Court (TSJ) and LLILAS Benson

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.”

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.

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. 

What Can Brown Do For You?


From "Arte de la lengua mexicana y castellana" by Alonso de Molina,Published: 1576, from the Benson Latin American Collection

In the case of original Latin American research materials, quite a lot, actually.

The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University has signed on to the Primeros Libros project – a consortia-driven effort to capture and preserve as many of the “first books” of the New World, those printed in Mexico before 1601. Brown becomes the project’s biggest contributor bringing an additional 70 volumes to the collection, joining the Benson Latin American Collection, Biblioteca Histórica José María Lafragua at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla and the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University, among others.

The digital preservation of these historic cultural documents not only benefits Latin American study abroad, but it means that long-since scattered cultural artifacts of Mexico can return home for use the country’s own scholars and researchers.

Find more information on the project and its players here.

¡Feliz Aniversario, México! Celebrating 200 Years of Mexican History

The Benson Latin American Collection will open an exhibition commemorating the dual anniversaries of Mexico’s Independence and Revolution next Thursday, September 16.

Frente a Frente: The Mexican People in Independence and Revolution, 1810 & 1910 features rare books, prints, photographs and manuscripts from the Collection related to Mexican Independence from Spain and the Mexican Revolution. 2010 marks the bicentennial of Mexico’s Independence and the centenary of the Revolution.

Preeminent Mexico historian Dr. Miguel Soto of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) worked with Benson staff to curate the exhibition.

An opening reception will take place from 5-7pm on Thursday, September 16 with food and drink provided by El Naranjo. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to emcquade@austin.utexas.edu or call 512-495-4363.

Frente a Frente will be on display through mid-March, 2011, and can be viewed weekdays, Monday through Friday, 9am- 5pm, and Saturday, 1-5pm.

¡Viva México!

Architecture and Planning Exhibit Celebrates Mexico 2010

In recognition of the dual celebration of the bicentennial of Mexico’s Independence and centenary of the Mexican Revolution – both occurring in 2010 – the Architecture and Planning Library at The University of Texas at Austin is hosting “Maya Architecture: Selections from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews Collection.”

The exhibition highlights materials from an exhaustive and fully documented visual record of architecture of the lowland Maya area that is part of the Library’s collection.

In the late 1950s, University of Oregon architecture professor George Andrews and his wife Geraldine visited the Yucatán for the first time, and for the next forty years they devoted their professional lives to the study and documentation of Maya architecture.

The couple’s extended research produced a remarkable collection that includes an architectural data bank representing 850 buildings at 240 archaeological sites in the lowland Maya area.

The Andrews Collection was donated to the university by the couple in 2000.

The exhibition captures a small portion of George and Geraldine Andrews’ effort to document and reconstruct the art and architecture of the ancient lowland Maya. Samples from the collection reveal aspects of Andrews’ scholarship, collecting and creative talents by featuring a selection of buildings, monuments, graffiti and the resulting work conducted in the archives.

Meghan Rubenstein, an art history Ph.D. student, assisted Donna Coates and Beth Dodd of the Alexander Architectural Archive in the curation of the Andrews exhibition.

The exhibit will be on display in the Architecture and Planning Library reading room in Battle Hall through September 2010.

For a first hand perspective on the production of the exhibit, head over to the Architecture & Planning Library’s blog, APLHighlights.

Mexican History in 365 days

1910In case you weren’t aware, 2010 marks two major anniversaries in the history of Mexico – the bicentennial of Mexican Independence and the centennial of the Revolution – and in recognition of those milestones, a number of events will be taking place around the university and in the Austin community. The Libraries are particularly attuned to the celebrations due to our oversight of the preeminent Benson Latin American Collection, so we’ll be keeping tabs on the goings-on about town. We’ll also be part of the celebration with the launch of the Benson’s exhibition – Frente a Frente: The Mexican People in Independence and Revolution, 1810–1910 – early this summer.

You can find a fairly comprehensive list of the university offerings at the College of Liberal Arts Mexico 2010 site, and a Mexico 2010 Austin Organizing Committee headed by Chair Teresa Lozano Long and Co-Chairs Dr. Victoria Rodriguez & Dr. Hector Morales is coordinating the Austin community events. The Ransom Center’s exhibition “¡Viva! Mexico’s Independence” is already open to visitors, so make time for a visit. And this Thursday (March 25), a pair of events worth noting are taking place in town – Mexican writer Héctor Aguilar Camín will talk about the history of Mexican politics and journalist/novelist Ángeles Mastretta will participate in a Q&A after a screening of the movie based on her 1985 novel Arráncame la vida. Find out more about these events from our friends at ShelfLife@Texas.

Feliz Aniversario, México!

Soto kicks off Benson’s Mexico 2010

utlibs_soto1

This year is potentially a big one for the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collecction thanks to the confluence of major anniversaries celebrating two important historical events in Mexico’s history.

2010 marks the bicentennial of Mexican Independence and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution, and we’ve been working with Dr. Miguel Soto (National Autonomous University of Mexico) to build an exhibit – Frente a Frente: The Mexican People in Independence and Revolution, 1810–1910, which will add to the other myriad celebrations going on around campus. Continue reading