Thursday, March 15, 2007

Archive Diving in Mexico

After 10 hours deep of sleep, I felt more than ready for a long day at the archives. Our morning started at Lucy Andrade's house with a breakfast for champions: steak, frijoles, ajuacate, ensalada, pan dulce, y orange juice. One the way to the library, we stopped in several places. The picture of the incredible mural of the hands weighed down by the heaviness of imperialism, I took at the university there in Durango, Universidad Juarez de Durango. Leaving from there, the clouds gathered lightly overhead the incredible catedral 1850. The cross screamed, "Take a picture of me." The grandure of the catedral echoed of times past, countless baptizms, funerals, celebrations, weddings, confirmations, protests... While taking the picture, the 10 o'clock bells chimed, drifting over the bustle of buses, taxis, and cars. I listened closely -

Yes, ten o'clock. But then, other bells chimed; the tone changed, sounding a lower tone. To me, the rhetoric of the bells only gave the time, but to those indigenous of this area heard another story. What did it mean to the men shining shoes, the women selling tortillas, the pedestrians walk with their cell phones to their ears?

Again climbing the stairs to the library, (which are extremely rhetorical) I turned around just to soak in the incredible day I would mostly miss being buried in the archives. Out of breath, I walked to the Hemeroteca, the spanish word for archive. The workers there of the library were busy caring for the archived material. Another group of workers were busy downstairs archiving a tremendous personal collection of a respected lawyer from Durango. (Ugh, I didn't write down the name for gawking at the books.) The image above of a half covered library I took from above on the stairs leading to the basement archive. Hundreds of undiscovered books sit there quietly on the shelves. The public libray of Durango should be commended for taking on such a large project! Other pictures in this blog are of the newspaper archive. The other newspaper pictured, El Independiente, was far to frail to handle or even open. Currently, that newspaper is being microfilmed.
I pulled out the the archived newspaper I was looking for, La Bandera Roja, and started clicking away. (I captured over 300 pictures of the newspaper.) My very supportive husband, Alex, bought me a kick ass 10 mega pixel Canon camera and was able to capture picture after picture of the newspaper's articles. The newspaper, published in 1900 in Durango, Dgo., Mexico, immerged at the apex of the Porfiriato, and in the middle of the counter-movement against the positvist government. With Communist and Marxist leanings, it spoke of radical ideas, such as immancipating women from the Catholic religion, and even giving women the right to participate in Mexican politics. Most significant, I found an article that Juana Belen wrote to the newspaper praising their efforts in the liberal movement. In the letter dated some time around May of 1900, she also reminisced about her home town of Durango : "Para vosotros que traeis el perfume de mis recuerdos...para vosotros que sois para mi la tierra, el aire, el sol, los cantos de las aves, y el perfume de las flores alla, de la tierra mia." I also fell in love with the place. Orange trees growing wild. Sweaters pressed against my shoulders in the evening and the sun licking my neck in the afternoon. People smiling and kindly pointing the way. Tortilla stands and candy stores on every street. A starved Ph.D. student's heaven!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Not your typical Spring Break!

When students say they are going on a trip for spring break to Mexico, it´s usually to some beach location to party all day and all night. But as a doctoral student that is passionate about their research topic, you can find me and my niece, my research assistant, in a archive taking notes and reading into the late hours of the afternoon.

Yesterday evening, my niece and I got on a bus in Juarez, Mexico headed for Durango, Dgo., Mexico. This past December I had taken the trip to Durango in search of Doña Juana Belén, journalist and activist. I found much more than I had ever dreamed. There was only one major problem, I didn't have the proper technology with me to take proper notes on the primary sources I discovered. Armed with my digital camera, my new computer, and a bottle full of nerves and daring, I came back to get the information I needed.

When I arrived at the library this morning and asked for the Marxists/Communist newspaper from 1900, La Bandera Roja, they informed me that they had lent it out. With that news, I just about died where I stood. "A twelve hour trip for nothing," I thought as my stomach churned. "No se precupe, lo consiguimos por Usted," they said trying to calm my nerves. The director of the archives directed me into the library director's office. After they assured me that I would have the newspaper, I decided to take another trip to the ICED, The Cultural Institute of Durango. While at the Instituto, I learned of another woman from Durango that wrote during her life, Olga Arias. A daughter of General Arias from the time of the Revolution, at an early age she new she wanted to write stories and poems. Throughout her life, she recieved some of the highest acolades a writer could recieve. But then I asked the museum director, "Conoces a Juana Belen Gutierrez de Mendoza, precusora y acatvista de la Revolucion?" She looked at me with a confused look, "No, no conosco a esta mujer?" No one in Durango, Dgo., Mexico seems to know who Juana Belen was, but I hope to some day change that fact.
Returning to the public library and the archive, they had for me the newspaper of La Bandera Roja. At that point in the afternoon, we were hungry, tired, and ready for some lunch and a beer. So today, I only took a couple of pictures of the newspaper, vowing to return tomorrow with a renewed frame of mind, ready to research all morning and afternoon.
This pictures you see above are from left to right: a dipiction of Juana Belen in a Mexican Feminist magazine and a picture of a mural at the Universidad de Juarez de Durango.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Tex-Mex Music: Hybridity of Culture and Class

Although many Chicano artists are up and coming today, Little Joe y su familia remember a time when his music, Tex-Mex, was a genre floundering on the margins of the music industry. Little Joe's music is the epitomy of hybridity, bringing together two cultures and classes. Before there was Tex-Mex, Mexican-Americans had a choice of two kinds of music: orquesta Tejana, distinguished as an upper-class genre, and conjunto, considered a more lower-class style of music. Musician Beto Villa first combined the two playing ranchero music or "jaiton," a more high class music. But not until the early 1970's that Little Joe took hold of his roots, a Texan with strong Mexican heritage, and took hold of his identity, a musician that combined the two cultures, did the sound of his music evolve into what it is today: Tex-Mex. He is known in the music industry as the "Father of Brown Sound." Listening to the music, you can hear the Mexican influence through the beat that is "muy ranchero," but also the Texas influence comes through with the powerful signature jazzy brass section. Little Joe's singing versitility can be summed up in the comment made by the MC at Sat. night's concert. "Have you heard Little Joe belt out "New York, New York? Man, he has a set of lungs, que no? But you ain't ever heard Sinatra sing "Borachera." The crowd laughed and applauded with approval. Little Joe's Official Website...

"I don't know. It just feels rights. If you're Mex-American, it takes your alma frontera and carries it back and forth over the musical boundaries," my husband Alex commented on the music after the concert. The concert we attended on Saturday night, March 3, 2007, was not a rock concert, a bash held in some dark auditorium (but don't get me wrong, he's played at his share of smokey, Texas, outback holes-in-de-wall bars throughout his career). Little Joe y La Familia played at the first class Plaza Theater in downtown El Paso. Along with spotlight artist Little Joe, Ruben Ramos "El Gato Negro" and the Mexican Revolution opened the venue to an almost sold-out crowd.
More important than the glitz and glamour of the concert is the reason the concert was held. Over a year ago, Little Joe committed to this benefit concert at the Plaza Theater. The concert benefitted the non-profit organization Sin Fronteras Organizing Project established in 1983 promoting the betterment of the working conditions for the agricultural workers in the region. El Centro de Los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos, which was estabilished in 1995 to provide educational and health services to the region farm workers, also benefitted from the efforts of Little Joe and the other Tejano Legends. These types of benefits are typical for Little Joe; he has not forgotten his roots. As a young boy, he also worked as picker, toiling long hours in the fields. Being in the industry for over 40 years, he has supported figures such as Cesar Chavez in their humanitarian efforts. His philanthropy, combined with his Tex-Mex music, infused with a passion for his culture and people, places this Chicano Emmy winning artist en su propio mundo.
Viva La Raza! Viva! Viva La Raza! Viva!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

17th Century Mexican Women Journalists

Although Juana Belen Gutierrez de Mendoza began writing and publishing her newspaper Vesper: Justicia y Libertad in the year 1900 in Guanajuato, Mexico, many Spanish and Mexican women laid the path for her radical journalistic steps. For example, in 1641 Dona Micaela Benavides de Calderon inherited her husband's printing press, which she operated for more than forty years after his death. Significantly, Benavide's was the first woman to have her name appear on a broadsheet. Her female decendents continued Benavide's love of publishing. Other women published their writings in the first periodical in colonial Mexico, La Gaceta de Mexico y Noticias de Nueva Espana [The Gazzette of Mexico and News of Spain] in the year 1722. The paper surfaced at the dawn of the modern newspaper in Mexico City, reporting on various colonial cities in Mexico, including news from Europe. Printing was halted for six years because of the lack of paper, but the paper was picked up again in 1728 running to 1739. Between the years of 1732-1737 La Gaceta de Mexico Gertudis de Escobar y Vera, the great-great granddaughter of Dona Micaela Benavides de Calderon published the paper. Father Sahagun de Arevalo helped with the editing of the paper. Sadly, the newspaper halted publication because of the lack of paper. For the next 47 years in the Viceroyality of New Spain, no newspaper reached the hands of the people until 1784 with the publication of Mecurio de Mexico [Mercury of Mexico]. It is not known for certain if women contributed to the paper; they would have done so anonymously. Little else is known of women journalists writing during this period. Those who did have the courage to write forged a path for the next generation of women in the next century.

Information from this posting came from the book Political Journalism by Mexican Women During the Age of Revolution, 1876-1940 written by Joel Bollinger Pouwels.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Welcome to my blog, mextizarhetoric.
Mextiza, a hybrid term mixing Mexico and mestiza, captures the essense of who I am, and what my research is all about. The second part, rhetoric, covers the discipline that I am studying. More than just a discipline though, rhetoric is all around us! It shapes our view of the world.
Currently, I am a Ph.D. graduate student at the University of Texas at El Paso. My blog will cover my research in recovering rhetorics of Mexican women, my weekly or daily trials as a grad. student, and other observations. Please feel free to comment on my postings, or to send me a hello!
The picture in this post is from my research trip to Durango, Durango, Mexico from December 16-23, 2006. I am pictured in one of the arched walkways of El Instituto de Cultura del Estado de Durango. My plans are to return there this March; the archives were closed for the holiday. I hope you enjoy sharing my archival finds with me.