Friday, July 18, 2014

Progress in Preserving the Past:Biblioteca Pública Central Estatal José Ignacio Gallegos Caballero

A library assistant working to preserve the newspapers.
On my first visit to Durango, the archives were located in the main building of the library called José Ignacio Gallegos Caballero.  Eight years ago, the archive center was extremely well kept, but none of the newspapers were digitized.  I slowly made my way through the stacks and stacks of newspapers to be able to finally find the one's I needed.  That was almost a decade ago.

When I visited last year for the first time in about 4 years, there was a new building just to the side of the library.  To my joy and surprise, it was an archive building.  The Director, Maestro Oscar Luna, told me that they had secured funds from the government for the building.  And, they followed through. 

Archive building in center of image.
It's a three story building.  The bottom floor has a place for cultural and art events.  The second floor houses an impressive collection of antique books. (Oscar Luna told me that each month he chooses a book from the collection and presents on it at the university.) And the top floor houses the newspapers.  They are still not digitized, but they are now in possession of an impressive digitizing machine in order to save all these priceless documents.

For such a small archive in Mexico, they are making big progress.  All of this is mostly due to Oscar Luna's dedication to a work (una obra) that he deeply believes in.
The digitizing machine in the Durango library. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why research in Durango?

Me in 2006 in Durango, Mexico on my first research trip. I am
standing under the arches of El Centro Cultural de Durango.
When ever I talk about my research, I always get the question, "Why did you go to Durango? How did you know to go there?"  Well, I didn't.  There's a story behind how I first came to this beautiful land of Durango, Mexico.

As a graduate student (Fall 2006), I was taking an independent study with UTEP professor, Dr. Sam Brunk (foremost historian on the Mexican Revolution.)  He emailed with the name of student, Celia González, who was interested in writing her term paper on Mexican women journalists.  She came to visit me, and we began to talk about my research.  I told her about one of the women I was studying, Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza - that she was born in San Juan del Río, Durango in 1875 and that she had been thrown in jail for her first protest articles that were published in 1898. 

At this point in our long conversation, she stopped me.  She said, "I was born in Durango. I still have family in Durango."  I thought, "I'd love to go there and dig into the archives."  I asked if she was going back anytime soon and if she would conduct some research for me.  She one upped me.  Several weeks later she invited me to Durango with her family for Christmas vacation.  Like a dream now, I remember getting on a bus at night in Juarez, México with the González / Rodriguez family and waking up in Durango, Mexico. 

The next week 1/2 in Durango, Celia (who became my research assistant because I was so enamored with the city) and I went through the stacks and stacks of newspaper archives.  On that trip in 2006, I found the document (a feminist manifesto) that is now Chapter 3 of my book.  I have returned several times to not only finish my research, but to also enjoy the warmth of the people and culture I have found here.       

Monday, July 14, 2014

Travel to Durango and Guanajuato, Mexico: Follow Me!

El zócalo in Durango, Mexico.
Some time has passed since my last post on this blog (about 3 years or so).  I'm picking my blog up again for the next couple of weeks to write about my upcoming trip to Mexico.  Tomorrow, I am traveling to Durango, Durango, Mexico (Durango is the captial city of the Mexican state of Durango) and later in the week, I am taking a bus ride south to Guanajuato, Mexico.  Not many people travel to Durango, Mexico, possibly because of the mislead picture that the American media has painted of this region. I do not let fear tactics of the media rule my life.

I have traveled to Durango on several occasions for research on my forthcoing book, Ocupando Nuestro Puesto: Mestiza Rhetorics of Mexican Women Journalists & Activists, 1875-1942 (Spring 2015, UA Press).  I'm returning for several reasons. I want to continue my professional relationship with the public archives, Biblioteca Pública Central Estatal José Ignacio Gallegos Caballero and it's diretor, Maestro Oscar Jiménez Luna.  They have been more than generous in providing access to their resources upon each of my visits. They have given me permissions to use a picture of the Durango library circa 1922 that had images of the first female students from the college, then called Instituto Juárez, now called Universidad Juárez del Estado de Durango.

For the second part of my trip, I am planning on retracing the steps of one of the women I write about in my book, Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza (1875-1942) took from one region to another.  She left her homeland of Durango in 1900 ánd traveled to Guanajato, Mexico to start her own protest newspaper, Vésper: Justicia y Libertad.  She went with 3 children, Laura, Julia, and Santiago and also her goat, Sancha. The city of Guanajuato was at the time a growing hot-bed of resistance against the Porfirian government and dictatorship, and Juana new she wanted to have her voice be heard. I have never been to Guanjuato, but I plan to find the places where she may have worked from.

I will be posting pictures of places I go, interesting things I see, and people I meet along the way.  Follow me!