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.       

No comments: