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Panel 9, June 18, 2012, 9:00am-10:30am
Moderator: Gerada Holder (National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago)
Presenters: Sandra Boyce (National Library Service, Barbados); Gerada Holder (National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago); Danielle Fraser (National Library and Information System Authority of Trinidad and Tobago), Glenroy Taitt (University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago)
Rapporteur: Peter S. Bushnell (University of Florida)
Sandra Boyce presented “Safeguarding the Barbados Crop Over Festival: A Collection Management Approach.” In Barbados, Crop Over originated as a festival in the plantation society to celebrate the end of harvest. The enslaved looked forward to this celebration with music, dancing, food and games. In 1974, the festival was revived to attract tourists during the slow month of June. Since then it has become a national festival, part of the island’s intangible cultural heritage. The documents relating to the festival include both print and non-print formats. The collection is diverse and dynamic with governmental and non-governmental institutions responsible for its management because of their role and function. The four agencies reviewed in this presentation were the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), the Nation Publishing Company (NPC), the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and the Government Information Service (GIS).
The NCF was established in 1983 to manage the festival. Its collection contains photographs, newspaper clippings, video, CDs, and posters. It is in the process of being digitized along with moving towards standardization and a more proactive collection development policy.
The NPC was established in 1983 and automated in 1994. It covers the social, economic and political development on a daily basis. It produces the annual Crop Over Souvenir and recently launched the website www.nationcropover.com. There are plans to digitize the collection.
The development of a cultural heritage includes both tangible and intangible aspects. Its valorization is undergoing rapid development. Bills concerning cultural industries and antiquities are being drafted. Conversations, dialogues, and symposiums on cultural policies to facilitate partnerships and collaboration are being held. Finally, Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2011.
The way forward: collection management is critical to the development and sustainability of the intangible cultural heritage; librarians and information specialists must manage the Crop Over Collection effectively and efficiently; it must collaborate to maximize limited resources; standards and guidelines must be set; best practices must be adopted in designing a model collection; there is a need for open access in light of intellectual property and copyright; preservation policies and guidelines must to designed to make the collection sustainable; timely and accurate information needs to be provided through various channels; skills and expertise must be constantly upgraded; changes must be embraced constantly; roles need to be redefined and revamped to accommodate these changes. This will enable collection management to be dynamic and diverse.
During a question and answer discussion it was mentioned that Barbados did not have carnival on a regular basis until the 70s. Angela Kinney (Library of Congress) asked about copyright. An audience member answered that it lasted until 50 years after a person’s death. This led to a brief discussion of copyright in general. There then followed a brief discussion about publishing crop over material.
Next, Gerada Holder presented “Collecting Carnival: Creating a Carnival Collection at the Heritage Library Division, NALIS.” The goal of the Heritage Library Division is to preserve and promote the culture of Trinidad and Tobago. The sections of the division consist of: operations and client services; preservation and conservation lab; and collections management (oral history, genealogy and performing arts; special collections; indexing; acquisitions).
Carnival itself is defined as Trinidad and Tobago’s annual pre-lent festival that originated in the period of African enslavement. At its core is music, masking and merriment making. Significant influence has come from the islands’ French, Spanish, African, British and Indian cultures. For the period 1997-2004, statistics were given as to visitor arrivals (from a low of 27,414 in 1997 to a high of 42,646 in 2000). For 2004, the average expenditure per tourist per day came to $345 ($95 for accommodation, $109 for entertainment, $56 for shopping and $45 for other).
The major components of carnival are music (extempo, calypso, soca, chutney soca, rapso), mas (junior, ole mas, traditional, pretty mas), fetes (public and private parties), competitions (extempo, calypso/soca/chutney soca), and steelpan (the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago).
The importance of carnival is reflected in the cultural and historical development of Trinidad and Tobago. It also has a significant impact on the economy, provides a showcase for creativity, and helps create communities.
Existing carnival information at the Heritage Library Division include: Wayne Berkeley Collection, Bill Trotman Collection, calypso lyrics database, interviews, photographs, audio visual (music CDs/carnival shows/competition DVDs), periodicals, monographs and information files/pamphlet collection. The Performing Arts, Genealogy and Oral History Section (PAGOH) deals with four major areas: record life-history and thematic interviews; record-on-the-spot interviews with performers, record cultural activities through photographs and video; network with performers and cultural organizations to collect ephemera and other non-published information.
The four major methods of acquisition are through purchase, gifts/donations, deposits and loans. Sources include newspapers, carnival organizations, networking with collectors and traditional booksellers/music shops.
As part of the UNESCO Memory of the World: Trinidad and Tobago Register, there is a digital archive.
The challenges of collecting carnival material include deciding/narrowing on what should be collected, creating non-traditional avenues for the collection of carnival data/information and changing the public’s attitude towards valuing and saving cultural (and by extension) carnival material. The challenges of then indexing carnival is the creation of information files per carnival topic, the adaptation of relevant LC subject headings to accommodate local terms, the creation of carnival descriptors/thesaurus and the use of carnival subject specialists (non-librarians). Carnival information files can include: information by year, carnival bands with their bandleaders listed in alphabetical order, specific biographical files on calypsonians which can include sobriquets along with surname. In addition to traditional carnival descriptors, specific terms such as jab jab, blue devil and Dame Lorraine can be used.
Finally there are two general questions to consider for the future. What additional methodology should be applied for carnival acquisitions/collections? What should be the form for collaboration among carnival stakeholders given the different organizational mandates?
Kinney (Library of Congress) asked about Indian (Hindi) influence in carnival which led to a brief discussion. Hortensia Calvo (Tulane University) talked briefly about Tulane’s carnival collection.
“Keeping Our Culture: A Look at the Development of Preservation and Conservation at the National Library of Trinidad And Tobago” by Danielle Fraser started with an overview. The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) was established September 18, 1998 by the government of Trinidad and Tobago as a statutory authority. In preserving Trinidad and Tobago’s national heritage, NALIS is responsible for collecting Trinidad and Tobago imprints, works by Trinidad and Tobago nationals, other works about Trinidad and Tobago or the Caribbean, and oral history of Trinidad and Tobago. A look at trends in library preservation cannot ignore work done by the Library of Congress, the British Library and IFLA. For IFLA, a core activity on preservation and conservation (PAC) is to create a focus on issues of preservation and to initiate worldwide cooperation for the preservation of library materials. There are 14 IFLA-PAC Regional Centers with NALIS being made the regional center in 2004 for the English-Speaking Caribbean.
In 2005 a preservation consultant recommended the following: develop a PAC laboratory; hire library conservators; and develop policies and practices. Early implementation of a preservation plan included the purchase in 2005 of a Wei T’o Dryer and Insect Exterminator (BDIE) and hiring and training staff to develop a laboratory.
Some of the lessons learned include: keep stakeholders informed; prevention is better than the cure; everyone wants to know how to preserve; document everything.
Tony Harvell (University of California, San Diego) asked if there was a disaster plan. It is under exploration. Stacy Norris (Library of Congress) asked about the preservation of non-book material. They know that the need is there but they are just in the early stages. Some digitizing is being done and they are slowly replacing obsolete formats with more current ones.
The final presentation was by Glenroy Taitt on “Write It, Say It, Snap It: Documenting the Heritage of St. Joseph, Trinidad’s First Capital.” This is a project in the works with a final goal being a book. Using his background as a librarian, historian and photographer he has been able to gather a lot of information. For gathering memories of St. Joseph itself, he has worked with his mother and godmother. He gave his mother a copybook with the hope that she would write down her reminiscences about St. Joseph. After some delay, she finally filled up one book and asked for a second. Eventually she used a third. For his godmother, he recorded a batch of interviews for oral history. Between these two sources he was able to get a large amount of information that now needs to be edited. He then entertained us with a few stories from his mother and godmother. The final part of his presentation was a comparison between historical and contemporary photographs. For the Mosque built in the late 40s, there was only his photo.
Panel 1, June 18, 2012, 11:30 am-1:00 pm
Moderator: Wendy Pedersen (University of New Mexico)
Presenters: Pablo Delano (Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut); Jolie Rajah and Georgia Alexander (The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago); Gabrielle M. Toth (Chicago State University)
Rapporteur: Ellen Jaramillo (Yale University)
Imaging Trinidad: Art, Activism, Archive / Pablo Delano (Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut)
Delano began in saying that he has spent a large amount of time in Trinidad over the last fifteen years. In 2008 he published “In Trinidad: Photographs by Pablo Delano”, a book of black and white photographs that tries to capture the essence of a uniquely intercultural society at work, worship and at play. He displayed photos from the book throughout his talk, wherein he explored some of the issues around being a practicing artist/documentarian.
Trinidad struck a chord with him from the time of his first visit in 1997. The drumming he heard during Carnival in Port-of-Spain was essentially the bomba drumming done by Afro-descendants in Delano’s native Puerto Rico. He thought: how is it that Puerto Rico has sent a delegation of bomba drummers to Trinidad and Tobago? Well, he said, they hadn’t; this was bomba drumming from where it originated, in Africa. He felt because of his Caribbean upbringing that he had an inherent understanding of Trinidad, but at the same time also felt as though he were in a foreign place because of the East Indian presence, which is not found in Puerto Rico or in other parts of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Delano stated that we’re all products of this colonization which began with Columbus, but has taken varying forms throughout the Caribbean. For example, he was very taken with the huge influx of sailors in Trinidad during World War II, and the incidence of “Sailor Mas” during Carnival. He calls Trinidad a country of tremendous visual contrasts that demonstrates a high level of “convivencia”, a word that he feels doesn’t translate well from Spanish: “It’s a kind of balance where people have found a way to live with each other. Convivencia allows for disputes and feuds but there is nevertheless a kind of coexistence. Coming from my background in Puerto Rico, where everything artistic is politicized, I was very taken with the way Trinidad has identified the arts as a way to build a post-colonial identity. All artists, especially documentary practitioners, have something of the archivist in them. When your subjects bring out family photos, what do you do with them?” Delano’s response was to photograph the photographs, and return the originals to the family, but he thinks that the idea of setting up a databank of photographs that people have kept in their families could prove to be an extraordinary resource, an incredible treasure trove of vernacular photography. He’d like to delve further into the relationship between archivist and arts practitioner, because one thing that is most obvious when one does this kind of work is that one inevitably documents things which will change, because the subjects die. In looking back over the last fifteen years of photographs that he’s taken in Trinidad, he thinks some may not be his best work from an artistic standpoint, but the photos memorialize people who have made huge contributions to this culture and to this island. He thought he’d use this opportunity to throw out these questions about what the relationships are between practicing artists who are compelled to document the images they see around them, and archives. Where will all these images end up? He doesn’t know what to do with all the photographs he’s taken, or with the old postcards he’s bought on E-bay, some of which are quite unique. Delano is still dealing with the archives of his parents, who were artists in Puerto Rico. He concluded with the hope that practicing artists and archivists find more common ground and ways to work together to make sure that these kinds of materials are not lost.
The Writing is on the Wall: Graffiti as Social Commentary in Trinidad and Tobago / Jolie Rajah and Georgia Alexander (University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago)
Rajah began by saying that as soon as they heard the theme for this conference, graffiti immediately came to mind. They recalled a lot of graffiti in the urban areas of Trinidad and Tobago, especially in Woodbrook and Port-of-Spain, and saw graffiti every day on the UWI, Saint Augustine campus. She noted a lack of academic research in this area and they thought that they could contribute to this body of knowledge. By way of introduction for those who don’t know much about graffiti, they provided a few definitions. One identifies graffiti as intrusive, emblematic and opportunistic, a form of popular protest, a people’s art. The second identifies graffiti as a form of communication that is both personal and free. It offers intriguing insights into people and the society to which they belong. Graffiti has a rich and ancient history, dating back to prehistoric man, and ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome [displayed slides up through 1960’s and 1970’s wall tagging]. The 1980’s marked the worldwide spread of graffiti. Hip Hop identified with the art form, and mass media played a role in spreading it from New York around the world, including Trinidad. There are two types of graffiti: the public and the private. The focus of their presentation was on public graffiti, and Rajah pointed out that in Trinidad and Tobago, graffiti is illegal.
Graffiti has a language of its own. “Tagger” is the person doing the graffiti. “Bomb” is the act of going out and doing graffiti. “Tag” is your name or nom-de-plume, written up on a wall (and may identify your work). A “throw-up” is a piece on a wall in which someone puts their tag or a few letters, in some colors or in an outline, to show that they were there, to take up space to grab attention. There is a lot of literature about graffiti, particularly in North America and Europe. Some of it focuses on whether graffiti is art, vandalism, or visual pollution. Rajah spoke of graffiti as communication, and of its role in the culture, saying: “We are all actively involved in the communication process, whether we are sender, receiver, the source, or the destination, or bring something to bear when we look at or construct a message. Graffiti represents a communicated opportunity, and reveals something about the society in which the artist lives.”
Alexander went on to profile some graffiti found in Trinidad, some of which no longer exists. They secured the
permission of someone who has photographed graffiti throughout Trinidad to display these works. Some of the tags (or names) of local graffiti artists give food for thought (Ghost, Craze, Louse, etc.) and she showed numerous examples of spray-painted and some of pasted and of stenciled graffiti. One that particularly impressed the audience was of the early construction of the National Academy of the Performing Arts where our host reception will take place. There had been controversy in the local media on the government’s decision to award the construction contract to a non-Trinbagonian company. The slide showed the security wall surrounding the construction site on which was stenciled the words: Made in China.
Alexander showed a video on the work of the artist Mamph, wondering what roles librarians could play in capturing and preserving these kinds of works. Little has been documented so far. One is the Urban Heartbeat project, encountering art in public spaces. One event took place in Queen’s Park, Trinidad. Another site that nicely displays Trinidad graffiti art, but in talking with the site owner, she mentioned that he is thinking of taking it down due to there being little traffic on the site. Another interesting site is Alice Yard, an artistic space in Woodbrook that is used for various types of artists to display their work. She noted that perhaps one way libraries can help to preserve this transient art is to adopt sites like these.
Rajah and Alexander created an on-going, open-ended questionnaire using Google.docs, which is a work-in-progress. They posted on social media, sent mass emails, nagged, harassed, and begged local artists to respond. (Because of the nature of graffiti and its illegality in Trinidad and Tobago, many prefer to remain anonymous). They learned that many refer to themselves with terms like bomber, paster, etc., based upon the media that they employ. They asked what materials they used, at what times of day (generally early hours) and where they prefer to do graffiti. Respondents said that their themes are mostly taken from their own creativity and from social, political and environmental issues. They noted that through their work as artists, because they consider themselves artists, or social activists in some cases, they hope to change people’s interpretation and understanding of graffiti. They also hope to provoke thought and to make art more accessible to the public, who in some cases would never visit an art museum or gallery, or to get the public to pay attention to certain social or political issues. This is their way of raising awareness. The majority of respondents thought that there should be designated legitimate spaces where graffiti art could be legally displayed, and that it should be captured for future appreciation, examination and study.
Art, the Americas, Abstracting and Archiving: Documents of 20th Century Latin American and Latino Art: A Digital Archive and Publications Project / Gabrielle M. Toth (Chicago State University)
Toth began by saying that she has the good fortune to serve as a research assistant for this project. She provides indexing and abstracting of documents pertaining to Latin American and Latino art, specifically governing the U.S. Midwest. As an example she showed a slide of a letter of thanks for a presentation on “Posada: Printmaker to the Mexican People,” an exhibition held at the Art Institute of Chicago in the spring of 1944. This was the first major showing of Posada’s work in the U.S. [José Guadalupe Posada, 1852-1913]. The project digitized a gorgeous catalog of the exhibition, and a corrido she found that was written in honor of this event, and which refers to Chicago’s gangster heritage: “Corrido of the Coming of Don José Guadalupe Posada to the Famous North American City of Chicago,” which includes a verse that reads: “In the book by these two professors it tells how Don Lupe hated crime. Had he come here in our 1920’s, he’d have had a magnificent time.”
The documents in this archive cover high art, low art, formal art, activist art, and everything in between, across the Americas. In January 2012, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, in collaboration with its research institute, the International Center for Arts of the Americas (ICAA), launched the book series “Documents of 20th Century Latin American and Latino Art.”
The Museum of Fine Arts and the ICAA have devoted ten years and approximately $50,000,000 to the recovery and publication of primary source materials related to 20th century Latin American and Latino art. The launch in January is the first phase of the archive which will ultimately feature more than 10,000 primary source materials hunted down by hundreds of researchers in 16 cities throughout the Western Hemisphere. There are currently about 200,000 documents from Argentina, Mexico and the American Midwest. All of the documents should be available by 2015 and the website will continue to develop over time. It will continue in perpetuity, making it an indispensable archive of Latin American and Latino art. Along with the online archive, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Yale University Press will co-publish a series of thirteen books, called: Critical Documents of 20th Century Latin American and Latino Art. Some of the documents in this archive will be translated into English and organized by theme, so that the documents will be accessible to the non-Spanish speaking generalist (think: the undergraduate student at many of our institutions) as well as the higher-level researcher. The books and the archive will refer to each other, so that a researcher can see something in the book and then go to the archive to find the full document in its original language. Toth played a video in which the founder and director talks about the project. In the spirit of social justice, this archive in many instances brings to light artists or regions which were neglected in the past. In addition, the project seeks to remind everyone that Latin American and Latino art are not merely derivative or flow from European art but they bring great contributions and encapsulate some of these major art movements in and of themselves.
The project had a three-pronged approach. The first phase was a recovery process where various researchers looked for missing or unknown documents. Once the documents were found, assistants indexed and abstracted the articles or documents, which were turned into local units and were later sent to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The Museum sought permissions and had the documents digitized, and had the information put into the database. Toth demonstrated the database and pulled up an article she had worked on, by Victor Sorell, who taught at Chicago State University for over 40 years and has recently retired. It shows the citation information, and a brief synopsis of the article. Sorell is one of the editors of the book series and was overwhelmed by the amount of material he found. Toth became involved when Sorell heard her speak on Chicago’s Latino community (incidentally it was a paper she had given at a previous SALALM conference). He said who better to index and abstract these articles than a librarian familiar with Midwest Latino communities? She was grateful to be of assistance and was able to learn a lot about art. As a librarian, she expected there to be some kind of thesaurus or some guidelines as to how to handle these documents. There being none, she was given free reign to index every word that she thought important. Toth said that she didn’t know much about art, so she assumed that every word could be important. For example, our previous presenters talked about the materials artists used, both paint and spray paint. Toth said she would have agonized: are they the same, are they different, so she would have indexed them both. As a Chicagoan she would recognize local names, like Mayor Daley. Neither the first nor the second Mayor Daley was at all artistic, but they were mentioned and scholars at some point might find this kind of information useful, so she put that down. Another thing was that Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and of neighborhoods within neighborhoods, whose names may change over time. For example, she ran across mention of “La Villita” a neighborhood which is currently primarily a Mexican neighborhood. It was once known as “Little Village” and earlier as “South Lawndale.” Which name should be noted? She put them all down. She wanted to make sure that whoever wants to access this will be able to find the information.
Toth said it was interesting to see how the work that she did later appeared in the database. She showed examples of the forms she filled out about each document, which helped to populate the database. They show the numerous descriptors that she assigned, and a brief abstract (they were told to be brief). She then showed the resulting database entry where many of the descriptors had been stripped, and the abstract has been expanded by someone more knowledgeable about art, who had added a lot of specific commentary which helps put the artist’s work into a broader context. Again, a social justice aspect of this is recovering and publicizing the fact that there are Latino artists in Chicago, and in Gary, Indiana, and in other tiny little hamlets all over the Midwest. The project gave voice to a lot of artists, collectives and groups active in the Chicago area in the 1970’s. Toth ended by urging all to have a look at this database, pointing out that it’s very easy to search, and it’s all free.
T.K. Sangwand (University of Texas at Austin): I was hoping you could talk a little bit about the demographics of the graffiti artists and if you were able to distinguish any sort of stylistics in the social theme patterns among the different demographic groups.
Rajah: What I have noticed is that it’s generally thought that graffiti is a young person’s thing. Of the ten graffiti artists we’ve interviewed so far, out of the eighteen that we know exist, five of them were over 26. What we didn’t mention in the presentation is that there are crews, loosely-based groups, many of whom are all under 26. They tend to be taggers, the most basic style. As they hone their art, they deal with more themes. Mamph, for example, is in his forties.
T.K. Sangwand (University of Texas at Austin): What is the gender ratio?
Rajah: I had thought it was only men and was surprised to find that two of our respondents were women, and there is another we haven’t met yet, who we suspect is a woman. Georgia asked me to mention the artist “Rap 868.” “868” is the area code for all of Trinidad and Tobago. One of the artists we spoke with said that using this as a tag is neutral: it doesn’t identify, race, gender, color, class, etc.
Jeff Staiger (U. Oregon): You mentioned providing legitimate spaces for the graffiti; could you elaborate? My initial reaction was that transgression is of the essence and once you provide sanctioned spaces, you’ve neutralized it or contained it. How do the artists feel?
Alexander: They said that there’s definitely a need for space for young people to express themselves. One respondent said that you can provide space, but someone may push the envelope and cause trouble for everyone else. People may still seek to go outside of those spaces to get the thrill factor.
Toth: I have a question: In Chicago graffiti is a problem, but we also have murals. Some of what you’ve shown appears muralistic. Chicago spends a lot of money quickly painting over graffiti, because they see graffiti as the first step in horrific crime coming into a neighborhood. How is balance achieved between the artist and the state?
Alexander: Graffiti is a form of protest. To legitimize it allows the protest, but at the same time there’s that
adrenaline rush of doing something risky, the thrill of being caught, etc. There’ll always be that aspect because some of it is considered vandalism. Art is open to interpretation: who’s looking and what do you perceive it to be, so that is a message in itself.
Rajah: There isn’t a clear-cut answer; that’s a chance we take, but by putting up a space for it, it sends the message that we embrace graffiti as a form of art.
Barbara Robinson (University of Southern California): In Los Angeles we’ve had a large mural movement. Graffiti taggers have actually destroyed a lot of the murals, requiring them to be painted over because they were so defaced. The images you’ve shown seem to me to be more like murals, not at all what we’re used to seeing in L.A., which seems to be put up to merely show that they’ve been there. The beautiful murals that were there for 20 years are now gone.
Alexander: That’s happened in Trinidad, too. There’s the deviant aspect – the gang-related, focused more in certain more dangerous areas. But sometimes it’s a dialogue between artists. You don’t know the identity of who has left something and the only way you can comment is by writing on that piece.
Robinson: After they got rid of the murals that had been defaced, they created a hanging that shows the previous mural, but it’s not affixed to the wall. They’re attached temporarily so if someone destroys the hanging it can be removed.
Alexander: These people are obviously venting, so maybe there should be designated space for graffiti.
Delano: It’s not easy to draw a line between the so-called “good” graffiti and the so-called “bad” graffiti. Even the so-called “good” graffiti comes from a history of transgression. For example, in Hartford, Connecticut, there is an old art-deco building called the Beacon Lighting Company and this building was plagued by graffiti. Finally the management decided to reach out to the taggers and commission them to do a mural. They ended up with a beautiful mural, with the name of the company. Where you place that is kind of complicated. Another example is Barcelona, a city filled with spectacular graffiti that overall respects the stone. The graffiti is on the steel gates and stops at the ancient stone walls. It’s a delicate balance. Sometimes when taggers hit established graffiti, they don’t think that they are defacing it; they think they’re adding or becoming part of it.
Toth: In Chicago, the murals were threatened by urban renewal. This speaks to quality art versus non-quality. If part of the project is to have the community involved, it means that all sectors should be involved.
Rachel [Dean?] (NALIS, National Library and Information System Authority, T&T): Just a statement in regards to graffiti: one of the artists you mentioned, Clinton, is exhibiting and selling his graffiti.
Rajah: Some of the artists are becoming quite sought-after and have been asked to do things like sneakers, air-brushing them graffiti-style, etc.
Alexander: Graffiti is becoming quite commercial here and is showing a positive social message.
Panel 12, Tuesday May 31, 2011, 2:00 pm-3:30 pm
Moderator: Silvia Mejia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Presenters: Marisol Ramos, University of Connecticut; T-Kay Sangwand, The University of Texas at Austin; and Joel Blanco-Rivera, University of Pittsburgh
Rapporteur: Suzanne Schadl, University of New Mexico
The first presentation, Sharing Archives: The P.R. Civil Court Cases Collection Digital Project, by Marisol Ramos of the University of Connecticut (UConn) offered digitization of the Puerto Rican Civil Court Cases Collection as a solution for colonialist ownership of cultural heritage collections in tenuous political environments. Ramos noted that this collection, purchased by UConn in 2002 (before her appointment), actually belonged in the National Archive in Puerto Rico. Upon its establishment in 1955, it became the repository for all government records from the Spanish period to the present. Even so, and through legal means, these documents were in the custody of UConn when she began working there. Because of strict Connecticut state laws prohibiting the deaccession of materials bought by the state, this 19th century collection could not be returned to Puerto Rico. To make matters worse, the fragility of the documents within this collection prohibited making photocopies to share access with the country of provenance.
In 2007, Ramos became concerned with how best to address the moral and ethical obligation to provide Puerto Ricans access to this collection. She saw it as part of the Puerto Rican national and cultural heritage. As a Puerto Rican who had worked in and collaborated with staff at the National Archive in Puerto Rico, Ramos felt even more obligated to identify a solution to the problem of U.S. universities ending up with collections far from their countries of origin. After offering a snapshot of several cases in which donations, purchases, deaths, and/or other events led to document drains, Ramos addressed the difficult historical relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. In so doing, she situated their relationship within studies of colonialism. Ramos noted that as a political appointee embroiled in this difficult connection, it would be ill-advised for the director of the National Archive in Puerto Rico to formally demand that documents be returned to Puerto Rico. The rotating nature of such political positions would make this endeavor even more complicated.
Ramos proposed intervention from archivists and librarians in the United States holding cultural heritage collections. She then outlined the UConn project, and announced that the Latin American Microforms Project (LAMP) had agreed to help fund the initiative. Ramos noted that once digitized, by May 2012 all of the documents in the Puerto Rican Civil Court Cases Collection would be shared through the Internet Archive. Ramos noted that while this solution did not return documents to their country of origin, it did offer access. It also successfully bypassed University funding politics and spoke to the difficulties of cross national/institutional ownership of cultural heritage collections in a tenuous funding situation and in a complicated political environment.
In the second presentation, Tejiendo la Memoria: Strengthening Collective Memory of El Salvador’s Civil War through Transnational Digitization Partnerships, T-Kay Sangwand (The University of Texas at Austin) proposed a Distributed Archival Model as an alternative to problematic traditional methods of archival possession. She argued that the partnership based model of transnational digitization could empower record and access creators by enabling them to retain, expand, and share access while also learning useful techniques in digital preservation.
Sangwand began by presenting the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) at UT (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/hrdi). This program serves as the umbrella under which her primary focus, the Tejiendo la Memoria project, evolved. Sangwand noted that HRDI emerged out of the collective effort in which activists, scholars, and organizations together with the University of Texas Libraries (UTL) began to identify threatened electronic and analog resources for preservation. They sought to save the most fragile records of international human rights struggles and promote their security through archival availability, human rights research and continued advocacy. A generous grant from the Bridgeway Foundation in 2008 led to the establishment of the HRDI, which Sangwand noted currently engages in transnational collaborative projects to preserve and make accessible the historical record of genocide and human rights violations throughout the world.
Sangwand presented UT Austin’s work with the Radio Venceremos Archive at the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (Museum of Word and Image) in El Salvador as an example of implementing a Distributive Archival Model. Radio Venceremos traveled with the FMLN during the El Salvadoran Civil War and denounced human rights abuses. Sangwand noted that this medium also became an important means for popular education. After the war ended, Radio Venceremos had 1,270 fragile tapes containing personal testimonies. Needless to say, the Museum Word and Image was reluctant to give UT Austin temporary custody of these important records, and understandably so, especially considering the political history between the United States and El Salvador. UT Austin chose, thus, to use collection development funds in order to send equipment and trainers to the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen with the express purpose of acquiring this digital collection.
UT Austin employees provided training in digital preservation techniques and metadata standards and Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen archivists began to digitize and describe the collection. Custody never changed hands and each party had the opportunity to contribute their expertise to the project. UT Austin and the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen agreed to share the digital copies archived in a server at UT Austin. The original Radio Venceremos tapes remained in El Salvador. The funding formula used in this experimental acquisition involved calculating the staff costs of two employees processing this collection over two years’ time. UT Austin agreed to pay 2/3 of the cost while the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen covered 1/3. Sangwand concluded by sharing a clip of a sole survivor’s testimonial in these audio files.
In the third presentation, Declassification and Accountability for Part Abuses: Transitional Justice in Latin America and the Impact of Declassified U.S. Government Documents, Joel Blanco-Rivera (University of Pittsburgh) argued that transitional justice in Latin America requires and is dependent upon access to government documents from the United States. He suggested and offered several examples in which these documents have played important roles in memory-related initiatives throughout Latin America.
Blanco-Rivera began his presentation by placing Latin American requirements for access to U.S. government documents in an international context. He offered a review of cases and literature including reference to the following international efforts to save threatened records: German state security service records in the early 1990s; Paraguayan information on detentions during the Stroessner regime; records from the Guatemalan national police stored in a police building in Mexico City; and very recently, records from the Egyptian state security police. In this last case, Blanco-Rivera stated that protestors successfully used social media to document their demands for saving records as well as for documenting them. He noted that in all of these cases, saving these documents from destruction led to public outcries and increased availability, as in the case of the Archive of Terror. Knowledge of these documents also prompted heightened demands for declassified U.S. government documents, as in the case of Operation Condor.
Building on literature regarding the importance of archivist activism in Human Rights, Blanco-Rivera noted that it was imperative for archivists and human rights activists to take responsibility for preserving several different kinds of archives including transitional archives of former regimes; archives of human rights organizations; archives documenting life during the period; and archives of declassified governments. He reiterated that archival sources enable societies to address legacies of human rights abuses, to institute truth programs, and to implement government reforms and other transitions. Blanco-Rivera highlighted the importance of truth commissions as the main mechanisms for addressing abuses in Latin America. He also argued that such efforts succeeded only after also obtaining declassified U.S. documents. Blanco-Rivera demonstrated that combining Truth Commission reports with the declassification of U.S. documents increased interest in the contradictions between U.S. declassified documents and local documents. He added that this triangulation often opened the door for even greater demands for the release of additional records.
Questions & Comments:
Pamela Graham (Columbia University) asked Sangwand how prevalent the UT Austin model is. She wanted to know if there were other institutions doing similar things and she asked Sangwand if the cost sharing formula UT Austin has used addressed ongoing preservation and maintenance costs. Sangwand stated that she was not aware of any other academic organizations doing something similar but that non-governmental organization were involved in like practices. As for the storage and maintenance costs, she noted that the UT Austin director was supportive of the project as an acquisition and not worried about storage right now. The point was to build an infrastructure for this process to continue in the future. There was an inaudible interjection from the audience on other collections or documents in Mexico.
Ana María Garra asked Blanco-Rivera about his familiarity with a case brought in the U.S. in 1973, which was developed from U.S. documents. He noted that he was familiar with that case and added a few additional examples.
Adrian Johnson (UT Austin) asked Blanco-Rivera if civil judgments help people pursue criminal cases, sort of as a means to ameliorate the reality that a civil conviction rarely results in payment. He wondered if it would be possible to use such a case to revoke citizenship. Blanco-Rivera responded that receiving money was never the end goal. Recognition was most important.
Suzanne Schadl (UNM) asked Ramos and Sangwand if they had to maneuver restrictive bureaucratic funding (such as not recognizing museums as vendors or refusing large reimbursements) to purchase documents in order to get them back to where they belong or to use collections development funds for digital acquisition. Both noted that they had very little difficulty, just increased paper work and communications.
Johnson (UT Austin) asked Ramos if she had any contact with the Puerto Rican Archives since they put this collection into the Internet Archive. He wondered if they were using it. Ramos noted that they were still in the beginning processes of the project and that it would not be live until May 2012.
Adán Benavides (UT Austin) asked Sangwand how feasible it would be to continue these kinds of agreements and how selective they could be in this process. He wanted to know about the long-term sustainability of these projects after the case. Sangwand noted that the library was dedicated to preservation and maintenance costs for these collections, not unlike they would be for other acquisitions. Graham (Columbia University) added that Mellon grants were offering funding for figuring out how to do archiving metadata.
Panel 6, May 31, 2011, 9:00 am-10:30 am
Moderator: Fernando Acosta-Rodríguez, Princeton University
Presenters: Corina Norro, Archivo Nacional de la Memoria de Argentina; Margarita Vannini, Universidad Centroamericana; Graciela G. Barcala de Moyano, Academia Nacional de la Historia; Daniela Fuentealba, Museo de la Memoria; María Luisa Ortiz, Museo de la Memoria
Rapporteur: Tracy North, Library of Congress
Corina Norro began her presentation “Los Archivos Audiovisuales: Aportes para la Memoria en Construcción” by lamenting that there is not enough money or political will in Argentina right now to preserve cultural heritage. However, she enthusiastically reported that the Archivo Nacional de la Memoria is attempting to preserve audiovisual materials. She explained that the Archives are for citizens. They are important so that no one will forget. All of history is written; this audiovisual documentation is equally as important for history.
In 2007, Argentina created the Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos with the idea of capturing the memories of the victims and perpetrators of the atrocities. The goal is to collect the many stories and experiences of all of those involved in the Dirty War. Corina made the important point that there is not just one story, but rather a diverse group of experiences. The Archive is attempting to collect stories in all formats: images, videos, oral history, etc., in order to trace the trajectory of culture throughout the Dirty War. They are collecting movies, music, radio and television broadcasts so that scholars and citizens can dissect the recordings to analyze censorship or other influences of media production during the time period. For example, they are trying to recover broadcast recordings from the 1978 World Cup which they suggest covered up the truth about what was really happening in Argentina in the midst of the Dirty War.
Margarita Vannini followed with her presentation “Memoria e Imagen: Los Archivos Audiovisuales del Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua y Centroamérica de la UCA.” According to Vannini, the Instituto de Historia has a collection of photographs to promote and disseminate information. Vannini talked about the notion of circulating information through books, journals, and photographs as a way to broadcast the cultural patrimony of the country. The goal is to share the experience with future generations. Vannini explained that Nicaragua has experienced a tumultuous political history for the past 50 years (e.g., Somoza, Revolution, Sandinista, neoliberalism, Post-Sandinismo, etc.). She explained that small museums have taken on the task of attempting to preserve the memory of the nation. In working for a more just society, they are collecting and saving images of murals in public places (e.g., plazas and other central locations). They are also trying to capture music from the different periods of their recent political turmoil.
Vannini noted the ending of a decade of the Nicaraguan Civil War and the election of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro to the presidency in 1990. She ran her campaign and took office with a peace and reconciliation platform. The Instituto de Historia is not attempting to erase the memory of the Sandinistas and the revolution; rather, the goal is to preserve the memory and cultural history of the nation: to recover the thousands of burned books; to remember the changed names of the schools, etc.
Graciela Barcala de Moyano next followed with her presentation “Clasificación Temática de Archivos Orales Sobre Derechos Humanos: Aportes para una Metodología.” Barcala de Moyano began by noting that the archivists and librarians who are cataloging the memory of the nation are working today for future generations, 20-25 years from now. They want to simplify the recovery of memory and the cataloging and preservation of oral testimony and audiovisual resources. They are seeking to develop common terms through a linguistic examination of the resources. Barcala de Moyano made the point that we use words today to describe past events but these words are different from the words that were used during the actual time period being described. She explained that the cataloging process must be objective. She discussed the unique challenge of cataloging oral history. For example, there is not a unique title for each testimony. The people who are speaking out and telling their stories are not well-known; rather, they are family members of the disappeared, so chances are there are not established authority headings for their names. With the cataloging rules constantly changing, the goal is to standardize the thesaurus so that common terms are applied across collections for future searching and access to the collections.
In their joint presentation, “Difusión y Acceso Público del Patrimonio del Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos Mediante su Centro de Documentación”, Daniela Fuentealba and María Luisa Ortiz discussed the importance of the Chilean exile experience of 1973-1989, and described the urgent need to collect, organize, store, and provide access to the vast array of resources created by Chilean exiles which are dispersed throughout the world in many formats (mostly music, some fine arts, graphic design, and photography), languages, and themes. Most of these materials are held by the exiles themselves, whether they live in Chile or in the country of asylum. The findings indicate that there was no systematic attempt to identify, collect and provide access to resources about the Chilean exile experience.
The artistic output of Chilean exiles covered many different avenues. For example, there was an abundance of literature – poetry, fiction, and non-fiction – being produced by Chileans abroad. Film and theater production have also proliferated among Chilean exiles. The films served as an educational post-dictatorship tool to show young Chileans what life was like during the Pinochet dictatorship. In addition to the primary sources (for which more research is needed to bring together and catalog all of the rich production), some valuable secondary sources also attempt to investigate and explain the massive Chilean exodus during the dictatorship and its role in shaping the history of the nation. Ultimately, there is an urgent need to attempt to identify, collect, and make available the production of Chilean exiles in all formats, languages, and themes in order to create a more comprehensive view of Chilean history during the dictatorship (1973-1989), and the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos is the ideal venue to collaborate in undertaking this significant activity.
May 30, 2011
9:00 am-10:30 am
Nerea A. Llamas, SALALM President 2010-2011, University of Michigan
Joseph Holub, SALALM Local Arrangements Co-chair, 2010-2011, University of Pennsylvania
David C. Murray, SALALM Local Arrangements Co-chair, 2010-2011, Temple University
H. Carton Rogers, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries, University of Pennsylvania
Ann Farnworth-Alvear, Director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program, University of Pennsylvania
Jonathan LeBreton, Senior Associate University Librarian, Temple University Libraries
Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive:
Forensic Archivists and Active Archives: Advancing the Cause of Human Rights in Latin America through Archival Investigation
Rapporteur: Gabriella Reznowski, Washington State University
Nerea Llamas opened the session by thanking the sponsors and welcoming special guests to SALALM LVI. Llamas introduced Peter Kornbluh, recognizing his contribution to the preservation of memory in its various forms. Works Kornbluh has authored include: The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962, The Iran-Contra Scandal: the Declassified History, and The Pinochet File, among others.
Kornbluh began his presentation at the historic Warwick hotel by paying tribute to the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, recalling his boyhood visits to his grandmother’s home on 21st and Walnut Street. He introduced the topic of “Human Rights and Archives,” explaining that every archive has the potential to become a “moving monument” to history. Kornbluh challenged us to take this a step further, to ensure that they are active monuments: “How do we actively and aggressively build and apply archives to rewrite and reshape the present and advance the concept of truth, justice and dignity that is at the heart of the human rights issues we care about?”
Kornbluh’s talk centered on the idea that we can all be “activist archivists,” ensuring that the documents we collect and preserve are used to advance the cause of human rights. This theme is central to the work at the National Security Archive (NSA), where they are committed to freedom of information and human rights issues. Sharing an acronym with the National Security Agency, Kornbluh jokingly explained, “We refer to ourselves as ‘The Archive’ rather than the NSA, which of course is a very secretive organization.” He acknowledged that because the ‘National Security Archive’ has a sinister ring to it, people sometimes confuse the NSA with a secretive, government agency. Kornbluh held up a t-shirt that read: “Documentos o Muerte!” (Documents or Death!). Kornbluh explained this was the assertive, almost revolutionary slogan of his organization.
Kornbluh explained that the NSA is the leading advocate for freedom of information and transparency laws, at home and abroad: “We have our church of the ‘right to know’ and we preach the gospel of the ‘right to know’ around the world.” Kornbluh stated that they take seriously those words that are so ironically and misleadingly engraved in the foyer of the Central Intelligence Agency: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” He continued, saying: “Freedom, true democratic participation, and accountability are all predicated on access to information.” Quoting Justice Louis Brandeis, Kornbluh referred to the philosophy espoused by the NSA: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
Proceeding with his talk, Kornbluh presented a slide of a censored document related to Augusto Pinochet, stating: “This is what gets us going in the morning at the NSA: the censorship of history.” Much of the work of his organization is to uncover and pursue the text under the blacked-out part of such documents, as he asks: “Why do we have to have censorship like this?” Kornbluh further went on to describe the mission of the organization, as it works with key advocacy groups around the world to advance “freedom of information” laws. The NSA is responsible for establishing Sunshine Week in the U.S., also bringing the concept to other countries. His colleague, Kate Hill, was instrumental in drafting Mexico’s “freedom of information” laws, organizing the monitoring agencies that oversee them. Additionally, the NSA runs training programs on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the press, media programs, and reporters. The NSA is currently involved in providing training to the families of human rights victims in Chile, so that they may pursue documentation under the Chilean “freedom of information” laws.
Continuing, Kornbluh explained: “We’ve pushed and advocated for a special designation for the millions of pages of still secret U.S. documents that relate to human rights and oppression, a designation that would facilitate their expeditious declassification.” A slide showed the first pages of the November 23, 1997 proposal put forth by Congressman Tom Lantos, H.R. 26535: “The Human Rights Information Act” presented during the 1st session of the 100th congress. This act would expedite the release of all documents since 1944 that contain information about human rights violations. The CIA and FBI opposed the law, and it failed to pass. While other countries, such as Uruguay, Peru, and Guatemala adopt similar legislation, it is unfortunate that the U.S. is falling behind: “We work in a global arena now in archives, and other countries are adopting ‘freedom of information’ laws that have specific clauses for the expedited declassification of human rights documentation so that governments cannot hide these atrocities.”
Aside from advocating for the freedom of information around the world, the NSA is a repository for declassified documents. As Kornbluh explained, the organization has hundreds of boxes filled with papers, from which it publishes electronic briefing books, such as the forthcoming Fifty Years of Cuba Relations, also making its digital collections available through their website. The NSA has targeted documents related to Latin America, the history of nuclear war, terrorism, presidential decision making, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. NSA staff have made over 40,000 FOIA requests generating the declassification of over 700,000 documents. The organization has also been instrumental in generating the declassification of documents and pushing for collections at presidential libraries to be opened to the public through Mandatory Declassification Review requests. Kornbluh explained that if the NSA drew only on U.S. archives, this would be “informational imperialism.” The organization therefore conducts research in other archives around the world, including Library and Archives Canada, the British National Archives, and the Brazilian National Archives, in addition to an increasing number of archives in Latin America, which have started to yield “impressive and vast numbers of docs on human rights.”
Kornbluh urged the propagation of “investigative librarians” in a field where we generally have a passive, “build it and they will come” orientation toward users: “It is in the building of these archival collections that we all bring the creativity and interests that we have to accumulate groups of unique records.” At the NSA, Kornbluh explained: “We proactively build our collections on Latin America and human rights with very specific usages in mind so, and very specific and clear strategies for the dissemination of the information, so it will have a maximum impact on the cause of human rights, through the media, into the hands of the courts and the families of victims that need them.” Kornbluh described his role as that of a “forensic historian,” the crime scene investigator of human rights atrocities in Latin America where the “autopsy” on human rights crimes is performed by “exhuming” the secret records of the vaults of the organizations like the FBI and CIA.
Another role Kornbluh highlighted is the targeting of key collections of documents related to human rights investigations in order to advance truth, justice, and dignity in Latin America. In order to accomplish this, Kornbluh advocates for the aggressive and special use of the FOIA through familiarity with the types of documents that each agency generates and the variety of reporting addressed by each department. The NSA is familiar with the operations of the State Department, the FBI attachés, the Defense Intelligence attachés, and the types of meetings and minutes that are generated by each group. Another method used to obtain documents is through “discretionary declassification,” pressing presidents and leaders to decree the declassification of relevant documents on key cases in order to advance the cause of human rights.
Kornbluh took the remainder of the time to illustrate some of the agency’s work.
1. Freedom of Information Act work
Much of the agency’s FOIA work is geared toward Truth Commissions related to Latin America. There have been a few cases where the NSA had foreknowledge of the establishment of a Truth Commission. For example, they have already started doing FOIA work in the U.S. related to an upcoming Brazil commission. Another example involves Peru, where the NSA had two years lead time to prepare 200 FOIA requests related to Alberto Fujimori.
Kornbluh showed a Defense Intelligence Agency document confirming that Fujimori gave the order to raid and execute prisoners at a Japanese residency where MRTA guerillas had taken hostages. Fujimori gave the order that no member of the hostage takers was to be taken alive, even if they were to surrender. The document confirms that two members did in fact surrender, were executed, and their bodies arranged in such a way as to appear that their deaths occurred during a “shoot out.” This document was instrumental in Fujimori’s trial, as it illustrates that he was capable of an explicit human rights violation. The NSA played a significant role in the Fujimori trial, giving the judges and prosecuting attorneys 21 documents that were used as evidence in Peru. Further to the Fujimori trial, Kornbluh showed the slide: “Counterterrorism plan: secret annex for extrajudicial assassination,” a document confirming that a secret, extracurricular, extrajudicial assassination program would be set up against those Fujimori considered to be terrorists.
Another FOIA example relates to the Defense Intelligence Agency “Biographic Data Reports” containing lists of where specific Guatemalan commanders were posted. The NSA also obtained “Order of Battle Documents” from which they were able to develop a database of major massacre locations and the corresponding commanding officers related to the atrocities. The database was used in helping the U.N. Truth Commission to establish connections between commanders and massacres. Kornbluh also presented a CIA Intelligence Report used by the U.N. Truth Commission showing that Rios Montt gave specific authorization for “carte-blanche” repression in the indigenous regions of Guatemala. Documents also illuminate the U.S. role in counter-terrorism campaigns, condoning operations that were tantamount to massacres, tortures, and bloodshed.
A slide showed a CIA diagram related to the 1954 coup operations against Arbenz, illustrating “The Conference Room Technique,” or “how to assassinate a room full of Arbenz officials in less than 20 seconds … and blame the communists.” This was found in the appendix to a manual on assassination which detailed every conceivable way to kill a person, including a section on blunt instruments. Kornbluh published the first four documents as “op-art” in the New York Times “op-ed” page, characterizing it as one of the most chilling documents he has ever read that was generated by tax-payer dollars. The declassification of these documents resulted in so much publicity that Clinton felt compelled to apologize for them when he was in Guatemala in 1998. Characterizing the incident, Kornbluh stated: “This is an issue of memory; this is an issue of accountability. Changing the framework of relations, addressing a horrid history, in the hopes of generating changes in the future.”
2. Emerging Latin American archives
Increasingly, in-house documents from Latin America are becoming instrumental to the work conducted by the NSA. Kornbluh showed a slide of a Chilean intelligence report from a DINA operative and bureau chief in Buenos Aires, Enrique Arancibia Clavel. Clavel operated under covert cover as a banker, but coordinated collaboration between the Argentinean Secret Police and the Chilean Secret Police. The document confirms that Clavel had been given a secret report by the Argentine Intelligence Batallion 601 confirming that between 1974 and 1976, 22,000 people died or disappeared due to Argentine military actions. This is still the only official acknowledgment from an internal Argentinean military source that confirms these deaths.
On some occasions, documents are given to NSA members by sources from inside Latin America. Kornbluh presented a slide of the Guatemalan “Death Squad Diary,” a leather-bound log book recording 8 months of efforts by the Guatemalan secret police during 1983. This was literally handed to Kate Doyle in Guatemala, as Kornbluh stated: “Even military sources sometimes have pains of conscience.” Kate Doyle published the article “Looking into the secret archives of Guatemala’s bureaucracy of murder” in Harper’s magazine and the log book became instrumental in prosecuting Guatemalan human rights cases.
Kornbluh cited the most important archival find in recent Latin American history to be the national police files in Guatemala. A photo showed a rat-infested abandoned armaments depot in the middle of Guatemala City, where some 50 million pages of documents were found in rotting bags. The materials were sifted through and are now being used as evidence in human rights trials. Related to this find, Kornbluh presented a slide that honors four police officers involved in the kidnapping and death of Edgar Fernando García, a student leader and trade union activist captured by Guatemalan security forces in 1984. As a result of this document, the officers were sent to trial, found guilty and sentenced to 40 years in prison. The documents illustrate that García’s capture was an organized political abduction orchestrated at the highest levels of the Guatemalan government. The documentary film Granito focuses on this incident, as a group of women, including colleague Kate Doyle, bring cases from Guatemala to the Spanish courts. In the film, Fernando Garcia’s daughter talks about the impact these documents have had on her, as she is able touch and feel them. She herself has become a human rights investigator, sifting through the documents in the archive. Kornbluh explained that the value of his work is driven home when the families of the victims come to the NSA to touch the photos of their loved ones, placing mementos in the archival case containing the documents: “The community has come to this activist archive.”
Another slide related to the “Archivo del Terror,” a major Latin American find in Paraguay. Upon finding this abandoned police station, a human chain was formed to transfer 700,000 documents to a car for transport to the Supreme Court building. Found among the documents was the original set of invitations that brought Paraguay into Operation Condor.
Kornbluh said: “We live in a global world, and one archive is not enough; we now look at many archives to build an investigative story.” To illustrate this, Kornbluh presented a slide with mug shots found by NSA colleague Carlos Osorio in the Mexican Police archives. The photos are of two Argentine secret police agents arrested in Mexico City in January of 1970. Osorio found corroborating documents in Paraguay, Argentina and the United States, to uncover “Operation Mexico,” an Argentine secret police rendition program to find and capture Monteneros living in Mexico City. Through the program, the agents captured “Tucho” Valenzuela, his wife, and two children, telling Valenzuela that he will identify other Monteneros, or risk losing his family. Valenzuela escaped from his captors and brought the story to the Mexican police who then found and arrested the Battalion 601 agents, taking the resulting mug shots. In the spirit of counter-terrorism, the Mexican police return Valenzuela to the two Battalion members and deport everyone back to Argentina. Since the operation had been blown, 14 people held at a detention center were executed to cover up the case, including Valenzuela’s wife. The children were adopted by military families, and finally reunited at the 2010 trial where the commanders were ultimately convicted.
3. Discretionary Declassification
Presenting a slide of the British warrant for Pinochet’s arrest in October of 1998, Kornbluh explained that documents are obtained by pushing presidents and leaders around the world to approve discretionary declassification. Kornbluh recalled the NSA’s ability to pressure the Clinton Administration on discretionary declassification of documents from Chile, resulting in the release of 24,000 items, including an internal diagram of the structure of the Chilean secret police. A slide entitled, “CIA Reports on Repression in Chile Ties Pinochet to Abuses,” shows that General Manuel Contreras took his orders from Augusto Pinochet, and Pinochet alone. Another slide shows Kissinger’s attitude toward Pinochet, when in a September 29, 1975 meeting with Admiral Caravajal, he complains: “I have read the briefing book my staff has prepared for me on this meeting, and it’s nothing but Human Rights.” Although Pinochet was never convicted, Kornbluh feels that these documents ensure that you still have a verdict of history.
Questions & Comments:
David Block (Cornell University) asked the only question: “In the context of your present work, what do you make of Wikileaks?”
Kornbluh replied that Wikileaks is essentially a techno-media organization that accepted almost 700,000 documents from U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning and placed them on a network. What sets Wikileaks apart is the magnitude of the documents, and the use of technology to distribute them. The NSA has a different modus operandi than Wikileaks. For the most part, the NSA does not deal in leaked materials, but rather advocates for transparency with regards to government information. However, Kornbluh recommended that we compare Julian Assange’s reception to that of Bob Woodward: “Nobody is talking about prosecuting Bob Woodward, and nobody should be talking about prosecuting Assange either.”
Panel 15, June 1, 2011, 9:00 am-10:30 am
Moderator: Marisol Ramos, University of Connecticut
Presenters: Jared Marchildon, Libros Latinos; Gustavo Castaner, International Monetary Fund, Archivists without Borders, Spain; Irene Münster, University of Maryland; Mark Grover, Brigham Young University
Rapporteur: Barbara Alvarez, University of Michigan
The presentations on this panel documented the struggle against political oppression in Mexico, Spain, Argentina and Chile, and described efforts to preserve memories of that oppression.
“ASARO” , the opening talk by Jared Marchildon gave an account of the presenter’s trips to Oaxaca in January and May 2011, where he went to meet the Asemblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (ASARO) artists and purchase their prints. Delivered in English and Spanish, with strokes of vivid, visual language, the presentation painted the picture of the life of the ASARO collective, its members Lalo, Yeska, Baltasar, Pacheco, Mario Guzmán, and the creative process that happens in their studios and on the streets of Oaxaca, where they use stencils and graffiti art to express their political resistance. As Marchildon explained, the group formed itself in 2006 when a teachers’ protest turned into a general uprising involving one third of the Oaxacan population. A Japanese artist working at the Instituto de Bellas Artes taught the founding members of ASARO techniques of art protest he had learned in Japan and other countries. ASARO prints and graffiti painfully depict the social and political oppression, the poverty, the submissive state of women, the government’s abuse of power, and promote revolutionary ideals and human solidarity. Yeska and his fellow artists descend from the surrounding hills upon the city to imprint their political message upon the walls. They disguise, hide their spray cans and stencils, and evade police to aid la rebellion through unnerving and denouncing images. The other favorite medium of the ASARO collective are woodcut prints. Many of them are exhibited in Mexico and abroad and many are purchased by collectors and art vendors. The ASARO Blogspot page (http://asar-oaxaca.blogspot.com) features exhibits and works of individual artists, as well as publications and videos about the collective.
The following presentation, “Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: The Archives in the Battle for Retrieving Spain’s Historical Memory,” delivered by Gustavo Castaner, addressed the difficulties of recovering the historical memory of Franco’s regime. According to Castaner, Spain is often referred to as a model transition from dictatorship to democracy. In fact, this transition was achieved through an agreement with the dictator’s followers that guaranteed impunity for them and their crimes. The price of this agreement was silence. A look back after 30 years reveals that Franco’s regime, which was sustained for nearly 40 years, was much more dire than other dictatorships. Thousands of victims of Franco’s brutal repression still lie in forgotten mass graves without any recognition.
In 2007, the Law of Historical Memory was passed in Spain. This law condemns Franco’s regime and prescribes the removal of its symbols from public spaces. It recognizes the victims of violence on both sides of the conflict and ensures the assistance of the government in discovery, identification and exhumation of the bodies buried in mass graves. Archives are a crucial tool for the retrieval of the forgotten memory. Franco’s government kept exhaustive records that are vital to the research of this historical period.
Franquistas practiced a total war and dehumanization of the enemy, the same tactics that were used in the Spanish-Moroccan War (1909-26), such as the use of poison gas, mass executions and rape, and attacks on the civil population. The best known case was Badajoz, where Franco’s troops shot some 2,000-4,000 people in the bull-fight ring after taking the city. Francisco Espinosa Maestre documented in his book the bloody advance of ¨the column of death¨ that executed 10% of inhabitants of each village they had entered. The gang rapes were common, and the franquistas promised white women to the Moors fighting on their side.
Franco’s regime used war edicts as legal instruments in the first year of the war. The deaths of victims were recorded in civil registries as “application of the war edict.” In the following years, court martials took over the legal procedures of the repression. Ironically, people were condemned for aiding the rebellion where, in fact, the military were those who rebelled by organizing a coup d’état. The Law of Political Responsibilities, passed in February 1939, allowed the imposition of penalties such as total disqualification, banishment, exile, total or partial loss of assets and loss of nationality. By September of 1941, the regional tribunals initiated 229,549 such cases.
The violence on the Republican side mainly happened because the government lost control. In Madrid and Barcelona, the anarchists and union members got weapons and started their own revenge. It was estimated that the leftists killed some 85,000 people, but it turns out that a lot of victims were counted more than once. The latest studies account for some 130,000 victims of Franco’s regime.
Franco had an obsession about freemasonry and communism. Special military units searched for documents and collected them in a center in Salamanca. In Barcelona they collected 165 tons of records during five-month search. In Salamanca, 400 tons of records of institutions and organizations were gathered and members of the tribunal produced 3 million index cards with information on specific individuals. Many civil servants lost their jobs, and half a million people were in prison at the end of the war.
In conclusion, Castaner noted that since 2000, the Association for Historical Memory fights to recover the historical records and to exhume mass graves. However, the process is difficult because information is very fragmented and dispersed across the country and it is also difficult to manage and understand for non-experts. The Law of Historical Memory is not applied to its full extent. Resources are not there and the government is not very helpful. Amnesty International Spain published a report called Disaster of Archives and the Privatization of Truth. The latest scandal is the publication of the new Diccionario Biográfico Español in which the entry on Franco is written by his past supporter, and calls him “authoritarian,” without any allusion to the fact that he was a repressive dictator.
Irene Münster‘s presentation, “Memorializing Memories,” took the audience to Argentina under the rule of the military junta of 1976-1983. Based on personal memories, her paper gave an account of the fate of some publishers, bookstores, libraries and community organizers that were active during those turbulent times. When the junta took power, Münster was 20 years old and worked at the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano under the leadership of Marshall Meyer, a young American rabbi.
With absolute impunity, the junta organized a systematic plan to persecute and repress thousands of people in more than 300 clandestine detention centers around the country. Fifteen thousand to thirty thousand people disappeared and 70% of the victims were under the age of 35. Fifteen percent were Jews. The junta aimed to subdue all areas of cultural activity and to impose on the population their moral principles and conservative authoritarian ideology. The Ministerio del Interior enforced censorship, took control of publishing houses and destroyed books. Operación Claridad established in academic centers identified subversive books and teachers who used them. Students and professors alike were pressured to report on each other. Many writers went into exile, others spent time in prison and were tortured, and some disappeared. “Dangerous” books and their authors were registered on a black list. Publishers and bookstores suffered from censorship, books were confiscated and burned, and their owners or vendors were detained or disappeared.
EUDEBA, created in 1958, shortly became the biggest publisher of Spanish language books. In 1974 it was taken over by the Peronist party. In 1976, 15 of its titles were banned and taken to the basement. In February 1977, four military trucks loaded some 80,000-90,000 volumes that subsequently were destroyed. In 1978 the police discovered thousands of books, magazines and encyclopedias of Marxism stored in a warehouse. In August 1980 the police burned 1.5 million books on a vacant lot of land. Witnesses were brought to testify that the books were burned and not stolen. The leftist newspaper La Nueva Presencia was attacked with explosives in 1981.
Marshall Meyer started to fight for human rights against the system, the junta and the Jewish establishment. He spoke to the press and to the community. Soon, he and those who worked with him started to receive death threats almost daily. Every Friday, Meyer went to prisons to provide comfort to Jews and non-Jews alike. He was subjected to the same humiliation as the prisoners. However, he brought back documents and letters to families. The papers needed to be hidden in case of inspection by the authorities. The chosen place was the library, between the huge volumes of Jewish law. This collection, hidden for seven years, is now at the Duke University, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.
Most of the human rights organizations worked to denounce violations committed by the military and offer support to victims and their families. The most prominent were Asemblea Permanente de los Derechos Humanos, founded in 1975, and Movimiento Ecuménico por los Derechos Humanos, founded in 1976. Jews were not persecuted because they were Jews; however, a special vicious treatment was given to them while in prison. Their families did not get any support from Jewish organizations or other human rights organization. Therefore, Movimiento Judío por los Derechos Humanos was founded by Meyer.
Community and university libraries received lists of banned authors. The cards were removed from the catalogs, making their works inaccessible. In the province of Córdoba, the police demanded the borrowing records of community library users. Eighty two writers and 27 librarians are among the disappeared. To protect themselves, many people burned their personal libraries. To have a library was already dangerous because you were considered an intellectual which was synonymous with a leftist thinker. Münster concluded that “the memory of terror still lives among us. Argentina is a country living with its ghosts.”
The last presentation also focused on Argentina’s “Dirty War.” Mark Grover‘s talk “Under Threat: Academics Documenting Human Rights Abuses. The Case of Argentine Professor William Sill” recounted the story of Dr. William Sill, Research Professor and Curator of the Paleontology Museum at the National University of San Juan in western Argentina. Sill is mostly known for the establishment of the Ischigualasto Provincial Park that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is also recognized as “a defender of human rights”. Sill studied geology at Brigham Young University (BYU) and the National University of Mexico (UNAM). In 1958, he was sent to Argentina by the LDS Church on a religious mission. He returned to the United States in 1961, graduated from BYU in 1963, and entered Harvard to study vertebrate paleontology. Between 1968 and 1970, he held a post-graduate research and teaching position at Yale University. In 1970 he received a National Science Foundation grant to spend a year at the Instituto Miguel Lillo in Tucumán examining and evaluating a collection of fossils from Ischigualasto. In 1971 the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo created a geology department in San Juan and he was offered a full professorship in paleontology. He and his family moved to San Juan in western Argentina. Soon after, Sill became involved in the creation of the Ischigualasto Provincial Park to protect a unique deposit of fossils from the Triassic period.
Grover interviewed Sill in Buenos Aires in 2001 at the time when the later had just received the Argentine Congressional Medal of Honor. During the interview, Sill passed onto Grover a copy of his diary, written between 1976 and 1979, which documented the kidnapping, torture, death or escape of some of his students and friends. As a scientist, Sill kept detailed records of the events, methods of torture, accounts of abuses and affected victims even though writing of such a diary was very risky. He created a special code to encrypt people’s names to protect their identity. The other parts of the dairy recount the story of two students Sill helped to escape from Argentina and a brief exposition of his philosophical and religious views on what was going on.
Sill was distressed by the violence, helplessness and the lack of opposition in certain sectors of society. The political situation had also a devastating effect on the university. Numerous faculty members were dismissed and 65 students disappeared. Many students came to tell him stories of their arrest and torture. Soon he realized he and his family were in danger. They secretly moved first to a farm in the country and later on to Buenos Aires. The soldiers who searched for him were told that the family moved back to the US. They lived concealed in Argentina for another two years, but eventually they had to leave the country. They arrived in Austin, TX where they remained for ten years, teaching for the Mormon Church and in the Department of Geological Studies at the University of Texas. In 1992 Sill returned to San Juan to work as Curator of Paleontology at the university’s museum. In 2002, seriously affected by muscular dystrophy, Sill moved back to Las Vegas to be near two of his children. His papers were donated to BYU in 2003. He became bedridden in 2004 and passed away at the age of 70 on March 15, 2008.
Questions & Comments:
Pamela Graham (Columbia University) alluded to the point that Spain is considered a model of transition from dictatorship to democracy and to the challenge of moving forward the process of recovery of historical memory. She asked Castaner about the effect that memory recovery movements in other countries may have on Spain. Castaner expressed hope that Spain will learn from the example of other countries, such as truth commissions in South Africa, to address this problem. “As long as we have people abandoned in mass graves […], each closure will be a false one.”
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