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Panel 15, June 18, 2012, 3:30pm-5:00 pm
Moderator: Teresa Chapa (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Presenters: Denise Stuempfle (Indiana University); Sara Levinson (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill); Teresa Chapa (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Rapporteur: Brenda Salem (University of Pittsburgh)

The presentations in this panel discussed collecting artist’s books from Latin America at an academic library from the perspective of librarians in acquisition, collection management, and cataloging. The moderator, Teresa Chapa, started out by introducing herself as well as the other two presenters.

The first presentation, titled, “Latin American Book Arts: Challenging Tradition and a Challenge to Collect” was given by Teresa Chapa, the librarian for Latin American, Iberian, and Latino/Latina studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC). Chapa started out by relating how she acquired her first (Ediciones) Vigía book as a new bibliographer in 2001. Each of the Vigía books is hand-made by artists in Matanzas, Cuba. The purpose of Chapa’s presentation was to inform others about the challenges of collecting Vigía books, which she was unaware of as an inexperienced bibliographer. She clarified that she would be using the general term “book arts” to describe books that come from Vigía and other books of an artistic nature because she does not have a background in art librarianship to confidently differentiate among the different kinds of artist’s books. Using that term also allows her to include the more inexpensively made “cartonera” books, as well as works of art, such as “Todos Los Mares Del Mundo” by Venezuelan artist Ricardo Benin, which cost $1,000. Throughout the presentation, she passed around several examples of book arts.

Chapa explained that book arts in Latin America are different from book arts in other countries in that Latin American book arts are more socially and politically engaged. As such, convention is disregarded, so alternative or everyday materials are used to create these books as opposed to the fine material used in conventional book arts. The structures of these books are also unconventional. She named a number of publishers throughout Latin America that specialize in book arts and described their different approaches to making books. She mentioned Eloisa Cartonera in Argentina, Ediciones Vigía in Cuba, Taller Leñateros in Mexico, and Ral Varoni in Argentina. Their unique and unconventional approaches to creating book arts create special challenges in the storage and preservation of these items in libraries.

Among the things she wishes she had considered before deciding to collect Latin American book arts were the high cost of the books, whether the books would be housed in the art library or rare book room, and whether the rare book curator or librarian would even accept the care of these books. In her case, the rare book librarian was hesitant to accept the books but was eventually won over. Still, whether or not care of these books will be accepted is something to consider when taking on such a collection. There are also the costs of housing, preserving, and cataloging the books to consider, which are significant. As an example, she talked the book titled “Altar Maya Portátil: Hechizos Mayas de Bolsillo” that consists of a miniature altar with candles, incense, figurines, and three small books. She described the creative solution to storing this collection of items devised by the preservation department. Other things to consider are how funding for the acquisition and care of these books can be justified; how these books fit into an academic curriculum; and how the collection can be promoted in order for it to be used. She went on to list possible reasons that would justify having a collection of book arts at an academic library as well as the challenges in acquiring these books. At the end of the presentation, Chapa talked about her experience in organizing an exhibit of UNC’s book arts and the activities related to the exhibit. The exhibit was named “Hecho A Mano: Book Arts of Latin America” and focused on the book arts of Cuba, Argentina, and Mexico. She stated that it was a lot of hard work, but it paid off because she now receives a lot of requests for the books. She also showed the searchable exhibit website as well as the Artist’s Books resource page in the UNC Libraries website.

The second presentation was titled, “Voices from the Margin: An Exploration of Themes in the “Libros Cartoneros” of the Indiana University Libraries Collection” and was given by Denise Stuempfle, a catalog librarian for Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Studies materials at Indiana University. In this presentation, Stuempfle discussed the subject treatment of “Libros Cartoneros” held at Indiana University (IU). She started her presentation by defining “Libros Cartoneros” as chapbooks manufactured by alternative publishing houses, known as “cartoneras.” The books have covers of corrugated cardboard that are hand-painted with unique designs. She then went over a brief history of the cartonera publishing houses and provided background information on the cartonero book collection at IU, which was started in 2004 and contains approximately 500 cartonero books. Stuempfle previously presented on this topic at the SALALM conference in Providence. In that presentation, she gave an overview of IU’s collection and described how they were being processed. The objectives for this particular presentation, however, were to explore the themes in the works that make up IU’s cartonera collection and to demonstrate the creation of subject access to these works using the Library of Congress’ special provisions for increased subject access to fiction.

Stuempfle talked about the practice of many academic libraries to not add subject headings when cataloging works of fiction, opting to have author and title as the main access points. The disadvantage to doing this, she asserted, is that works cannot be searched for by similar themes. Also, it is assumed that the searcher knows the exact titles and authors he or she is looking for. While this practice works for established authors, it makes cartonero books harder to find because their authors are not well known within mainstream publishing and do not have an established canon. An example of such an author is Washington Cucurto. Omitting subject headings when cataloging works of fiction, particularly cartonero books, is often a time-saving measure for catalogers dealing with a large backlog, but it puts the burden on the researcher when it comes to discovering these works. The Library of Congress has a provision for allowing the addition of subject headings when cataloging works of fiction, but these apply only to certain works, such as biographical and historical fiction, as well as animal stories. She then cited several academic articles that emphasize the importance of subject headings in works of fiction for improving discoverability. She also said that many users have expressed the same sentiment. In order to promote and improve access to the works in the cartonera collection, which the Special Collections Department already spent money in acquiring, it made sense, she concluded, to invest the time and money in providing subject access to them.

Since 2001, the Library of Congress has had special provisions for increased subject access to fiction. However, these provisions were made with public libraries in mind as a way for patrons to more easily search for recreational reading. With the exception of the New York City Public library, no public libraries have cartonero books, so cataloging and providing subject access to these books should fall upon the academic libraries, because many of them have cartonero books. Besides helping the recreational reader, subject access to fiction, she asserts, would also help save the time of the academic researcher, particularly those who might be conducting a literature research. Also, it is important to provide enhanced access to these works because the Library of Congress classification numbers for works of literature correspond to the author, not the subject matter of the work. Moreover, these provisions were aimed at English-language works, but it stands to reason that they can be applied to non-English works as well.

When it comes to providing subject access to the cartonero books at IU, certain subject headings and form subheadings are commonly used. For example, to indicate the country of publication, the subject heading “chapbooks” is used with the country of publication as a subheading. The works found in the cartonero books cover a large range of literary genres and themes. Stuempfle went on to list many of the titles held in their collection. She then made a subject analysis of three works of fiction found in the collection. The examples included La asesina de Lady Di by Alejandro Lopez, Barrio Miseria 221 by Daniel Hidalgo, and Trento by Leónidas Lamborghini. Subject headings were assigned according to the work’s individual characters, class of persons to which the primary character belongs, and settings in the story, all according to certain considerations such as the Library of Congress special provisions for subject access in works of fiction. Headings for topical access and genre headings were also assigned. In some cases, new subject headings are proposed through Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO).

Stuempfle ended her presentation by concluding that the thematically diverse libros cartoneros are a rich resource for literary researchers, particularly those in the field of Latin American Studies. As such, institutions with strong comparative literature, linguistics, and Latin American Studies programs should ensure that access to these works is enhanced so that scholars can benefit from them. Subject access to the humanities has been historically difficult but the problem is compounded when it comes to literature from Latin America. Stuemple considers creating enhanced access to cartonero books part of a larger effort to expand knowledge and use of Latin American and Caribbean literature.

The third presentation, titled “Creating Access to the Vigía Collection of Artists’ Books at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill” was given by Sara Levinson, a catalog librarian at UNC. In her presentation, Levinson talked of the challenges of the descriptive cataloging of UNC’s collection of Vigía artists’ books. Unlike regular books that are in roughly the same physical form in relation to each other, what sets artists’ books apart is what they look like. But to be cataloged, words can only be used to convey something that is mainly visual. The Vigía artists’ books at UNC are housed in the Rare Book Collection section of the library. They are not available in the open stacks and cannot be checked out, so the only way to access them physically is to go to the Rare Book Collection section of the library and request to see them individually. In order to give library patrons a good idea of what these books look like before they see them, Levinson tries to provide as much description as possible in order to “paint a picture” with words. She tries to imagine who would be searching for these books, what they would be searching for, and how they would search for it. She uses genre headings from the Rare Book and Manuscript controlled vocabulary, as these headings are familiar for those who work with rare book collections and those librarians who provide rare book-related reference help. She also uses headings from the Art and Architecture Thesaurus, as these books are considered art works and would be familiar to students and researchers of art, as well as to art librarians. However, these terms are not searchable in all of UNC’s catalogs, so when cataloging each item, Levinson uses long descriptive notes, which are keyword searchable. When possible, Library of Congress subject headings are also used. The materials and techniques used to create the book are often included in the description. Levinson read examples of the descriptive notes she writes in the records for these artists’ books.

Levinson ended her presentation by saying that she hoped that in providing a large number of potentially searchable words in her descriptions, patrons would be more easily able to find the records for these books. She also thanked the people who helped her in putting together her Powerpoint presentation, which included beautiful photographs of the artists’ books she described.

Questions & Comments:

Meiyolet Mendez (University of Miami) asked Levinson if she is the only cataloger who writes such detailed descriptions of artists’ books in bibliographic records and how long it takes to catalog such a book.

Levinson replied that bibliographic records for some of these books already exist, but she enhances those records by adding subject headings, genre terms, and searchable headings. The cataloging takes a while so she tries to spread the work out, but she wants to make them as complete as possible because she wants patrons to be able to find the records for these books. She ventures that in the future, when the Art and Architecture subject terms are searchable in all catalogs, such detailed descriptions won’t be necessary.

Stuempfle then asked Levinson if these record enhancements are done at the local level or if she applies them to OCLC records as well.

Levinson replied that it depends on whether she is doing original or copy cataloging. She contributes her original records to OCLC with all enhancements but if she makes any significant changes to existing OCLC records, she makes them only at the local level.

Wendy Pedersen (University of New Mexico) commented that at her institution, the catalogers have worked on artists’ books, adding detailed description as well. She then asked Stuempfle if IU’s cartonero books are special collections and what considerations are taken in shelf-listing them.

Stuempfle said that IU’s cartonero books are individually put in special preservation boxes and placed in the library’s storage. If patrons want to look at them, they can be requested and sent to the patron within half a day.

Martha Preddie (University of Trinidad and Tobago) asked Chapa what the print run for artists’ books usually are. Chapa replied that depending on the publisher, the print run might be as little as 20 to as many as 200.

Chapa added that she had not been able to bring any Vigía books to the conference because they cannot be checked out of the UNC library, but that she does have some books in her office to use as examples when she does presentations in classrooms.

Preddie then asked if the books are digitized and Chapa replied that they cannot be digitized as her institution does not hold the copyright for these books. Moreover, getting the permission to digitize the books has not been a priority for the library as they are busy digitizing other material. But for the artists’ books exhibit website, images of the featured books were digitized.

Stuempfle disclosed that she ended up with the responsibility for a box full of artists’ books that had not been cataloged when the previous art librarian had moved on to another position and that she is currently trying to figure out how to catalog them.

Sarah Leroy (University of Pittsburgh) asked whether the multiple copies of artists’ books are meant to be identical in spite of a small print run. Having them being identical, she added, would make it easier to use a bibliographic record for different copies.

Chapa replied that usually, copies in a print run are identical. Leroy said that it would be useless to write a detailed description of a cartonero book in an OCLC record since each cover in a relatively large print run of a cartonero book is different.

Stuemple and Chapa explained how the creation processes of cartonero books and artists’ books like the ones at Vigía differ from each other. Levinson added that artists’ books, unlike cartonero books, are numbered.

Luis A. González (Indiana University) asked Chapa if she had ever been challenged to justify the acquisition of artist books.

Chapa replied that putting together the exhibit on artists books helped to get support from the library director. The library’s new rare book curator is a bit resistant about accepting the care of the books, but the assistant art librarian, who is a book artist, has been very supportive and promotes the materials.

The panel concluded with the moderator thanking the rapporteur and the presenters.

 

 

 

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.”

 

Panel 4, May 30 2011, 2:00 pm-3:30 pm
Moderator: Rhonda Neugebauer, University of California, Riverside
Presenter: Shamina de Gonzaga, what moves you?
Rapporteur: Ellen Jaramillo, Yale University

Indocumentales/Undocumentaries (http://indocumentales.com/) is an itinerant film and dialogue series on immigration and related issues. This U.S./Mexico Interdependent Film Series was founded by three organizations located in New York City: what moves you?, Cinema Tropical and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) at New York University. “Academics, journalists, policy makers, migrants, artists, activists, students, film makers, librarians and the general public gather to discuss the topics raised by each documentary film. Each event is ‘done in’ collaboration with partner organizations and venues that involve their local communities in the dialogue. Indocumentales provides educational resources and an interactive network so that people have an opportunity to engage, come away more informed on the issues and have an impact”. [From their website]

Shamina de Gonzaga: When we present these films we usually compile a panel of discussants who can speak to the issues highlighted in the film. We actually inaugurated the film series with this film. This film is a lot about music and a lot about drugs, so we had at the time the head of the Drug Policy Alliance who gave his perspective on drug policy, we had Mexican musicians who play in the subways [for donations] in New York, who gave their perspectives on earning their livings in the U.S. in that way, and we had representatives of the Mexican Cultural Institute, a part of the Mexican government, who can only say so much because of who they are. This is a particularly enjoyable film to watch; the music makes the subject not quite as heavy, but rich in content.  Maybe Carlos [Gutiérrez, of Cinema Tropical] can give some more background.

Carlos Gutiérrez: This is the first film by Natalia Almada, who has made three films to date and is representative of the new generation of Latin American documentary film makers. The film premiered in 2005 at the Tribeca Film Festival. I think this is an important film on the subject of illegal immigrants because most other films treat immigrants as victims, and when you victimize the subjects of a film you treat the audience as superiors, and there is no one-to-one connection to the story. What Natalia does here is engage with the personal stories of what forced people to migrate. Natalia was one of the first ones to bring the issue of drug trafficking to immigration issues. Another thing I admire is that she puts immigration within a larger cultural context, in this case with narcocorridos, and that presents a richer panorama of all the issues involved.

Questions & Comments:

Adán Griego (Stanford University): Is this film available for purchase?

Gutiérrez: Yes! And if you buy it through Indocumentales, we provide an educational resource package.

de Gonzaga: A lot of this filmmaker’s work is done at personal risk. You don’t just get in the middle of a group of narco-traffickers and start filming them, but she does. Do you all see a lot of interest with the students or the faculty in your institutions in these issues?  Part of it is finding the demand, what’s available on these issues in the mainstream media is pretty limited.  That you all are working with people who want to find out more about this has a tremendous richness.

Rhonda Neugebauer: Yes, they come to us. The films really reach people, so much differently.

Griego: Audio-visuals are a very good supplement to any course reader because you can only read so much. We receive multiple-entity generations where probably the written word is not their primary medium of experiences.

Neugebauer: Do you have any connection with the Chiapas Media Project?

Gutiérrez: I know her work for many years. The problem is to find the channels to make it to the United States. What happens is that film makers are placed in the role of also being educators. In many instances they don’t give much information about the context and people become uncomfortable because they don’t know the elements, and so that work gets placed on the film maker. That may be why a lot of films don’t get distributed, because they ask the film maker to contextualize the work. A typical question posed during film festivals is “What was your target audience?”, as if to say they were not engaged with your films so they weren’t meant for them.

de Gonzaga: Sometimes I think these films are more relevant for the people who don’t know. For example, with the [Almada’s second] film “Los Que Se Quedan,” the directors were traveling it around Mexico to different communities, basically showing people a reflection of their own stories. People had mixed reactions and they didn’t have the contexts, but they need to be seeing these films because it brings the questions to the surface. How do we get people to care, to feel connected? If people can feel a personal relationship to the issues that opens up a whole other avenue for greater interest that goes beyond the films.

Gutiérrez: Another thing about these films, last week the state of Sinaloa actually banned playing narcocorridos because they glorify drug trafficking.

de Gonzaga: I’m sure that will be really effective…

Gutiérrez: But then again they show something like “La Reina del Sur” [a telenovela that depicts a Sinaloan woman who becomes the most powerful drug trafficker in southern Spain] so there is a whole divide in the culture along what glorifies and what does not.

[Film plays] “AL OTRO LADO” (Natalia Almada, US/Mexico, 2005, 66 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) tells the human story behind illegal immigration and drug trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico through the eyes of Magdiel, a 23-year-old fisherman and aspiring composer who dreams of a better life. Due to lack of work and low fishing yields, many cross over, and like many in Sinaloa, the drug capital of Mexico, Magdiel faces two choices to better his life: trafficking drugs or crossing the border into the United States. For people south of the border, the “other side” is the dream of an impossibly rich United States, where even menial jobs can support families and whole communities that have been left behind. For people north of the border, “AL OTRO LADO” sheds light on the harsh choices that their neighbors to the south often face because of economic crisis.

Magdiel, however, has a special talent that could be his ticket out: composing corridos – songs about the narcotics underworld and undocumented immigrant life. For over 200 years, corridos have been Mexico’s musical underground newspaper and the voice of those rarely heard outside their communities. From Sinaloa to the streets of East Los Angeles, this film explores the world of drug smuggling, immigration and the corrido music that chronicles it all. If you really want to understand what is happening on the US/Mexico border, listen to the corridos, ballads that have become the voice of people whose views are rarely heard in mainstream media.

Questions & Comments:

Nancy Hallock (Harvard University): What happened to him [Magdiel, the protagonist]?

Gutiérrez: The film maker made a point of leaving it completely open. It’s the story of many people. Actually he made it to the U.S., but not on this trip. He got caught in a sweep, tried several other times, and eventually made it. The last time I heard from him, he was working in Las Vegas.

Claire-Lise Bénaud (University of New Mexico): Has it been shown in Mexico, and what was its reception?

Gutiérrez: Yes, it’s been shown in Mexico, in film festivals, and tours of documentaries. Migration is a rarely-discussed topic in Mexico City, for example. The debate is sort of creepy sometimes.

de Gonzaga: It goes across class lines to such an extent. I was with a colleague in New York, interviewing Mexicans of all different backgrounds and we had a question from one girl asking is it international cooperation when Mexican and American coyotes work together to get people across the border? You have U.S. citizens who do that kind of work, too. I was in a hotel in Mexico and none of the upper-middle class people I was working with were interested in this, but the woman cleaning the hotel room asked about it, because she, like many others, had an ex-husband who left her and stayed in the U. S. and another husband who went and wanted her to come. It’s such a common story for so many people, and yet for the segment of the population that can go to the U.S. whenever they want, it’s a hard conversation to have. One of our goals with this series is to take these discussions and have them over there, and try to create a space where people who are coming from very different places engage with each other. One of the things I love in this movie is the notion that appears in several songs, about “I didn’t cross the border, the border crossed me,” and that’s something from a U.S. perspective that a lot of people take for granted that the borders are what they are, but that maybe for people who have been living in border areas for hundreds of years, that’s not so obvious. What you all are doing in terms of historical archiving and providing people with a broader spectrum to consider situations through is really important for all of us.

Patricia Figueroa (Brown University): Have these films been shown in the border areas?

Gutiérrez: We’re in the process of taking the whole series, the five films, to Arizona in the fall. We’ve screened one of them: “Los Que Se Quedan” in Tucson in March, and people reacted pretty well. Actually, Tucson is a fairly liberal town; we want to take it to Phoenix.

Figueroa: Have you heard perspectives from people who are very much against it [illegal immigration]?

Gutiérrez: Yes. We’re expecting more when we take it to Phoenix.

de Gonzaga: My feeling is that we sometimes have people in the audience who are not very sympathetic to the situation of migrants but who don’t share their perspective. Most of the people who come to these screenings are more sympathetic to the issue, so it creates a dynamic where people who don’t share these views will not necessarily express themselves. Part of the goal is to create a space where people with very different opinions can come together and feel safe enough to express their opinions in a respectful manner. It’s so easy just to stick with one’s own view, but the human aspect opens a doorway and it’s a conversation that has to happen, and that regular people have to be a part of.

Panel 5, May 30, 2011, 4:00 pm- 5:30 pm
Moderator: Peter Stern, University of Massachusetts
Presenters: Molly Molloy, New Mexico State University (not present; PowerPoint presented by Peter Stern); Tomás Bocanegra Esqueda, Colegio de México; Suzanne Schadl and Claire-Lise Bénaud, University of New Mexico
Rapporteur: Sócrates Silva, HAPI

 

The first presentation was “The Shifting Realities of Mexico’s Drug War Death Toll: Will We Ever Know How Many People Have Died?” by Molly Molloy. Molloy was not present but the panel’s moderator, Peter Stern, presented her PowerPoint. The following is a summary of Molloy’s presentation, drafted with her consultation. Molloy argues that the Mexican government is not fighting a “War on Drugs” but rather a war for the control over the huge amounts of money to be made from the drug trade. The number of casualties related to this war and the statistics released by the government are not clear; journalistic and academic sources in Mexico and the United States provide widely varying numbers. Since December 2006 when the government of Felipe Calderón declared “war” on organized crime numbers range from 35,000 to as high as 50,000. Molloy’s presentation looks at and questions these numbers both to critique the actions of the Mexican government and to question the numbers reported by academic resources and the press.

 

In her presentation, Molloy hones in on data regarding Ciudad Juárez, the epicenter of the violence. When numbers of dead are reported in the media, sources are typically government bodies such as the Fiscalia General del Estado de Chihuahua. Mexican journalists who report on crimes are often at risk. Molloy mentions Armando Rodriguez, a crime reporter for El Diario who was murdered in November 2008. After his death the crime reporting in the paper became less detailed and solely dependent on official police reports. There is little information about where the numbers come from or how the government determines what “a drug-war-related homicide” is. Calderón and his government repeatedly claim that 90 percent of the dead are criminals in the drug trade, despite a claim by the government that 95 percent of deaths in the “drug war” are not investigated.

 

Molloy also looks at the scholarship and activism concerning the murders of women in Juárez as cases of femicide. The number of women victimized from 1993 to the present has averaged around 9 percent of all murder victims. There is little evidence of gender-related violence. More and more women are becoming involved in illegal activities as maquiladora jobs disappear due to both the economic collapse in the United States and local violence and insecurity. This of course , how to make, does not mean that their deaths do not matter but rather that all the people of Juárez (women, men, boys and girls) – their lives and their deaths, all of them matter. Molloy whose work was recognized in 2011 with the José Toribio Medina Award provides daily updates on the murder toll in Ciudad Juárez and other border news through her Frontera List.

 

The second presentation by Tomás Bocanegra Esqueda entitled “Literatura mexicana sobre los derechos humanos: ¿quienes son y dónde publican los especialistas mexicanos?” covered publishing sources on the theme of human rights. Bocanegra first outlined government sources specializing in this material. The Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) created by the Secretaría de Gobernación and after 1999 fully independent of the government, exists to receive human rights complaints, pursue investigations, attempt conflict resolution, and foster legislative changes across various levels of government. CNDH also offers relevant Masters and Doctoral programs through its Centro Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CENADEH). Through its existence CENADEH has generated promotional literature, annual reports, monographs and a monthly journal, Revista del Centro Nacional de Derechos Humanos. Bocanegra also reviewed literature production by state government bodies, though these tend to publish less due to lack of financial resources and staff.

 

In addition, non-governmental organizations such as the Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos, the Centro de Derechos Humanos “Fray Francisco de Vitoria,” and the Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez all publish materials and research related to human rights and many of these publications can be found online. There are also numerous research institutions within universities, some with a specific focus on such issues as indigenous rights, migration, or international human rights. Bocanegra also looked at houses within the trade publishing industry that have edited and published human rights materials. By outlining these various publishing sources, Bocanegra hopes for more effective dissemination of Mexican human rights materials.

 

The last presentation “ASARO: Claiming Space in Digital Objects and Social Networks” by Suzanne Schadl and Claire-Lise Bénaud looked at the work of the Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (ASARO), a collective of young artists that emerged as an appendage to protests originating from the 2006 National Teacher’s Union strike in Oaxaca. During the protracted uprising, state and commercial media were hostile to the protestors. In turn, street art flourished as artists clandestinely painted and printed their resistance on city walls. Schadl and Bénaud make the case that the work of ASARO is part of a Mexican tradition of graphic art collectives producing work in the service of social justice such as that of the Taller de Grafíca Popular and harking back to the legacy of printmaker José Guadalupe Posada. According to Schadl, this art tells a story that isn’t the official story. While ASARO’s art often portrays conditions in Oaxaca (such as the print Skull Helicopter which uses calavera representations of a family and a hovering calavera helicopter to depict a raid which would trigger a reminder of the uprising), the art also looks beyond local conditions, for example in art that deals with the violence in Ciudad Juárez.

 

One of the concerns Schadl and Bénaud bring up is that this ephemeral work, much of it being published through the ASARO blog, is not being documented properly. While ASARO may be center stage in 21st century Mexican graphic arts, academic library and archive projects aimed at archiving born digital artifacts of their work linger in the peripheries. A perusal of the blog reveals striking similarities with newspaper publications like La Patria Ilustrada and Gaceta Callejera, where Posada published, printed, and circulated his graphic production. Schadl and Bénaud argue that savvy digitally focused archival projects designed to save the work of Mexican graphic arts collectives must emerge in order to retain for posterity the creativity and voices of politically and socially active artists’ collectives in contemporary Mexico.