Families across Borders: Unique Collections and Special Projects Linking South Westerners with Latin Americans (2014)

Moderator:      Wendy Pedersen, University of New Mexico
Rapporteur:     Michael Scott, Georgetown University

Paulita Aguilar, University of New Mexico
Cultural Connections between A Zapotecan Village, Teotitlan del Valle, and New Mexico Pueblos: Imagined or Real?

Claire-Lise Bénaud, University of New Mexico
Ordinary Images: Appreciating Photographs of Children in a Pictorial Archive

Michael Hoopes w/Suzanne M. Schadl, University of New Mexico
All in the Family: Special Collections Digitally Born

Paulita Aguilar, University of New Mexico: “Cultural Connections Between a Zapotecan Village, Teotitlan del Valle, and New Mexico Puebloans: Imagined or Real?”

Aguilar, a Puebloan from Santo Domingo, New Mexico, discussed possible cultural connections between the Pueblo Indians and the Zapotecs of Teotitlan del Valle in Oaxaca State, Mexico. She began by describing how long it takes to walk between the two places, about 40 days each way. There were several trade routes between them, so there was a great amount of cultural contact.

Aguilar demonstrated some of these cultural similarities by comparing a sample of New Mexican rock art to an image from an Aztec codex. A trader appears in the Aztec image, and it is similar to the kokopelli (flute player) image in the New Mexican rock art. In Pueblo pictorial narratives, the kokopelli is depicted carrying things in his pack, especially seeds, which were indeed traded along the routes.

Next, Aguilar talked about specific trade items. Theobroma cacao began in central and southern Mexico, and gradually spread to both the present-day American southwest and Central America. Traces of cacao have been found in pots at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Patricia Crown at UNM studied these traces, and some may have been part of religious ceremonies. Therefore religious customs may have followed these same trade routes as well.

The range of the scarlet macaw spans from southeastern Mexico to the south into Ecuador and northwestern Brazil. Scarlet macaw feathers, although the species is not native to the southwestern United States is used in Hopi buffalo dances. Two Pueblo tribes are of the Macaw clan as well.

Turquoise was another trade item between present-day Mexico and New Mexico. Not only were there turquoise mines in Sonora State, Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico, but there are also several linguistic similarities between the Nahuatl and Pueblo words for turquoise. The Zuni Pueblo has its own language which is related to Nahuatl.

Next, Aguilar discussed her observations in Mexico. Teotitlan del Valle is a village about 20 miles east of Oaxaca city. Aguilar visited Teotitlan and other neighboring villages for her research. At Mitla there is a large archaeological site, and many of its symbols are similar to those found in Pueblo architecture.

Elsie Clews Parsons was an anthropologist who researched Pueblo Indians in the early 20th century. Parsons was studied the Pueblo people, and even had “informants” among women. Parsons lived in Mitla for about a year, and she wrote that she observed many similarities to the American Southwest. Aguilar continued with the comparisons and striking resemblances in the architecture (churches, adobe homes, etc.) and the people of the two places.

While Aguilar was in Mexico, the Teotitlan del Valle museum had an exhibit on Día de los muertos, which is also celebrated among indigenous New Mexicans. The Pueblo’s Matachines dance bears a strong resemblance to Danza de las Plumas in Teotitlan del Valle. The Museum also had a display of an indigenous wedding, which is similar to those in the Pueblos.

In the future, Aguilar would like to see if there are clan-like systems among the Zapotec of Oaxaca similar to those of the Pueblos, and also wishes to deepen the comparisons to language, food preparation, child rearing, naming ceremonies, healing ceremonies, and so on. This may be difficult, because even among her own Macaw clan in Santo Domingo, she will likely face a great deal of resentment and unwillingness to cooperate with an anthropological study.

Claire-Lise Bénaud, University of New Mexico: “Ordinary Images: Appreciating Photographs of Children in a Pictorial Archive”

Bénaud discussed photographs of children in archive at the University of New Mexico special collections. The majority of the photographs are ordinary, but still reveal much. Most were taken by studio photographers in Mexico City, Durango, León, Veracruz and two photographic studios in Albuquerque and Chloride, New Mexico. One of Bénaud’s intents was to highlight the importance of collecting the ordinary and common, instead of the usual focus on unique materials. The photographs date from the late 19th century through World War One.

The photographs can tell us many things: what is image about? who was photographer? And how was it influenced by traditional culture? In a sense they can act as evidence of the time-period, as Susan Sontag wrote, and photographs of children “show us what we want to be.”

During the 19th century, going to the studio was a ritual of parenthood, especially for wealthier families. Bénaud “read” an example of a photograph, demonstrating its implicit societal values. In general, fathers are generally in a more prominent position; they do not hold their children, but protect them, or they are portrayed as educator (teacher). Bénaud continued with several more examples from the archive. In one photo, the father holds the child, and there is no mother in this picture (she may no longer be alive), so he portrays both roles at the same time.

There are many more photographs of children with their mothers than fathers. Smiling is rare, and the children appear to be obedient and stare at the camera; mothers’ poses tend to be loving, but with a stern expression. Bénaud presented several more examples of photographs of mothers with children, and interpreted them for the audience.

Next, Bénaud then turned to the backgrounds used in the photographs. When a background is present, they are often meant to convey opulence, as presented in another sample from the archive, although most have no background. Fathers in the photographs do not tend to express tenderness.

The next topic was babies. The archive contains many photographs of babies in christening. The large size of the gowns, often overpowering child his or herself signifies that the event has more significance than the child itself. Bénaud again returned to examples. Occasionally toys and other objects from the outside world also appeared in the photographs of children and babies, and these props always looked fresh and unused. In other photographs, sisters sometimes take on role of mothers, posing as if they are looking after their younger siblings.

Bénaud then explained the concept of the romantic child, which is derived from Rousseau’s idealization of children as inherently good and innocent. This notion transformed childhood in the modern age; in paintings before photography, children were originally seen as adults in the making, rather than innocent and pure, as is often the case now. Bénaud presented these ideas in an example of child that looks like a bride, and in another which is a brother and sister were presented as bride and groom.

Returning to the backdrops, the ones depicting outdoor scenes are always serene and idyllic. To match this backdrop, the children occasionally are presented as idealized innocent rural peasants. Often to match these bucolic backdrops and to show children’s connections with nature, both in New Mexico and Mexico, dogs are often present, especially in the case of boys. In the rarer urban backdrops, children as presented as refined and educated, such as posing with a violin.

In these highly idealized settings, parents project their feelings about the future. These very ordinary photographs gloss over the conflict and difficulties that many face in their lives, as much as now as then.

Michael Hoopes and Suzanne Schadl, University of New Mexico (presented by Wendy Pedersen): “All in the Family: Special Collections Digitally Born”

Wendy Pedersen of the University of New Mexico presented the work of UNM graduate student Michael Hoopes, who used the Archive-It web archiving service to capture and archive digitally-born resources. Hoopes captured images related to and produced by the print-making collective Asamblea de Artistas de Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (ASARO). Much of the work produced by ASARO was born digitally, so Hoopes used the tool Archive-it to capture the images as well as any attached metadata. UNM also added metadata to make the images even more searchable.

Pedersen provided a demonstration of Archive-It, and showed how they appeared in the New Mexico Digital Collections page. Archive-It allows partners who use it to easily harvest, catalog, and manage their born-digital collections. The collections themselves are hosted at the Internet Archive, yet they also form part of UNM’s digital collections.

Lastly, Pedersen demonstrated that many of these images are no longer on the Web, so services like Archive-It are important for long-term archiving.

Mark Grover, BYU: What is the significance of Chaco Canyon?
A (Paulita Aguilar): It is northeast of Albuquerque and important trading site. It may have had influence all the way into Mexico City and the Yucatan. Aguilar wants to look at all kinds of connections (linguistic, trade, etc.)

Brenda Salem, University of Pittsburgh: What is the criteria for archiving the sites?
A (Wendy Pedersen): Get in touch with Suzanne Schadl, who spearheaded the project.