“Discovering America” with the Latina History Project

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Our most recent Latina History Project session began with a discussion about the theory and practice of oral history anchored in our reading of Dr. Brenda Sendejo‘s essay titled “Mother’s Legacy: Cultivating Chicana Consciousness During the War Years.” The essay appears in Beyond the Latino World War II Hero: The Social and Political Legacy of a Generation edited by Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez and Emilio Zamora.

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In order to provide insights into evolving gender norms during the post-war period, Dr. Sendejo’s chapter examines the oral histories of three Mexican-American women who became mothers in the years following World War II.  Dr. Sendejo led us in a fantastic discussion about the important role that granular, individual narratives can play in illuminating broad cultural, historical, political, and social phenomena.

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Photo credit: Brenda Sendejo

Following our oral history discussion, we switched gears to spend some time identifying items for digitization in the collection of primary source materials that Professor Mary Visser has provided for us to explore and preserve.

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Evaluating an item for potential digitization. Photo credit: Brenda Sendejo

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The primary source materials include several sheets of photographic slides featuring portraits of Central Texas Latinas by Mary Jesse Garza. Photo credit: Brenda Sendejo

The materials on loan to us by Prof. Visser pertain to the planning of the exhibit “Rostros y Almas/Faces and Souls,” a collection of portraits of influential Central Texas Latinas with photography by Mary Jessie Garza.  Dr. Visser collaborated with Lupita Barrera Bryant to coordinate the exhibit in conjunction with the 1992 Brown Symposium at Southwestern University, titled “Discoveries of America.”  One item we’ve flagged for digitization provides useful insights into the context and motivation behind both the photography exhibit and the 1992 Brown Symposium at large:

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This untitled typed memo announcing the 1992 Brown Symposium provides evidence that the event was in direct response to the Columbian Quincentennial:

“Next year’s Brown Symposium will take place January 22-24 of 1992, roughly five hundred years since Columbus sailed the ocean blue… The symposium will be entitled DISCOVERIES OF AMERICA, and brings together scholars in a range of disciplines to discuss interconnected meanings of America, and of discovery… The symposium will thus feature six DISCOVERIES OF AMERICA achieved by Blacks, Women, Southwestern Explorers, the English, the Spanish [by way of Columbus], and Native Americans. “

This memo demonstrates that the “Rostros y Almas/Faces and Souls” exhibit was not only relevant to regional Central Texas Latina history, but also connected with a broad movement at Southwestern and nationally to take the 1992 Quincentennial as an opportunity to reflect on the implications of Columbus’s continuing legacy for ethnic and minority groups across the Americas.

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