Visiting scholars tap library’s vast resources
By Carolyn Gonzales
Some dream of discovering treasure by following a map leading to long-buried pirate’s booty or train robber’s bankroll. For researchers, treasure is revealed in previously undiscovered documents and diaries, files, letters and reports stowed in archival boxes in climate-controlled underground library storage.
|Irene Vasquez, Toby Duran and Juan Gomez-Quiñones work in the Anderson Room in Zimmerman Library. Photo by Carolyn Gonzales.
The UNM Center for Regional Studies recently hosted two visiting scholars from California. Husband and wife Juan Gomez-Quiñones, UCLA, and Irene Vasquez, California State University, Domínguez Hills, found such treasure of colonial and contemporary materials in their research in the University Library’s Center for Southwest Research.
Center for Regional Studies Director Tobías Durán, said, “It is our intent to give opportunity to individuals whose scholarship can be enhanced through the scope of the University Libraries’ holdings. What researchers produce, both through publications and presentations, gives rise to additional scholarship. Irene Vasquez and Juan Gomez Quiñones are indicative of the caliber of scholars we wish to sponsor.”
Sharing an interest in Africa’s influence in Mexico, they are co-editing a book for submission to UNM Press titled, “The Dark Side of the Moon: Africa’s Legacy in Mexico.” They located a collection of essays by historians trained in Spanish, Nahuat and Latin by the Franciscans. “I used Nahuat documents and codices at Harvard this past summer, but UNM had things that simply were not available elsewhere,” Vasquez said.
Additionally, Vasquez, associate professor and chair, Chicano/a Studies at Cal State Domínguez Hills, spent much of her time following up on earlier research she conducted on encounters between Spanish officials and natives in the mid 1500s to mid 1600s.
“At UNM, I was able to look through the cartas anuas, the annual reports, from priests in mission and pueblo communities to their officials,” Vasquez said. In addition to the Spanish officials’ recounts, she found inquisition records. “There are wonderful indexes, but you have to be here to use them,” she said.
Vasquez also has an interest in gender as it pertains to Chicano/a social and ethno-history. “I wanted to study the transformation of gender roles. Women play a vital role in pueblos and missions, but it isn’t easy to find information relative to the topic,” she said.
She said that one of the greatest resources she found at UNM was the people. “In California, there isn’t as much communication between Native American and Chicano studies.
At UNM, it’s much stronger,” she said.
Vasquez followed closely the work of Jennifer Denetdale, associate professor in history. “I discovered an overlap of interpretations and conclusions,” she said.
She said that her earlier research on encounters between the Spanish and natives in Chihuahua and Durango, Mexico, would have been stronger with UNM’s human and archival resources.
“I was told I wouldn’t find information on the women – the mulattas and mestizas. And yet, the Native American and North American women scholars and materials I’ve discovered will be a foundation for further research,” she said.
Additionally, Vasquez said that she found a wealth of material on student activism in the Chicano/a movement through the Frank I. Sanchez and Frank “Kiko” Martinez papers, collections in the CSWR’s Grassroots Activism Project (GAP).
About GAP, Gomez-Quiñones said, “The collection is a minefield of information. The [Reies López] Tijerina and Frank I. Sanchez collections reveal so much about the ‘60s and ‘70s. Student activism isn’t revealed through materials at Berkeley, it’s at UNM. It is a guide to how purposeful students dealt with two or three administrations during the mid ‘70s and how they got the campus motivated.”
In addition to his interests in mestizos, and African American/Mexican American relations and the Chicano civil rights movement, Gomez Quiñones has a keen interest in expressive culture north of the Mexican/U.S. border.
“I am intrigued by the communication practices that take place in daily lives. Cultural studies is revealed through food, manners, language – including body language – songs and games. These are ways people organize their presentation of culture,” he said.
Through the John Donald Robb archive, Gomez-Quiñones heard the music. The field recordings include more than 3,000 songs and dances of the Southwest recorded and transcribed by Robb, 1942-1962. For twenty years Robb, who was chair of UNM’s Department of Music, recorded traditional and folk music. The recordings include music of festivals and fiestas, Pueblo feast days, fiddle contests, railroad and cowboy songs and corridos.
The library’s vast pictorial files helped bring Gomez Quiñones’ research forward as well.
“Photographs show clothing and posture. Whether or not women are placed in the fore or background is telling,” he said.
Gomez Quiñones was impressed with the scope of UNM’s holdings. “The collection is amazing in that there is good historical as well as contemporary material. Tremendous archive of film and audio on presentations captures contemporary culture in a visual, direct way. There is nothing else like it,” he said.
Both reflected on the help they received from departments and individuals across campus. “Academically and personally we were made welcome,” Gomez-Quiñones said. He noted particularly that Durán had provided salaries, office space, a research student and equipment.
Vasquez and Gomez-Quiñones have many potential publishing ventures to come out of their research. They also traveled the state, to Alcalde, Bernalillo, Chimayó and Española, and conducted further research in Las Cruces at New Mexico State University’s library.
They said they will be back this summer. Much treasure is yet to be discovered through UNM’s people and vast resources in the Center for Southwest Research.