Some Positive Research News in an Otherwise Dismal Year: Research Corner/Rincón del Investigador/Canto do Pesquisador’s First Year by Gretchen Pierce

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Gretchen Pierce is Associate Professor of Latin American History and the 2020-2021 Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellow at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. She is the co-editor of Alcohol in Latin America: A Social and Cultural History (University of Arizona Press, 2014) with Áurea Toxqui, and has published a number of articles, book chapters, and academic blog posts on temperance in Mexico. In addition to serving as an editor on H-LatAm and founding this blog, she is currently working on a book manuscript entitled “Altered States: Mexico’s Anti-Alcohol, State-Building, and Identity-Formation Projects, 1910-1940.”

Some Positive Research News in an Otherwise Dismal Year: Research Corner/Rincón del Investigador/Canto do Pesquisador’s First Year

In Fall 2018, I saw a Call for Editors on H-LatAm and my interest was immediately piqued as I’ve enjoyed being a part of this network since I was a graduate student in the early 2000s. In addition to moderating discussions, the call explained I would need to curate a “project” of my own that would be helpful to the users. I spent a few days thinking about my passions and how they could translate into something tangible. I love research, but I have a heavy teaching and service load, a small child, and occasionally I need to sleep. I thought, what would be useful to someone like me? At the time, I was in Mexico on my second research trip of the year, a luxury that I had really not had since graduate school. I not only visited new archives, but also ones I had not been to in many years. I discovered that keeping up with changes at archives can be overwhelming. I also thought about how archivists and librarians might wish that users knew more about their institutions before they arrived. So my first idea was to have people send me information about a particular archive (What are its hours? What metro stop is it located near? What technology can you bring with you?) that I would populate into a table. Thankfully I realized how boring (and massive) a table like that would be. As I was going through my H-Net training, I read about the potential to host a blog written by guest bloggers, something which I did not remember H-LatAm ever doing. And voilà! By December 2019, Research Corner/Rincón del Investigador/Canto do Pesquisador debuted its first guest post.

In its inaugural year, the blog featured entries about repositories located in or with major holdings about seven different countries. Unsurprisingly, the country most blogged about (13 posts) was Mexico: (see: Polanco; Oliver Pesqueira 1, 2, and 3; Pierce; Saxon 1 and 2; Pai; Hijar 1 and 2; and Marak and Tuennerman 1, 2, and 3). Brazil came in in second place, with three pieces (Henrich and Miramontes Forattini 1 and 2). A handful of other countries had two entries each. These include Bolivia (John 1 and 2), Chile (Karmy 1 and 2), and Ecuador and Guatemala (Carey Jr. 1 and 2). There was a single post on Uruguay (Markarian). Additionally, several works covered physical or digital repositories with collections relevant to multiple countries. These include the Field Museum (Henkin), the Getty Research Institute (Saxon 3), and the Rockefeller Foundation (Carey Jr. 1 and 2).

The types of repositories discussed were diverse, as well. Nineteen posts featured archives, libraries, and other physical collections. Some of these institutions, like the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City or the Archivo General de Centroamérica in Guatemala City, are large and well-known amongst H-LatAm’s readers (Polanco and Carey Jr. 2). A couple of entries looked at municipal archives in Ciudad Juárez, Parral, and Santa Bárbara, Mexico, at least one of which is also heavily frequented (Hijar 1 and 2). Other posts focused on more specialized and perhaps less well known repositories, such as the Archivo General de la Universidad de la República in Montevideo, the Archive of the Bolivian Mining Company (Comibol) in El Alto, the Centro Cultural Manuel Gómez Morin in Mexico City, several institutions in Mexico City that house films, and the Museo Nacional de Medicina in Quito (Markarian, John 1 and 2; Oliver Pesqueira 1, 2, and 3; Pierce; and Carey Jr. 2). Chicago’s Field Museum, which has an extensive collection of botanical and ethno-botanical resources relevant to Latin America, may be the institution that Latin Americanists in the social sciences are least familiar with (Henkin).

Eight posts featured digital repositories. Two focused on photographs of Mexico housed at the Getty Research Institute’s online portal; an appendix to these posts briefly listed resources on other Latin American countries (Saxon 1, 2, and 3). Two entries looked at multiple sites with documents, images, videos, sheet music, and audio files related to Chilean musical history (Karmy 1 and 2). Two posts examined the Brazilian Biblioteca Nacional Digital, which houses such vast and diverse sources as documents, periodicals, comics, photographs, maps, videos, and sheet music (Miramontes Forattini 1 and 2). The sole entry on the Oliveira Lima Family Papers at the Oliveira Lima Library/Catholic University of America detailed the correspondence between this late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century diplomat and other Brazilian and Portuguese political officials and authors (Henrich).

Finally, five posts discussed both repositories as well as strategies to successfully complete transnational research. David Carey Jr.’s latest project requires him to visit archives in Guatemala, Ecuador, and the United States. He mentions some helpful tips, like short trips to archives that inform subsequent visits to others, as well as some challenges, such as learning the nuances of Spanish in different parts of Latin America (Carey Jr. 1 and 2). Andrae Marak and Laura Tuennerman came up with quite a different strategy to examine the native peoples of the Arizona-Sonora borderlands—combine the strengths of a Mexicanist (Marak) and an Americanist (Tuennerman)—to reduce the workload of reading double historiography, visiting substantially more archives, and writing a lengthy book (Marak and Tuennerman 1, 2, and 3).

We’ve got some exciting things planned for next year: so far, we’ve got posts lined up covering Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru (in a transnational context), and a post that compares institutions in the United States and Argentina. But, we need more! Have you done research/do you work in a country or a repository that we have not covered yet? Can you steer your colleagues or future patrons toward digital resources as we await vaccines and the ability to travel safely again? Do you have suggestions for how to do transnational research successfully? Do you have other blog ideas that discuss research about Latin America in some way we have not covered yet? If so, please fill out this form:

See you in 2021!

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