The Purposeful Power of Archival Imaginaries

Endorsed by OHA

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Type: Paper Session

Tags: Latino/a; Oral History; Public History and Memory


This session brings together an interdisciplinary slate of scholars to contextualize and discuss the purposeful priorities informing the archival imaginaries grounding archival and oral history projects that strive to recognize, document, and educate future generations of people on the enduring trauma of racism, patriarchy, and educational invisibility and silence and its historical relationship to the constant crises in self-acceptance and confidence, belonging, and invisibility experienced and shouldered by generations of aging Chicana/o/x, Mexican American, and Mexican immigrant people willing to document and revisit this history. Each scholar will identify how learning from archival documents and recollections that center on acknowledging the historical gravity of underestimated forms of trauma are vital towards advancing a humane approach to the constant crises grounding the diversity of gender identities and power, political awakenings and memberships, and educational commitments of relentlessly engaged Chicana/o/x, Mexican American, and Mexican immigrant people. Hence, this session seeks to expand our understanding of the purposeful power of a diversity of archival imaginaries and contributions catalyzed by underexamined forms of constant crises.

Papers Presented

In the Fields of Patriarchy: Gender Politics and the United Farm Worker Movement

Farmworker historiography has only partially grappled with gender-based trauma. In oral history interviews, women farmworkers from Southern California’s Coachella Valley stressed the role of patriarchy in shaping the agricultural industry, their marginalization inside and outside the workday, and the politics they pursued through unionization. Using original oral history interviews, and the foundational scholarship of Chicana Feminism, this paper foregrounds the patriarchal relations determining the lives of mid-twentieth century Mexican farmworkers, as well as its implications for farmworker and United Farmworker Movement historiography. More specifically, it argues for a direct confrontation with Mexican patriarchy to trace the racialized, gendered, and classed power relations in California’s agricultural countryside. It further argues that only through this confrontation can we understand farmworker women’s experiences and recognize their political visions during the United Farm Worker Movement.

Presented By
Christian Oswaldo Paiz, University of California, Berkeley

The Archival Upbringing of Emotionally Intelligent Student Leaders: Learning from Mexican Immigrant Families’ Archival Imaginaries

This paper will historicize the archival imaginaries and investments of Mexican immigrant families confronting the trauma of inhumane invisibility and silence experienced in educational contexts, relationships, and settings across the late twentieth century U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Grounded in an in-depth consideration of the archival documents and recollections of Mexican immigrant families who raised children that have recognized their shared family experience and archive of inhumane forms of educational invisibility and silence as formative to their embarking upon civically engaged first-generation college and community leadership, this paper considers the humanizing potential of Mexican immigrant family knowledge production and sharing born out of traumatic forms of transnational educational dislocation and exclusion. By unpacking the transnational and relational underpinnings, inclusivity, and resonance of underexamined Mexican immigrant family archival imaginaries, this historical research seeks to contribute to a transnational history of education that accounts for the emotional intelligence, documentation, and commitments born out of underestimated forms of traumatic educational disenfranchisement across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Presented By
Ana Elizabeth Rosas, University of California, Irvine

Surviving Racism Trauma: Reflections of Chicana/o Movement Elders

This paper presentation will investigate the racism trauma of Chicana/o movement elders in Sacramento, California. It will focus on early childhood memories as told by members of this cohort of elders who came of age between WWII and the Korean War. Many were the children of Mexican immigrants and straddled two worlds—the Mexican and American. This generation attended public schools in the U.S. Their stories form part of the larger history of racialization, segregation, and represent the survivors of the inferior complex model that was instituted in the educational structure and culture in the mid-twentieth century. Drawing from 98 oral histories from The Sacramento Movimiento Chicano and Mexican American Education Oral History Project housed at Sacramento State University, Special Collections, this paper presentation will expand our historical understanding of who they were, where they came from, and how racism in early life traumatized them. This way, we can begin to better understand their impetus to fight for social change and justice in the 1960s and 1970s.

Presented By
Lorena V. Márquez, Department of Chicana/o Studies, UC Davis

Breathing Archives: Chicana/o/x History and Collaborative Narrative Making

Graduate school places intense pressure on students to find or discover, at the very least, an understudied topic or subject. They are tasked with engaging numerous secondary literatures and historiographies in a bid to situate themselves in communities of historians. Students are then required to conduct primary research and dedicate copious amounts of time to synthesizing, writing, and refining their arguments for a final presentation. While research projects follow this familiar formula, the methods and questions that influence the process vary widely. Projects that engage Chicana/o/x and Latina/o/x experiences encounter historical silences from scholars, actors, and archives. Drawing on theories of archival power postulated by critical race scholars, Chicana feminists, and my own borderlands research experiences, this paper argues that archives are not beholden to institutional validation or textual forms. Oral history in particular forms a crucial component of knowledge and historical experience. Conversing with the narrator opens new threads of inquiry that offer distinct perspectives on historical events and developments, including traumas and crises, that may be absent from institutional archives and secondary literature. The experiences of narrators can—and should—influence the historian’s framework to account for diverse lives, especially lives that regularly cross state borders. Even when studying issues or developments that are at times derisively phrased as “have been done before,” different lenses, questions, and personalities demonstrate that history is less about discovery—with its imperial connotations—and more about listening and empathy. I demonstrate that history is about collaboration with actors rather than usurpation.

Presented By
Michael Damien Aguirre, University of Nevada, Reno

Session Participants

Chair: Mark Anthony Ocegueda, Brown University
Mark Anthony Ocegueda is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Brown University.

Presenter: Michael Damien Aguirre, University of Nevada, Reno
Michael Damien Aguirre is an assistant professor in the Department of history at the
University of Nevada, Reno. His work is focused on the 20th century United States and U.S.-
Mexico borderlands, with an emphasis on Latina/o history, political economy, labor, and
healthcare. Aguirre’s research is published in the groundbreaking volume, Chicana Movidas: New Narratives of Activism and Feminism in the Movement Era, edited by Dionne Espinoza, Maria Cotera, and Maylei Blackwell. His article, “Identities, Quandaries, and Emotions: Labor in the Imperial-Mexicali Borderlands,” in the Southern California Quarterly, won the Doyce B. Nunis, Jr. Award for the best article by a rising historian. He is currently working on his book, a history of economic structures, organized labor, and health delivery systems in the post-1964 Imperial-Mexicali borderlands.

Commentator: Albert M. Camarillo, Stanford University
Camarillo is a past president of the OAH and the Leon Sloss, Jr. Memorial Professor, Emeritus, in the Department of History at Stanford University.

Presenter: Lorena V. Márquez, Department of Chicana/o Studies, UC Davis
Lorena V. Márquez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicana/o Studies at University of California, Davis where she teaches Chicana/o/x history courses. She is currently the Director of the Sacramento Chicana/o Movement Oral History Project, which has documented 98 oral interviews with local area movement activists. The oral histories are housed at Sacramento State University, Special Collections/University Archives. Her new book, La Gente: Struggles for Empowerment and Community Self-Determination in Sacramento (University of Arizona Press, 2020), examines how la gente, or everyday people, grappled with the ideologies, strategies, and political transformations of the Civil Rights era.

Presenter: Christian Oswaldo Paiz, University of California, Berkeley
Christian Paiz is an assistant professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His in-progress manuscript, A Feast of Brief Hopes: On the United Farm Worker Movement in Coachella, follows the lives of Filipino and Mexican farm workers in the United Farm Worker Movement (1960s to 1980s). He teaches courses on Latinx Studies, U.S. Social Movements and Inter-Racial History.

Presenter: Ana Elizabeth Rosas, University of California, Irvine
Ana Elizabeth Rosas is an Associate Professor in the Departments of History and Chicano-Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine.