Chicana/o History: Confronting Today’s Crises by Creating New Archives

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Academic Freedom, the OAH Committee on the Status of ALANA Historians and ALANA Histories, IEHS, and the Western History Association

Thursday, March 30, 2023, 2:45 PM - 4:15 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Archives and Bibliography; Latino/a; Museums


The scope and complexity of overlapping global crises make confronting them seem nearly impossible. In many communities of color in the United States, and for Mexicans and Mexican Americans in particular, catastrophe already arrived with colonialism, racism, discrimination, and brutality. Strategies for confronting the crises of today can be found both in the act of historical preservation and in the content of the histories preserved. Roundtable participants include museum professionals, librarians, archive builders, and public historians whose collective work demonstrates possibilities for how the preservation of the past is a way of confronting the many crises our communities have experienced.

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: Margaret Salazar-Porzio, Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Margaret Salazar-Porzio is Curator of Latinx History and Culture in the Division of Cultural and Community Life at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She co-curated Many Voices, One Nation (2017) and edited the exhibition book, Many Voices, One Nation: Material Culture Reflections on Race and Migration in the United States. Salazar-Porzio is project director of the bilingual exhibition and book, ¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues / En los barrios y las grandes ligas, which began its national tour in Saginaw, Michigan in January 2021 and opened at the National Museum of American History July 2021. Dedicated to public history and community-driven projects, Salazar-Porzio works closely with partners to co-curate exhibitions and build archives and collections. Her most recent projects-in-motion include “Collective Care in Puerto Rico” in collaboration with the Hurricane Maria Archive and the University of Puerto Rico to document the recent overlapping crises that have affected Puerto Ricans on the island and the diaspora, as well as a project on the “First 100 Chicana Historians,” which chronicles the lives and careers of Chicanas in academia to shine a critical light on exclusionary practices of the academy. Her next exhibition on Latinx Youth Movements (forthcoming 2025) will demonstrate how Latinx youth have changed the world through civic engagement and political action. Prior to joining the Smithsonian Institution, Salazar-Porzio earned her M.A. (2008) and Ph.D. (2010) in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. She was an Associate Research Scholar and Lecturer at the Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia University Law School and received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and National Science Foundations.

Panelist: Xaviera S. Flores, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center
Xaviera S. Flores is the Librarian and Archivist at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center (2016-). The center is dedicated to the development of scholarly research on the Chicano-Latino population and Flores is integral to this mission. She oversees all library, archives, and museum services, including outreach, instruction, grant projects, and donor relations. In 2016, Flores stepped in as project director for the La Raza digitization project, supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. That same year she stepped in as co-principal investigator on the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant Providing Access to Mexican American Social History in Los Angeles, 1960s and 1970s. Her work has been recognized by the California State Legislature (2018), Los Angeles City Historical Society (2019 Archives Education and Advocacy Award), and in 2020 she was named Open Archive Fellow for the Alliance for Media Arts and Cultures. She is currently the co-principal investigator on the NEH grant Religion, Spirituality, and Faith in Mexican American Social History, 1940s-Present.

Flores has worked in libraries since 2004 and holds an MS in library and information science with a concentration in archives management and audiovisual preservation. Her work focuses on community archives and providing the Chicano-Latino population with greater access and agency over their cultural history and significance. In her research, Flores looks at BIPOC experiences in archives within the context of access, digitization, and representation by exploring existing barriers at the foundations of academia and library sciences; and looking at colonialism, western ideaology, and institutionalized racism within the framework of archival theory and technology.

She has previously worked for the University of Nebraska—Lincoln Libraries Special Collections, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Audiovisual Archive, Arizona State University Libraries Manuscript and Special Collections - Chicano Research Collection, and Boston College Libraries John J. Burns Library.

Panelist: Todd Holmes, Oral History Center, U.C. Berkeley
Todd Holmes is a Historian and Associate Academic Specialist with the Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. He received his PhD in history from Yale University and specializes in US political, business, environmental, and agricultural history, as well as California and the American West. He served as a historian with the Bill Lane Center for the American West before joining the OHC at UC Berkeley in 2016. At the Oral History Center his projects range from Latinx artists and the founding generation of Chicana/o Studies, to the history of the California Coastal Commission and documenting the experience of West Coast Cannabis Growers. He also serves as one of the lead historians for the California State Government Oral History Project, with featured interviewees such as Governors Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and projects on the state's signature Global Warming Solutions Act.

His work on the history of California and the West can be found in both print and multi-media venues. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles on California political, business, and environmental history, and is currently completing a biography on Utah financier Spencer Fox Eccles, as well as a book on the governorship of Ronald Reagan. Additionally, his oral history work has begun to flow into the realm of podcasts and video. He wrote and co-produced the six-episode podcast From The Outside In: Women In Politics (2016) and is currently collaborating on similar podcast projects that explore the history of the California Coastal Commission and the legacy regions of the state’s cannabis industry. His video work also stems directly from his oral history projects, producing short films on famed political scientist James C. Scott, the return of San Francisco streetcars, the development of Chicana/o Studies, and the history of Japanese American Redress.

Panelist: Edras Rodriguez-Torres, University of Michigan
Edras Rodriguez-Torres was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico. His family has for generations been part of various patterns of migration between Puerto Rico and the Kingdom of Spain and United States of America metropoles. He is currently serving as the Librarian for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Michigan where he is a member of the International Studies team in the Hatcher Graduate Library and a liaison to the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. He supports the research, teaching, and learning in the area of Latin American and Caribbean Studies and manages the library's Latin American and Caribbean Studies Collection.

He is an historian and librarian whose research focuses on the oral histories and archiving of marginalized communities. He has worked on several notable oral and public history projects focused on diasporic, disaffected, and underrepresented communities in the United States of America. Some of these include the Detroit 67 Project at the Detroit Historical Society, the Spectrum Center LGBTQ Oral History Project, and the Young Lords in Lincoln Park Collection at Grand Valley State University. He is currently developing several projects documenting and preserving the history and activism of students of color at the University of Michigan and the cultures of LatinX communities in the Midwest.