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Black and white collage - portrait photos of Mexican authors: Elena Poniatowska, Esther Seligson, Carmen Boullosa, Inés Arredondo, and Cristina Rivera Garza
Black and white collage - portrait photos of Mexican authors (clockwise): Elena Poniatowska (photo credit: Jacky Muniello), Esther Seligson (photo credit: Xotchmar, Wikimedia Commons), Carmen Boullosa (courtesy of the author), Inés Arredondo (Wikimedia Commons), and Cristina Rivera Garza (courtesy of the author)

Mexican Women in the PALABRA Archive

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The following is a guest post by Maria R. Escamilla, curatorial fellow of rare books at the Linda Hall Library, University of Missouri, Kansas City, and former intern at the Latin American, Caribbean, and European Division (LAC&E), Library of Congress.

Growing up in a Mexican-American household, I had previously considered myself well-versed in Mexican and Chicano literature. I had read Sandra Cisneros and Gloria Anzaldúa throughout high school and college. I knew who Juan Rulfo, Octavio Paz, and Carlos Fuentes were, their works and impacts on Mexican literature; however, if asked about Mexican women authors I would be hard-pressed to name a few. For the last few years, I have been on a path of reconnecting with and strengthening my Mexican heritage, and this includes widening my repertoire of Mexican literature through a more feminist perspective. Recognizing Mexican female authors and their contributions to literary movements became an important component of feeling myself part of the women’s rights movement.

I carried my passion for Mexican literature, culture, and impactful women into my internship at the Hispanic Reading Room. I knew that I wanted to create a project that would explore Mexican literature through a woman’s perspective, not only as an educational opportunity but to also display the vast and diverse collections held by the Library of Congress and the Hispanic Reading Room.

The Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress serves as an access point for researchers interested in consulting materials from the Caribbean, Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. Featured collections include the PALABRA Archive, Jay I. Kislak Collection, and more. The PALABRA Archive uniquely holds nearly nine hundred recordings of writers.

] Website screenshot of “Mexican Women Authors” Storymap title section featuring image from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, “Alfabetización” a black and white lithograph of three Mexican Indigenous women with books
Website screenshot of “Mexican Women Authors” Storymap title section

This Storymap features recordings from the PALABRA Archive as a means of voicing the included Mexican women authors. It highlights the writers Inés Arredondo, Elena Poniatowska, Esther Seligson, Carmen Boullosa, and Cristina Rivera Garza. Each author’s section includes a brief bilingual biography, a section of their work, and the author’s recording. I found it challenging and enjoyable to research each author and their impact on Mexican literary movements. It was fascinating to learn of many authors that I had never read before, but the limited resources and information available on the authors could be difficult at times. My favorite part of this process was selecting the readings of each author–listening to the author’s voice, tone, style, and more helps to further contextualize the readings and further convey the author’s intents. The recordings safeguarded by the PALABRA Archive allow patrons to hear a unique perspective of literature and history.

Website screenshot of “Mexican Women Authors” Storymap section focused on Mexican author Elena Poniatowska’s “Massacre in Mexico” testimonials. The screenshot includes an photography from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection of an elementary school in rural Mexico during the 1930s
Website screenshot of “Mexican Women Authors” Storymap Elena Poniatowska section

Elena Poniatowska’s excerpt from La noche de Tlatelolco (Massacre in Mexico) was the reading that moved me the most. I had previous knowledge of the Tlatelolco massacre through retellings by my family who lived in Mexico during this tumultuous period. However, having to read and hear the testimonies of first-hand accounts truly brought to life the events and helped me further understand how the massacre affected Mexican history and my family.

As a rising librarian, I want to make educational resources openly available and easily findable. I hope to share with a wider audience my love for Mexican literature and highlight the voices of authors outside mainstream media. My hope for this research guide is for readers and researchers to utilize this information, whether it be for research or personal leisure, and hopefully gain interest and inspiration in these five talented writers.

 

Discover More

Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS): A Resource Guide: The Handbook of Latin American Studies is a bibliography on Latin America consisting of works selected and annotated by scholars. 

The PALABRA Archive at the Library of Congress: The PALABRA Archive is a collection of original audio recordings of 20th and 21st century Luso-Hispanic poets and writers reading from their works.

Library of Congress Research Guides: Library’s guides organized by research topic and collections – these include both online materials, and materials only available on site. The guides related to the Caribbean, Iberian, and Latin American Studies can be found here (https://guides.loc.gov/hispanic)

“Refranes” Storymap: A poem by Otavio Paz for the PALABRA Archive.

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