To celebrate the start of Hispanic Heritage Month it is our pleasure to publish the following guest post from Francisco Macías of the Law Library of Congress.
Describe what you do at the Library of Congress and the materials you work with.
This is a difficult question to answer simply. I am a senior legal information analyst, working at the Law Library of Congress to provide research and reference support for Congress and other Legislative branch agencies, as well as for agencies in the Executive and Judiciary branches, and other patrons including the general public.
As one of a very few simultaneously bilingual–Spanish and English–talents (and one who readily embraces opportunities for promoting Hispanic culture), I get many opportunities to participate in uniquely fascinating events and activities in the greater Library. I have served as an interpreter at various international meetings and translated a vast array of legal documents, laws, and news articles. I have interviewed various authors and artists for the National Book Festival. I had the privilege of serving as a senior project coordinator of a major international event celebrating the culture and heritage of Mexico, and I have been involved in outreach efforts including crafting and translating press releases for Spanish-language media.
I also write, primarily about Hispanic subjects, for In Custodia Legis, the official blog of the Law Library of Congress.
Do you have a favorite item from the Library’s online collections?
I love the Library’s collections of prints and photographs. I also love the “Selected Library of Congress Sources for Texas!” However, I would like to share some analog primary sources that we have digitally preserved: the bilingual gazettes (1863), Spanish and French, of the Second Mexican Empire. When I was a child, I had heard of the French interventions in Mexico from my mother, who explained about la Batalla de Puebla–the reason for which Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla. But this had always seemed like some distant legend. As a Mexican-born American with deep roots in Texas, I have always been a zealous promoter of Mexican and Texan cultures.
The Bicentennial of Mexico’s Independence, for which I designed a commemorative poster, offered me a great opportunity to explore the Library’s holdings. When I located the gazettes of the Second Mexican Empire, which are contained in three volumes, it was amazing to see that at least one of these was a bilingual publication, in French and Spanish. Printed on high-quality paper, they were quite aesthetically appealing.
Now to be clear, I am not on either side of history. I simply celebrate when historical narratives can be substantiated with primary sources. In these images you can see two versions of the gazette that were produced during Maximilian’s reign. The coat of arms on the French-text image is dated 15 August 1863. Perhaps early on Maximilian I and Napoleon III envisioned a French Mexico, and the gazette was published in two languages. Perhaps imposing another language in a space where Spanish was already well established was not well received…later editions of the gazette were produced in Spanish only. The second image bears the imperial coat of arms of Maximilian and is dated 1 January 1865.
Share a time when an item from the collections sparked your curiosity.
There have been so many instances; it’s hard to choose. Once while doing research in the Law Library stacks, I noticed an 18th century vellum-bound text. The vellum binding told me that this may be an important text. The title page read: Constituciones de la real y pontificia Universidad de México: Segunda edición, dedicada al rey nuestro señor don Carlos III. Based simply on the title, this document appears to contain the articles of incorporation of the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, which no longer exists. Its institutional legacy, however, is shared by the Pontifical University of Mexico and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. From some cursory research, I found that the university was founded by a Royal Decree issued by Charles V of Spain, the Holy Roman Emperor on September 21, 1551. Its inauguration as an institution of higher learning, the first in North America, takes place on January 25, 1553.
Tell us about a memorable interaction with a K-12 teacher or student.
I try to raise awareness on U.S. Hispanic/Latino materials and history. Recently I was touched by a comment on a blog post I wrote titled Before There Was Brown v. Board of Education There Was Méndez v. Westminster. He wrote, “People forget that thanks to the Mendez V. Westminster school district is what launched the Brown V. The Board of Education. I am a proud Mexican born kid that grew up in southern California …Proud to read articles like this one.” I believe that being able to connect with the collections and narratives included in our products, like the blog post, gave him a better sense of self. His commentary was moving, as you seldom get feedback on whether something you did made a difference.
What’s one thing you’d like to tell teachers about the materials that you work with or the collections in general?
The Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is a treasure trove of world knowledge. The teacher’s job, in addition to providing the primary tools that will facilitate the student’s exploration and foster intellectual curiosity, is to make learning relevant and to enhance that learning. We owe it to our American youth, from all cultures and traditions, to provide them with the materials that will make it possible for them to reach their full potential.
I urge teachers to introduce their students to the Library’s materials. And, as we all play a role in the development of our future leaders, if you should be looking for a repository for your prized collection, don’t hesitate to give the Library of Congress a try. After all, it is your Library. While we can’t accommodate everything, there are certainly areas where we could grow. I work primarily with legal materials, which also are primary sources. They are an integral part of history, as law reacts to the various preoccupations of a people.