Student Exhibit of Mexican/Indigenous Communication Opens at UA Library

Students enrolled in a new class offered by the Mexican American Studies and Research Center at The University of Arizona are sharing their research with the community on the history of journalism and communication of indigenous and Latino populations.

The exhibit will be housed at the UA Main Library through May 7. The class coincides with the bicentennial of Latino Journalism (1808-2008).

"The class and exhibit showcases media from these different time periods, with a special emphasis on the work of the voice of women writers, editors and publishers from the late 1800s, early 1900s and the 1960s and 1970s," said Roberto Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, a research associate at the UA Mexican American Studies and Research Center, or MASRC, is an award-winning journalist, columnist and Chicano activist. He developed the class to examine 19th- and 20th-century Mexican and Mexican-American journalism in the United States.

"This exposure permits students to know that writing, along with the oral tradition, has been part of this continent for thousands of years. And the tradition of speaking out against injustices is hardly a new phenomenon," Rodriquez said.

Students studied women writers including Juana Gutierrez, Teresita Urrea and Adela Sosa-Vento from the late 1800s and early 1900s, as well as Betita Martinez and Enriqueta Vasquez from El Grito del Norte, and Adelaida del Castillo from Encuentro Femenil.

As part of the class, students also are examining the history of selected indigenous communication systems used prior to the 1800s, including pre-and post-Colombian written codices, called amoxtlis, colonial chronicles written by indigenous and mestizo authors, plus the Mexican Nepohualtzintzin or the Quipu (khipu), the knotted string system used by Incas and other groups in the Andes. Students also examined petroglyphs and other indigenous systems of communication in what is now the United States.

"The research has helped me to understand how even pre-Columbian codices served as a form of journalism," said Grecia Ramirez, a second-year student majoring in Mexican American studies.  The class has also made me aware of the importance in understanding the source and perspectives of who is doing the writing and reporting in the information you read," she said.

Students presented their individual research projects involving the identification of and study of 19th- and early 20th-century Mexican/Latino and indigenous newspapers. They worked to critically examine and compare general audience news and the content of Mexican/Latino and indigenous newspapers printed during the 1960's and 1970's.

The class has led to inspiration for continued studies on the role of journalism in the Mexican American experience.

"We were given our own voice to do research and present in areas of our own interest and we were introduced to many of the voices who recorded history in the making," said Marisela Mata a Mexican American studies senior. "The class has inspired me to pursue graduate studies on social justice issues."

A Cinco de Mayo celebration is planned for May 5 at the Gallagher Theatre in the UA Student Union Memorial Center, which will include a student symposium beginning at 2 p.m. Keynote presentations by Marley Shebala of the Navajo Times and Enriqueta Vasquez, author of "Enriqueta and the Chicano Movement," will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The April 7 dedication of the exhibit featured Guadalupe Castillo from the original staff of Coraje, a Tucson newspaper dedicated to voicing frustrations at national and local racism toward Hispanics in the 1970's.

Veteran El Paso journalist Joe Olvera of the Chicano Sin Fin Newspaper also spoke on the importance of having a diverse media featuring different perspectives and experiences.

The current exhibit at the Main Library is sponsored by MASRC, Raza Studies at Tucson Unified School District, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Southwest Center/BorderLore Program, Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs, Native American Student Affairs, Calpulli Teoxicalli, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, Social Justice Education Project, La Indita Restaurant and The Navajo Times.