Project Will Rescue Voices from the Texas–Mexico Borderlands
A treasure trove of video interviews with groundbreaking Tejano artists, writers, and thinkers will soon be widely accessible to listeners and researchers. A grant of $12,050 was awarded to the Benson Latin American Collection by the Center for Research Libraries the Latin American Materials Project (LAMP). The grant will cover costs of digitizing the Los del Valle Oral History Project, launched in 1992 by University of Texas–Rio Grande Valley professor of history Dr. Manuel F. Medrano with the goal of harvesting and preserving historical memories in the Rio Grande Valley, a region that has been historically under-documented in archival and published research.
Interviewees include folklorist and scholar Don Américo Paredes, Tejano writers Rolando Hinojosa and Oscar Cásares, writer and poet Carmen Tafolla, visual artist Carmen Lomas Garza, and singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa, as well as nationally acclaimed anthropologists, writers, ethnobotanists, musicians, and military heroes who, regrettably, have been excluded from traditional literature. This collection is significant because it is one of the first to use video recording instead of only audio recording for Latino interviewees. Additionally, it includes edited profiles as well as raw footage.
Informally known as "the Valley," or El Valle, the Rio Grande Valley is located in the southernmost tip of South Texas and lies along the northern bank of the Rio Grande along the Texas–Mexico border. One of the fastest-growing regions in the country, El Valle and its Mexican sister cities, Reynosa, Matamoros, and Río Bravo are home to about 3 million people. The majority of residents are Mexican and Mexican-American, and many families can trace their ancestry to the first Spanish settlers who arrived in the 1740s. As a result, a frequent expression in the region is, “we didn’t jump the border, the border jumped us.”
"Through the generous support of the Center for Research Libraries, the LAMP Digitization Project funding will provide the timely, crucial support needed to salvage these stories and to provide scholars and the broader public the opportunity to freely access this rare primary source information that would otherwise be unavailable," said project PI Christina Bleyer, senior archivist and head of special collections at the Benson Latin American Collection.
The Benson Collection holds the following archives of Tejano luminaries: the Américo Paredes Papers, the Tish Hinojosa Papers, Carmen Tafolla Papers, the Rolando Hinojosa Smith Papers, and the Carmen Lomas Garza Collection.
Photo of Tish Hinojosa by Alan Pogue.
Head of Special Collections and Senior Archivist Christina Bleyer contributed to this article. Bleyer wrote the LAMP grant with LLILAS Benson grants and contracts specialist Megan Scarborough.