Carlos E. Castañeda Papers Highlighted in Benson Reading Room
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL), the Benson Latin American Collection presents selected archival materials from the Carlos E. Castañeda Papers. A historian specializing in the early history of Texas and Mexico, Dr. Castañeda played a central role in the early development of the Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin. The following is a glimpse at the content of five display cases in the Benson Collection that highlight Dr. Castañeda's rich life and scholary and civic contributions.
From Tamaulipas to Texas
Carlos E. Castañeda was born November 11, 1896, in Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. His father was a professor of French and government at the College of San Juan in Matamoros, but the family moved to Brownsville around 1910. Castañeda’s parents both died before he was 15, leaving him with three sisters and three brothers. He began his college career as an engineering major, but switched to his major to history (under the influence of E.C. Barker) and graduated with a BA from the University of Texas in 1921, having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was married in 1922, and his first daughter, Gloria, was born in 1923, the same year that he obtained his MA from the University of Texas and began teaching Spanish for the College of William and Mary in Virginia. The family would later be joined by a second daughter, Consuelo.
In 1927, Castañeda was asked to return to the University of Texas, to take control of the newly acquired Genaro García Collection, the basis for the Benson Latin American Collection today. While acting as librarian for this collection, Castañeda began to work on his PhD, and to produce more articles on the early history of Texas. In the 1950s Castañeda’s health failed: he suffered three heart attacks during the decade, which severely limited his ability to write, teach, and stay active in his many causes. The author of twelve books and over eighty articles, and a recipient of many honors, Castañeda died on April 3, 1958, at the age of 62.
The display of family photographs and other biographical materials was curated by Christina M. Bleyer, PhD, Head of Special Collections and Senior Archivist.
Life as a Scholar
Black Diaspora Archivist Rachel E. Winston assembles scholarly materials written by Dr. Castañeda in this case. Castañeda began his academic career at the University of Texas in 1917 as an engineer. He would later switch his major to history, join Phi Beta Kappa, and graduate with his BA in 1921. During his tenure as librarian for the Latin American Studies Collection, Castañeda continued his educational pursuits, earning his doctorate from the university in 1932. As a scholar, Castañeda contributed significantly to the field of Latin American studies and early Texas history. His dissertation translated a text that was believed to be lost, Morfi’s History of Texas, which Castañeda uncovered while conducting research in the records of a Franciscan monastery. Castañeda’s intellectual legacy as a historian, librarian, and passionate scholar lives on through the numerous manuscripts, printed publications, and research material available in his collection at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.
Mexican American Rights
Carla Alvarez, U.S. Latina/o Archivist, has chosen items that highlight Dr. Castañeda’s participation in the fight for Mexican American rights across the state as well as nationally. Dr. Castañeda was involved with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civic organization, and worked for the Fair Employment Practice Commission (FEPC), an agency tasked with improving the working conditions of minorities. Statewide, he collaborated with LULAC members who were fighting for equitable educational opportunities of Mexican Americans. On the UT campus, Castañeda collaborated with educator, writer, and civil rights activist Dr. George I. Sánchez.
Castañeda’s Work Life
The items in this exhibit case reflect the numerous professional contributions Carlos E. Castañeda made to the University of Texas Libraries, ranging in nature from annual reports to collection development. Castañeda was first hired by the university in 1927 to work specifically on the newly acquired Genaro García Collection, which had been purchased in 1921 and quickly became one of the library’s most significant acquisitions.
Catholicism and Scholarship
The objects in this case demonstrate Castañeda’s commitment to Catholic scholarship and faith. A bibliography of the scholar shows that he delivered numerous lectures related to the history of the Catholic religion, including talks on the role of the Church in Latin America.
The above two cases are curated by David Bliss, Digital Processing Archivist, Dylan Joy, Latin American Archivist, and Emma Whittington, Special Collections GRA.
These selected materials from the Carlos E. Castañeda Papers will be on display throughout the fall 2017 semester in the Benson Latin American Collection main reading room.
Read about the Carlos E. Castañeda Papers in Tex Libris.