A little bit of Italy…in Puebla, Mexico

Southern Mexico is filled with beaches, pyramid ruins, great food, and great people. One would not expect a flair of Italian to go with it. There are very few towns in Mexico that are Italian-Mexican communities. But the town of Chipilo, which is located in the state of Puebla, is one of those unique towns.

Chipilo, Puebla. Photo Courtesy of Mauricio Espinoza, 2003

Chipilo, Puebla. Photo Courtesy of Mauricio Espinoza, 2003

I first heard of this town when I visited my grandparents in Puebla City, Puebla. Early in the morning, my grandmother would buy milk from a man – a man who stood out due to his appearance. He was tall, with white skin and blonde hair. Indeed, he stood out in a crowd where the skin color is “normally” brown. I asked my grandmother who the man was and why he looked differently from the other townspeople (keep in mind that I was about 8 or 9 years old at the time). She answered, “He’s a chipileño.” This is what the people from Chipilo are called. It’s been about 10 years since I have been to Mexico, but that memory of the milkman, or chipileño, is still with me.

I wanted to know more about this community, so I decided to use the UIUC library resources to begin my search. According to Gale Virtual Reference, about 3,000 Italian immigrated to Mexico in the 1880’s. About half have since returned to Italy or made their way north, to the United States.

The town of Chipilo, Puebla has a population of around 4,000 people. As stated before, this town is known for their participation in the dairy industry – “Chipilo Brand”, as they call it. It’s been a while since I have been to Mexico, but when I go back, visiting this place will be at the top of my list.

For more information about Chipilo or Puebla City, check out some of the resources we have available. “Conservacion del idioma en una comunidad Italo-Mexicana”, “Biografia de Puebla”, or “The History of Mexico.” For websites regarding this topic, I encourage you to check out “Mi Chipilo”, or “Puebla Historic Center.”



McDonald, James H. “Italian Mexicans.” Encyclopedia of World Cultures. Vol. 8: Middle America and the Caribbean. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1996. 129-132. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

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A View into the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies

The Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies was established at the University of Illinois in 2009. This institute promotes research and instruction about Brazil. The mission of the institute is to foster “knowledge and understanding of Brazil across disciplines and colleges.” In order to do this, the center provides fellowships and grants to students.

How exactly is this center affiliated with the school? Why Illinois? From 1890 to 1891, the first dean of the College of Agriculture, Eugene Davenport, spent a year in São Paulo, Brazil. There, he spent time with a coffee planter named Luiz de Queiroz. Davenport was also the one who advised Luiz de Queiroz to open Brazil’s first school of agriculture.

Lemann Institute. Photo courtesy of the Lemann Institute

Lemann Institute. Photo courtesy of the Lemann Institute

This institute represents over 100 years of collaboration and engagement between the University of Illinois and the country of Brazil.

Over the past couple of years, this institute has partnered with organizations, organized various visits from Brazilian nationals, created new organizations, and sponsored cultural events.

The Institute also offers a variety of grants and fellowships. An example is their Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, whereby students receive travel grants. Specifically, this program is intended to obtain opportunities that are available through the Brazilian government. Areas of study included are Animal Sciences, Civil Engineering, Microbiology, and other areas.

São Paulo, Brasil. Photo courtesy of Gary Bembridge via Flickr

São Paulo, Brasil. Photo courtesy of Gary Bembridge via Flickr

In terms of outreach, the Lemann Institute has sponsored and held many events. The first step in these events is to build friendships and establish partnerships on campus and in the community. Through this initiative, UIUC’s Chancellor Phyllis Wise and former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn met with Brazilian government officials. Chancellor Wise signed  “Memoranda of Understanding” with some institutions, such as the Universidade de Pernambuco (one of Brazil’s federal state universities).

The Lemann Institute has many other resources and programs available. For more information, check out their website.





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Reader’s Advisory: Mexico: The Land and its Conflicts

In the past couple of years, the violence in Mexico and around the U.S. border has increased. Since then, many books and articles have come out about the drug cartels, government corruption, and other issues. We all have work and other hobbies we like to do, and so sometimes we’re not up-to-date on the issues surrounding our neighboring country. The following is a reader’s advisory for books about the topic.

Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers by Anabel Hernandez

This book was originally published in Spanish under the title Los Señores Del Narco. The history of the drug cartels goes back many years and Hernandez details how Mexico became the hub for the major cartels in Latin America. Then, Hernandez does something dangerous: she writes about the connection between the cartels and the politicians, judges, and police who collaborated with them.

Hernandez had to have body guards assigned to her for a time, but the Mexican government removed them as recently as last year. However, other governments, such as France’s, intervened, and Hernandez was able to keep her bodyguards.


When I Wear My Alligator Boots: Narco-Culture in the U.S-Mexico Borderlands by Shaylih Muehlmann

The author, Shaylih Muehlmann, focuses on the indigenous people and workers living on the border of Mexico and the U.S. Due to poverty and other circumstances, these workers obtain jobs as drug “mules” and traffickers. Muehlmann spent a year researching a community near the border. It’s a sad reality that the people in the community are forced to choose between working with the drug cartels or a corrupted government.

The Fire Next Door: Mexico’s Drug Violence and the Danger to America by Ted Carpenter

In 2006, the Mexican government initiated their military campaign against the cartels. Since 2006, about 50,000 people have died due to this conflict. While this has affected Mexico in profound ways, it has also spilled over to the United States. The United States has their own strategy for dealing with these issues, but is it working?


Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey through a Country’s Descent into Darkness by Alfredo Corchado

In 2007, the author, Alfredo Corchado, received a tip that he might be the next victim of the cartels. Any normal person would have probably left the country or gone into hiding, but Cochado decided to go to the countryside to investigate. Why was he being targeted? His parents had left Mexico and went to California to raise their family. Corchado returned to his native country in 1994, hoping that one day Mexico would overcome its corruption, its injustice towards its own indigenous people, and many other hopes. Being a journalist, Corchado was always aware that someone could hurt him. Join him on his journey.


In the Shadow of Saint Death: The Gulf Cartel and the Price of America’s Drug War in Mexico by Michael Deibert

Over the past 6 years, Michael Deibert has been conducting research and interviews in Mexico and its regions. There is a war that has been waged in Mexico, a war between two cartels that were once allies. This drama not only includes the cartel members, but also law enforcement, children, politicians, and migrants. The disappearance of people, mass graves, and violence brings up the question of the future of not only Mexico, but also the United States.

Planning your Research Trip to India

Are you planning your research trip to India? If it is your first research trip to India, you will definitely have a lot of questions. Is there a list of libraries that would suit your research? Which cities to tour for the best possible research material? How will you communicate with the locals? How do you carry yourself in a foreign country? How safe is the city you are touring? There are a couple of steps to follow in order to make the best of your trip. Let’s begin!

National Library of India. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

National Library of India. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It is extremely crucial to do some basic research about the country and specifically the cities you have planned to visit in your itinerary. The city and the library/institution you will want to visit will depend on the topic of your research. If your research is about North India, then the best cities to tour would be Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kanpur, Patna and Gwalior. If your research is about the financial conditions in India, then the best cities to visit would be Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai.

For researchers touring Delhi, there is an interesting archive review blog on “Twenty Libraries in Delhi You’ve never visited.” Being the capital region and also one of the largest metropolis cities in India, most researchers would like to cover New Delhi in their first trip to India.

The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at Teen Murti Bhavan in New Delhi would interest some of you. Please note that you will need a letter from your home institution and a letter from the U.S Embassy.

Fatehpuri Library. Courtesy of SAGAR: A South Asia Research Journal

Fatehpuri Library. Courtesy of SAGAR: A South Asia Research Journal

If who would like to focus your research on the Southern parts of India, then the Tamil Nadu State Archives would be an excellent source for your research material. For more details on location and directions or working hours and admission procedure, you may visit this post. At the bottom of the webpage, there is a list of all the TNSA official websites that could lead you to the right source for your study.

If you are planning to visit Kolkata (metropolis in East India), the West Bengal State Archives and the National Library are great sources with in depth study material.

For first timers, India may not be an easy country to travel around in. The country is known for diversity in its culture and that might prove to be difficult for some and interesting for others. It is important to remember that every country has its own charm and any foreign visitor will have to make some basic adjustments to make their travel easy and enjoyable.

In India, every state speaks a different language so communicating with the locals might be a tedious task. I would advise you to learn some basic Hindi (national language) words like “Haan” (Yes), “Na/Nahi” (No), “Namaste” (Hello), “Shukriya” (Thank You) and try to carry a pocket dictionary with you. Although, down South, people are fluent in English more than Hindi.

Photo Courtesy of Mariellen Ward via BreatheDreamGo

Taj Mahal. Photo Courtesy of Mariellen Ward via BreatheDreamGo

Not all parts of India might be safe, especially for women. Always be agile and cautious especially if you are traveling alone during late evenings. It is advisable to wear appropriate clothing (preferably salwar kameez or jeans and a simple top/kurta) to avoid teasing. India is far more traditional in comparison to the West and hence, it is better to play safe. Try not to be over friendly with strangers, especially men. Use public transport during business hours and avoid exploring secluded streets during late nights and/or alone. Also, if you are on a short trip for a specific research purpose,avoid traveling during festivals like Diwali, Navratri, Holi as most public libraries and institutions will be closed during holiday season.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Insitute of Asian Studies

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies. Photo Courtesy of Mara Thacker

India is most definitely a vibrant country with warm and welcoming people. Don’t let that overwhelm you. Instead, enjoy the differences in the cultures and try to be a part of the Indian culture as much as possible. The historic landmarks, scenic beauty, and the amazingly diverse culture of India are all worth experiencing without having to worry about any of the negative possibilities. Keeping my tips in mind as you travel should guarantee you a safe and pleasurable research trip. Happy research!




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