Hispanic Heritage Month

Every year, Hispanic Heritage Month is observed here in the United States. It is September 15th through October 15th. Throughout this month, the culture, history, and contributions of Hispanics in the United States is celebrated. Whether it is the history of people from Spain, Mexico, Central & South America, or the Caribbean. So, how did Hispanic Heritage Month come to be?

It began in 1968, when there was a Hispanic Heritage Week. Although it started under the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson, it expanded under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. According to the Government Printing Office, it became a law (Public Law 100-402) in August of 1988. This month is celebrated in many different ways.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month pic

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Photo courtesy of Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography.

Nationally, the Library of Congress has events, exhibitions, and stories. Among the events, a book talk by Carmen Boullosa, who is a Mexican poet, novelist, and playwright. Others who are being honored are author Cindy Trumbore and illustrator Susan L. Roth of Parrots over Puerto Rico.” They will be awarded the 2014 Américas Awards for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. For more information, be sure to visit the Official Page of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Locally, UIUC has a couple of events going on around campus and the community. Among them are:

CLACS (The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies) has organized the 2014 Latin American Film Festival. This Festival began on September 19th and will go all the way through September 25th. Seven films will be showing. The countries and cultures from these films are diverse and showcase that while the countries may be in Latin America, each one has their own unique language/dialect and culture. For the movies and showings, check out the schedule.

There is also a Lecture Series that provides talks and lectures on many different subjects and interests related to Latin America and the Caribbean. Topics such as, “Big Business as Usual: the 2014 World Cup.” For more information, be sure to check out the full schedule.

For more events, La Casa Cultural Latina has a whole schedule for the month. La Casa was part of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations’ (OIIR) initiative to the “recruiting and retaining underrepresented students, diversity education, civic engagement, and fostering the leadership skills necessary to develop global citizens.”

Just because Hispanic Heritage Month is just that, for a month, it doesn’t mean that it stops there. The University and Library offer many resources for students of Latino descent, or for those who would like to learn more about Hispanic Culture and/or language. Lucky for you, we compiled a list for you.

UIUC Mi Pueblo: This a Spanish-conversation group. They meet at different parts of campus for 1-hour sessions led by UIUC students. For more information about the sessions. Check out their website.

La Casa Cultural: Founded at UIUC in 1974, La Casa Cultural Latina has been committed to Latino/a students on campus, as well as the community [.

Browse through the Registered Student Organizations (RSO) and pick which ones would be the best for you.  For a complete list of RSO’s, browse a whole list of them.

Don’t forget that your library also has some great resources. Did you know that the International and Area Studies Library has a collection of Latin American books? Not only books, but newspapers and journals as well, so that you can keep up with the news. A lot of them in Spanish!

The Undergraduate Library also has a media collection with many movies and documentaries in Spanish and Portuguese, ranging from many different countries in Latin America. Some examples include, “Diarios de Motocicleta” (The Motorcycle Diaries), “Maria Full of Grace“, and “El Norte” (The North), just to name a few.

The Undergraduate Library’s QB (Question Board), has received questions from students since 1989. There have been many different questions throughout that time. Among them:

“Could you come up with a list of native women writers (novelists) writing at the early part of this century in Mexico? Preferably titles that have been translated into English”

“I was recently in New York, being a salsa person like myself, I went to a salsa nightclub. I heard of a band that was originally from Japan and came to New York to learn Spanish in order to become a salsa group. Their name was Orchestra de la Luz. Can I have some more info please? Signed, Inquiring Minds Want to Know”

“There is a popular song in Spanish called “La Macarena” (I think). There are different versions (2 that I know of). Can you tell me what “La Macarena” refers to and where did the song originate? Thanks. Signed Curiosita”

The above are just a few of the different types of questions that QB receives. To browse, search, or even submit your own question, visit QB!

For more resources that the library has to offer, browse through the subject guide offered.

There are so many things, that even we can’t list all at once in this blog post. We hope that you have found some new activities to take part in and new resources around the library.

 

 

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Staff Interview Series: Antonio Sotomayor

In the third installment of our faculty and staff interview series, Antonio Sotomayor, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian at the International and Area Studies Library, tells us a little bit about his background and his role at the library.  Antonio joined the library after earning his PhD in History from the University of Chicago in 2012. He is responsible for developing the strong Latin American & Caribbean Studies collection at library and working with faculty and students researching the region. His own research interests include the culture and politics of sport, especially as they pertain to the development of national identity in Latin America.

Photograph of Antonio Sotomayor

Antonio Sotomayor, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian at the International and Area Studies Library.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? What languages do you speak? Where did you go to school? I grew up in Puerto Rico, between San Juan and Mayagüez/Cabo Rojo. My native language is Spanish, but I’ve studied English since first grade. I did all of my schooling at Colegio Espíritu Santo, a private Catholic school in the neighborhood of Hato Rey, San Juan. I then went to college at the Universidad de Puerto Rico – Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez (or as we like to call it “Colegio de Agricultura y Artes Mecánicas”). At Colegio, I majored in Psychology and planned to become a Counseling Psychologist. That is what brought me to the US and, in 2001, I entered the Counseling program at Indiana University in Bloomington. I finished my MS in Counseling in 2004, specializing in Career Counseling. But at IU I began to question the process of identity formation of Puerto Ricans and I applied to the MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies here at Illinois. I finished my MA in 2006 and continued my studies at the University of Chicago, where I finished my PhD in history in 2012.

What attracted you to librarianship and your area of specialty? I was attracted to librarianship by my years of graduate work and archival research. Libraries are the heart of the educational experience and the basis of scholarship. I think Latin America and the Caribbean is an exciting area to study because of its diversity and rich history.

What brings you to the International and Area Studies Library? What are you most excited about working on here? I am excited to be working alongside other world area experts. Coming from outside the profession of librarianship, I have much to learn and I have a great and very helpful group of colleagues.

Briefly, describe your typical work day at the library.  I check my e-mail, answer questions, or coordinate meetings. I often meet with students to talk about sources for their research, other faculty members on multiple topics, or library colleagues regarding collection management. Sometimes I have to work on writing grants or other material about our LACST collection. If I have time, I read scholarly articles pertaining to my field and my research. On my research day, I revise manuscripts already in preparation, write new material, or analyze data for future works.

What are your research and collection development interests within your subject specialty? I collect LACST material in the social sciences and humanities, mainly history, anthropology, economics, sociology, political sciences, art history, etc. I have a particular research and collection development interest in the culture and politics of sport. I am currently working on a few articles that document the ways in which mass sport and recreation programs in mid-twentieth century Puerto Rico helped to consolidate a populist movement. I’m also working on a longer project that shows the ways in which Puerto Rican Olympism helped to consolidate both national identity and colonialism.

Tell us about a cool resource at the library that you want everyone to know about. We have close to 300 letters from the Conde de Montemar written between 1761 and 1799, mainly between Lima and Madrid.

What are some of your proudest career accomplishments? I am too early in my career to say, but I’m very glad to have this job.

Do you have any career advice for someone interested in the kind of work that you do? Get really good at multitasking and organizing your time.

Outside of work, what are your hobbies and interests? I like to watch sports and play basketball. I’m also an amateur genealogist and enjoy the science and art of heraldry.

What is your favorite thing to do in the C-U area? I have many places I like to go with my family: we love Jarling’s Custard Cup, the park on Winsdor, and going to the YMCA.

What is your favorite place you’ve visited?  I love many parts of my dear Puerto Rico: the beaches, Old San Juan, small towns in the interior and west, hiking, the museums and cultural centers.

In Fall 2013, Antonio put together the exhibit Unity in Diversity: Latin America and the Caribbean at the University of Illinois Library. Take a look at the exhibit website if you would like to learn more about the history of our rich collection of area resources. To meet with Antonio, contact him to schedule an appointment or come by the International and Area Studies Library offices in Room 329 of the Main Library.

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FLAS Fellowships: A Brief Introduction

Despite the recent chill foretelling the start of winter in Champaign-Urbana, it is already time to start planning for summer and the upcoming 2014-2015 academic year. Many undergraduate and graduate students whose research is related to area studies use the summer break to study a language relevant to their academic and professional interests. Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships are an important resource for these students, as well as those hoping to pursue language and area studies abroad and on campus during the academic year.

At Illinois, FLAS Fellowships are offered by area studies centers, each of which provides funding for eligible languages spoken in the region. The deadline for this round of fellowship applications has recently been announced: February 7, 2014. Area studies departments may have different internal deadlines so students should check the departmental websites as well. In the coming weeks, students interested in this opportunity will have to start thinking seriously about their application materials. This post is an introduction to the FLAS Fellowship and to the library resources available to support FLAS fellows and language study at the University of Illinois.

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FLAS Fellowships can be an opportunity to supplement your scholarship with travel.

About the FLAS Fellowship

FLAS Fellowships are a federally-funded initiative of the Department of Education, which awards grant money directly to institutions of higher education for a four-year period. These grantees host annual competitions to distribute fellowships to qualified applicants enrolled at their institution (U.S. Department of Education, 2013). At the University of Illinois, fellowships are awarded through our various area studies centers, each of which offers fellowships for languages spoken in the region covered by the Center (FLAS Fellowships at Illinois, 2013). For example, the European Union Center funds students for Arabic, Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Czech, French, and many other European languages.

Funds are available to Illinois graduate and undergraduate students, who are United States citizens or permanent residents. However, undergraduate fellowships are limited to students studying a less-commonly taught language at the intermediate level or above and application procedures for undergraduates are slightly different.  Fellowships are awarded for summer language study in the United States and abroad, as well as academic year awards for a combination of language, area studies and, in some cases, dissertation research. More information about the application process can be found on the FLAS Fellowships at Illinois website, including details about upcoming information sessions. The first information session for students is on December 4th, 2013 (FLAS Fellowships at Illinois, 2013).

Library Resources for Language Study

The University Library offers a variety of resources for students, who are studying a foreign language or are away from campus for the duration of their fellowship. Reading is one of the best ways to improve language skills and the library has a large collection of foreign language reading materials. The International and Area Studies Library collects materials in the vernacular languages of Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean. These resources include reference works, dictionaries, journals, magazines, and books (including fiction) written in the target language. Reference books and current issues of periodicals are available for use inside the library, while back issues of periodicals and books can be checked out from the Main Stacks. Similar materials in the languages of Western Europe are available through the Literatures and Languages Library.

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Spanish-language materials at the International and Area Studies Library.

Foreign films are among those available for check out at the Undergraduate Library. (Take a look at this helpful post on how to find them in the catalog.) Additionally, print and online versions of international newspapers are available through the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library. The library also subscribes to Tell Me More, an online language learning software. While the selection of languages is limited to Western European languages, the software is a great resource for beginners and for those hoping to keep up with their language skills after returning from a FLAS fellowship.

Perhaps the best resource the library has to offer students (both those on campus and abroad) are the subject specialists in the library, many of whom have created Libguides dedicated to language acquisition resources in their subject areas. The International and Area Studies Library is home to subject specialists in many regions. They are great source of information for vernacular language material, as well as research assistance for those students whose FLAS fellowship includes an area studies or dissertation research component. Other subject specialists can be found throughout the University of Illinois library system. All of our librarians can be contacted by email and additional assistance is available to students through the Library’s virtual Ask-a-Librarian service. Finally, students who are enrolled at the University during the period of their fellowship retain access to our collections through remote access to electronic resources and DocExpress.

Language study, including a FLAS fellowship, can be an essential component of your academic career. Keep in mind that the University Library has many resources available to support language acquisition and scholars working with foreign language materials.

References

U.S. Department of Education (2013). Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships Program. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/iegpsflasf/index.html.

FLAS Fellowships at Illinois (2013). FLAS Fellowships at Illinois. Retrieved from http://publish.illinois.edu/illinoisflas/.

 

 

 

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Coming Soon: South Asia Comic Collection

I recently sat down with Mara Thacker, the Library’s South Asian Studies Librarian, to talk with her about one of the Library’s newest collections, the South Asia Comic Collection. The South Asia comics are “part of an initiative to develop a national specialized research resource for students, instructors, and scholars interested in these materials… [It] expands on the Library’s existing popular culture collection.” [i] The following post is an edited version of our interview.

South Asia Comics from the U of I Library

Clockwise from top Right: Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar’s “Sita’s Ramayana,” Amar Chitra Katha’s “Mahabharata,” Shekhar Kapur’s “Devi vol. 2,” and Manjula Padmanabhan’s “Double Talk.”

When did the Library begin to collect South Asian comics? And why did you begin the collection?
This is a new project we declared in October 2012. We participate in a cooperative acquisitions program [ii] with the other South Asia librarians and people that participate in our professional organization. This past year, the project was to identify an area of specialization, declare that for your university, and commit to collecting these materials and to the that it is possible making them available. When I was looking at options for what Illinois could specialize in, comics seemed like a good choice because David Ward, in the Undergraduate Library, had approached me about Indian comics and as I investigated things I realized that there were not a lot of holdings in the U.S. that seemed to be easily available. I realized that it was an area that was really under collected on a national level, there was somebody who could partner [and] provide an extra little financial incentive, and also something niche enough that I think we could fully cover and start from the beginning.

Was the tie in the Undergraduate’s comic collection one of the main factors for why you started this collection?
It was certainly helpful. When you are picking an area of specialization like that, you have a lot of freedom to pick something that interests you and that you think is fun. I have a little bit of back ground in visual culture and popular culture studies, so I think comics are fascinating and a growing area of interests in the academy. But I had to have something that was budgetarily feasible, so having a partnership with the Undergraduate Library, knowing that there is a place for this collection to be housed, certainly helped. And if David Ward and the Undergraduate Library had said, ‘No, we can’t deal with the volume of this,’ or ‘No, we’re not interested,’ then I don’t know that I would have proceeded.

How big is the collection right now? Have you started collecting?
The comic industry in India is not huge. As I said that was one reason we selected that as an area because we could do some retrospective collecting and get a fair portion of what’s available. What we have so far, or most of what we have, I got on a buying trip to India. I went in January to February 2013, and I actually went to Comic Con in New Delhi and bought everything that was available, which wasn’t as much as you would think. I was also at the Delhi book fair and I bought the full run of Amar Chitra Katha comics. Actually, those are pretty widely held; they’re the one sort of anomaly of Indian comics, … but for some of the other comics, like Raj Comics and Diamond Comics, to name a few, they’re not necessarily widely available, so I picked up whatever was available at the book fair.

We have 371 Amar Chitra Katha comics from the buying trip, never mind what we may have already had. The 173 titles form Raj Comics, those are mostly in Hindi. We have 85 from miscellaneous publishers; those are often one-off graphic novels. And then we have 30 from Diamond Comics. There are a couple other publishers and character series that we hope to pick up as we go along.

So roughly 500 or so?
More than. I think just over 600. And we did have some stuff already that has come in over the years from other places, mostly graphic novels.

The comics that were already here, are you going to try to move them into the collection, house them all together? Or is it going to be spread out across the University libraries?
I haven’t decided if I’m going to move things that we have already bought or if it’s going to be moving forward a new policy. I know that everything we bought, starting in October, is going to go in the Undergraduate Library graphic novel and comic collection. We have talked about if we get some older comics and some rare comics, you know from the 60s, 70s, or earlier, it may be more appropriate to put them in Rare Books. But I’m not sure if it would be a mountain of work to try to identify everything that’s elsewhere and move it. That’s a decision to be made later.

We talked a little bit about what is in the collection already. You mentioned the Amar Chitra Katha Comics and those from Raj and Diamond, are they mainly graphic novels? Are they superhero comics? Are they political cartoons and comic strips? Are they all of the above?
All of the above. Raj Comics are superhero comics mostly. The Diamond Comics are more like the Archie and Jughead kind of thing in the sense that they are sort of family friendly and cutesy, but still on that pulpy paper. But then we’ve gotten quite a few graphic novel comics from Pop Cracker and Campfire, and those are more along the lines of Neil Gaiman and those sorts of U.S.-based graphic novels.

You mentioned before that some of the Raj Comics are in Hindi, are there other languages besides English and Hindi in the collection?
Right now just English and Hindi. We will expand to other languages as it becomes possible. The Amar Chitra Katha comics are available in a ton of the different languages of India and I think they could come with the cataloging done. But one of our issues is that we don’t have a huge amount of South Asian language expertise in cataloging right now. So processing things in languages other than English is more challenging. Even the Hindi is challenging, we just have a temporary person helping with that. And they’re not really in WorldCat, which is a problem.

Are you limiting the collection only to India for right now? Are you going to expand to other South Asian countries?
Hopefully, we can expand. I don’t know how big the comic industry is in other countries. I met a librarian from Pakistan that I asked about comics and I don’t think the industry is as large as it is in India, which is still a relative term, because compared to East Asia and the U.S. comics are still pretty small. It would be nice to have comics from all of the South Asian countries but India was sort of the low hanging fruit for a starting point.

How does the comic collection fit in with the rest of the South Asian collection?
In terms of popular culture items, we do have a pretty decent popular film collection for South Asia, mostly India and mostly Hindi, but also the other languages of India. So I think it fits in well in that regard and we also collect South Asian literature. Comics are that interesting middle ground between visual artifacts and textual artifacts so it fits in with the other things that we collect more generally in that way.

I know the Libguide gives a list of subject terms to search in the catalog, but it’s a little difficult to find them sometimes. Are you going to have some sort of designator especially for the Indian comics so that users can browse through them in the catalog?
I don’t know what subject term we would use. We talked about having some sort of subject or some sort of tag, but we’re not at that phase yet. Actually, all of this is taking a bit longer than I expected.

I just asked because when I was looking, I used, or tired to use, the subject terms from the Libguide and it was hard to find them.
Well most of them aren’t in there yet. Actually, nothing from the buying trip is in the catalog yet. I went to India, bought everything they had, brought it back, and realized that we have to get it into the catalog and they’re not in WorldCat. There is probably going to be some original cataloging involved. I’m not a cataloger, but other people don’t necessarily have the South Asia expertise, so it’s [difficult] trying to figure out how to make this collection findable. Luckily we had some protocols, as they figured things out through trial and error setting up the the graphic novel and comic collection for the English language materials, so we’ve been able to use that as a model, but we’ve also had to make specific decisions about the way these things should be grouped together.

Do you have a date that they might be available? Because until they’re in the catalog, users can’t access them, right?
We were hoping to have them out sometime in the Fall semester. I don’t know if that is going to happen. Once we give them [Cataloging] the instructions, that’s all well and good, but there’s still no one down there who speaks Hindi. I’m hoping that we can be pleasantly surprised, but it’s a lot of work to have sprung on them.

So changing tracks here, what kind of comics are you most interested in?
I enjoy the re-tellings of the Indian myths. The Devi comics were one of the ones I looked at when I was starting to kind of dip my toe in. I really like the artwork for those; they’re so aesthetically fun. I enjoy those and I think the Amar Chitra Katha and probably the Raj too. The language is a bit easier, the Hindi language, than it would be in a novel, so I think as a student of Hindi I enjoy those to try to improve my language skills. And I hope at some point I can get some of the Hindi students here to discover them.

What are your overall plans for the collection? Do you want to get every single Indian comic out there? Or do you just want to get the big ones and some of the more specialized comics?
Well, at this point, I think that the industry is small enough that it would be feasible to get almost everything. The retrospective stuff is going to be more challenging, at least in terms of getting complete sets. We’ve got all those Raj comics titles; I asked them for a complete set and … they handed me these giant bundles. I get them back [to the U.S.] and start going through them and I realize that they’re not complete when you look at the sequencing for the numbers. But … that was what they had. What I don’t know is how to get my hands on the things that weren’t included in those bundles. So the retrospective stuff, I anticipate being tricky. If there was a collector in India that would like bestow their collection from their childhood upon us that would be a miracle, but I don’t think that is going to happen.

Any other big plans for the collection? Do you want to start including them in the Hindi classes, like you mentioned earlier?
I think that would be pretty cool. I also think it would be interesting if we became a destination for people who are doing research in popular and visual culture. If they came here to use our comics or if we were able to send them through inter-library loan. I’ve been toying with the idea of inviting a speaker or doing some sort of event centered around the collection.

Having Hindi students be aware of it would be great. Having visual and popular culture scholars be aware of it would be great. But part of it too is that fact that, from what I can tell in all of my research, these things have not been comprehensively collected anywhere in North America. Different libraries have different pieces of things, but this is something that in terms of … the national collection, I think it’s an important contribution. Because other than Amar Chitra Katha, they just haven’t been collected and made accessible.

And I don’t think that it’s being done in India either. I think as with other types of popular culture items, it takes awhile to get the respect, I guess. I think comic studies and visual culture studies is pretty legitimate within the academy, but still I don’t think people think to hold onto and preserve and collect these things. Since comic culture isn’t as big in India as it is in Japan, or even Korea and China; I think it just hasn’t been collected.

If someone wanted to start reading Indian comics, where would you suggest they start? Is there any source material you would show them? Or just point them to the Libguide?
The Libguide would be a good starting point, because that will give you a pretty wide range of whatever is there. There is a graduate assistant at the Undergraduate Library who did some pretty deep searching and I did a lot of searching, too. Then together we put together as much of a bibliography as we could. Again there is not a lot out there, but there should be some good starting points there.

Any other points you want to highlight about the collection?
Just that I hope it will be available sooner rather than later. It’s been a very complex project. It’s started with ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’ and now it’s a lot of work. So it’s not all fun and games with a comic collection.

[i] South Asia Comic Collection. Libguide. http://uiuc.libguides.com/southasiancomics
[ii] South Asia Cooperative Collection Development Initiative. 2012 Summary Report and Outcomes. http://www.library.wisc.edu/guides/SoAsia/2012Report.pdf

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The Spring Since 2010: Conflicts, Demonstrations, and Civil Wars in Arab World

Often taking as an allegory to the “Springtime of the People” or the Prague Spring in 1968, the term “Arab Spring” was “unintentionally coined in a January 6, 2011 article” by Marc Lynch. From the end of 2010 to the present, the calls for revolution from the Arab world only grew stronger. Demonstrations, protests, and even wars have broken out in countries such as Tunsia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and lately, Iraq. More seem to be following in many parts of the world.

Often attributed to the dissatisfaction of local governmental rule, the Arab Spring has been a point of interest to both academics and the populous – a movement that is both reaffirming and changing history. Although the waves of protests are not a new phenomenon, through the movement, this revolution has been turned towards the problems within the Arab society, rather than ending the liberation from colonial rule.

Continuing demonstration on Monday, January 28th captured via a camera phone. (Mostafa El Shemy/AP)

Internationally, various countries and people have reacted differently to Arab Spring. Overall, the protests have attracted support from the international community while the governmental responses were met with condemnation. Moreover, the Arab Spring has, over the past few years, been an inspiration to social movements in other countries, including the Occupy Movement across the world. Marking the continuation of Arab Spring, the escalation of protests continues even today.

Curious about the progression of Arab Spring for these past two years? From February 4th to the 28th, the International and Areas Study Library and the Middle East and North African area specialist will be showcasing the major players and events that brought forth the movement, as well as related library resources in the Marshall Gallery on the 1st floor of the Main Library. And, for more information and readings regarding Arab Spring, there is a guide maintained by the UIUC library as well as multitudes of resources maintained by collaborating scholars across the field.

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