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.”

 

Sources:

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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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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