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Researcher Profile: Cassandra Saenz

July 29, 2013
Cassandra Saenz

Cassandra Saenz, Georgetown University.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself:

Originally from Edinburg, Texas, I received a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.  I am currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies (at the same University) with a concentration in History.  I focus on the creation of nationalism throughout the early nineteenth century, analyzing various nation-building projects initiated by newly independent nations.

How did you find the Special Collections at UTSA?

While conducting my initial thesis research, I came across the Mexican Cookbook Collection at UTSA.  The main thrust of my thesis analyzes the nationally published cookbooks of nineteenth century Mexico, and Special Collections is home to the original El Cocinero Mexicano (1831) as well as many other culinary literature projects of Mexico.

How did you learn to conduct primary source research?

As an undergraduate, I enrolled in upper level courses that required a primary source research project.  With no prior experience, I delved into my first project of El Malón de la Paz, a 1940s march of indigenous peoples from the Salta and Jujuy provinces to Buenos Aires, Argentina.  My primary sources included newspaper articles and government documents, analyzing first-hand accounts of the march, public and government reactions, and how the march contributed to the larger nation-building project of Juan Peron.

Cocinera Mexicana.(188-), Mexican Cookbook Collection, UTSA Libraries Special Collections. [TX716.M4 C6553 1880z]

Cocinera Mexicana.(188-), Mexican Cookbook Collection, UTSA Libraries Special Collections. [TX716.M4 C6553 1880z]

Describe your research project and how the materials you’re studying at UTSA fit into it.

The core of my thesis analyzes the nationally published cookbooks of 19th century Mexico, particularly El Cocinero Mexicano (1831).  Using Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, I will analyze the country’s nation-building project in their attempt to unite the entire region and peoples through culinary literature.

Tell us about one particularly interesting document you have come across in your research at UTSA.

Even though I find the entire rare books collection interesting, one particular document I admire the most is Cocinera Mexicana (TX 716 M4 C6553 1880z).  A personal manuscript cookbook for and by a young woman from Zacatecas, she took it upon herself to bind her favorite recipes.  With the following written message, “Apendice al libro de la Cocinera Mexicana sacado de otros libros que me parese estan buenas las recetas que sague de ellos”; I (truly) cannot wait to begin the comparison to the nationally published cookbooks.

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