This post was written by our rare books cataloger, Stephen Dingler.
On Otomí Magic and Paper Making
by Stephen Dingler
Making paper from fibers of the inner bark of certain trees is a craft that has been practiced by Otomí Indians of Mexico since pre-Hispanic times. Called āmatl in the Nahuatl language, today it is known by its Hispanicized form as amate paper. Curanderos (healers) and brujos (witches or sorcerers) used the paper to make cutout “magic” figures of benevolent and malevolent spirits and deities for use in rituals such as rain-making, agricultural fertility rites, and for chasing away evil spirits. Before cutting, the paper was folded so that when unfolded after a cutout figure was made, both sides were symmetrical.
In more recent times this traditional paper handicraft was adapted for commercial use, centered in the Otomí village of San Pablito in the Sierra Norte de Puebla, Mexico. It is the only remaining major center of indigenous paper making in Mexico. Small handmade books using amate paper began to appear in tourist markets in the 1970s. Light colored amate paper was used as the background surface on which were glued the spirit cutouts made from dark brown amate paper. The cutout figures were accompanied by manuscript text in Spanish, written with felt-tipped or ink pens. Three Otomí from San Pablito are known to have produced amate manuscripts for the commercial market. A copy of one of these, by Antonio López M., has recently been added to the UTSA Libraries’ Special Collections rare book holdings.
Antonio López M. produced what are referred to as “The López Manuscripts” which were amate manuscript books for the tourist market imitating those first created by another San Pablito Otomí, Alfonso García Tellez, whose Tratamiento de una ofrenda para pedir la lluvia : San Pablito Pahuatlan puebla is also also part of UTSA Special Collections.
Our Special Collections amate manuscript, Gran Libro de los Cantos Otomies de la sierra de Puebla de San Pablito Pahuatlán Pue., describes songs used in Otomí rituals, such as a ritual for getting rid of sickness by sprinkling the blood of a chicken over paper cutouts, as well as rituals associated with the earth and water. The book consists of 17 numbered leaves of light amate paper. Fifteen cutouts of dark brown amate paper, some of which are for named spirits, are glued on six of the pages. Three additional cutouts are glued onto the cover. The book also includes some cutouts made using plastic-coated glossy colored commercial paper. The front and back endpapers are dark brown amate. Although not dated, it was probably produced in the late 1970s or early 1980s, since Alfonso García Tellez’s amate manuscripts and later Antonio López M. imitations are believed to have been produced in that time period.
Pages from Gran libro de los cantos Otomies de la sierra de Puebla de San Pablito Pahuatlán Pue by Sr. Antonio Lopez M :
Pages from Tratamiento de una ofrenda para pedir la lluvia : San Pablito Pahuatlan puebla by Alfonso Garcia Tellez, the original creator of the amate manuscript books:
Our López M. amate manuscript book is part of a recent donation to the UTSA Libraries’ Special Collections of about 200 books and serials from the collection of Dr. Mauricio Charpenel. Dr. Charpenel was affiliated with UTSA’s Div. of Bicultural Bilingual Studies in the 1970s. He was the author of several children’s books and books about Mexican popular culture. His donated books and serials reflect his interests in juvenile literature and in Mexican civilization and culture.
Karl Herbert Mayer, “Cover: Amate Manuscripts of the Otomí of San Pablito, Puebla,” Mexicon 34, no. 6 (2012): 129-35. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23758924.
On September 16, 1948, San Antonio residents received news that President Harry S. Truman would visit the city during his transcontinental re-election campaign tour. He would be the fifth U.S. president to visit the city and the first during a presidential campaign. With his popularity declining, Truman decided that personal appearances would be needed to supplement radio broadcasts. After traveling from Washington to California, he included San Antonio on his four-day tour through Texas on his return trip to the East. Truman arrived in San Antonio on Sunday morning, September 25th. Over 200,000 people saw the president as he made appearances at a church service, luncheon, dinner, motorcade through downtown, and a visit to the Alamo. However, he made no political speech since it was the Sabbath.
By the next presidential election, personal campaigning and stumping had become the norm. Both Republican and Democratic nominees visited the city a few weeks before the election in 1952. Both delivered a speech in front of the Alamo, preceded by a wreath-laying inside the chapel. A motorcade through downtown and a speech on Alamo Plaza would become the pattern for visits of presidential contenders during the next two decades. Later, the speaking venue was moved from Alamo Plaza and a barge ride on the river replaced the motorcade.
These photographs were taken by staff photographers of the San Antonio Express-News and San Antonio Light newspapers.
In our last update, Leah shared the progress we’d made inventorying the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project collection and beginning to flatten some of the 900 maps acquired from the organization. Since then, we’ve spent the last month continuing to organize just over 400 boxes of documents into searchable categories, perfecting our map flattening skills, and even getting the chance to learn a little more about the collection outside of the stacks.
What was once a storage unit filled with boxes is slowly becoming a collection of recognizable series. Leah is currently organizing correspondence “To” and “From” SVREP staff and Karina is sorting and organizing records from Latino voting conferences held all across the Southwest. As each box’s contents are sorted, titled, and dated, the same information is being collected digitally so that eventually its location in the collection can be searched online. Each set of records is given a brand new acid free folder and then stored in a new box for long term use. Seeing the boxes go from working chaos to neatly housed, discoverable content is extremely satisfying and I can’t wait to get to the heart of the collection, the voter registration series.
We are expecting the process of foldering the collection to last us quite a bit of time, and there are days when endlessly looking through financial or statistical data can be monotonous. Thankfully we get a break in our week to head to The Institute of Texan Cultures to check on the maps. Were they humid enough to lay flat after their time in the tank? Did we leave enough weight on them as they dried? Permanently flattening a large, stubbornly furled, often crispy map using only approved archival methods is a challenge that I had no idea I would have to someday overcome. But luckily we’ve received the last shipment of supplies we need to finally get a routine going. Leah drilled holes in our containers, and (2) half inch thick pieces of glass we’d been waiting on are now busy distributing their weight on Texas county and precinct boundaries. With each passing week we’re getting better at guesstimating the time it takes, and getting closer (421) to our goal of flattening 500 SVREP maps.
Ordinarily, this would be the end of the update: we’re working diligently and our maps are succumbing nicely to weight and gravity, but last week we got to be part of something really special. KLRN and the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center screened a documentary called Willie Velasquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz, and the Special Collections team were able to attend! For months now, we’ve known that Hector Galan was making a documentary for PBS and that he hoped to have it released before this year’s Presidential Election. In fact, in June, the producer contacted UTSA Special Collections inquiring about any material we might have to be used in the film. They were specifically looking for an IRS document that solidified SVREP’s status as a 501(c)3. After checking document titles and dates in the original inventory, Archivist Katie Rojas found it. I have never been so giddy to see an IRS form on the big screen.
Leah, Karina, Amy and I all had a chance to check in with SVREP staff in attendance and talk a little bit about our progress with the collection. I spoke with a volunteer whose name I saw on a SVREP sign in sheet from 1982. She was so proud to be a part of an organization that had influenced so many communities and she wasn’t alone; so many of the people in attendance took part in voter registration drives, made calls and knocked on doors to help SVREP reach it’s initial goal of registering 1 million Latinos to vote. Before the Q & A came to a close, former SVREP President Andy Hernandez asked anyone who had ever worked for or volunteered with SVREP to stand, and you couldn’t help but feel the pride. As we were leaving Leah mentioned that it really felt like a family reunion.
Willie Velasquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz will air on PBS Oct 3, then will stream on pbs.org immediately after. Check it out, and keep an eye out for the most exciting IRS document I’ve ever seen. Then see if you catch a glimpse of any of the other artifacts (floppy disks, “state of the art” IBM computer manuals, canvassing scripts) mentioned in the film. We’re keeping them safe until you can come in and see them for yourself.
**This project is generously funded by the NHPRC**
Black Power to #BlackLivesMatter: Documenting decades of struggle to end racism, violence, and prejudice.
This fall, two new UTSA Special Collections exhibits connect the past to the present. Archival materials from the Mario Marcel Salas papers and contemporary student works reveal the continuum of discourse that has evolved around racism, violence, and social injustice from the 1960s to the present. Headlines from a 1969 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) resonate as echoes from the past that mirror the headlines of today. “No justice for Black People,” “what shall I tell my children who are black?” “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL” foreshadows #BlackLivesMatter.
UTSA students Alexis McGee and Hernan Paz, whose work is featured in the Special Collections exhibits, created their projects for Professor Sonja Lanehart’s course
#BlackLivesMatter: Critical Perspectives. “The goal of the class is to critically examine the sociocultural and historical contexts of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.” Through the analysis of literary, research, and multimedia texts, students gain theoretical grounding in Critical Race Theory, Whiteness Studies, Critical Discourse Analysis, AfroFuturuism, AfroPessismism and Critical Visual Analysis. A community panel of activists and experts provide historical context for San Antonio, Texas’ and U.S. “engagement in racial and social injustice and violence against Black and Brown peoples.”
Alexis Mcgee designed the #BlackLivesMatter panel on display at the Downtown Library. Images and bios of African Americans killed by police confront the viewer. Mcgee points out these are “only a portion” of those lives lost to prejudice, racism, and violence. The JPL exhibit features an etching by Hernan Paz entitled, “The New Jim Crow.” Paz explains the meaning of the piece which is accompanied by a torn copy of the 1994 Crime Bill: “The 1994 Crime Bill was proposed and passed as a bill that would target the “rise of crime” that was occurring but instead lead to mass incarcerations,
of which the LARGE MAJORITY of that population was African American males. And once you’re in the system, it’s over, because the New Jim Crow has already taken you. The New Jim Crow is in reference to the fact the Penal System as it is now is a way to target minorities who step out of white supremacy ideal.”
In each exhibit, print materials and photographs from the Salas collection provide historical context for the #BlackLivesMatter content and invite the observer to reflect on how the objects in the exhibit relate and what emotions and questions they evoke. Both exhibits will remain up throughout the fall semester.
This post was written by our San Antonio River Authority Records summer intern, Gina Watts.
Some of the most popular items in any Special Collections are photographs, and UTSA is no different. People from all over the community come in to see what their part of the city looked like in the 1960s, if that famous photo of their grandfather is still around, or how the city fared after a historic flood, and it certainly keeps the Reading Room staff busy.
What you hear more and more, though, are requests for digital copies of photos. UTSA, of course, has a large collection of digitized objects (http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/) and it is growing all the time. Here, I’d like to describe some of our process with regard to the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) Records specifically, as we close up our work on processing this collection this summer.
As we processed the SARA Records, Abra and I were told to keep an eye out for objects that struck us as having historic and aesthetic value, something that would interest the local community. As the Special Collections department grows and sharpens its focus on the criteria for digitization for the public, objects that are frequently requested, objects that require preservation care, and objects that showcase important moments in San Antonio take precedence.
As a SARA intern, I was glad to be able to select a small project or two to digitize. Having never done a digitization project before, this was my first introduction to using CONTENTdm, the content management system for UTSA’s digitized content. Once an object has been selected for digitization, it’s time to scan and input metadata (descriptive information about the scans). Each field also has a carefully controlled vocabulary so that things can be found more easily by our patrons.
A prime example of one of our selected projects: this Eagle Scout Project from 1970. Abra found this report tucked in the back of a larger folder of official reports related to wastewater treatment. We were both immediately interested in it as an individual object and made the decision to separate it out, both in the box and on the finding aid. The engaging nature of the report and the interesting photographs convinced us that we couldn’t let it get lost in other materials. Looking through it, you’ll find the work of Daniel D. Crawford, Jr., and Sherman E. Weaver, III, who took it upon themselves to study pollution in Cibolo Creek near Schertz and Universal City.
From their findings (which were less than stellar), they made recommendations to post signage about the pollution problem, inform those responsible, promote legislation against harmful dumping of materials into the creek, and most importantly, to build a sewage plant to handle the needs of that area. Happily, this area has been served by the Cibolo Creek Municipal Authority (a separate entity from SARA) for its wastewater management needs since 1971. Is it a coincidence that the boys’ project was only a year before? Well, we can’t make any concrete statements, but Crawford and Weaver certainly did put together a convincing report and we’re glad to show it off to you today.
What better way to showcase the amazing changes in San Antonio’s water management over the last few decades? Abra and I have, of course, sifted through 140 boxes telling us about all the ways SARA has made improvements to the river system here in town, but we felt like this one object was an impressive ‘before’ picture in comparison with today.
Other recently digitized objects from SARA include King William area photographs from 1968, Olmos Dam photographs from the 1920s, and photographs of the river from Nueva St. to McCullough Ave. Here is a selection of the newly digitized photos:
You can see all digitized content from the San Antonio River Authority Records here.
Digitized collection content only represents a small fraction of this large and growing collection. To see a complete inventory of the collection, please review the finding aid. Please make an appointment with us if you would like to view items from the collection in person.