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The Interpretation and Representation of Latino Cultures: Research and Museums Conference Documentation
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Rael-Gálvez, Estevan

Challenging Traditional Curatorial Practices

Historicizing Narratives

Borders and Diasporas

Aesthetics Beauty

The Body: The Real and the Symbolic

All Abstracts



Criando Historia: Moving from Representation to Reclamation

New Mexico’s history has long since been an object of fascination, indeed enchantment, where the image of Hispanic New Mexicans has been subject to very particular constructions and imaginations.  Nuevomexicano culture, community and consciousness has thus been significantly overdetermined by the issue of representation.  While these historical representations have involved a number of entities, including individual writers and photographers, state and federal-based agencies, such as the Department of Tourism and the Museum of New Mexico and the Library of Congress, have also participated in these manifest imaginings.  Even archival repositories, often premised on singular narrative perspectives have been equally complicit.  As a counterpoint to these past and ongoing representations, this paper proposes to forefront the ideology of reclamation. 

Reclamation necessitates, however an understanding of what is underlying.  In this, it is critical to understand that the archives, museums and monuments upon which we are so dependent for interpretation are themselves cultural artifacts, built on and from institutional structures that have obscured, if not erased certain kinds of knowledge, secreted some and valorized others.  The colonizing pen and the objective gaze have been predominantly about singular perspectives, as have often been the interpretations that have followed.  In this way, both have imagined a past, literally constructed an image of what can be known, thought and identified.  Yet the erasure of dissonant voices has fostered an image that has marginalized the full complexity of this community, in race, caste, class and gender alike.  Toward a new interpretation, recovery will mean revisiting site by site, whereby more pressing questions should be asked about how official accounts were produced, transmitted and classified. 

Beyond the juxtaposition of the surface with what is underlying, reclamation will also posit, I believe, reflections of this community that are not fixed or static, but instead alive with change, accommodation and imbued even with contradiction.  After all, identity, including that of New Mexico itself, is no museum piece sitting stock still in glass cases, no singular archival document, no manifest monument, but instead is, as Eduardo Galeano writes, the astonishing synthesis of the contradictions of everyday life.  In this movement toward reclamation, the contradictions—a word from the Latin, contra dicer, to present an alternative story—will draw from moments throughout the histories of New Mexico where such counterpoints have been evident.  This is especially true, even as the official stories, the representations of New Mexico’s people, have been dominant.

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