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The Interpretation and Representation of Latino Cultures: Research and Museums Conference Documentation
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Historicizing Narratives: Transcript of Discussion Session

Challenging Traditional Curatorial Practices

Historicizing Narratives

Borders and Diasporas

Aesthetics Beauty

The Body: The Real and the Symbolic

All Abstracts



DR. POYO:  Thank you, Patricia. This session is to end in about five minutes, I think, so I don't have much time for commentary.  So rather than commenting let me just raise a question that perhaps you all could address.  I've been working with the Latino Advisory Board at the National Museum for some years and one of the things that we're struggling with there at the museum is the idea, the notion, of how do you put together a Latino exhibit; that is, that's a big subject.

      And my own sense is that ultimately the creation of a Latino exhibit would come out of this kind of research.  That's why it's so important, come out of the particular, out of the specific, and each of these pieces of research will suggest to us if we get enough of them what are the themes out there that connect the various communities in some way so that we can begin to tell a larger story in a museum context.

      So my question for you is to resolve this for us by perhaps suggesting how you think your own research and the themes and the material that you're dealing with in your research might operate at that level, might contribute to some bigger picture that we could try to put together.


DR. BAHTI:  I'll start.  This project actually began as a museum project, as a Mexican heritage project of the Arizona Historical Society, and it began with oral histories, the kinds made by Patricia Preciado-Martin, who has done a number of books consequently on materials from her work.  And what happened was that each project became thematic.  There was one on theater and one on border journalism, each time identifying the players or the actors in those social dramas.  And then came the challenge of trying to figure out how to integrate the demographic or the social scientific information with the artistic information that was so beautiful and valuable to the projects and then trying to find the means by which you could focus the exhibits or the subjects in such a way that you were dealing with a very complex subject on a very small scale, which is what I think is where the beauty comes from, where you grant each location its value and its energy while you look at the people that are contributing to the process of creating culture and manifesting that culture at particular points in time and also by testing the ideas that we have about the culture now to the cultures as they existed before.  And in my research I did by using a combination of ideas of internal colonialism extended to internal orientalism.

      So what I was doing was using our ideas as the foundation through which I applied new ideas to see how they worked in another time such as the work that's being done on Mestizaje using these broad sheets that were used in colonial Mexico as a starting point for where the ideas for the Mestizaje northern New Mexico would come as an inherited notion that we then applied to contemporary issues, which are cultural issues that are more lasting and very enduring which we hope to preserve and treasure.

DR. RAEL-GALVEZ:  I could try and address that from two different angles.  The first, I think, is exactly what you're saying, understand the larger narratives that connect us in different ways in those grander narratives of colonialism or otherwise our memory even the terror stories and things like that but it's also important, as you've just said, to focus in on the very local stories as well, the very small stories that knit that larger fabric of grander narratives.  I know I'm being vague but we only have a few minutes anyway.

      The second part is that I think that we have to continue to engage in dialog with one another but also with various other groups, and you don't see that so much in the presentation that I gave but this project has forced me to engage in dialog with other slavery, not just African American but also part of the point that I was making is that Mestizaje should not be solely seen as a hybridization as we've continued to talk about it in the past but really like the phenomena of the forms are also these distinct people like Luis Valdez that show up in these narratives and so we should be having a lot more dialog with native groups in this country because there's a lot more in common in some cases with the local than maybe we have with each other across.  But again that's all to say that we should continue to have these conversations across the divides.


DR. RODRIGUEZ:  I would add doing different kind of work but also knowing Chicano history and cultures or at least having studied them that there's a need to also be more expansive, to be able to talk about other Latino histories implicated here in the United States and that's what I'm working on.


DR. MOLINA:  I struggled with that question since I did that program in 1996 because, as you said, identity is not something you can put under that museum glass.  It's static, it's situational, it's multilayered.  That's the difficulty, then, in how you exhibit.

      I think I was interested in these images because it spoke to how these identities get circulated, and I think what's interesting in many of the exhibits I've gone to recently that one of the most recent that's local of a community in east Los Angeles, the Boyle Heights exhibit, where they did a lot of ethnic graphic research and it's that exhibit.

      What makes it very successful, an ethnographic portrayal of this community, is that it's a living exhibit and they bring in oral histories and different things from the community and it's multilayered and it shows how the images of east Los Angeles were constructed but also really deconstructed because they bring in the Japanese perspective, Jewish perspective, Mexican perspective, Chicano, American, and it's very multilayered and rich and I would hope that that's the kind of direction that we would be moving in.  It's been very successful and very alive, and it was very nice to see a lot of people from the community there enjoying it.

DR. POYO:  Magdalena, is there more time for questions?

MS. MIERI:  Yes, five minutes.

MS. PEREZ:  I would like to respond to ÄÄÄÄ because I think ÄÄÄÄ concentrating on a Latino exhibit.  That's the first problem, that it should be a Latino exhibit ÄÄÄÄ how we have these cross-sections and ÄÄÄÄ which will allow perhaps a discussion of looking at violence within our communities.  How do we talk about ÄÄÄÄ that's just one idea but I think also how to do different forms of exhibition ÄÄÄÄ being there an example of ÄÄÄÄ but I think there are different moments like how do you do a history type of show, how do you an aesthetically visual show, how do you incorporate new media.

      I mean, I think that also needs to be ÄÄÄÄ so that to even throw the question a Latino exhibit that's become problematic on how ÄÄÄÄ museums organized because they only have that one shot ÄÄÄÄ


QUESTION:  Can I say something about ÄÄÄÄ the whole idea when you asked that question if I had been in panel I would have ÄÄÄÄ very much so and so the whole idea of ÄÄÄÄ not because I don't want to do it but because of what's implicated, as you say by ÄÄÄÄ in the context of the Smithsonian American History Museum where ÄÄÄÄ should have happened for many years and because the brunt of it and what that signifies in a place like this because of all of these political things creates something that ÄÄÄÄ.

      And I think in your position here that it has to be broken down somehow into a all the pieces that look at the complexity ÄÄÄÄ for me I know who I am but in the present context.

MS. MIERI:  All right, that would be the last one.

QUESTION:  I want to echo that same comment that Marvette ÄÄÄÄ I wonder why in this post-colonial moment we keep going back to the Western notions of conformity and continuity and I think we need to literally in practice go beyond that and maybe the difficulty is, as Estevan is suggesting, why can't we see Mestizo phenomena.  I think if we raise the question of the Latino exhibit the Latino museum or a Latino program in the language of continuity and in the language of shared histories that we'll keep missing that Mestizaje, so I would like to echo what you were saying and just try and find another way of asking the question.

QUESTION:  And the other thing that I would ÄÄÄÄ what that question does ÄÄÄÄ is that in asking us to provide the solutions ÄÄÄÄ our knowledge as ÄÄÄÄ what it does is actually close down ÄÄÄÄ while this is happening, the beginnings of a scholarly engagement so ÄÄÄÄ

MS. MIERI:  Thank you.  I think we just touched on the core in the spirit of this conference, and let me assure you that the conversation is hard to stop and will continue throughout the next three days. And this is the part of the job that I hate which is interrupt discussions but they pay me to do this so I'm sorry.

      (Whereupon, at 12:31 p.m., a luncheon recess was taken.)

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