June 21, 2024

Archiving History: What That Means for the Valley

Words by Nina Alegre

Edited by Abigail Vela

Illustration of “Timelines from the Future” panel featuring six individuals sitting and smiling behind a long table.
Illustration by Dámaris Contreras.

On Saturday, May 4, 2024, ENTRE and the Museum of South Texas History (MOSTHistory) hosted a panel called “Timelines from the Future: Preservation efforts across the RGV.” 

 

The panel featured meaningful conversations with five panelists of various backgrounds and knowledge: Gabriel Sanchez, an LGBTQIA+ historian and archivist; Melissa Peña, an archivist at MOSTHistory; Monica A. Sosa, the Boca Chica, Corazón Grande Project Curatorial Manager at ENTRE, Juan B. Mancias, the Tribal Chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas and finally, Nansi Guevara, a rasquache artist, illustrator, and author. C. Díaz, co-founder of ENTRE Film Center and Regional Archive, was the facilitator.


The panelists discussed the importance of archiving one’s history and raised awareness for the many stories out there that are still unheard and untold. They spoke about each of their projects while tackling heavy subjects such as the continued search for climate justice, LGBTQIA+ history and environmental racism.

Introducing Preservation Week and MOSTHistory

At the start of the panel, Melissa Peña spoke about Preservation Week. “I would like to call it a celebration of maintaining our history by being mindful of it and how it needs to be taken care of and preserved for our next generations,” Peña said. 

 

Preservation Week was initiated by the Library of Congress, which chooses a theme each year for museums nationwide. This year’s theme was “Preserving Identities,” but for MOSTHistory, the theme isn’t as crucial as its mission. Each year, MOSTHistory focuses on “area history, community history, [and] taking care of your own archive.” By participating in Preservation Week, MOSTHistory is raising the public’s awareness of how preservation can benefit them and is showing how valuable archives are within the community.

 

Community members may take the first step in helping archive a piece of their history by contacting MOSTHistory and donating any artifacts they may have that align with the museum’s mission.

Shifting The Narrative

Díaz and each panelist talked about their unique efforts to maintain preservation and how their projects are working towards shifting the narrative and making the people from the RGV see the importance of their own stories and voices. 

 

Díaz sparked the conversation on power by asking, “Who has it? Who gets to choose what is considered an archival material and what gets to be put in the historical record?” 

 

Peña provided an institutional view of how power related to archived material. A few years back, she noticed that the museum’s archive only had a singular voice because people did not think their information was essential. However, Peña reassured people that their oral histories are as vital as their written histories.


As Fátima Garza, Ruido Studios’ Project Manager, wrote in a recent op-ed about the importance of storytelling, “The Rio Grande Valley has a powerful collective voice and at the heart of the community is storytelling—a driving force for change.” Fátima, like the panelists from “Timelines from the Future,” is an example of the people in our region actively working to shift the narrative and advocate for our region’s stories and history. 

A Glimpse into Boca Chica, Corazón Grande

Monica A. Sosa spoke about the Boca Chica, Corazón Grande project at the panel, “It is a community archival project that really focuses on documenting Boca Chica Beach. […] We have this continuous interest in this land because there’s strategy, and there’s a lot of richness here. There’s so many ecosystems in the fact that it is part land and part water.”

 

Sosa’s project aims to demonstrate that Boca Chica Beach has substantial value and fights the common narrative that “there’s nothing here [and] you have to leave in order to get what you want.” Sosa expressed that Boca Chica, Corazón Grande had to be created because only four records of Boca Chica Beach were found at the Brownsville Historical Association.

 

Díaz said Sosa proposed the Boca Chica, Corazón Grande project to ENTRE in 2021. Since then, the project has collected photographs, oral histories and written memories showcasing the abundance of Boca Chica Beach. In association with Trucha, Sosa will participate in a community workshop focusing on art strategies, which will help attendees tell stories about RGV culture and its environment.

The Valley’s LGBTQIA+ History

LGBTQIA+ conservation efforts are also at the forefront and a vital aspect of the preservation and sustainability projects in the Valley that cannot be forgotten.

 

Gabriel Sanchez, a historian and archivist, works to preserve the LGBTQIA+ history of the RGV. Sanchez does this by documenting the Valley’s LGBTQIA+ history through a digital collection called Pansy Pachanga.

 

Sanchez expressed a significant viewpoint during the panel, “It’s been a really […] empowering experience […] to try to piece together the story of a community that in many ways has existed in reaction to power dynamics.”

 

Pansy Pachanga is a grant project from the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), a nationwide nonprofit organization committed to supporting the Latino arts field. As of June 7, during First Friday, Pansy Pachanga was included in the 3rd Annual Pride Exhibit at the George Ramírez Performing Arts Academy in Brownsville. The exhibit will be open until June 30.

Environmental Racism

During “Timelines from the Future,” Sosa and other panelists discussed environmental racism. Environmental racism, a term coined by African American civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis in 1982, is defined by the World Economic Forum as “the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in our communities.”


One recent example of environmental racism in the RGV is the colonization of SpaceX. The SpaceX rocket explosion resulted in pieces of debris falling into the Garcia Pasture, a burial site for the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe. With this type of disregard for the environment and the tribes that reside here, it’s of no surprise that community members in the Rio Grande Valley want nothing more than to see SpaceX gone.

Colorful illustration of the Museum of South Texas History (MOSTH), a building of white walls and orange rooftops, and people walking into the museum.
Illustration by Dámaris Contreras.

Be Part of the Valley’s Archive

It is important to recognize the efforts are being made to protect the RGV’s valuable history. “Timelines from the Future” has shown the community that their stories will no longer be unheard and untold. This panel shows that many community members are working hard to protect our archives and showcase our environmental and LGBTQIA+ history.

Together and individually, each panelist teaches us something integral about life in the Valley.

You can also be a part of the archives. All you have to do is start documenting your life because this is your home–your community where your gente would love to hear all about who you are and where you come from.

Mira Más

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