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Posts Tagged ‘libraries’

Open doors always draw the eye; you never know what you will see.  Peering through doorway of the Biblioteca de la Fundación Bustamante Vasconcelos, never disappoints.  Across the courtyard, seasonal book sculptures can often be seen.  Currently, celebrating July’s Guelaguetza, a Tehuana’s bookish hand holds her jicapextle aloft.

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Last October, with Día de Muertos coming up, a calavera was a book work in progress, with William Shakespeare playing a bit part.

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Guelaguetza 2017 brought a danzante from the Danza de la Pluma — his neck braced by the blue and rather appropriate book, “El Tesoro de Monte Albán.”

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There have also been Christmas trees and crosses, so stay tuned.  And, if you are in town, stop by the Biblioteca de la Fundación Bustamante Vasconcelos at Labastida 117 (across from the plazuela) — even if there isn’t a book sculpture, there are usually artisans set up in the entrance, and there is always the library to check out, says this librarian.

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Hurray for libraries and librarians everywhere!  Just like Oaxaca, you never know what you will find when you turn a corner in a library or archive. And, whether it’s wandering the streets or roaming the aisles, we can’t help but learn a little more about our world and ourselves. We need more occasions for big, goofy smiles. Don’t let your community cut funding to libraries!  –spixl

Photos on Flickr of Códice de Santa Catarina.

Historians@Work

Laura Matthew on the secret life of primary sources and the responsibility historians have to them, and to each other, when documenting the past. 

I have been thinking about how documents are lost, then found.

A week or so ago, my friend and colleague Aims McGuiness from the History department at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (UWM) left me a voice mail message. “There’s this mysterious document at the American Geographical Society Library here at UWM,” he said. “It looks colonial-era, and maybe Mexican. The librarians don’t know what it is, or how they got it. Could you come look at it?”

“Ooh, fun!” I emailed him back (yes, that’s a direct quote). “I can always make time for a lost document.”

Little did I know. A few days later, Jovanka Ristic and Kay Guilden at the AGS Library unrolled in front of me a piece of bark paper on…

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With a nod to Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca:  Of all the volunteer opportunities, in all of Oaxaca, why did I walk into the Oaxaca Lending Library (OLL)?   For the answer, you will have to check out my newly published (yippeee!) article on volunteering at the Oaxaca Lending Library on the Go Overseas website.

The article mentions the various and sundry activities organized by the OLL.  So, I thought I’d give you a taste:

Volunteering at the OLL has introduced me to an incredibly diverse, knowledgeable, and talented group of people from a wide variety of backgrounds.  Be they native Oaxaqueños, year round ex pat residents, or yearly “snow birds,” many have become part of my community and support system.  A library —  what better place to get your questions answered about the who, what, where, why, and how of living and thriving in an unfamiliar culture?  People and books are there to assist with navigating the challenges, celebrating the differences, and exploring the surroundings.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a panel discussion at the library commemorating fifty years of the Peace Corps.  Two of the speakers had been among the original Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960s, one to Africa and one to South America. The third speaker is an 85-year-old woman who was a Peace Corps volunteer when she was 60+ years old!  All have been living in Oaxaca for a number of years, and credit their Peace Corps volunteer experiences with broadening their horizons and realizing their power to have a positive impact in the world, even if it is just one person at a time.  All continue to find ways to offer their time, energy, and talents to assist various people and communities of Oaxaca.

According to a recent International Community Foundation report on US retiree trends in Mexico:

• Nearly 60% of respondents volunteer their time to a charitable cause in Mexico and over 29% volunteer at least once a week or on a regular basis. Respondents engage in a wide range of volunteer activities, most prominently with education-focused charities, community projects, and the environment.

• U.S retirees in Mexico volunteer because of their strong sense of social responsibility and desire to make a difference in their adopted communities. Survey respondents reported that their volunteer efforts increase their sense of belonging in Mexico, and contribute to an increased sense of community among local neighbors and friends.

• 42% of American retirees surveyed are actively involved in at least one or two Mexican charities in their adopted communities, while another 11% are affiliated with more than three.

Ten years ago, I never dreamed I would be living an ex pat life in southern Mexico.  Funny how life’s curves can lead to opportunities….

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… in all manner of ways; there’s a lot of that here.  Successful meetings between old and new are a matter of debate.  The newly renovated Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo is no exception.  It was acquired, designed by architect Mauricio Rocha, renovated, and repurposed by the Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation.

Located in the heart of the historic district, between the Museo Textil and the Teatro Macedonio Alcalá, this former Dominican convent, originally established in 1529, has been one of those ubiquitous crumbling and peligrosos buildings for a long time.  In addition, to the features of the original cloister, archeological remains from 2,500 years ago were uncovered and have been preserved.

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The buildings will house a research center (including a library), dedicated to the study of the languages and cultures of the indigenous of Oaxaca, serve as a venue for cultural presentations, and provide exhibit space for the philanthropic endeavors of the Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation, which (among several others) includes the Textile Museum, Museum of Philately (stamps), Institute of Oaxacan Historic , and Children’s Library.

The grand opening, with all the requisite fanfare and dignitaries, was November 26.  Alas, I missed it!  However, the courtyard provided the setting for several performances during the Instrumenta Oaxaca 2011, a 2-week long chamber music festival that ran from November 3rd to the 18th; two of which I attended.  I was dazzled by the setting (and the acoustics weren’t bad, either) and was especially gratified that the library, which the seating faced, presented a prominent and dramatic architectural feature.

Written on the wall of the building housing a small collection from the BS: Biblioteca Infantil (Children’s Library), a quote from Dostoyevsky (of all people):  Los libros son mi aliento, mi vida y mi futuro.  In English:  Books are my breath, my life and my future.

For more (in English) about the Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo, see Norma Hawthorne’s article, Oaxaca Center Promotes Indigenous Language and Culture, Opens November 26, 2011.

Update:  Read how this cultural and historical gem, lost in plain sight.

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I’ve been wanting to write this post for almost two months…

Back in February, when L was visiting, we, along with thirty or so other curious and interested (mostly) gringos, toured two of the libraries Libros Para Pueblos has established — one in Santiago Etla and another further up the valley in San Pablo Huitzo.  Local officials and library staff welcomed us and school children read from story books, gave book reports, and performed skits.  It was a non-touristy introduction to Oaxaca for L, and a moving, informative, and inspiring experience for both of us.

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Libros Para Pueblos is a program of the Oaxaca Lending Library and is staffed by a dedicated group of volunteers, spearheaded by Janet Stanley, a one woman dynamo!  Its mission is, “putting books into the hands of the children of Oaxaca” by establishing  libraries in the villages of the state of Oaxaca, thereby encouraging a love of reading and promoting education.

As I explained in my previous post, Books… children… What’s not to like?!, the need in this state is enormous.  Little by little, progress is being made and over the past ten years, Libros Para Pueblos has set-up, always with the support and participation of the local communities, over 40 libraries.  It is a much-needed program and well worth supporting.

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