Houston, TX

University of Houston: Preserving U.S. Latino Literature

Marisol Gallagher

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Benjamin Corda/stories.uh.edu
HOUSTON — Lorena Gauthereau has spent hours making a digitized U.S Latino archive from colonial times to 1980. She collected materials from books, newspapers, microfilms, and photographs.

As the digital program manager at the University of Houston’s U.S. Latino Digital Humanities (USLDH) program and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage (“Recovery”) project, her mission is to find and preserve U.S Latino culture and literature.

She grew up in Eagle Pass, a small Texas city on the Mexican border, and she did not have much access to a vast collection of rich Latino history. Bookstores were not even available until her teenage years.

One day, she discovered “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza” by the late scholar Gloria E. Anzaldúa. She was then exposed to the culture of his people. A culture she did not know existed.

“It was the book that felt like a turning point in my decision to pursue a graduate degree. I knew I wanted to go back to school and get my Ph.D. in literature, but I didn’t know I could do it in Mexican American literature,” said Gauthereau, who earned her doctorate from Rice University in 2017.

Gauthereau said she’s been living her dream by working at UH with the Recovery Project and get national recognition. She is one of the 15 people awarded a Rare Book School’s Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Heritage. Rare Book School (RBS) is an independent, nonprofit institute supporting the study of the history of books and printing and related subjects.

Gauthereau will learn additional skills in documenting and interpreting visual and textural materials. By doing so, he will be able to raise awareness within professionals communities about the significance of inclusive, multicultural collections.

“Lorena’s participation in USLDH and Recovery has enabled the programs to reach important goals because she embodies knowledge, curiosity, ethics, collegiality, and a desire to right the records that have erased the presence of the Latino community. She is truly a ‘unicorn’, a rare breed,” said co-founder of the U.S. Latino Digital Humanities program and executive editor of UH-based Arte Público Press Gabriela Baeza Ventura.

Gauthereau and other 14 individuals were chosen from a highly competitive field comprised of leading cultural heritage professionals. The awardees include those working with Indigenous communities and collections, HBCU library collections, East Asian and Asian-Pacific American archives, Latinx and Black special collections, and community-engaged approaches to LGBTQ+ history and cultural production.

“These fellows bring to RBS a remarkable range of experience and expertise in areas vital to the growth of libraries, archives, and museums. In particular, this new cohort has a special interest in the ethical care of communities and collections. We see this as an important opportunity for RBS and other institutions to increase their engagement with multicultural communities in a responsible and ethical fashion, to help ensure that community voices, stories and collections are valued and preserved in keeping with the vision of those various and diverse groups,” said Rare Book School’s associate director and curator of collections Barbara Heritage, who also serves as a co-author of the grant.

“What Recovery at UH has done from the beginning is preserve history and make it more visible for everyone, both within the University and in the community. It’s also about empowering community members to see themselves as an active part of the past and the future,” said Gautherau.

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