End of the Road

This is the final week of my fellowship, and this will be my final blog post. I completed my presentation today and I’m proud to report that it went very well. The materials I laid out for the audience definitely garnered some interest, and the audience asked great questions. I was especially happy that Dr. Gabriele Carey came to my presentation. She taught my introductory archives course in Fall 2018 that processed the first half of the collection, so I thought she would appreciate learning that the collection had been fully processed.

On that note, I am equally glad to have learned from a member of the Special Collections staff that this collection is highly sought after. Many researchers at the Claremont Colleges have already expressed interest in perusing the collection. Moving forward, I am proud to know that the story of the UFW and the voices of people like Socorro Gomez-Potter and Yolanda Esquivel will be heard.

I want to thank the Claremont Center for Engagement with Primary Sources and Lisa Crane for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I learned a lot through this fellowship, and those skills will be valuable as I move forward. Thanks to the special collections staff at the Claremont Colleges library, who very graciously opened up the processing room early and closed it late on many occasions to accommodate my hectic schedule. I am very grateful.

Happy Holidays to you all, and I hope you all have a wonderful New Year.


Finishing touches

My presentation will be next week on Thursday December 19th at 11:00 am. My PowerPoint is all but finished, but I will look it over a bit more tomorrow and determine if I should add anything. I’m looking forward to presenting, and I am most eager to field questions from the audience about the collection.

Next week will be quite busy for sure. I have two final papers due next week, along with the presentation. As the fellowship winds to a close, I must say that I will miss working with Matt Garcia Papers. There is so much information here that I did not have a chance to read through as I was processing. If I did not have my own MA thesis to work on, I may very well return to the collection as a researcher. I’m sure it will be in high demand, and I hope that my work will make it easier for researchers to quickly identify which materials best suit their needs.

My final week of the fellowship and final blog post will be next week. I usually post on Fridays, but I may post next week’s blog after the presentation. So, look out for my final entry next Thursday!


I sincerely hope everyone had a restful holiday break. I did not do much traveling, but upon my return I am feeling renewed and energized. Over the course of this week I have tweaked and rewritten elements of the front matter for the finding aid. It is virtually finished, but as long as there is time left in the fellowship, I will continually return to it and make sure to correct any errors or make adjustments as I see fit. At this point, as has been the case for at least the past few weeks now, the only major task left is my presentation. 

I have a confession to make on the topic of presentations. While I do not fear public speaking, I usually refrain from using PowerPoint. I do not care for it very much, and I do not believe I have sat through any PowerPoint presentation in which I was not incredibly bored. I certainly see its value in some situations, but all too often I see it used as a crutch. Indeed, there is a clear value in using PowerPoint for my own presentation, which I hesitantly began creating yesterday. I want my audience to see many of the materials I have worked with, and I cannot haul over and lay out the entire extent of the collection. So, I plan to fill the slideshow primarily with images.  

I am excited to share my experiences with the collection, as well as a few highlights of the collection, with the library staff and other guests. I have not scheduled a date quite yet, but I imagine it will be sometime during finals week. In the meantime, I will continue preparing for my presentation and selecting materials to showcase.

The finish line approaches…

The end of the Fall 2019 semester is rapidly approaching. The air is colder, and deadlines are looming ever closer. Fortunately, I can report that the duties of my fellowship are nearly complete. The data for the now processed second half of the Matt Garcia Papers has been imported to the cloud program ArchivesSpace, and I merged the two halves into one list of folder titles arranged alphabetically. Soon, the completed finding aid will be available on the Online Archive of California (OAC).
At this point, the only daunting task on my horizon is the presentation to the library staff. I have not had to write extensive series collection summaries or a biographic history, as most of the front matter was completed after the first half of the processing was finished in 2018. I simply must rewrite a few entries and add the relevant information regarding the new items in the collection. The finish line is in sight.
With that in mind, I hope everyone has a lovely week off class. Let us return refreshed and prepared for a strong finish to Fall 2019. Happy Thanksgiving!
One final note, I included images of the UFW publication I mentioned last week below. I am not exactly a technological savant, so I couldn’t get the images to look right. Alas, I figured it out. Enjoy!

El Malcriado

I have learned quite a bit working in archives over the past year, and I must say that one of those lessons became apparent this week. The lesson is that, no matter how much you feel that you are finished, a second look back through the collection reveals new questions and issues. For me, this took the form of working through some oversize items that needed to be placed in proper containers. These included large photocopies, and a few newspapers.

One of the newspapers I looked at this week drew my attention more than it had previously. Garcia obtained a few issues of the UFW newspaper, El Malcriado, from 1973. The paper was “the official voice of the United Farmworkers,” and kept up with boycott news, legal developments in the union’s struggle for rights, and one paper here includes a message from Cesar Chavez himself. 
A final note, I am trying to work quickly to get the finding aid ready. There have already been requests for materials made by researchers. Of course, Special Collections provided access, but I know that a completed finding aid will make things easier for prospective researchers in the future. 

Transcripts and Container Lists

This week, I want to write briefly about the nature of the oral history materials in Garcia’s collection. Oral history materials in this collection take the form of consent and release forms, interview transcripts, and conference programs and brochures. Of the six boxes in the processed collection, oral history materials take up nearly a full box if you include transcripts from interviewers other than Garcia himself.  
Garcia interviewed many prominent figures and former UFW members, including a former UFW lawyer, and participants of the Coachella Valley Unified School District student walkout (see blog “Chicanx History in the Coachella Valley” or “Missing Voices”). As I look through the transcripts, especially a few of the longer ones, I must wonder if Garcia transcribed these interviews himself or hired a research assistant. One of the transcripts weighs in at just over 200 pages. These oral histories were crucial to his research, and it has been very interesting to read through a few of them. At least, some of the shorter ones. 
Now that the processing is done, I am working on creating a container list. The container list is an excel spreadsheet which outlines the folder titles, dates, and notes that will be incorporated into the finding aid. As I create the list, I must go back through some folders to make sure I add any important notes, such as significant points of interest for researchers or in some cases warnings about violent content and explicit language. This process can tedious, but it is important. However, I can be sure that it is not as tedious as transcribing hours of interview tapes. I’ll leave that to the oral historians (or, more likely, their research assistants).  


This is my eighth blog post, which means that I am officially halfway through my 16-week fellowship! I am also happy to report that I finished processing the rest of Garcia’s collection. What was once seven disheveled boxes of notes, articles, and oral history transcripts is now five neatly organized boxes, lined with archival folders. Next week, the second half begins as I take the first steps to produce a finding aid for the collection.  
As I mentioned at the beginning of this fellowship, the current collection will be incorporated into the first half processed in 2018. Now that the processing is done, I imagine that the next few weeks or so will include incorporating files into the existing first half and entering metadata into ArchivesSpace. Also, I think it might be wise to start thinking about the presentation I will have to give at the end of this fellowship. I’m sure it will be upon me much quicker than I expect.

Labor and Conflict

As I approach the end of the major processing of Garcia’s collection, I am reminded of one of the occupational hazards of archiving. Especially having received training as a historian, there are so many compelling primary source documents here that, at times, I find myself pouring over correspondence and articles absorbing information and momentarily forgetting that I have a job to do. Whether it be the courageous and inspiring stories of Socorro Gomez-Potter and Yolanda Almaraz Esquivel, or the eerie transcripts of “The Game” at UFW headquarters, the path to distraction is wide open. 
And yet, part of my job is to write this blog and fill you all in on what I find challenging and interesting about the collection. I suppose then, that my digressions are warranted. This week I came across materials Garcia compiled regarding violence that occurred during UFW strikes. On several occasions, workers were beaten for picketing by Teamsters or the police. One farm worker picketing at Giumarra Vineyards, Juan De La Cruz, was murdered by a Teamster. He was standing next to his wife when he was shot. Word of the murder spread as far as England, where the Sunday Times wrote a piece on his murder and on the efforts of the Teamsters to “smash the farmworkers’ union” (UFW). There is an outline of the event, including news of other violent clashes, present as well. Though unlabeled, the writing style leads me to believe it is a UFW release. 
The collection is filled with the history of the conflict between the UFW and Teamsters, from correspondence between the two organizations, to articles covering their interactions from a wide range of publications. It’s been very interesting to read a few of them and learn more about the labor movement in California history. If I meet my goal of completing the last box by the end of next week, perhaps I’ll go back and read a few of Cesar Chavez’s letters. But only a few, I promise.  

The Game

History is filled with violence and trauma. As a result, historians must grapple with difficult questions from time to time. What makes the study of history significant, therefore, is the ability to reevaluate existing narratives in order to shed light on new perspectives and increase our understanding of the past, even if that past is difficult or controversial. For Garcia, this task took the form of a study of the farm labor movement, Cesar Chavez, and the United Farm Workers union.  

While processing the research materials Garcia compiled, I came across a few different terms I was unfamiliar with. In correspondence and memos from the UFW, I noticed the term “Synanon” and “The Game” come up fairly often. You may remember from an earlier post that I mentioned Synanon. I chose not to address it then, but I’d like to briefly detail this bizarre story now. 

Synanon was a drug rehabilitation program founded in the 1950s. Their approach to rehabilitation was not traditional and they did not use medication. Among their various forms of treatment, the most popular, and the most peculiar, was a sort of counseling session referred to as “The Game.” In this “game,” participants would berate other participants and hurl insults at one another at will. Social filters were momentarily turned off, and anything and everything was “fair game.” Once the session ended, everyone would come together and embrace. This cathartic release of negative energy was intended to bring everyone closer together. Quite a unique team building exercise to be sure. 

Well, Chavez believed this team building would be useful for his union and he invited Synanon representatives to teach them the game, and they played it at UFW headquarters for over a year. The transcripts of some of these games, and written responses to the exercise by members, are present in this collection. A word of warning, there is explicit language throughout. I do not want to risk making this post too long, so I will not go into much more detail, other than to say that Synanon was eventually disbanded and classified as a cult.

Garcia’s investigation into this matter garnered some negative reviews of his manuscript. One reviewer even claimed his book was too concerned with the “salacious and lurid” details of Chavez and the UFW and did not merit publication as true scholarship. This is just one difficulty of writing history. At times, difficult questions spawn difficult answers that are not always well received by the reader.  

“Missing Voices”

Last week, I wrote briefly about two Chicana teachers, Socorro Gomez-Potter and Yolanda Almaraz Esquivel. This week, as I read through these oral history interviews conducted by Garcia, I thought about the nature of archives and their historic lack of representation for women and especially women of color. These “missing voices” are problematic in archives, and Garcia’s collection serves as a partial remedy to this issue. 
Both women attended California State University San Bernardino to receive advanced degrees in education and were two of just 21 ethnic Mexican students on campus.  They returned to the Coachella Valley area to become teachers. They were advocates for bilingual education and student rights. This advocacy was often met with discrimination and even physical assault. When Yolanda witnessed a white teacher assault a student on several occasions, she confronted the teacher and was then physically assaulted herself. Unfortunately, the district chose to cover up this incident so Yolanda, Socorro, and their allies organized protests, encouraged parents to boycott the school, and participated in a student walkout on April 8, 1976. 
Ultimately, they were reassigned to non-teaching roles. Their devotion made an impact, however, as the Coachella Valley District implemented bilingual education soon after, and the teacher accused of assault was “encouraged to retire.” Through Garcia’s research and oral history interviews, the stories of these brave Chicana women can now be heard and made available to researchers. The “missing voices” are no longer missing in this case. But, of course, there is still much work to be done.