Magdalena Gomez: A Story that Inspires Minority Feminists and All Alike

The following post is by undergraduate and UConn History Department intern Diana Alvarado about her current project working with materials in the Archives & Special Collections. 

The Women's Times, 2004

The Women’s Times, 2004

My name is Diana Alvarado, and I am a first-year student at the University of Connecticut. Lots of people seem to think that being a history major is just about learning the facts of the past, but it really is so much more than that. It’s also about making a connections with stories and getting into the minds of the people in those stories.

At the Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, I have been doing research about second wave feminism, and I found an article in “The Women’s Times” about Magdalena Gomez, a Puerto-Rican poet, playwright, and feminist. While reading the article by Allison Tracy, I was able to get a good look at her life as a minority and a woman. I can understand that also being a Puerto-Rican and female would make it easier for me to relate to Gomez than someone who wasn’t, but her story gives us a look inside the mind the of the feminists who weren’t the center of attention in the movement. Why is this important? It’s important because we can learn so much more about how the movement continues to impact our lives today; we can understand who we are a little more, and we can be more inspired to continue the work that feminists devoted their lives to. Continue reading

“Tití Doris taught me dance…”

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Collections in archives and special collections come to life when researchers visit us and use our archival holdings. They turn what seem like a cluster of old, unrelated books and papers into meaningful stories and histories. Case in point is the recent visit to the archives by Margarita Barresi, a novelist doing research for her first book. The setting of the book is in Puerto Rico and she wanted to learn more about the social and cultural life of Puerto Rico during the first half of the 20th century.

“I’ve always wanted to write a novel based on the story of my grandparents,” says Barresi. “They lived during a time of great change in Puerto Rico, when a group of young idealists headed by Luis Muñoz Marín led the island from widespread poverty to great prosperity during the 1940s. I remember Luis Muñoz Marín having dinner at our house, and attending Christmas Eve parties at the house of Don Jaime Benítez, chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico, and a great educator and statesman. Knowing these people did not seem remarkable to an eight-year old child. They were just family friends. I am so grateful for the archives like the Dodd Research Center where I can go to hear their voices once again.”

Barresi wanted access to several rare books and pamphlets from the Puerto Rican Collection, a rich collection of 19th and early 20th century books, pamphlets and government documents assembled by three generations from the Géigel Family from Puerto Rico. “It was particularly helpful to me that the Géigel Family was from Ponce. Part of my grandmother’s story is set in the Ponce of the 1920s, and having access to books that recounted the time, such as Ponce y su Historial Geopolítico-Económico y Cultural by Manuel Mayoral Barnes, was invaluable,” says Barresi.

In addition to gathering information about Puerto Rico in the first half of the 20th century, Barresi found an actual family connection while delving in these books and newspapers. She tells me, “Your archive resources were very useful and fascinating, as were the back issues of ‘El Imparcial’ and ‘El Mundo’ in the library.  I will probably come back to review more of the newspapers once I am further along in my research. On a fun note, I was surprised to see my grandfather’s cousin, Doris Ortiz, listed in the first PR Ballet program. I knew she was a dancer of some renown, who was even in a Hollywood movie dancing Flamenco, but I didn’t know she was also in the first Puerto Rican ballet company. Tití Doris taught me dance in her Hato Rey studio when I was a young girl.”

We look forward to reading Ms. Barresi’s novel in the future and see Puerto Rico’s social and cultural life comes to life  in her work.

Note: Images from:  Les Presages : anunciación de un arte nuevo en Puerto Rico : [programa de ballet]

Marisol Ramos, Curator for Latin American & Caribbean Collections

November 2010 Item of the Month

Las Hijas de Eva, Puerto Rican women magazine

An issue of Las Hijas de Eva, Semanario consagrado al bello sexo: Literatura, Música, Teatro, Noticias, Modas y Anuncios.

The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center through the years has developed  a very unique collection of Latin American and Caribbean materials that support the research of the Latin American and Caribbean studies program on campus. One of the collecting areas has been on Puerto Rico.  The Puerto Rican Collection consists of two different acquisitions– the Geigel family library and the Puerto Rican Civil Court Documents. The Geigel family library, which is the core of the Puerto Rican Collection,  includes over 2,000 volumes of books, pamphlets, government documents (mainly from the US government) and some periodicals, that document the social, economic, political and literary history of Puerto Rico during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.

The collection was acquired from the Geigel Family from Puerto Rico in the early 1980s by the recommendation of the then UConn history professor Dr. Francisco Scarano. Owed privately by Doña Luisa Geigel de Gandía, resident of Santurce (San Juan, Puerto Rico), this library represents the collecting efforts of three generations of Geigel family members.


A pictorial riddle

The collections time span covers from 1800 – 1977 but the bulk of the collection is from 1850-1950. The collection includes many first editions of literary books and rare printing of newspapers and magazines from the late 19th century.

For the item of the month, I am showcasing a very unique title, the periodical Las Hijas de Eva (1880), a late 19th century women magazine edited by many well-known Puerto Rican writers and intellectuals, both men and women, such as Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, Lola Rodríguez de Tío, Manuel Tavárez, etc… The magazine followed the same stylistic format found in 19th century Spanish women magazines  and it was digitized as part of a bigger project, the Spanish Periodicals and Newspapers: Women’s Magazine Digital Collection. What make this magazine unique is the fact that it had many women contributors writing articles and poetry which was unusual in late 19th century Puerto Rican society. This weekly magazine includes articles (written by men and women authors), poems, travel accounts and word games and puzzles.

Salto de Caballo--crossword game

Another type of word game, Salto de Caballo.

To find the books and periodicals in the Puerto Rican Collection, you can search for individual titles using the UConn Library catalog HOMER.

For further information about these materials, contact Marisol Ramos, Curator for Latin American and Caribbean Collections.   More information about the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and using the archival collections can be found here.