Working from the labels, we sorted and prioritized the order in which the videos would be digitized. In the coming weeks, I excitedly awaited to see what the films would reveal.
The project, in some ways, had begun decades before when the Oaxacan activists began recording their communities’ activities.
Digital Matters helped me recover, digitize, and build an indigenous Oaxacan archive based on the activism of female Oaxacan community members in Los Angeles between 1970 and 1990. My desire to recover and digitize was fueled by an urgency. The life-span of VHS tape is 8-10 years at which point the video quality begins to degrade. Some of the videos I was bringing to the lab, 30 years old. Thus, I called on my contacts in my own Yalaltecan community—a pueblo from the Southern state of Oaxaca—to begin to source and collect video archives.
I had gone into Zapotec homes and asked community members to share the most intimate moments of their families and their pueblo’s most significant moments of indigenous life in Los Angeles. And this process demanded that we as digital archivists ask: What does it mean to build digital archives from and indigenous perspective? And because Mexican indigenous peoples are seen ethnically as Latina/o/x, I also had to ask what are the Latina/o/x archival ethics that frame our digital practices?
Upon competition of this first recovery of files, we now have hundreds of gigabytes of digitized films to preserve and examine. My initial examinations illustrate that indigenous Latino/a/x social and cultural activity are also political interventions into activity back home, in their pueblos. Indigenous mobility/migration is at the heart of the formation of these early indigenous archives. The digitizing of this archive can help us think more expansively about the decolonial, indigenous archives writ large, community/kinship and race/ethnicity and specifically address how ideas about gender and indigeneity within the contexts of migration, diaspora, and removal. Together, these lines of inquiry and the digitizing of this archive will offer a generative staring point for my future research as well as the fields of Indigenous, Native, Latin American, Latino/a/x studies.
As migrants, they negotiate contemporary racial orders (immigrant, foreigner, “illegal”), language (English and a second language, Spanish, and their indigenous languages). Thus, this project moves forward from that context. Employing a critical latinx indigeneities analytic, as put forth in indigenous studies in Maylei Blackwell, Luis Urrieta, Flori Boj Lopez’s and my own scholarship, that argues indigenous Latinas/os/ox exist within multiple settler colonial frameworks and racial orders the work of viewing and indexing the films begins. My hope is that we build an ever-growing digital archive of indigenous Latina/o/x life in the U.S. to place new media ecologies within indigenous cosmological perspectives.
Indigenous Latina/o/x Archives, in some ways, had begun decades before when the Oaxacan activists began recording their communities’ activities.–Prof. Lourdes Alberto