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Author: Elaine Carey
Title: Missing Voices, Missing Researchers: Archives, Resistance, and Undergraduates
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
Summer 2001

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Source: Missing Voices, Missing Researchers: Archives, Resistance, and Undergraduates
Elaine Carey

vol. 3, no. 1, Summer 2001
Article Type: Essay

Missing Voices, Missing Researchers: Archives, Resistance, and Undergraduates

Elaine Carey

Archives are depositories of official documents, private papers, and public information, which are usually housed in libraries, whether public or private. Archival study remains one of the essential components of historical academic research where students and scholars find a topic, develop a thesis, access new information, analyze materials, and organize and synthesize evidence in such a way to "make a significant claim" or engender an new understanding (Booth 4). Although archival research is rapidly evolving due to the introduction of various technologies, archive research continues to be a hallmark feature for those who pursue Latin American history.

Before the introduction of on-line archives which allow scholars to investigate and pursue the study of the past all from the comfort (or discomfort) of their homes, scholars interested in pursuing materials had to travel to the country where documents were housed in closed—public or private—collections. Once in some "exotic" land, the researcher navigates a bureaucracy. In many cases, scholars must check their personal items and sign documents promising to abide by the rules. They must then submit their letters of introduction and register their credentials in order to explain who they are and why they want to use the collection. Once granted to access an archive, the researchers sit in reading rooms, pouring over materials, surrounded by other scholars from around the world. Here, they immerse themselves in the documents housed between some pristine walls of higher learning, or in the case of Mexico, the cement cells of the old Lecumberri prison.

The preservation of the past is a noble task for it offers scholars of today the tools and materials they need to write about the past. The documents contained within the walls of archives are the papers that document the lives of the powerful, the learned, and the elite, but also the lives of the marginalized, the dispossessed, and the underclass. Yet, the exclusivity of archives and access to archives, beyond those collections devoted solely to the powerful, is still closely controlled. Archivists do not permit the general public to peruse the shelves and pull out a few documents and cast an interested eye upon them. Instead, researchers encounter barriers to actual contact with materials either due to archivists' fear of the damage that could happen from overexposure and handling or from the materials' lack of catalogues and organization.

As a scholarly methodology, the art of archival research is far from revolutionary, although the information extracted may lead to some change in the unveiling of some document may have a ground-breaking outcome if it is used to dislodge or unsettle some generally accepted truth. But alas, many times the rebellious art of research is lost. In fact, at times the researcher mining Latin American archives is no better than many individuals who came to Latin America to mine the natural resources. The purpose of scholarly research is to engage in scholarly debate, exchange of ideas, or more nobly put, the pursuit of truth. [1] However, no scholar can deny that there are also individual gains: a job and a book contract followed by tenure and promotion. In some cases, researchers pillage materials in the pursuit of some new revelation, and return to their homes with their "find" to utilize the information for the purpose of personal self-gain and self-promotion. In exchange, scholars offer a few spoken thanks, written words, or an acknowledgment to the archivist. Traditionally, the academy demands this more distanced (or "objective") scholarly work from historians. Furthermore, history departments reward this style of academic research over more sociological or anthropological methods that may be seen as diverging from the written evidence, and hence the discipline. In the end, it is difficult to distinguish at academic conferences those scholars who pursue some truth from those who pursue self-promotion.

My own position as a Latin American scholar who works in archives, primarily in Mexico, has often been a source of struggle. At times, I feel as if I, too, am pillaging archives as those before me stole Pre-Colombian artifacts or natural resources. When working in archives, I continually question whether there is a difference between acquiring a physical item, such as an Olmec head, from acquiring a piece of information, for example, a copy of a document. I also consider if the entire process of negotiating the archival bureaucracy contributes to my questioning. I would argue that it indeed does; yet, I recognize that the bureaucracy of archives serves a purpose to maintain, develop, and organize a collection. However, the entire exercise and the physical space of archives are privileged. And I, too, am one of the privileged few who are permitted—after navigating the system—to access these spaces due to proper education, credentials, and status. Thus, when Rosemary Weatherston, the new coeditor of Post Identity, suggested that I discuss, as part of the first issue of Post Identity focused on Latin American/Latino Studies, the James Guadalupe Carney Latin American Solidarity Archive (CLASA) housed at the University of Detroit Mercy as a voice of resistance, the idea intrigued me.

Archives are not usually thought of as essential to promotion of social activism or the development of consciousness. Instead, they are scholarly, quiet places that most students avoid until they are in graduate school. Once introduced, the actual undertaking of research in some dank archive frightens many students and leads some of them to resist actually undertaking the rigors of archival research. So, how does an archive tied to Latin American social justice and solidarity work fit into an institution such as UDM, an insitution primarily concerned with undergraduate education?

CLASA's goals are two-fold: to transform a small archive into an interactive tool for undergraduates and to promote these students' understanding of the interconnectedness of the Americas. By adopting the name of James Guadalupe Carney and by assigning his autobiography to the students who work in and use the archive, CLASA serves as a teaching archive about social justice and human rights in Latin America, not simply as a passive instrument used by established (and credentialed) scholars for attaining knowledge. This mission makes it distinct from other archives at the outset: it encourages the understanding of and promotes solidarity with those immersed in struggle in Latin America.

CLASA is a collection of over 4000 pieces of material derived from 25 years of Latin American solidarity work in the Detroit metropolitan area; it is an archive built by social activists who wish to continue the missions of their groups. In this piece, I examine how CLASA represents a continuum of resistance by discussing its evolution and briefly describing its namesake. Secondly, I turn to why CLASA is important as a continued voice of resistance in the University of Detroit Mercy community.

Carney, Allende, and Detroit

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Demonstration in front of National Congress in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 9 March 1999.

On September 20, 1983, Virginia Smith received a call that her brother had been captured in Honduras. Smith was frightened for her brother but not shocked that he had been captured. She was aware that her brother, Fr. James Guadalupe Carney, had been forced to flee Honduras and that his Honduran citizenship had been revoked due to his activities in peasant organizations (Smith). From the time that the Carney family learned of his disappearance, Smith and her other siblings searched for answers to their brother's capture, disappearance, and murder at the hands of the Honduran security forces.

Fr. Lupe (as he was known) Carney joined 96 Hondurans who comprised the Revolutionary Party of Central American Workers-Honduras (PRDC-H). The PRDC-H organized to help the peasant and poor workers fight for social justice in Honduras (Carney 443). [2] David Arturo Baez Cruz, an ex-Green Beret, led the column, while Carney was its chaplain. While ministering to poor in Honduras, Carney immersed himself in their struggles. During his fifteen (1964-1979) years in Honduras, Carney had given up his U.S. citizenship to become a Honduran citizen as an expression of solidarity with the people that he lived with and worked alongside. Later, he left the Society of Jesus when he was denied permission to serve as chaplain to the PRDC-H. Smith stated that her brother believed that, since the military had chaplains, so too should the guerrillas (Smith). Carney's devotion to the members of the PRDC-H led to his demise.

Carney and his disappearance remain an enigma. This World War II veteran and devout Catholic first went to Honduras to uplift the people and show them how the American way of hard work and industriousness could change their lives. He embraced U.S. anticommunist rhetoric, and yet over time, he became involved in peasant struggles and later wrote his autobiography, To be a Christian is to be a Revolutionary. In this work, he describes his transformation from an anticommunist to a Christian revolutionary. His ideological transformation evolved from his direct experiences with oppression suffered by the Honduran peasants/people at the hands of Honduran elites, United States business people, and/or the Honduran and United States military forces. In an open letter from 1971, Carney wrote:

The driving force in my life is hate. I hate injustice, and I hate hypocrisy. I hate doing something or dressing, or acting, or talking in any way just because most people do it that way. I hate the bourgeois, American, way of life, keeping up with the Joneses, the sophisticated, cocktail party, Playboy Club, comfort-seeking Great Society. I hate the way blacks, Indians, dark-skinned foreigners are treated and kept marginated [sic]. I hate the way the United States tries to control all the countries of the world, and world trade, for its benefit, trying to export our materialistic way of life to other countries. I hate and resent the way rich and middle-class Americans and Hondurans can live in big, comfortable houses, have cars, land, and education, while my brothers and sisters are forced to live as they do...After what I've seen of worldwide reality, I have to rebel against that (Carney xv). [3]

His ideological enemies saw him as a threat, while his supporters see him as a martyr for the struggle. [4] While his death remains shrouded in mystery, his life and his ideas found support throughout the Midwest (see both Connolly and Connolly, and Mulligan).

Carney's life served as a model for many Latin American solidarity groups that operated in metropolitan Detroit from the 1970s into the mid 1990s. In wake of the U.S.-supported overthrow of democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973, a group named the Latin American Task Force formed in Detroit to express its rage at the policies of their government and to offer its solidarity to Chileans (Rooney). [5] Over the years, other such groups would form in the Detroit area. In the wake of United States involvement in El Salvador, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CESPES) formed in the 1980s. However, it was at the offices of the Michigan Inter-faith Committee for Central American Human Rights (MICAH) that Carney's name was first commemorated in its James Guadalupe Carney Central American Resource Library. It is from these groups and these activists that CLASA emerged. In December of 1999, representatives from these groups donated their materials to the University of Detroit with the sole condition that it remain intact and not be dispersed to the general library collection (Shultz). [6] As a nonprofit and solidarity group, the donors had only the collection to offer and no financial backing. Other institutions had turned away the potential gift since they found they would have to maintain it financially. The University of Detroit Mercy, however, had a personal interest in housing the collection. [7] Carney attended the University of Detroit (U of D), and it was at U of D where he initiated the process to become a Jesuit. Like Carney, many of the members in the solidarity groups, both clergy and laypeople, also had ties to the University of Detroit.

In winter of 1999, Jean Rooney and Kathleen Schultz, ex-members of MICAH approached me about the collection. While Rooney and Schultz had been interested in donating the collection to UDM, the university had not had a Latin American scholar on faculty since the early 1980s. When Rooney called and asked me if I was interested in the collection, I accepted it without reservation, and then I sought space to house it. My interest in the collection stems from my own teaching philosophy of history in which I incorporate primary sources and research throughout my classes. This collection offers me, as well as my students, materials to illustrate the details of how revolutions played out, United States intervention in the region, and the human rights issues that emerged; and it also offers students an opportunity to see how these events influenced the United States through the formation of solidarity groups and the formation of United States foreign policy.

The pedagogical focus of this archive builds upon the work of Carney and solidarity activists. Many of these social activists in Detroit were influenced by the social movements of the 1950s and 1960s, as were many Latin American scholars (Weinstein). In the pamphlets, letters, and documents of CLASA, a history of resistance and social justice is found; yet, the purpose of CLASA resists the main purpose of an archive: as a depository of information. Instead, this archive builds upon Carney's tradition of blending research, study, and work with another purpose: the pursuit of social justice. Much of the material was used to raise consciousness throughout the Midwest about the events in Central America. The documents contained in the collection reflect the membership of the solidarity groups, many of whom were Catholics committed to liberation theology.

The organizational style of CLASA also rebels against the hierarchical archive structure. The archive is staffed completely by undergraduate students: Fernando Cazáres, Gerald Klebesch, Aimé López, and Hector Sifuentes. They have catalogued all the materials by using the Library of Congress numbering system; they designed the database and spreadsheet; they investigated grant opportunities; they assisted in the organization of the opening; and they run the archive. Their knowledge of the collection and its organization allows them to assist students and scholars who are working in CLASA. Because the archive is staffed primarily by students and because of its location on the same floor as classrooms, other students feel comfortable inquiring about the purpose of the archive and perusing the shelves.

Since CLASA focuses on the history and promotion of solidarity, the archive also serves a social purpose by hosting events that contribute to the collection. In its first year, CLASA has already hosted Dr. James Cockcroft, Fr. Joe Mulligan, members of the Carney family, representatives from El Salvador's Generación XXI led by its cofounder Jorge Alberto (Coco) Salamanca Carrillo, a Salvadoran citizen, and Matt Eisen, a US citizen. [8] The visitors have continued to promote ideas that represent Carney and the work of CLASA: solidarity with people in struggle, human rights, and questioning of United States' policies toward Latin America.

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Demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 31 October, 1997.

Recently in the area of Latin American history, there have been debates surrounding the paradigm shifts away from a social history traditionally viewed as embedded in historical materialism to a cultural history that embraces postmodern theory. While the cultural history and implications of the past in Latin America are important and must be studied, this collection reflects the continued importance of social and economic circumstances in Latin America that contributed to revolution, human rights movement, and the continuing search for social justice. It also provides CLASA students with a glimpse of recent Latin American and United States history. Students' use of CLASA materials and events bring to light certain preconceptions they often have regarding Latin American and the United States. Teaching Latin American history is always a challenge, particularly when discussing U.S.-Latin American relations because students want to believe the rhetoric of the United States as the defender of democratic ideals in the world. CLASA's mission is not to completely undermine students' beliefs in the United States government, but to provide evidence to suggest that some other, less discussed, truths also exist.

Because of students' work with CLASA and because of a final project option in my Latin American history course in which students could go with Campus Ministry to the School of the Americas protest, students' ideas often begin to shift. Thus, the materials and events sponsored by CLASA as well as experiential learning have contributed to students' questioning some of their previously held "truths." For many of the students, the trip to Columbus, Georgia to protest the School of the Americas was their first political demonstration and their first form of political resistance. [9] Two students joined 2100 other activists crossing into the base. They were detained and processed for trespassing; for these two students, it was their first time engaging in civil disobedience. Another student, originally from Guatemala, stayed with those who wished to engage in civil disobedience, not to trespass, but to talk to other Guatemalans about the ties between the Guatemalan civil war and the SOA.

Once the students returned to Detroit, they submitted their final papers regarding the demonstration. One student majoring in History wrote:

Before taking a Latin American history class, I too had a generic view of U.S.-Latin American relations...Being young and not having previous knowledge, I assumed that these reports and stories were correct. Why should I think that my government, the government of the free and democratic would lie to me? What would they have to hide; they were doing the right thing. According to these reports, we were the "big brother" of Latin America; we protected them against Communist ideals. We also helped them by giving them financial aid to help struggling economies. We also gave the countries of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia large amounts of U.S. money to help combat the on-going war on drugs. We were the saviors of Latin America. We knew what was right for them even if they did not. And, if they would not listen to us on their own, we would force them to cooperate because we always knew what was best for them. Now that I think about it, it was like some deranged mother-child relationship...Now looking back on what I thought, I thought that everyone from these countries were backward, uneducated, and inept. I never questioned these views.... (Sasinowski)

Another student majoring in Engineering wrote:

The United States government dumbfounded me recently when I discovered what the government and military are doing to oppress Latin Americans in their attempts to rise above poverty and to live freely. I do not agree with all the money that is being sent to Latin American countries to "combat" the supposed problems that happen in these countries. I strongly feel that aid should be given to countries, but not in the forms the Latin American government are utilizing them now. We, United States citizens, should inform our congressmen and government officials that we do not approve of the type of aid they are giving to Latin American countries, and instruct them to change the manner in which they are operating ...We should send the majority of money to nonprofit organizations, so they might be able to further help people in their endeavors. These are the organizations that are helping the people in enormous ways and have little or no money to do so (Dybas).

Throughout the semester, the students in the class who participated in the CLASA-sponsored events and went to the demonstration sought to understand contemporary issues in Latin America and the involvement of the United States there. They were not easy sells. They questioned visitors, and in many cases, students disagreed with some of the ideas and the opinions of their peers and professor. However, as imperfect a process that it was, undergraduate students began to see beyond the CNN broadcast news and question what they heard by using materials from a small, poorly funded archive. By making possible the new perceptions, CLASA has resisted the narrow approaches to research and has become a tool to foster debate and exchange ideas regarding Latin America, social justice, and human rights. To have undergraduates researching and pursuing their own truths is truly a revolutionary idea, and one that reawakens the voices contained in the archive, not solely for the benefit of scholars, but for the continuation of the resistance and solidarity movements to which activists, such as Carney, committed their lives.

Works Cited

Booth, Wayne, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995.

Carney, James Guadalupe. To Be a Christian is to Be a Revolutionary. New York: Harper, 1985.

Connolly, W. Joseph and Eileen Carney Connolly. "The Family Report on the Investigation of Padre Guadalupe's Disappearance, Tegucigalpa Honduras." Carney Latin American Solidarity Archive (CLASA). 10 October 1983.

Dybas, Thomas. "SOA Journal: What is the Job of the School?" Student paper. Fall 2000.

Mulligan, Joseph. Letter to Senator Christopher Dodd. CLASA. 25 April 2000.

Rooney, Jean. Personal Interview. Detroit, MI. 22 March 2000.

Sasinowski, Chris. "SOA Journal." Student paper. Fall 2000.

Shultz, Kathleen, IHM. Personal Interview. Detroit, MI. 19 December 1999.

Smith, Virginia, Personal Interview. Beverly Hills, MI. 16 June 2000.

Weinstein, Barbara. "Buddy Can you Spare a Paradigm: Reflections on Generation Shifts and Latin American History," Presented at the Conference of Latin American Historians Luncheon. Boston, MA. 5 January 2001.

1. For the purpose of history, see the American Historical Association's Constitution, Article I, which states the purpose of the organization to be "the promotion of historical studies through the encouragement of research, teaching, and publication; the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts; the dissemination of historical records and information; the broadening of historical knowledge among the general public; and the pursuit of kindred activities in the interest of history."

2. See "Epilogue: What Happened to Padre Guadalupe," in Carney's To Be a Christian is to Be a Revolutionary.

3. In "An Open Letter to American friends, Jesuits and non-Jesuits," in To Be A Christian, Carney opened the letter with "I love all of you, and I think you're wonderful loving people, but I can't stand living with any of you."

4. In a COFADEH poster for the International Week of the Disappeared, Carney name is listed. (COFADEH poster. Carney Latin American Solidarity Archive. 31 May 2000.)

5. Dr. Jean Rooney was one of the founders of the Latin American Task Force.

6. Kathleen Schultz, IHM, was an one of the activist in CESPES and MICAH.

7. The University of Detroit and Mercy College merged in 1990. The combined school adopted the name University of Detroit Mercy.

8. James Cockcroft has written numerous books on Latin American history. His latest work is the Salvador Allende Reader (Ocean Press, 2000). Joe Mulligan, SJ, works with non-governmental organizations in Nicaragua. He has continued to work with the Carney family regarding the disappearance of Lupe Carney. Generación XXI is an organization that helps at risk youth in El Salvador. Coco Salamanca Carillo and Matthew Eisen visited a number of universities during the fall of 2000. They are now involved in earthquake relief efforts for El Salvador. Eisen has also been active on the Carney case. He participated in a hunger strike with Joe Mulligan. (See photo).

9. The School of the Americas recently changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. For more information, see the Schools of the Americas Watch website