Documenting + Digital + Dreaming = Archives

I haven’t written much about my work in Ecuador before, but the Cañar Digital Archive is so central to my life here, and so close to my heart- where it will remain for years to come, I suspect – that I thought I’d write about it. Also, I’ve just received a Fulbright grant for 2015-16, giving me a great boost of hope and enthusiasm for the project.

my scans 2013084 men with level  Early images, circa 1992

Having been a documentarian of Cañar life off and on since 1991, my own archive of materials – videos, music recordings, documents, oral histories and thousands of photographs – long ago reached a critical mass. And then there are others who have so generously shared a piece of their Cañar history. Peace Corps volunteers from the late 1960s found me on the web and sent documents and some 300 color images, many beautiful Kodachrome slides. These then-young people, with their idealism and Pentax cameras, captured a Cañar that was in the process of cataclysmic change. New agrarian reform laws were demanding land redistribution to indigenous communities after nearly 500 years of serfdom. A few Peace Corps volunteers were sent to Cañar to help create agricultural cooperatives and initiate leadership training. (They were eventually ousted as “communists” by mean-spirited townsfolk.)

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Two years ago, I contacted Danish anthropologists Niels Fock and Eva Krener, who had done research in the early 1970s in a village about 15 miles from Cañar that seemed locked in time even then. They sent me over 500 scanned images, and we are about to print a Spanish version of their book, “Juncal: An Indian Community in Ecuador,” originally published in Denmark in 1976.

Juncal_1973-74_0008 Juncal_1973-74_0297

The family of the town photographer, Rigoberto Navas, who for fifty years faithfully recorded marriages, baptisms, funerals and everyday life in and around Cañar has given me permission to print Navas’s glass plates and early celluloid negatives. These images provide us a incredible visual history of the region and an era that would otherwise have been lost forever on the dusty shelves of his studio.

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I’ve known for several years that I had to do something. Almost all these materials are now digitized, but stored in growing towers of external hard drives on closet shelves in Portland, on hard drives here in Cañar that I guard with my life and struggle to keep up to date, and on my two laptops.

Fortunately my need to codify Cañar cultural history, and make it available locally and on the Internet, coincides with a surge of interest in community digital archives, public access, open source software, and some wonderful archivists at academic institutions in the U.S. willing to be my collaborators. In fact, a group from the Society of American Archivists interested in Latin America are planning a trip to Ecuador in September – with a stop in Cañar to give a helping hand! I intend to be here.

All right – back to the present and living color. As I write, a bird flies under the glass roof and into the patio. Acting as if she owns it, she looks for bugs in the spiky flowers of the macho aloe, then takes a little bath in the fountain. I knew it would fly when I went for my camera, but here’s my view.patio viewAnd here’s what she was after:

aloe flowerFinally, I know you’re waiting to hear more about Michael’s experiences in his new cook shack. Let’s ask him: “I’m trying a new recipe for gP1080156rilled chicken for visitors coming on Monday,” he says. First, the marinade/paste: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup fresh orange juice, 3 cloves of garlic minced, 6 whole grains black peppercorns, 1.5 t dried oregano, 1.5 t cumin, 1 T fresh chopped fresh cilantro, .5 t salt. Put in mini-blender or mortar and pestle and mash or liquify. Add heaping T of achiote (Mexico condiment) or mild paprika and stir into a paste. Salt chicken pieces (skinless, boneless breast in my case) or pork or other meat. Slater paste over surface and leave overnight in fridge before barbecuing. ¡Buen provecho!


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12 thoughts on “Documenting + Digital + Dreaming = Archives

  1. Hola Judy and Michael,
    Congratulations to both of you for your projects. Judy, great news about the Fulbright and all the interest by others. Michael, the cook shack looks like a wonderful place to try new recipes/cook. I admire both of you for all your efforts in many realms.

  2. Congratulations on the Fulbright! This post is a good teaser for your virtual class visit in two weeks.

  3. Judy y Miguel, Hola! Between stupendous photographic archives and feats of culinary legerdemanin, you two are the Andean incarnations of Franz Boas and Julia Childs. Congrats on the Fullbright grant–and the achiote-slathered chicken.

  4. Way to go on another Fulbright, Judy! Wish I were the visitor for that delicious chicken!

  5. What a great post! Many congratulations on the Fulbright!!! Next up, Michael needs to write a cookbook illustrated with your photographs!!

  6. “So near yet so far” is how I felt last week when I was in Ecuador. It was about the quickest trip on record – arriving Wed. night – departing Saturday at midnight. The only free time I had was a day excursion with friends to Otavalo and San Antonio. Always fun – and amazing scenery. Of course, I’ll have to plan a separate trip to just see you both – and hope to do so one of these days. I’m heading to Honduras, Panama, and Curacao in March (all for work) three countries I’ve never visited, which is amazing considering all the schools in HN,PA that I work with. Curacao should be quite a sight – can’t wait!
    We hosted a dinner last winter of international Fulbright recipients from 8 different countries – all studying in the USA in different states – but coming as a group through PDX. What a joy! One guy was a 3rd generation Fulbright scholar – his dad and grandfather came before him!
    Sending love your way through the highlands!

  7. Hola Jude.
    Felicitación por tu Fulbright grant para la recuperación de la memoria del pueblo Cañar. Seguimos con placer tus crónicas, excelentes en el contenido y en la forma. A propósito de tu proyecto, te comparto las reflexiones de Vint Cert sobre el tema.
    Ahora, si revisas tus documentos, encontraras que los mejores archivos están en los glass plates, luego en tus negativos, menos en los Kodachrome slides que van perdiendo color y todos ya experimentamos como nuestros archivos digitales cada vez se hacen mas difícil de recuperar.
    Un abrazo para ti y Michael

  8. Congratulations on the Fullbright Judy ! That is just brilliant.

    And I’m drooling as I imagine Michael making his special chicken in that cookshack,

    hasta luego,

    PS> I’m in San Miguel, where I believe you have a sister.

  9. Congratulations on the Fulbright! What amazing valuable work you are doing, continuing, documenting.
    As always, I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog and look forward to the future posts.

  10. Your Fulbright grant will be put to good use I am certain Judy. You have built a wonderful foundation for indigenous culture preservation and distribution through support for education and your publications. The Canari women are at last being recognized.

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