Picturing Mexican America

Welcome to Picturing Mexican America where we’re looking back at the history of Mexican Los Angeles to help us understand our present and undo the systematic erasure of Los Angeles’ Mexican past – in a fun way!

What we’re doing: Since fall of 2018 I have been leading a research team to develop a mobile app that will display images of nineteenth-century, Mexican California relevant to users’ locations. With digital humanities and library staff at UCLA, along with community partners at the Los Angeles Public Library, I have been able to work up a proof-of-concept which led to me becoming an inaugural Scholars and Society Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies in the Spring of 2019.

This has allowed me to work full time on “Picturing Mexican America” for the ’19-’20 academic year. In the spring of 2019, undergraduate researchers helped me to cull data from UCLA’s collections to form the core of my database. “Seeing the Past” highlights some of their archival discoveries. Please explore!

Since then, my research assistants and I continue to add material and metadata to the database, and I have been working with volunteer developers to plot the back-end infrastructure to the front-end design produced for us by Madi Albers, Doreen Farahdel, and TJ Jesrai as part of their course work at General Assembly. They were students then, but available for hire now, and I highly recommend their work!

We are aiming to make a beta version of the app available for a soft launch iby the end of 2020.

Be sure to check us out on Instagram @PicturingMexicanAmerica. We’ll post pictures, stories and videos about our Mexican past and share our adventures with you (it’s not just going to the library!).

Who we are: My name is Marissa López and I’m a Professor of English and Chican@/x Studies at UCLA where I study Chican@/x literature from the 19th century to the present with an emphasis on 19th century Mexican California. I’ve written two books: Chicano Nations (NYU 2011) is about nationalism and Chicanx literature from the early-1800s to post-9/11; Racial Immanence (NYU 2019) explores uses of the body and affect in Chicanx cultural production. Learn more about me HERE.

Our research team includes: Miriam Santana, a senior majoring in English at UCLA; Gabriela Valenzuela and Efren López, PhD candidates in English at UCLA; and Citlali Sosa-Riddell, Associate Professor of Hisotry at Pierce College.  Yvonne Condes, a Los Angeles-based journalist and blogger, handles PMA’s publicity and social media. Last, but most certainly not least, Lexi Quint and Tim Urian, tech professionals whom I met through Los Angeles’ civic tech community, coordinate the volunteers building PMA’s backend infrastructure.

Stay informed: Sign up HERE to receive app updates as well as to learn about new podcast releases, chats, and collaborations. Let us know, too, if you have skills to share or are interested in collaborating. We look forward to hearing from you!