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Digital Resources: The Documented Border

Summary and Keywords

The Documented Border: An Open Access Digital Archive combines creative and research strategies to contribute to the digital humanities. Officially launched in October 2014, the project advances understanding about the borderlands between the United States and Mexico and their peoples during a period of unprecedented change. As a repository and interactive tool, the open-access archive is useful for faculty and student research, journalists, and the community at large.

Currently, the archive divides into two parts. The first part focuses on journalists and human rights activists, and it includes the oral histories of journalists who cover northern Mexico from both sides of the border and human rights activists who are working to improve freedom of expression in Mexico. More than a hundred journalists in Mexico have been murdered since 2000. The oral histories help to illuminate the complex environment in which journalists must work as they negotiate between political and economic forces and the need to inform the public. The second part of the archive features the inner workings of US immigration policies through the documentation (artists’ illustrations) of Operation Streamline, a “streamlined” federal-court proceeding in which a judge determines the status of migrants who are detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

A unique aspect of the Documented Border is its living-archive status. As archives in general struggle to close the gap in the representation of underrepresented communities in the historical record, the Documented Border Digital Archive has gotten in front of current research and primary-source documentation. The archive not only presents the documentation being created by interdisciplinary researchers in digital form but also donates it to the institution to ensure long-term preservation and access. The project forms part of the Borderlands Collection of the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections.

Keywords: U.S.-Mexico border, journalist, human rights, activist, University of Arizona, migration, digital humanities, Mexico, violence, press

Genesis of the Documented Border Project

History, and those who define it, shapes the ways that we understand or in some cases misunderstand contested zones such as the United States–Mexico border region. By the same token, members of the news media have, both historically and contemporarily, concomitantly aided in the production of the “moral geography” of the borderlands.1 The participants in this project define moral geography as a contested space where ethical choices are made about “a particular people and place, and . . . also an ‘internal logic’ that belongs to a particular people and place.”2 The concept remains essential to our approach to documenting and preserving what has often been overlooked and thus not included in the dominant moral geography of the region. The archive stands as a new narrative of the developing, evolving, and living history of one of the most significant geopolitical regions in the world.

Officially launched in October 2014, the Documented Border: An Open Access Digital Archive began as an interdisciplinary effort by University of Arizona faculty from the School of Journalism and the School of Art and the borderlands curator at the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections. The project combines multiple creative and research strategies in an effort to generate an innovative contribution to the growing field of digital humanities.

The creators of the project recognize that since the delineation of the US-Mexico border, first in 1848, through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and again in 1854, through the Gadsden Purchase, the borderlands have been portrayed in both entertainment media and news media, often stereotypically, as a site of danger. These portrayals limit and force a skewed perspective on the region. Broader and deeper understandings are needed, and open access primary source material can provide opportunities for research and scholarship. Journalists, researchers, photographers, authors, and others hold valuable source material that is relevant to contemporary issues and provides firsthand accounts of various aspects of the borderlands. Those who study the region can benefit from the availability of additional open-source material that more accurately represents a variety of issues, from economic development to tourism, culture, historical contexts, issues of immigration, journalistic enterprises, and other salient subjects.

In general, the historical record is maintained through the existence of archival repositories. Whereas archival repositories traditionally receive material at the end of a lifecycle, they are now positioning themselves to handle valuable current and dynamic archival materials. The Documented Border Archive was developed in the spirit of providing access to source material relevant to current issues and research.

In 2013–2014, University of Arizona journalism professors Celeste González de Bustamante and Jeannine Relly conducted dozens of oral interviews with journalists covering both sides of the US-Mexico border and facing threats of violence and with human rights activists working to improve conditions for journalists around the world. Incidents of kidnappings and threats against journalists have increased significantly, especially after Mexico’s then president, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa took office in December 2006, at which time he launched a “war” against organized crime groups.3 Since then, Mexico has ranked as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for working journalists. According to the human rights organization Article 19, more than 112 journalists in Mexico were killed between 2000 and 2017. Although González de Bustamante and Relly’s research was still ongoing at the time of the archive’s launch, they recognized that the data they were gathering would also be valuable to other scholars and to the public, and that these two constituencies needed to have access to it right away.

At the same time that Professors González de Bustamante and Relly were collecting data, University of Arizona art professor Lawrence Gipe was sketching migrants going through deportation proceedings in federal courts and detention centers in Arizona, and he wanted to provide the public with access to his work. Although violence against journalists and deportation proceedings for migrants are two distinct areas of study, both represent critical research areas and document the border in important ways. Because González de Bustamante and Relly are both researchers and professors teaching future journalists, their work and data are of particular importance to increasing understanding about the news media in conflict regions and can serve to guide journalists unfamiliar to the border region.

As borderlands curator for the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections, Veronica Reyes-Escudero’s goal is to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, to increase understanding of the US-Mexico borderlands through these sorts of partnerships and the archives acquired, and to provide the “widest possible diversity of documentary perspectives on our society.”4 The collection generated by the inclusion of research conducted by González de Bustamante and Relly and Gipe’s work is both contemporary and dynamic, and provides documentation of relevant issues and events for contemporary and future scholars.

Development of the Documented Border

Four US states and six Mexican states make up the borderlands. The border zone (extending 100 kilometers on both sides of the international boundary) is inhabited by more than thirty-one million people, and the total population of the border states in both nations comprises more than ninety million people.5 Since its formation, the almost two-thousand-mile-long boundary between the United States and Mexico has become known as a place of collaboration and contestation. A century and a half after being created, the US-Mexico borderlands continue to fascinate journalists, artists, and scholars alike. In the second decade of the 21st century, documenting the border became more challenging and necessary than ever.

Gaps in vital information about what occurs on both sides of the line exist. On the US side, journalists and scholars are not allowed to record the federal-court proceedings of suspected undocumented border crossers. The public thus has little understanding about what happens to those caught up in the process of Operation Streamline, a program funded by the US Office of Homeland Security that results in mass deportations. On the Mexican side, freedom of expression is under attack as journalists are silenced by drug traffickers and corrupt government officials. Citizens in Mexico and the United States are misinformed or unaware about daily events because of the unprecedented levels of “silence.” Gipe and González de Bustamante discovered that they were concurrently working on these two “gaps” in knowledge about the border and the policies that shape the lived experiences of the borderlands’ inhabitants.

During this time, the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections had an internal program that fit well within the scope of what the project team intended. The Borderlands Cultural Communities Program was developed in line with the University of Arizona Libraries and the university’s 2010 to 2014 strategic plans. The program was intended to support the university’s strategic goal of “increasing Achievements in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Expression” in the areas of “Southwest, Native American, Borderlands, and Latin American Studies.” The university’s subsequent strategic plan continued to reflect “the opportunities afforded by the university’s unique geographic location in the deserts of the U.S.-Mexico border region.”6 This internal program updated the Libraries’ past efforts by including current practice of providing access to our cultural community material through digital means. “The Documented Border” proposal represented a logical and significant addition to and extension of already established practices and archival structures of the Special Collections. Connecting the project to established strategic plans helped to ensure long-term commitment from all the units involved.

For decades, the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections has been committed to providing digital access to primary source materials that document the people, places, and events that make up the geographic area known as the US-Mexico borderlands. The first digital effort was undertaken in 1997 with Southwestern Wonderland, a diverse collection of printed ephemera of the Southwest United States, when only a handful of repositories nationwide were beginning to recognize the potential of the web as means of disseminating primary source materials. More recent digital projects that relate to the borderlands include Morales de Escárcega Digital Collection and its exhibition Páginas de la historia de México: Excerpts from the Morales de Escárcega Collection; La Vida Fronteriza: Church, Economy and Daily Life. . ., and Travel Report by Padre Eusebio Kino, in addition to library-wide collaborations that resulted in the Historic Mexican and Mexican American Press digital collection.

Many institutions still work on discrete projects rather than within an established digital humanities program. Digital humanities projects range from the complex (such as Virtual Harlem) to less ambitious digital exhibitions.7 These projects intend, at minimum, to provide access to humanities and social science research and, frequently, to primary source content. Kutay and others suggest that “a services framework provides a point of structured mediation through which needs are articulated and solutions applied.”8 If these projects are to become sustainable, they must to fit within a programmatic framework and have a long-term commitment to the program. At the same time, opportunities and faculty needs compel units inside institutions to work collaboratively on a case-by-case basis. Although a programmatic approach has yet to be established at some institutions, having a framework for open-access research and primary sources enables institutions to commit to digital humanities projects such as the Documented Border Archive, which was established as a fully digital component intended to provide access to current primary sources that document various historically overlooked or underrepresented aspects and voices from the US-Mexico border.

The digital archive was developed by the project team, content providers, and a digital initiatives archivist, who worked in conjunction with programmers. In early discussions, the project team established the desire to make the oral interviews and sketches available in an open-access environment. The University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections had already established an open-access platform through Omeka. Nevertheless, it was imperative that the project’s team leaders have discussions with the programmers and the digital initiatives archivist to establish an understanding of the functional requirements. Although Omeka had previously been established as the access platform, the Libraries would need to establish another platform for the oral interviews and to create an embedded streaming system between the sound system and Omeka. The Libraries’ digital initiatives archivist chose SoundCloud, an audio streaming service developed in Berlin in 2007. Other functional requirements were discussed with the Libraries’ programmers. The initial launch would be a simple exhibition on the front end, and technical infrastructure to support future additions to the digital archive would be built on the back end.

Operators, Supporters, and Funding

The Documented Border Digital Archive was established with seed funding from one of five Faculty Innovation grants awarded by the University of Arizona’s Confluencenter for Innovative Inquiry in spring 2013. The $25,000 award enabled the research and creative activity that led to the first major donations to the archive, funded the development of the website and the processing of materials and collections, and supported an official launch event, in October 2014.

The grant funding enabled González de Bustamante and Relly to finish key interviews with Mexican journalists working in some of the most challenging and dangerous regions of the border, such as in the states of Chihuahua and, in particular, Tamaulipas. The interviews enable archive users to gain a better understanding of the complex and myriad factors influencing the journalists, who functioned as cultural authorities in the region, and the constraints under which they had to operate as they attempted to fulfill their responsibility to inform the public.9 The Confluencenter grant allowed Gipe to double the number of court drawings that he produced. The outcome was nearly forty drawings depicting part of the journey taken by detainees. The funding also defrayed costs of an exhibition and catalog of the works. The catalogue, Operation Streamline: An Illustrated Reader, was published in consultation with designers from the university’s Book Arts/Letterpress program. Gipe’s drawings (both original sketches and digital copies) were added to the archive, providing the parameters for the image-based entries of the Documented Border.

Structure, Organization, and Functionality

Both the “Celeste González de Bustamante and Jeannine Relly Collection” and the “Lawrence Gipe Operation Streamline Collection” were donated to Special Collections at the University of Arizona Libraries. Whereas at some university repositories, the archive’s creators may keep the original items without establishment of any preservation expectations for future decades, the materials were donated to Special Collections in order for the institution to consider long-term preservation and stewardship of both the physical and digital assets in the collections. Special Collections was tasked with building the digital archive, providing arrangements and descriptions for the collections, providing access and long-term stewardship, as is customary with any collection donated to an archive. For the digital archive, Special Collections was further tasked with digitizing the physical items, ingesting the digital assets, ensuring space for long-term preservation, providing descriptive metadata, and ensuring an open-access platform through which the items could be accessed.

Both collections are now openly available through The Documented Border: An Open Access Digital Archive. There are multiple access points, such as WorldCat; the University of Arizona Libraries’ website, which includes records for each of the collections in the Libraries catalog; and on the Special Collections website. However, given user expectations and practice, it was imperative that the descriptive metadata associated with the items lent themselves to facilitating the location of these items in the digital archive through web browser searches. Without transcriptions of the audio interviews, metadata for the interviews would be limited to the interviewees’ and interviewers’ names, length of the interview, language, and location of interview. To that end, Special Collections staff was tasked with listening to the all the interviews and providing summaries of those that were, on average an hour long. This also allowed for adding keywords and tags to the interview records in SoundCloud, the open-access platform that was used to upload the interviews. The “Lawrence Gipe Operation Streamline” materials were also minimally described. As such Special Collections staff was tasked with ascribing metadata to the item records. Library of Congress subject headings, though they often considered outdated, were used in order to provide consistency to the descriptors. An effort to provide more current terminology in the form of tags is ongoing. These efforts ensure richer metadata and add to the discoverability of digitized archival material.

Most digital humanities projects go through a process of choosing an appropriate platform to support a given product. The University of Arizona Libraries has established a set of platforms to support various types of products, given a variety of requirements. When choosing a platform, it is always important to consider ease of use; whether the platform has attractive out-of-the-box templates; the level of customization; and whether the platform is supported by the institutional partner, supports current standards, and supports open-access. The Omeka system offers flexibility in display through the choice from among one of the product’s preexisting themes. A look at the Documented Border’s main page (see figure 1) shows the simple, functional, and elegant layout and organization.

Digital Resources: The Documented BorderClick to view larger

Figure 1. Interviews on SoundCloud embedded in the Omeka platform. Shown here is a partial listing of interviews with Ninfa Deándar Martínez, Luis Antonio Cardona Galindo, and Salvador Esparza García.

Journalist and human rights activist interviewees provided demographic data: education, age, job title, and years of practice, as well as how they got their start in journalism. Many of the activists whose interviews are in the archive had experience reporting. Interviewees include veteran border reporters such as Alfredo Corchado, foreign correspondent for the Dallas Morning News; Ninfa Deándar Martínez, director general of El Mañana de Nuevo Laredo; Rocío Gallegos Rodríguez, editor-in-chief of El Diario de Juárez; Jason Buch, immigration and border reporter for the San Antonio Express-News; and Adela Navarro, editor-in-chief of Zeta, a weekly magazine published in Tijuana. These important figures in the field of journalism (many of them women) discuss journalistic coverage along the border and historical perceptions of changes in coverage along the border, as well as the issues of self-censorship due to threats of violence, safety, and women in the field; challenges of covering the border during the drug war; and the ethics of the coverage of the drug war.

In his interview, El Mañana de Nuevo Laredo editor-in-chief Ramón Dario Cantú Deándar (figure 2), whose family has run that paper, whose offices are located just south of Laredo, Texas, in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, for almost a hundred years, explained that journalists from the paper have been murdered and that he and his staff continue be pressured by organized crime groups:

Right now, to date there are still problems. They censor us about some things, including demanding that we publish some reports that are against their enemies, which is very dangerous . . . really dangerous. And, we are between threats and trying to maintain our dignity, taking care of our readers, and our journalists and our staff. And it hasn’t been easy, but I’m not complaining!

Digital Resources: The Documented BorderClick to view larger

Figure 2. An item-level record of the interview with journalist Ramón Cantú. Includes a Spanish–English bilingual summary.

Cantú talked about his deep commitment to keeping his family’s business alive, yet at the same time explained that he and other members of his family have moved north of the border to Laredo, Texas, for their own personal safety. Currently, the news outlet has offices in Laredo, Texas, as well as Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.

Cantú’s and other interviews were uploaded on SoundCloud, which was chosen for its ease of use and capability of being embedded into Omeka, and because it is an open-access platform. Originally developed for musicians to stream and share their music, SoundCloud is also valuable for a variety of fields and disciplines because it allows users to embed audio into digital collections.

Another step taken to make the archive as accessible as possible is to provide information in Spanish. For example, the user sees a summary of each interview in both English and Spanish. Bilingual summaries make the records discoverable to a broader audience and are an indicator of the project team’s goal of making the archive accessible to those living on both sides of the US-Mexico border irrespective of the language they speak and read.

Similarly structured as the journalists’ collection, the sketches by Lawrence Gipe are available in the section titled “Documenting ‘Operation Streamline’”, the other major component of the online archive (see figure 3).

Digital Resources: The Documented BorderClick to view larger

Figure 3. An overview of illustrated renditions of the Operation Streamline proceedings by Lawrence Gipe. Reproduced with permission from Lawrence Gipe.

Courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections.

The “Introduction” link provides a summary of Gipe’s work, followed by two pages of his artwork. The sketches appear in the order in which they were donated and match the order in which they appear in the finding aid for the Lawrence Gipe Operation Streamline Sketches collection of the Arizona Archives Collection website. When Gipe made a note on a sketch, such as “6 children—all American citizens” (figure 4) or “Caught visiting his newly-born daughter” (figure 5), Special Collections used those statements as titles and captions for the sketch. In most cases, the illustrations remained “untitled” (figure 6). This is standard practice in archival processing. In a digital environment, however, all descriptive metadata provide additional discoverability. In this case, the digital archive is set up in an exhibition style, which makes it possible to include captions. Because most of the sketches were untitled, Special Collections staff added captions that described the illustration, in an effort to increase discoverability.

Digital Resources: The Documented BorderClick to view larger

Figure 4. “6 children—all American citizens.” Reproduced with permission from Lawrence Gipe.

Courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections.

Digital Resources: The Documented BorderClick to view larger

Figure 5. “Caught visiting his newly-born daughter.” Reproduced with permission from Lawrence Gip.

Courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections.

Digital Resources: The Documented BorderClick to view larger

Figure 6. “Untitled.” Woman shown from behind, with shackled feet. Reproduced with permission from Lawrence Gip.

Courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections.

The user can click on the image to view the sketch in a larger JPEG format. In keeping with the open-access platform, users are free to use the image for research, but the artist retains the copyright, as is stated in the “Rights” field in the item-level record. Requests for publication or broadcast permissions are referred to Lawrence Gipe.

Subject Content and Coverage

The Documented Border Archive addresses two main gaps in the contemporary history of the US-Mexico borderlands, both having connections to human rights issues in the region. First, the archive provides research and data in the area of freedom of expression and violence in the US-Mexico borderlands. Over the past fifteen years, since Mexico’s dominant political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was ousted from power in 2000, more than 110 journalists have been murdered; dozens have been kidnapped, and dozens more are seeking asylum in Mexico City or outside the country.10 Not surprisingly, news coverage about organized crime has diminished, and in some cases, there have been complete “news blackouts” following threats of violence against journalists.11 Despite the recognition that the country and its journalists are in the midst of a historic crisis, scholars are just beginning to examine the subjects of the news media, violence, and organized crime.

In fall 2011, Dr. González de Bustamante and Dr. Relly began conducting research on Mexican and US journalists who cover northern Mexico, examining the factors that influence journalists and their work at this critical juncture in time.12 Their findings, published in scholarly articles and, eventually a book, are resulting in contributions that explain how the news industry has changed since 2000, and are essential for scholars of political science, anthropology, media studies and journalism, oral historians, and Latin America. Their work has resulted in one of the first systematic studies on how journalists on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border have fared during the height of violence in the region, and the impacts of violence on communities and those whose job it is to inform the public.

Second, the archive contributes to the study of migration, law and policy, and art. Through artist drawings, this section of the archive documents the process by which thousands of undocumented immigrants are moved through federal immigration court, and the lack of legal support the receive. The Department of Homeland security introduced the program known as Operation Streamline in 2005, with the goal of making the processing of migrant cases and deportations more efficient. The program has come under fire for being wasteful, cruel, and potentially unconstitutional. In the summer of 2012, University of Arizona journalism master’s student Sam McNeil began to write a report examining some of the details of Operation Streamline in a course taught by González de Bustamante that focused on borderlands reporting. Because photography is prohibited in federal court, McNeil understood that there would not be a visual component to the report unless drawings could be made. He began collaborating with Professor Gipe, who agreed to illustrate the courtroom proceedings and to be interviewed in a video news report conducted by McNeil’s colleague and fellow journalism student Josh Morgan.

Gipe created a series of drawings that depicted the courtroom scenes and conditions of shackled detainees as they awaited processing. As a final project in González de Bustamante’s borderlands reporting course, McNeil and Morgan produced a video titled Illustrating Operation Streamline, which featured interviews with deportees in Mexico and Gipe’s images. The video was published on the Arizona Sonora News Service, the blog End Streamline, and Truthout (an online news outlet with 200,000 followers), along with the finished report.13

In February 2013, Gipe’s images were used by critically acclaimed performance artist Denise Uyehara in a lecture at Pomona College, and in October of 2015, his images were part of an exhibition at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago. The original drawings and enlarged reproductions appeared in an exhibition at the Special Collections launch of the Documented Border website. This coverage of Gipe’s work helps to fill in a gap in the public knowledge of and to deepen understanding about the border and US immigration policy through art.


Just one year after launch, in October 2014, it was clear that the archive was being used by academics, students, and journalism professionals. Statistics of use are gathered primarily using Google Analytics, which tracks the Documented Border Archive Omeka site, and SoundCloud.

Through Google Analytics the project team was able to track interactions with the digital archive site over the first fourteen months. Google Analytics tracks the number of visits or page views per page on the site. Data show that the introductory page received over 630 page views, of which just over 400 were unique views, and more than 230 entrances into the website. Combined, the interviews with journalists and human rights activists received over 537 page views, nearly 400 of them unique visitors, during that first fourteen months. The introductory page for “Documenting Operation Streamline,” received 195 page views with 129 unique visitors. Both pages of Gipe’s sketches combined received over 750 page views with nearly 300 unique visitors. These numbers represent a promising start.

SoundCloud refers to its content as “sounds.” For purposes of keeping the language consistent, we refer to oral interviews in the archive as both “interviews” and “sounds.” SoundCloud offers easy tracking analytics that compile the number of plays per sound and other interactions. The free version offers a tally of plays and types of interactions with the sounds in the collection, such as the numbers of downloads, of likes, and of comments. The analytics also gather top plays by geographic and Internet location. The SoundCloud analytics graph in Figure 7 shows one year’s worth of analytics for one of the sounds in the collection, an audio interview with Victor Hugo Castillo. The analytics page from SoundCloud for the Castillo interview shows a total of 447 plays. The sound was mostly played within the United States, with 246 plays, followed by 176 plays from users in Mexico, as well as plays from sixteen other countries in South America, Central America, and North America, as well as Europe. Not shown in Figure 7 but also available are the number of cities in the various countries from which the sound was accessed, which included 175 cities from around the world.

Digital Resources: The Documented BorderClick to view larger

Figure 7. SoundCloud Analytics graph of an audio interview with Victor Hugo Castillo.

Reproduced with permission of SoundCloud.

Among other interactions, the analytics provide data on the access points to the interviews on SoundCloud—that is, how web users “arrived” at the sounds. The analytics show that the sound clips for the Castillo interview were mostly accessed directly from the University of Arizona Libraries SoundCloud collection, and that the Documented Border Archive was the fifth most common access point for this particular interview. The project team has noted that, in contrast to the Castillo interview, the majority of interview interactions occurred within the Documented Border Digital Archive site. Hovering over the dots on the graph generates a real-time statistic displaying the number of interactions for a particular month. In the case of Victor Castillo’s interview on SoundCloud, seventy-one plays were recorded in May 2015 alone (figure 7).

Also of note is the list of web applications used in accessing the interview, which should be taken into consideration in the development of future enhancements to the site, and in informing the team about user demographics. Having the audio interviews, such as these in SoundCloud, in a platform primarily used by musicians and music lovers, has increased the potential reach to audiences that fall outside of the traditional users and thus further enhances discoverability.

The project team is aware of professors of history, journalism, and Latin America in the United States and Mexico who have used the archive as a teaching tool in their classes. One history professor used the material for a course entitled “Death and Dying in the Americas.” Students in Mexico have consulted the archive for research projects on journalism and violence. Professional journalists in Mexico and the United States are also finding the archive to be of value. The statistics from both Google Analytics and SoundCloud analytics offer an overview of use, which demonstrates there is consistent interaction with the content in the Documented Border Archive.

Future Directions

Since its inception, those involved with the project have kept the future of the archive in mind. As a collaborative effort, the Documented Border is ripe for enhancements and expansion. The project team has discussed several opportunities, from expanding the materials in the collection and increasing interactivity to on-campus educational and community outreach activities.

Once funding is secured, the team intends to move forward on plans to develop a mapping component to the archive. Interactive maps that reveal data on violence and migration in northern Mexico and the US Southwest will help to put the archive’s materials into a geographical and temporal context.

The team professors and curator will continue working with other faculty at the University of Arizona and beyond. For example, in fall 2015, professor González de Bustamante and borderlands curator Reyes-Escudero collaborated with University of Arizona history professor Martha Few to hold workshops with students on how to use the archive and the ethics involved. The students, using the University of Arizona Libraries additional collections, presented their research at the end of the semester. There are plans to further develop these workshops.

Other plans to expand and enhance current efforts include the possibility of publishing an interactive electronic book with a university press and acquiring photographic or other audiovisual media collections that would strengthen the archive. Photographers from both sides of the border have also shown interest in donating their work to the archive, which would add more visual representations of the current state of the region.

Finally, as the archive grows, it will be necessary to continue outreach efforts. The project team had great success at the launch event by having renowned author Luis Alberto Urrea serve as keynote speaker. Urrea’s participation drew a very large audience, including individuals and members of organizations who were interested in donating their archival material to Special Collections for further study. Shortly after the archive was launched in fall 2014, the project team organized a public panel discussion with Alfredo Corchado and Angela Korchega, prominent journalists whose interviews are included in the Documented Border Archive. There are plans to hold similar panels or lectures with other journalists featured in the archive who can call attention to the importance of journalism in the region. An additional outcome of the archival project included an invitation extended to Lawrence Gipe to exhibit the Operation Streamline illustrations at Stritch School of Medicine of Loyola University Chicago. The Stritch School of Medicine had recently opened its doors to “Dreamers” or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients (undocumented youth whose parents brought them to the United States as children). Consequently, there was increased demand at the school for education about and examination of deportation procedures and other social and human justice issues. Through the Documented Border Archive and Lawrence Gipe’s illustrations in the archive, students and faculty were able to deepen their understanding of the impact of immigration policies. Despite its relatively new presence on the internet, the archive appears to be having a positive impact in academic and public circles, presenting online audiences with the sometimes overlooked perspectives that make up the diverse moral geography of the border region.

Discussion of Related Research Tools

In its current stage, the Documented Border archive seeks to promote, encourage, and contribute to scholarly and creative activities in two main areas of inquiry, each with a connection to human rights: (a) it addresses questions of violence, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press in northern Mexico; and (b) it focuses on questions of migration and US policies regarding migration. Although many researchers tend to approach both these areas from a national or unidirectional perspective, scholars involved in the archive view and interrogate questions of violence against journalists and of migration from a transnational viewpoint. Hughes’s work about newsrooms across Mexico and the influence of journalists in newsrooms in northern Mexico in the 1990s mentions the importance of cross-border relations among journalists and owners in moving journalism away from an authoritarian model toward a civic-minded one.14 The archive offers scholars material that supports research into the period after the long transition toward democracy that has taken place since the beginning of the 21st century. In short, looking at issues of violence against the press in transnational terms enables different questions to be asked. For example, what is the relationship among journalists and activists on both sides of the US-Mexico border, and how do they collaborate or, at times, conflict with one another?

Marcela Turati, Mexican human rights journalist, whose interview is included in the archive has called on journalists on both sides of the border to work together. At the same time, with respect to scholarly inquiry about migration into the United States, the archive provides information about immigration policies in the countries of origin.

The content of the archive lends itself to use by a wide variety of scholars and members of the general public. The two scholars who donated the oral histories of journalists and human rights activists have examined this collection of data to gain a better understanding about the pressures and constraints journalists have endured and to examine how the field of journalism has changed given such constraints.15 However, anthropologists and historians will find value in the oral histories of journalists and human rights activists as they work within those disciplines to explain the phenomenon of violence in the region, its connection to organized crime, and the lack of freedom of expression in northern Mexico.

As a research tool, the archive will enable historians to put news media content (primary sources) into broader and deeper context. Newspaper articles have long been a mainstay of primary documents for historians and other scholars in the humanities and social sciences. Yet newspaper content analyzed by itself, without any contextualization of who was writing what, for what purposes, and the constraints under which the reporting was gathered, cannot tell the entire story about what happened. This archive helps to provide that much-needed context. It assists future research by providing firsthand accounts of the journalists who were writing about and living in northern Mexico during a time of unprecedented violence.

Scholars studying the history of migration, as well as those examining the phenomenon from a contemporary perspective, also benefit from the archive’s existence. The sketches by Lawrence Gipe offer documentation of the US Operation Streamline policy, which has been highly criticized for being a procedure that lacks adequate due process. Scholars and artists alike can use the archive to expand the work on the criminal justice industry in the United States and its connection to immigration policies, migration patterns, and behaviors.

Information from the archive can be combined with information and data available in other online archives, such as those listed here in the section “Links to Digital Materials.” For example, through research in the Documented Border collections, coupled with the use of the historic newspapers in Arizona-Sonora region and also the New Mexico–Chihuahua region, scholars can expand on studies about the press from the 19th and 20th centuries. Together these archives can act as a catalyst for collaborative or individual research efforts. In sum, the digital humanities, new online technologies, and the Internet have enabled access to documentation related to press freedoms and migration and provided primary source material and perhaps inspiration for critically important scholarly purposes.

The Tom and Ethel Bradley Center Border Studies Collection at California State University, Northridge offers an online collection of oral histories, photographic collections, manuscripts, videos, newspaper archives, and guest lectures on subjects such as immigration, human rights, globalization, and economic violence.

The Bracero History Archive, developed in a partnership between several institutions, includes oral histories and artifacts about the US Bracero program, a guest-worker initiative that spanned the years 1942 to 1964. Millions of Mexican agricultural workers crossed the border under the program to work in more than half of the states in the United States.

The Border Studies Archive at University of Texas-Pan American focuses on border culture and life in the Rio Grande Valley.

Mexican Border Crossing Records are maintained by the US National Archives.

New Mexico Digital Newspapers at the University of New Mexico, a collection that contains issues from five historic New Mexico newspapers.

Historic Mexican and Mexican American Press at the University of Arizona Libraries documents and showcases historic Mexican and Mexican American publications published in Tucson; El Paso; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Sonora, Mexico from the mid-1800s to the 1970s.

Further Reading

Moral Geography

Taylor, Lawrence. “Centre and Edge: Pilgrimage and the Moral Geography of the US-Mexico Border.” Mobilities 2, no. 3 (2007): 383–393.Find this resource:

    Press in Latin America and Mexico

    Benavides, José Luis. “Gacetilla: A Keyword for a Revisionist Approach to the Political Economy of Mexico’s Print News Media.” Media, Culture and Society 22, no. 1 (2000): 85–104.Find this resource:

      del Palacio, Celia, ed. Violencia y periodismo regional en México. Veracruz, Mexico: Universidad Veracruzana, 2015.Find this resource:

        Feinstein, Anthony. “Mexican Journalists: An Investigation into Their Emotional Health.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 25, no. 4 (2012): 480–483.Find this resource:

          Ferreira, Leonardo. Centuries of Silence: The Story of Latin American Journalism. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006.Find this resource:

            González de Bustamante, Celeste, and Jeannine E. Relly. “Journalism in Times of Violence: Social Media Use by U.S. and Mexican Journalists Working in Northern Mexico.” Digital Journalism 2, no. 4 (2014): 507–523.Find this resource:

              Hughes, Sallie. Newsrooms in Conflict: Journalism and the Democratization of Mexico. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.Find this resource:

                Relly, Jeannine E., and Celeste González de Bustamante. “Silencing Mexico: A Study of Influences on Journalists in the Northern States.” International Journal of Press/Politics 19, no. 1 (2014): 108–131.Find this resource:

                  Waisbord, Silvio. “Antipress Violence and the Crisis of the State.” International Journal of Press/Politics 7, no. 3 (2002): 90–109.Find this resource:

                    Migration, History, Arizona-Sonora

                    Dunn, Timothy J. Blockading the Border and Human Rights: The El Paso Operation That Remade Immigration Enforcement. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                      Martínez, Óscar. The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail. London: Verso, 2014.Find this resource:

                        Miller, Todd. Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2014.Find this resource:

                          Nevins, Joseph. Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the “Illegal Alien” and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary. New York: Routledge, 2002.Find this resource:

                            Regan, Margaret. Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families under Fire. Boston: Beacon, 2015.Find this resource:

                              Santa Ana, Otto, and Celeste González de Bustamante, eds. Arizona Firestorm: Global Immigration Realities, National Media and Provincial Politics. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012.Find this resource:

                                Digital Humanities

                                Sacco, Kathleen, Scott S. Richmond, Sara Parme, and Kerrie Fergen Wilkes, eds. Supporting Digital Humanities for Knowledge Acquisition in Modern Libraries. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2015.Find this resource:


                                  (1.) Celeste González de Bustamante, “Arizona and the Making of a State of Exclusion, 1912–2012,” in Arizona Firestorm: Global Immigration Realities, National Media and Provincial Politics, ed. Otto Santa Ana and Celeste González de Bustamante (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012).

                                  (2.) John Opie, “Moral Geography in High Plains History,” Geographical Review 88, no. 2 (1998): 241–258.

                                  (3.) For more, see the interview with President Calderón in Democratizing Mexico’s Politics, Latin American History, Oxford Research Encyclopedias (New York: Oxford University Press).

                                  (4.) Randall C. Jimerson, “Archivists and Social Responsibility: A Response to Mark Greene,” American Archivist 76, no. 2 (2013): 335–345.

                                  (5.) Erik Lee, Christopher E. Wilson et al. “The State of the Border Report: A Comprehensive Analysis of the U.S.-Mexico Border” (report of the Mexico Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC, May 2013), 29.

                                  (6.) The University of Arizona, “The University of Arizona’s Strategic Plan: “Expanding Our Vision, Deepening Our Roots: Five-Year Strategic Plan 2012–2016” (Tucson: University of Arizona, 2010), 5.

                                  (7.) Cindy Elliott, Mary Feeney, Chris Kollen, and Veronica Reyes-Escudero, “A DH State of Mind: Libraries and the Digital Humanities,” in Supporting Digital Humanities for Knowledge Acquisition in Modern Libraries, ed. Kathleen Sacco, Scott S. Richmond, Sara Parme, and Kerrie Fergen Wilkes (Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2015), 132–155.

                                  (8.) Stephen Kutay, “Advancing Digital Repository Services for Faculty Primary Research Assets: An Exploratory Study,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 40, no. 6 (2014): 642–649.

                                  (9.) Barbie Zelizer, Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and Shaping of Collective Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

                                  (10.) Kimberly Heinle, Cory Molzahn, and David A. Shirk, “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis through 2014” (special report, Justice in Mexico Project, University of San Diego, April 2015); Procuraduría General de la República, “Registro de homicidios de periodistas enero de 2000 al marzo de 2015” (Mexico City: Procuraduría General de la República, 2015).

                                  (11.) Ana Arana and Daniela Guazo, “Journalism Falls Victim to Mexico Narco Wars” Report for Fundación MEPI (Mexico City: Fundación MEPI, 2011).

                                  (12.) Stephen D. Reese, “Understanding the Global Journalist: A Hierarchy-of-Influences Approach,” Journalism Studies 2, no. 2 (2001): 173–187; Jeannine E. Relly and Celeste González de Bustamante, “Silencing Mexico: A Study of Influences on Journalists in the Northern States,” International Journal of Press/Politics 19, no. 1 (2014): 108–131; and Pamela J. Shoemaker and Stephen D. Reese, Mediating the Message: Theories of Influence on Media Content, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1996).

                                  (13.) The report is available on YouTube. See “Illustrating Operation Streamline.”

                                  (14.) Sallie Hughes, Newsrooms in Conflict: Journalism and the Democratization of Mexico (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006).

                                  (15.) Celeste González de Bustamante and Jeannine E. Relly, “Journalism in Times of Violence: Social Media Use by U.S. and Mexican Journalists Working in Northern Mexico,” Digital Journalism 2, no. 4 (2014): 507–523; and Jeannine E. Relly and Celeste González de Bustamante, “Silencing Mexico: A Study of Influences on Journalists in the Northern States,” International Journal of Press/Politics 19, no. 1 (2014): 108–131.