Archivist Spotlight: Itza Carbajal, Metadata Librarian, LILLAS Benson Library, University of Texas Austin


Tell us about your beginnings in librarianship and archival science, what sparked your interest in the field?

Prior to my graduate degree in Information Studies I worked as a cultural arts programmer in San Antonio, Texas with a 30 years old non-profit called the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. While there, I came across a small sized room full of what I now call records. Back now I would have probably called it stuff or things. These things consisted of everything from newspaper clippings, grant submissions and paperwork, legal proceedings, VHS tapes, life size puppets to protest banners, flyers, leaflets, newspapers, and magazines. These records documented almost every aspect of the organization’s history as well those communities the organization worked with and for. For some reason I became obsessed with creating order out of what many staff considered disorder, but as I sought out guidance on how to organize these sorts of things I quickly realized that I lacked the proper training to do it. As a result, I decided to pursue a degree in archival studies and my hope had initially been to learn more about community archives and how it related to efforts such as the ones I was involved with while at the Esperanza. Long story short, I applied to the University of Texas at Austin School of Information in hopes of remaining in close proximity to the Esperanza to continue the community archives work I had started before I left.

Your current position as metadata librarian at LILAS Benson Collections, what does it entail?

Working as a metadata librarian on exclusively post-custodial projects means I am responsible for many unusual tasks as well as those typical of an information professional working with digital collections. I personally consider myself a trained archivist and my current work duties more closely reflect the responsibilities of a digital archivist with an emphasis on metadata collecting, managing, and development of practices. As we work to build post-custodialism at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Special Collection, I work on several tasks from normalizing and managing existing metadata from previous Latin American partners to creating methods for the collection of new metadata from our more recent Latin American partners. This can include learning more about the diverse metadata needs of our partners to thinking through how the creation of metadata would benefit the multiple stakeholders of the project. In addition to strengthening our post custodial work, I also consult on the technical and metadata specific aspects of our soon to be now digital repository system with a particular focus on incorporating linked data principles. On other occasions, I work on revaluating or consulting with the librarians and archivists at the Benson regarding their metadata practices or special projects in hopes of empowering the full LLILAS Benson team to adequately create, manage, and reuse our collections’ metadata.

Can you share with us any other project or initiative dealing with Latin American or Latino communities?

At the Benson we always have exciting projects with some in very early stages to others in a more mature phase. I previously mentioned my work with post-custodialism, so I love to share information on the project, Latin American Digital Initiatives ( This project started around 2013-2014 with featured collections coming from partners in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. My current position contributes to the growth of this project with new partners coming in from Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. The Benson is also conducting groundbreaking work in transcription using the software known as From the Page ( as well as hosting multiple post-doctoral scholars with one currently focused on reevaluating the older digital collection, the Archivo Historico de la Policia Nacional de Guatemala (Read CLIR scholar Hannah Alpert-Abrams article on her current position: .

Outside of the Benson, I really enjoy looking through community digital archives projects, organizational community archives, or community driven digital records such as the following to name a few:

How do you envision the field of Latin American librarianship (in terms of archival collection development and outreach)?

As a first generation daughter of Honduran parents, I oftentimes wonder how the US latinx communities and Latin American communities will continue to converge. As an archivist and metadata librarian, I oftentimes see these convergences or possible points of intersection when I look at the materials and the things they document. For the Central American communities I exists in or work with, the changes in migratory practices whether forced or long existing really have an impact on who these records document and where they end up. I suspect and frankly hope that this intersection will strengthen the bonds between our geographical regions and that libraries in particular those with a digital footprints will create connections across borders, lands, and time.

Finally, what has been the most rewarding part of your career as a multicultural librarian?

Working in multicultural context whether directly through the materials I engage with or through the collections my colleagues develop and manage has really given me multiple opportunities to learn, unlearn, and appreciate the breath of Latin America and what some call Latinidad. I was not born in Honduras and that has oftentimes created a cultural barrier between my parents, my family that still lives in Honduras, as well as between other recently arrived Hondurans and me. I grew up with a different language, cultural practices, values, food, expectations, etc. that even though I frequently traveled back and forth between Honduras and the States I am still very much a gringa in some respects. One of the most rewarding aspects of working at a Latin American Special Collection is the ability to continue learning about not only the history of the country I know I should have a connection with, but also about the people, the current realities, and the ways in which both of my worlds continue to collide. One of the biggest fears includes the fact that I could be the generation that disrupts or distances itself from my parents and grandparents cultural history and practices. I hope that by being constantly surrounded by Latin American materials, people, and information there is less of a chance that I forget, overlook, or ignore the things I do not see on a day to day.



Latin@ Scholar Spotlight: Dr. Jorge Duany, Director of the Cuban Research Institute and Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies, Florida International University

Jorge Duany
Dr. Jorge Duany

By: Ana D. Rodriguez

What motivated you to pursue a career in Latin American studies?

I was born in Cuba but grew up in Panama and Puerto Rico. I came to pursue my university studies in the United States, returned to live in Puerto Rico, and moved to Miami six years ago. I have always been fascinated—perhaps even obsessed—with questions of identity, particularly among migrants and their descendants. After studying psychology in college, I shifted my main disciplinary interests to cultural anthropology. I finally found an interdisciplinary doctoral program in Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where I concentrated in anthropology, history, and literature. I have been fortunate to have had a long and productive teaching and research career in the field of Latin American Studies, focusing on the three countries of the Hispanic Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic) that I know best. For me, specializing in Latin American Studies has been a way to answer deeply personal questions about my own family and cultural background as well as broader academic issues such as how people adapt to different environments when they move to another country.

How often do you collaborate with Latin American librarians at FIU?

As part of my administrative duties as Director of FIU’s Cuban Research Institute, I work closely with the Díaz-Ayala Collection of Cuban and Latin American Popular Music. We often organize public events such as lectures on Cuban and Cuban-American music, we administer an annual scholarship program that awards library travel grants for scholars and graduate students, and we cosponsor the annual Classically Cuban concert series, now in its 14th installment.

Tell us about your current teaching role at Florida International University (expertise, research subject areas).

I am a Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies. I usually teach courses on Cuba, the Caribbean, and Latin America, as well as on diasporas. My areas of expertise are migration, ethnicity, race, nationalism, and transnationalism in Cuba, the Caribbean, and the United States. This fall I plan to teach a graduate/undergraduate seminar on Cubans in the United States, a topic I have worked on since I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Cubans in Puerto Rico.

I am currently involved in two major research projects. The first examines the massive displacement of people from Puerto Rico to Florida, particularly after Hurricane María struck the Island on September 20, 2017. I am trying to assess the ongoing “Puerto Ricanization” of Florida, especially the central region of the state, regarding the demographic, social, cultural, economic, and political effects of the growing number of Puerto Rican immigrants. A second initiative is to analyze the “last wave” of Cuban migration (1995–2017), which concluded with the cancellation of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy, in comparison with previous waves of the postrevolutionary exodus. I am interested in how recent changes in the socioeconomic composition of Cuban immigrants are reshaping the public profile and internal dynamics of the Cuban-American community in Miami.

How do you envision the panorama of Latin American scholarship in the future?

Latin American scholarship has expanded substantially in the last few decades since I obtained my Ph.D. The sheer number and diversity of experts teaching and researching on Latin American topics have grown spectacularly, as the membership of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) suggests. Caribbean Studies, however, have expanded more modestly, and are still marginal to many academic programs in the United States. Perhaps most exciting for me is the development and consolidation of the interdisciplinary field of Latino Studies, devoted to the burgeoning communities of Latin American origin in the United States, including Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, and people of other ancestries. I hope that the latter field (typically considered part of “ethnic studies”) will be better connected to the well-established centers of international “area studies,” so that the transnational links between the countries of origin and settlement can be scrutinized and comprehended from an interdisciplinary perspective.

What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching Latin American studies?

Teaching and research in Latin American Studies have been intellectually and professionally satisfying because they have allowed me to cross multiple disciplinary and geographic boundaries. In my teaching, I have always tried to combine the insights of the social sciences (especially anthropology) and the humanities (mainly history and literature). My research and publications have similarly bridged numerous fields of knowledge such as sociology, history, literature, art, and music. In the end, the most rewarding aspect of my academic career has been to understand myself more fully as I seek to capture the experiences of others like me, particularly people from the Hispanic Caribbean in the United States and Puerto Rico.