The Material of Memory: Revisiting Our Histories of Immigration Exhibition

March-April 2017

The Material of Memory: Revisiting Our Histories of Immigration is a University of California, Irvine (UCI) undergraduate student curated exhibition and event program under the faculty directorship of Dr. Ana Elizabeth Rosas that magnified how and why the immigrant women and men participating in this revisiting of our immigration histories documented and recollected their personal investment in a diversity of emotive ties and relationships, items, and moments that made it viable for them to remain steadfast in their commitment to grow as people stretched across borders.

UCI undergraduate students enrolled in Dr. Rosas’s Fall 2016 course offerings of The Histories of Violence across the US-Mexico Borderlands and Introduction to Latina/o/x Studies invested in this intellectual endeavor of revisiting the histories that connected them to most cherished and highly regarded members of their extended families. The act of revisiting each of them entailed developing and implementing a keen sensibility for their experiences via course readings and discussions, as well as scheduling conversations and visits with them to identify the material of their memories.

The act of revisiting their immigration histories with their extended family relatives generated the participation of people from diverse generations and the collection of their revealing archival items. From this rich archive of emotions, moments, and items, an exhibition team flourished, met and worked as a seminar group under Dr. Rosas’s faculty advisement and mentorship to curate, present, and celebrate this exhibit.

The Material of Memory Team was comprised of UCI alumni: Brittney A. Bayardo, Natalie Berrios, Marleni Flores, Jazmin Jimenez, Valerie Macias, Jonathan Orozco, Stephanie K. Palomares, Meleia Simon-Reynolds, Kaitlin Overturf, and Alejandra Tantamango.

This exhibition was sponsored by UCI Illuminations, UCI’s School of Social Sciences, UCI’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion, and the Department of Chicano-Latino Studies and History.

The following archival documents were among the items featured in our The Material of Memory exhibition, when on display at UCI’s Viewpoint Gallery:

Personal Collection of Alejandra Tantamango. This archival document has been preserved and was contributed to our The Material of Memory exhibition by Alejandra Tantamango. In 1970 in the District of Breña located in the city of Lima, Peru. Alejandra’s aunts and their friends (from left to right): Mayola, Esther, Norma, Gloria, and Miguel (the baby in the photograph) posed for this photograph at the request of her grandmother, Alejandra Calle. Her family took this photograph to document having moved from Ayacucho to Lima to “start a new life and to support her oldest aunt Norma in her path to apply to different colleges in Lima to pursue higher education. Life was challenging when this photograph was taken.” When unpacking her emotive connection to this archival document, Alejandra shared that before her passing her grandmother welcomed discussing this photograph to initiate conversations on their family’s experience, especially her having to be away from her daughters a great part of the day to work long hours away from their family home.
Personal Collection of Diaz-Herrera Family, 1998. Information about the archival document: This archival document has been preserved and was contributed to our The Material of Memory exhibition by Ellis Diaz. This photograph showcases Elisa Herrera and Ellis Diaz’s preservation and discussion of precious clothing items as integral to their family’s emotive archive creation. The majority of the dresses featured in this photograph were worn by Ellis Diaz. Throughout her childhood, her grandmother, Elisa Herrera, took care of her and with Ellis’s support preserves clothing items that make it possible for her to recollect her experiences when caring for Ellis and her other grandchildren. When unpacking the emotive qualities of these dresses and other clothing items, Ellis shared that the “blue, pink, and floral white dress were gifts from my aunts and uncles. Since I was the baby of the family at the time, my mother really didn’t have to buy me clothes. I was everyone’s daughter as my aunts and uncles pitched in to help take care of me. My mom chose to be a single mother, and her siblings told her from the start that they would support her in any way they could.” Hence, these dresses resonate differently across generations of the Herrera-Diaz family. As when discussing her preservation of these dresses, Elisa immediately shared with Ellis that it was especially important to not forget-preserve the condition all the clothing items were and still are in. They are each in perfect shape. Ellis shared that when opening the suitcase in which her grandmother has organized and stored this clothing, her grandmother shares that she took great pride in their family taking perfect care of what they wore. It helped boost their family’s self-esteem when thriving as an immigrant family in the United States. Now, their continued preservation of such revealing clothing is Elisa and Ellis’s way of safeguarding their emotive connection and history.




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