For him, this form of digital stewardship is a reminder that Latinx history is a fundamental thread in the cultural fabric of this country. “By making sense of our collective history, we understand ourselves as historical agents,” he said. “We also recognize that our presence in the near past not only matters, but that we were a fundamental part of the forces and conditions that built current Southern California and the U.S.” Leal is working with Occidental College in Los Angeles to incorporate some of what he has collected into its digital institutional archive and to develop a course based on the materials.
These digital collections are emerging in Latin America, too, highlighting the experiences of groups typically left out of historical texts. For instance, Archivo de la Memoria Trans, a project based in Argentina, is dedicated to compiling and recovering the cultural heritage of the Argentine trans community.
“For a long time in Argentina, there were forgotten lives, photos that families preferred to hide, laws and edicts that systematically punished and persecuted trans identities,” the group said in an email. The archive “gives weight to the voices of the women who are no longer here,” it said, emphasizing the group’s intersectional approach to preserving this history.
The project emerged from the work of the trans activists María Belén Correa and Claudia Pía Baudracco, who founded a trans rights organization in the early 1990s. Shortly after their deaths in 2012 and 2013, friends started a private Facebook group to share anecdotes, letters, photos and memories and to commemorate the Argentine trans community’s activism against police violence and government neglect.
A year later, the photographer Cecilia Estalles and members of the group began the process of digitizing and preserving these materials, as well as additional contributions from friends and activists of the era. Today, the archive includes more than 8,000 images and documents, sourced from members of the collective itself and the private Facebook group, which now includes over 1,200 trans Argentine members living across the globe.
The group that manages the collection includes activists, photographers and photo archivists. They meet in person once a week to digitize and appropriately preserve the materials they receive. The archive, the collective said, is constantly evolving.