The sun consumed by the moon, still not a single star in sight, city lights. Abuelito and I sit outside on a step enjoying the cool breeze of the night. Elbow to knee, hand directly under my chin, I lean in as he begins his story. Tonight he talks about his first of two entries to the U.S. as a Bracero. I watch as he no longer looks at me when he talks. Instead, he stares ahead, not quite lost in the memory, as he is there. He recalls every detail: contempt at the El Paso and Juarez border, the vehicle they were transported in, and the laborious hours in the cotton fields. Slowly, he turns to look at me. He smiles and says, “[The other Braceros] me decían Mi Reyna”, “They referred to me as My Reyna”. Just as abuelito transcends to that moment, I do to ours. This is the power of storytelling and of the many ways of knowing.
In the article, The making of memory: the politics of archives, libraries and museums in the construction of national consciousness, Brown and Davis-Brown (1998) remind us that “the storing of collective memory must be as old as human communities, although the earliest archives existed mainly in ceremonies, rites and the saying of elders” (p. 18). Indigenous knowledge has for so long recognized the significance of storytelling and the many other ways of knowing. These narratives are not only found in the oral histories of elders, but are alive in song, dance, art, clothing, food, and other traditions. In Portillos’ (2017) book, Sovereign stories and blood memories: Native American women’s autobiography, she identifies these narratives as “multilayered histories and identities” that “assert the ongoing presence and challenges” of indigenous communities (p. 24). As I browsed through the stacks at Special Collections, I took note of the many indigenous stories and how some authors identify their expression as a retelling of a story. When I came across the collection, A Pima Remembers, I knew George Webb’s remembering, like other indigenous authors, is more than memory. These multilayered histories uniquely intertwine our past and present to inform our future.
Webb, G. (n.d.). A Pima Remembers, Ca. 1958-1959. AZ 154
Portillo, A. (2017). Sovereign stories and blood memories : Native American women’s autobiography.
Brown, R., & Davis-Brown, B. (1998). The making of memory: The politics of archives, libraries and museums in the construction of national consciousness. History of the Human Sciences, 11(4), 17-32.
Lacapa, M. (1990). The flute player : An Apache folktale (1st ed.). Flagstaff, Ariz.: Northland Pub.