Reflections of a Transfer turned Teacher

September 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

Well to be honest I don’t think I had too much experience in researching before I transferred. I mean, we’ve all had to do research papers in history class but I never really did anything more than a few books or internet sources. Now that I think of it, there was quite often a very loose focus but I still got by.

In retrospect, it’s kinda funny too because when a few of us were having our history department orientation with our absolutely wonderful Leah, I had the surprise of learning that Cal is one of the few schools left that still requires a senior thesis as a capstone to the undergraduate experience. Quite frankly, I think it’s really cool that we still have to do that but when I heard this the first thing that popped into my head was something to the effect of “Shit, how much do I actually know about researching?” Not much really.

Upon this sobering realization I floated around asked around with some of my professors about the research process and they were enlightening as much as they were critical. I dipped my proverbial toes in the proverbial waters of research and inquiry, proverbially. I familiarized myself. However, I still haven’t had an opportunity or space to pursue this in actuality.

So in my second semester and with a need for 2 extra units and an opening on Monday from 12-2,  I decided to take this curious DeCal.  Katie and Jonathan were super cool and through the semester I was able to actually make some progress. Of course, not without difficulty and changing my research question like four times. But then again, that’s kind of what it’s all about.

I initially began this semester with a question somewhere to the effect of: To what degree were the Declarations of Independence in Mexico and the United States shaped by Enlightenment thought? In my time at UC Berkeley I’ve refined my interests in the United States and Latin America and have utilized this interest to shape the direction of my research but I must admit I initially bit off a little more that I could proverbially chew. Limited by lack of accessible resources and a complex topic with limited sources, I decide to keep the United States-Mexico dynamic but switched to their 200 years of shared history.

I then switched to studying how the Central Valley Project had affected immigration to the San Joaquin Valley. I found some luck in this endeavor being that the CVP is a federally-funded and operated infrastructure and as I tracked the progression of Mexican immigration to the United States I rediscovered Proposition 187 and its passage in 1994 California. Given this as a foundation for my research, I then switched my question to : To what degree has government been molded to shape the Californian/American Identity?

The freedom to change my topic was a big plus -though I must admit one must do so with caution pertaining to time constraints and relative position in the semester. I also really liked the fact that it is open to more than just the historian in-training. As per usual, the diversity in interests and opinions exposed me to approaches I would have never considered myself and in a lot of ways allowed breathing room for construction and critique of my own work. In addition, just by reflecting on our progress or problems I was able to see that a lot of us had some of the same issues but also that we could help solve them too. I could go on but in the end we all did our thing and at the end of the semester we all got to present our work and it was real cool.

I also was digging the new themes every week. To not move away from the document in the research process but to question its primacy with other mediums will always be part of my own work now and I really think this is a good thing.

Mind you, this is only a bit of my experience and some of what I found enticing. I can’t promise that any of you will have the same. But then again, this uncertainty about the future is kinda what this curious life is about, right? What I can say is that if anything, this class will be engaging if you let it.

So then why do we research? My favorite answer would be to live with the past, live in the present, and live for the future. In other words, history/research as Historian William Appleman Williams writes in The Contours of American History:

  . . .is neither to by-pass and dismiss nor to pick and choose according to        preconceived notions; [but] rather is a study of the past so that we can come back into our own time of troubles having shared with the men of the past their dilemmas, having learned from their experiences, having been buoyed up by their courage and creativeness and sobered be their shortsightedness and failures. We shall then be better equipped to redefine our own dilemmas and problems as opportunities and possibilities and to proceed with positive rather than negative programs and policies. This enrichment and improvement through research and reflection in the essence of being human, and it is the heart of the historical method.

To build – for better or for worse.

So here’s to a good semester.

Good health and good spirits to you all,


Pedro Hernandez : Folklore Archives

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Folklore Archives are located in 110 Kroeber. The hours for the lovely cubicle are Monday 1-5, Tuesday 10-4, Wednesday 12-2, and Thursday 11-2.  The collection houses more than 500,000 items organized by geographical region and genre. This particular archive is non-circulating and consequently, all research must be conducted inside during regular hours or by appointment. It’s all good cause there’s people that are more than qualified to assist in any way.

The Anthropology library is located directly above the archives on the second floor and make referencing that much faster and convenient. Kroeber in general also has cool art displays is you just wanna check that out too.  

I would recommend using this archive as a compliment to any social/early history project that one might pursue. If not for the typical history, for the opportunity to understand our subjects in lenses that transcends statistics and namelessness.

110 Kroeber Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720

FIlm; Pedro Hernandez

April 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

I actually had some luck on YouTube. That is to say only because Cadillac Desert is relatively old. But that is not to say that this PBS film is any less credited to its age. But I digress, Cadillac Desert provides a wonderful historical narrative for the West’s aridity and the Central Valley Project as well as the moral debates that have to have been reconciled ie save the fish or save the economy and the people it feeds?

The second link I’ve found is Chicano!: The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. This serves as a compliment to the first link as the United Farm Workers Union was a direct result of the terrible working conditions fostered by the reclamation of the Central Valley Project. In reference to my original idea of a “demographic reconquista” the farm labor movement served as a watershed in Mexican American history as a marker of their popular presence in society as well as one of the first mass mobilizations of political power – still evident as the April 10th march on Washington for immigration reform.

Pedro Hernandez: Visual Resources

April 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is a link to a book called Valley of Shadows and Dreams by Ken Light and Melanie Light. While the video posted with an explanation of the is just a slideshow, it presents a spot-on depiction of what 21st century systematic poverty, repression, and exploitation looks like applied to my people. 

Resources for Cyn from Pedro

March 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hey Cyn, after reading over your journals I became especially curious as to your aims of showing how gender norms were altered by its popularity. I primarily used Jstor for my research and found some interesting articles that I feel could be used to provide a deeper context and perspective to what exactly burlesque meant during its historical tenure.

The first article I found was The Petite Commande of 1664: Burlesque in the Gardens of Versailles. Okay, so maybe this isn’t the exact same burlesque that you’re researching but I think it is interesting that an art movement could have in challenging preexisting norms – in this case the canons of ancient and Italian art.

Another article I found was “Girls and Gags” : Sexual Display and Humor in Reginald Marsh’s Burlesque Images. This piece analyzes the sexualized female form and the comedic elements of the 1930s and 40s burlesque show.  Kathleen Spies, through an examination of Marsh’s burlesque images and their sources that this link argues that was vital to contemporary understandings of commercialized leisure and female sexuality.

Finally to add some additional context to your I’ve found The Obscene Seen: Spectacle and Transgression in Postwar Burlesque Films which studies what burlesque films were saying to their audiences about gender and sexuality from 1945-1960. I think this piece might serve as a particularly useful resource because films could add a new dimension to your work as well as primary sources and possible directors that you might want to look into.

Good luck and good studies,



Oral History Attempt #1

March 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Well this experience was certainly interesting. I interviewed my friend Jessica and found it challenging however when some other friends entered the room things got a little hectic and distracting. I guess means that the guess the environment hella matters in conducting interviews. I’m gonna try again on the weekend and repost later when I come up with some better results. 

Pedro Hernandez: Microfilm, the Fresno Bee, and the Bracero Program

March 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

In the Fresno Bee, I decided to look at December 31, 1964 : the day the Bracero Program is  officially ended in the United States. If not for their scholarly research (or lack thereof) I think I’m going to find a particular use for the critiques in these newspapers.

“Delay by growers in hiring Americans to replace the out-going Mexican farm workers is truly incredible after months of their wild propaganda about and impeding farm labor crisis” says W.J. Basset. This leads me to infer that the new repatriation was more so based on inconvenience and nativism rather than a practical reason. Furthermore, I think it shows the shifting mentality of the public as Jack Miller (head of the Agricultural Farm Labor Association) says, “the number of applicants will run out far sooner than the number of jobs available.”

With Mexican labor no longer being imported (legally) and a domestic labor market with greater access to non-agricultural jobs and higher education, the farmers now seem to have been caught in a Catch-22.  As a result of their nativist racism, the nation now had an agricultural economy with a smaller, less willing workforce nor had farmers who were now dealt with higher costs since domestic workers were mandated to be paid $1.25/hr as opposed to the Bracero’s $1/ hr.

This article now leads me to question what the farmer’s role is in the reestablishment of a Mexican base in the post-Bracero years in the San Joaquin Valley – if they even did at all. I’m also curious as to their relations with labor as well because large and middle-sized farmers grew increasing and occasionally violently against Mexican farm unions in the next decade along with the height of the United Farm Workers association led by Cesar Chavez.

Snags hit the Bracero Program

–          On an interesting side note, I’ve also found an interesting article in the Sacramento Bee in regards to the Food for Peace initiative under Eisenhower which reallocated  surplus foodstuffs to possible ally countries during the Cold War. Launched in 1954 (in the middle of the  Bracero Program) I kind of curious as to who grew and harvested this food surplus? Also, where did it come from?