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New Mexico State University
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Historian, Librarian Barbara Tenenbaum to Speak at NMSU Library

Come and meet historian and librarian Barbara Tenenbaum for stories and images of the Mexican Revolution on Thursday February 21, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in NMSU’s Zuhl Library Conference Room.  The free public presentation, co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Border Studies and the NMSU Library, will be followed by a reception.btenenbaum1_small

Tenenbaum is Mexican Culture Specialist at the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress and Curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division.  Her talk, “Vámonos: The Mexican Revolution in Sights and Sound at the Library of Congress,” will feature illustrations from original materials on the Mexican Revolution from the Library of Congress collections.  The presentation will feature the Library of Congress website Distant Neighbors: The United States and the Mexican Revolution, available at

In her talk, Tenenbaum will answer such intriguing questions as why Pancho Villa didn’t fight at night, how Tex-Mex food got started and why Mexican soldiers understood fighting better than U.S. forces.

Tenenbaum taught Latin American history at Vassar College, the University of South Carolina, Catholic University and Howard University before joining the Hispanic Division at the Library of Congress in 1992.

A specialist in Mexican culture, Tenenbaum is the author/editor of many books and articles about Mexico and the Library of Congress Hispanic collections.  The NMSU Library is honoring Tenenbaum at the reception to thank her for her recent donations to the Library from her personal collections of research materials on Mexican and Latin American history, economics and culture.  The Library received her generous donation at the beginning of 2012, and more than 150 books not previously owned by NMSU have been added to the library catalog.

The Library’s Latin America & Border Studies Librarian, Molly Molloy, first met Tenenbaum at a meeting of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials in the early 1990s and got to know her better through her entertaining and scholarly presentations at conferences, as well as during winter trips to the Mesilla Valley to visit family and get some respite from the snow and slush of Washington, D.C.  Tenenbaum has presented several times at the Center for Latin American and Border Studies, always highlighting special collections at the Library of Congress that provide new insights into Mexican history and culture.

Mexican history was Tenenbaum’s passion long before she became a librarian.  She studied at Harvard University under John Womack and published her dissertation as The Politics of Penury: Debts and Taxes in Mexico, 1821-1856 (University of New Mexico Press, 1986).  In addition to many other monographs and articles, Tenenbaum is editor-in-chief of the multi-volume Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture (Scribners, 1996), a masterful, award-winning and comprehensive reference work on the region.

In a recent conversation with Molloy, Tenenbaum said that her training as an academic historian was great preparation for what she calls “the perfect job for me” at the Library of Congress, where she is responsible for all Mexican acquisitions.  She reviews hundreds of books that come to the Library each year through blanket orders from several Mexican book sellers.  The Library of Congress makes a great effort to acquire all of the original materials published in the region that would be of use now and in the future to readers and researchers.

Tenenbaum’s work encompasses much more than books and ranges from the modern to the ancient.  She recently located a Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1648 or 1651-1695) manuscript that was purchased by the Library of Congress.  She was also recently consulted by staff from another division of the library when they found an original drawing by Martin Ramirez (1895-1963).  An immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico, Ramirez spent much of his later life in a mental asylum in California where he created many drawings that have become iconic in what is sometimes called “outsider art.”  Tenenbaum worked with the Ramirez family to arrange for the work to be exhibited at the Library of Congress.  For more information, visit

Molloy recently asked Tenenbaum if she had a favorite book or story about the Mexican Revolution.  She did not hesitate for a second, and replied, “The Wind that Swept Mexico.  It makes you feel it.  It makes you feel what the Revolution was to people.”  The WindThatSweptMexico: The History of the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1942,  text by Anita Brenner, is available at Zuhl Library, F1234 .B83 1943.  

As for her favorite story, she said, “My father didn’t know anything about Mexico or the revolution, but he always loved that photograph (by Casasola) of the guy smoking a cigarette while he was being shot.  I remember when my mother saw the film Like Water for Chocolate, and she would always ask me, ‘Why didn’t Tita marry the nice doctor?’  I later wrote a whole paper based on that and used the title: ‘Why Tita Didn’t Marry the Doctor.’”  Like Water for Chocolate is available on DVD at Branson Library, DVD PQ7298.15.S638 C6613 2000, and the novel by Laura Esquivel is available at Zuhl Library, PQ7298.15.S638 C6613 1992.

Tenenbaum also said that she was fascinated by Pancho Villa, and especially recommends the biography by Friedrich Katz, The Life and Times of Pancho Villa (Stanford University Press, 1998), Zuhl Library, F1234.V63 K38 1998.

For more information, contact Molloy, NMSU Library, (575) 646-6931, or Seth Wilson, NMSU Center for Latin American and Border Studies at (575) 646-6814,


February 7, 2013 Categories: News Historian, Librarian Barbara Tenenbaum to Speak at NMSU Library