María Teresa Márquez and CHICLE: The First Chicana/o Electronic Mailing List

By Miguel Juárez

These days we take e-mail and electronic lists for granted, but imagine a world where there is no e-mail or exchange of information like we have now?  That was the world for Humanities Librarian María Teresa Márquez at the University of New Mexico (UNM) Zimmerman Library and creator of CHICLE, the first Chicana/o electronic mailing list created in 1991, to focus on Latino literature and later on the social sciences. [1] Other Chicano/Latino listservs include Roberto Vásquez’s Lared Latina of the Intermountain Southwest (Lared-L) [2] created in 1996, and Roberto Calderon’s Historia-L, created in March 2003. [3] These electronic lists were influential in expanding communication and opportunities among Chicanas/os. CHICLE, nevertheless, deserves wider recognition as a pioneering effort whose importance has been overlooked.

In many instances the Internet revolution was shepherded by librarians in their institutions. Libraries and librarians were early adopters of this new technology. Márquez used computers and e-mail in her work in the Government Information Department at UNM. However, it was in the Library and Information Science Program at California State University, Fullerton, where she first learned about and used computers in a federally-funded program in the 1970s that sought to increase the number of Mexican American librarians. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Márquez earned a Certificate of Advanced Study in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, where she learned more about computers and databases.

In April 1991, Márquez attended the Nineteenth Annual Conference (Los Dos Méxicos) of the National Association of [Chicana and ] Chicano Studies (NACS) in Hermosillo, Sonora, México. One of the panels, moderated by Professor Francisco Lomelí, University of California, Santa Barbara, presented papers on “Literatura Chicana.”  While discussing the topic, scholars raised problems encountered in communicating with each other and in sharing information on new publications and current research. Márquez volunteered to create a listserv or electronic mailing list and explained how it could be of use in keeping scholars informed. At UNM, she developed the list and Professor Erlinda V. Gonzales-Berry, then a faculty member in the UNM Spanish Department, coined its name-CHICLE (which translates into gum in Spanish). CHICLE stood for Chicana/Chicano Literature Exchange.

According to Márquez, most faculty members were not willing to join CHICLE, citing no experience with computers nor did they wish to consider its potential use in academic work. Yet, Márquez launched CHICLE with eight subscribers. She attended numerous academic conferences to distribute fliers and talk to people about the list and recruit subscribers. Furthermore, she attempted to impress upon her listeners the need to be at the forefront of technology, but Márquez said she had few takers. Believing in the importance of the list and in this new form of communication, she persevered and she states: “One day, all of a sudden, membership went up to 800!” As more institutions and faculty members started using computers, the list exploded in the number of subscribers.

The idea for the list evolved from Márquez’s work in a library setting that was used to basically communicating internally. At first Márquez sent out all of the information on the list because she had most of it. She would use librarian’s tools and lists of new books, information of upcoming conferences, calls for papers, and articles that would be of interest, but she received very little in return. The list was limited to her contributions in its early years. Later, as the number of subscribers in the social sciences increased the list moved away from literature. Numerous topics were discussed over the list’s ten–year history (1991-2001), but eventually its popularity led to its demise. Subscribers often stated that the list contained too much information and was time consuming.

Among the active subscribers to CHICLE was archivist Dorinda Moreno, [4] who later went on to work with Lared as well as with Dr. Robert Calderón‘s Historia-L. Moreno contributed history-related information. In contrast to Márquez’s effort, Calderón changed his list to a closed list with a finite number of subscribers where he posted items of interest to the Chicano/a academic community, as opposed to CHICLE which was an open forum. [5] Initially CHICLE was designed as an open forum to encourage broad participation. Dr. Tey Mariana Nunn, now Director and Chief Curator of the Art Museum and Visual Arts Program at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum in Albuquerque, played a large role in promoting the list in its early days. Nunn was a graduate work-study student. Additionally, Renee Stephens, now at San Francisco State University, then a graduate work-study student at UNM, was also editor for the list, a task inherited from Janice Gould. All these women were instrumental in the success of CHICLE. Eventually, the expansion of the Internet eclipsed Chicana/o listservs.

When CHICLE began, Márquez acted as the sole moderator, but over time, as it gained popularity, she trained students to run it. The popular list existed until her funding to hire work-study students ran out. Her institution was reluctant to provide further support. CHICLE was not considered an appropriate academic part of Márquez’s professional responsibilities. Management of the list competed with duties at the library and as subscriptions grew, it became overwhelming and difficult. Márquez who often managed the list on her own time, stated she would have continued the list but that  it would have required more energy than she was willing to invest. When Márquez decided it was time to move on and discontinue the list, she approached the UNM Technical Center to store the CHICLE files. The Center claimed it did not have sufficient storage space for her files. As news of CHICLE’s imminent shutdown spread, people volunteered to keep the list going but were deterred by the amount of work entailed.

Dr. Diana I. Rios, who has a joint appointment in the Department of Communication and El Instituto at the University of Connecticut among others, made attempts to create an archive of CHICLE.  She made copies of conversations via cut and paste. There were attempts to incorporate CHICLE into another list but Ríos did not want that to happen. Eventually, Latino literary blogs such as Pluma Fronteriza [6] and La Bloga [7] emerged to continue where CHICLE left off.

After CHICLE, Márquez took her energy and enthusiasm in supporting Latina/o students and created a program called CHIPOTLE. [8] She used CHIPOTLE to familiarize Chicana/o rural students with the academic environment and to reach out to surrounding communities. Via grant and affiliated department funded sponsorship, Márquez would take posters and boxes of books by Chicana/Chicano writers to give to students when she visited Hispanic-dominate schools. As part of CHIPOTLE, she created a forum to bring Latina/o speakers into the library and encouraged Latina/o students to utilize the research resources available to them. She directed two programs funded by Rudolfo Anaya: Premío Aztlán and Critica Nueva. Premío Aztlán recognized emerging Chicana/o writers and Critica Nueva was an award honoring the foremost scholars who produced a body of literary criticism based on Chicana/o literature. For many years, Márquez was the only Latina librarian at the University of New Mexico University Libraries. Presently, she is an Associate Professor Emerita. No Latina/o librarians have been hired since her retirement.

In the era of search engines, web browsers, blogs, wiki’s, intranets, and social media, it is important to recognize the efforts of a pioneering Chicana librarian and a pioneering electronic list that was a unique cultural creation. It was given life by so many who read it, posted on it, and worked on it. CHICLE brought many voices together and established a foundation for the future. As Márquez stated, “CHICLE was the catalyst for many things.” [9]

[1] María Teresa Márquez, interview by the author, Albuquerque, April 28, 2007.  [2] Lared Latina of the Intermountain Southwest, was established in the Spring of 1996 by Roberto Vásquez, as a World Wide Web Forum, for the purpose of disseminating socio-political, cultural, educational, and economic information about Latinos in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe Metro area and the Intermountain Region which includes Metropolitan Areas such as the Salt Lake City/Ogden region, Denver, Phoenix, Tucson, Boise, Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, accessed January 30, 2014: http://www.lared-latina.com/bio.html.  [3] Dr. Roberto R. Calderón, interview by the author, College Station, Texas, December 20, 2007. Historia-l, focused on Chicano/a history, started as “96SERADC” with 200 subscribers in May 1996 and continued through October 1997. Originally housed at the University of Washington, it helped mobilize the first Immigrant Rights March on Washington, D.C., held on Saturday, October 12, 1996. The march had upwards of 50,000 participants, half of whom were Latina/o college students from across the country. The listserv list then changed venues and was housed at the University of California at Riverside becoming “2000SERADC,” from November 1997 through August 1999, at which point the listserv list was discontinued. This twice-named listserv list project lasted three-and-a-half-years. [4] Dorinda Moreno, Chicano/native Apache (Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother) has worked bridging Elders, Women of Color, Inter-generational networks and alliances, with a focus on non-racist, non-sexist (LGBT community), non-toxic–Chicano/a, Mexicano/a, Latino/a, Indigenous communities, projects and networks that give voice to under-represented groups and enable feminist empowerment through social change networks and innovations. As an early Web pioneer and archivist, she has been actively using the Internet since 1973. [5] Calderón interview.  [6] Pluma Fronteriza began as a printed newsletter, then became a blog and currently has a companion site on Facebook:  Accessed February 8, 2014: http://plumafronteriza.blogspot.com/  [7] La Bloga hosts various bloggers who write on Latino/a literature.  Accessed February 8, 2014: http://labloga.blogspot.com/  [8] According to the Memidex Online Dictionary and Thesaurus, Chipotle comes from the Nahuatl word chilpoctli meaning “smoked chili pepper” is a smoke-dried jalapeño, accessed January 30, 2014, http://www.memidex.com/chipotles. [9] Márquez interview.

Miguel Juárez is a doctoral student in Borderlands History at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). He has a Masters in Library Science (MLS) degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Masters of Arts (MA) in Border History from UTEP. In 1997, he published the book: Colors on Desert Walls: the Murals of El Paso (Texas Western Press). Miguel has curated numerous exhibits, as well as written articles in academic journals, newsletters, and newspapers focusing on librarianship, archives, and the cultural arts. From 1998 to 2008, Miguel worked as an academic librarian at the following institutions and centers: State University of New York at Buffalo; Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona; Texas A&M in College Station, TX; and the Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) at UCLA. He is also co-editor with Rebecca Hankins of the upcoming book Where Are All the Librarians of Color? The Experiences of People of Color in Academia, part of the Series on Critical Multiculturalism in Information Studies of Litwin Books. The author would like to thank María Teresa Márquez, Dr. Roberto Calderón, Dorinda Moreno, Dr. Tey Mariana Nunn, Renee Stephens, Rebecca Hankins and Dr. Diana Ríos for making suggestions and recommendations for this article. This work is part of a larger body of research on Chicana/o electronic and digital projects during the advent of the Internet.

7 thoughts on “María Teresa Márquez and CHICLE: The First Chicana/o Electronic Mailing List

  1. Diana Rivera

    María Teresa Márquez, Christine Marin and other Chicana archivists/librarians who were in the profession before me (and there weren’t that many) were the ones I learned from. The scales fell off my eyes when I started reading CHICLE and was so sorry it went away. Blogs and pages have since sprouted for us to feed our intellectual, academic and social needs, and after 32 years in the profession, I’m proud to say CHICLE was my first “chew”.

  2. Theresa Delgadillo

    Miguel, thanks very much for this work and for your ongoing research in this area. When I was a student, CHICLE was an important source for information and networking among scholars working in Chicana/o literature, and as Chicana/o and Latina/o participation in the academy increased in multiple disciplines so, too, did listservs among those in particular disciplines. For example, while Jose Aranda at Rice University now maintains the Chicana/o literature listserv, an outgrowth of the MLA Division on Chicana/o Literature and/or perhaps CHICLE, Ernesto Velasquez at University of Dayton maintains a listserv for Latina/o philosophers. I am grateful to all these scholars for their work in facilitating communication, information sharing and networking. The use of listservs is also evolving. What is the role of academic blogs in this ongoing Chicana/o and Latina/o studies engagement with digital media? This is something we think about a lot at Mujeres Talk and we’re still very much at the beginning of making full use of its capabilities.

Comments are closed.