University of Chicago Center for Latin American Studies

Chicago Archive of Indigenous Literatures of Latin America

History of the Archive

The idea for CAILLA originated in the winter of 2000 in discussions between John Lucy, Professor at the University of Chicago, and Paja Faudree, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Lucy had for some time been collecting materials published in the Yucatec Maya language spoken in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. Ms Faudree was writing her doctoral dissertation on indigenous literary movements in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Both shared a sense that these materials were valuable for research on the languages and on contemporary and past native literary movements. However, because of their extremely local pattern of distribution many were at risk of being lost to a broader audience. On the basis of these discussions, Professor Lucy proposed that on her return to the field Ms Faudree purchase copies all the works she could and that he reimburse her for the costs out of his research funds. In this way, the nucleus of the present collection was built over the following year.

In 2002 as the University of Chicago Center for Latin American Studies prepared its renewal application for its US Department of Education's Foreign Language and Area Studies Program (FLAS), Professor Claudio Lomnitz, Director of the Center at that time, consulted with Professor Lucy concerning new initiatives that might be included in the grant proposal. Professor Lucy suggested the Center seek pilot funding to build an Archive of Indigenous Languages. Professor Lomnitz strongly supported undertaking this initiative and it was included in the grant proposal. In the midst of the application process, the Center received a special supplementary allotment of funds from the Department of Education earmarked for research or training work on indigenous languages. Part of this money was made available during 2003 to begin the Archive Project and was used to acquire further materials and build the online database. The project currently receives support from the Center's FLAS program administered by Professor Dain Borges, director, and Kristine Jones, associate director.