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Mesoamerican Archive


The MesoAmerican Archive features a digital archive of video, research notes, audio interviews, photographs and other digital sources stored at physical archives in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras with the explicit goal of preserving and disseminating sources related to minority languages and cultures. At Indiana University, the MesoAmerican Archive is sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) and the Digital Library Project (DLP). The Archive is a consortium of three leading research institutes in Central America and Mexico: The Institute of Nicaraguan and Central American History (IHNCA, Nicaragua), the Museum of Words and Images (MUPI, El Salvador) and the Center for Advanced Research and Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS, Mexico).

Find out more on the Mesoamerican Archive website >

CLAMA: Cultural and Linguistic Archive of Mesoamerica (2009-2013)

Indiana University Project CLAMA abstract

World political and economic changes have fragmented communities and profoundly altered the lives and traditions of rural people in Latin America. Land loss and socio-economic changes associated with the agro-export economy combined with the Central American conflicts of the 1980s to cause a massive migration of indigenous and farming communities to the United States. The end of the Cold War and the return of peace to Central America did not stem the flow of migrants in search of work and the promise of a better life. It is of vital national interest that U.S. researchers and educators work to increase understanding of these cultures and the languages they speak. Project CLAMA proposes to employ a unique technological infrastructure to preserve, disseminate and teach key pieces of the linguistic and cultural traditions of the people of Central America and Mexico.

The CLAMA project aims to accomplish the following:

  • To create a digital archive of video, research notes, audio interviews, photographs and other digital sources stored at physical archives in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras with the explicit goal of preserving and disseminating sources related to minority languages and cultures.
  • To create a suite of freely available software tools to simplify the process of annotating a digital object (video, audio, or photo). CLAMA will extend existing software to create an "Annotator's Toolkit" which will function with video, audio and photographic content.

Institutional relationships:
At Indiana University, CLAMA is sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) and the Digital Library Project (DLP).  Based at IU, Project CLAMA is a consortium of three leading research institutes in Central America and Mexico:  The Institute of Nicaraguan and Central American History (IHNCA, Nicaragua), the Museum of Words and Images (MUPI, El Salvador) and the Center for Advanced Research and Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS, Mexico).
Project Plan:
During phase one and two, the physical archives will be assessed, digitization standards agreed upon, and sources selected based on thematic relevance and stage of decay, and digitization will be performed. The project will hire a programmer, agree on software changes, and begin implementing the changes.
Phase three will focus on the creation of detailed annotations to accompany these multimedia sources. These annotations will be created at the partner institutions by academics and researchers knowledgeable about the history and culture of their countries using the software created at IU by the digital library program.
During the final phase of the project, the sources and annotations will be incorporated into the CLAMA Web Portal, and library catalog records will be created.  During this final phase, the partners in the US and Latin America will publicize the site internationally and incorporate the audio-visual materials into language and culture classes.

CAMVA: Central American and Mexican Video Archive (2005-2009)

The Central American and Mexican Video Archive (CAMVA) Project (2005-2010) is a four-year Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access (TICFIA) grant that will allow Indiana University to create a digital archive, making accessible hundreds of hours of raw footage, videos, and films that are currently preserved in a precarious state. The archive will annotate, index and deliver the footage in such a way that it might be used in college and high school classrooms throughout the US, Mexico, and Central America.

At Indiana University, The Central American and Mexican Video Archive (CAMVA) is sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), the Center for the Study of History and Memory (CSHM), and the Digital Library Project/University Libraries (DLP). Based at IU, Project CAMVA is a consortium of three leading research institutes in Central America and Mexico: The Institute of Nicaraguan and Central American History (IHNCA, Nicaragua), The Museum of Words and Images (MUPI, El Salvador), and The Center for Advanced Research and Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS, Mexico). Since 1960, millions of rural people in Central America and Mexico have undergone radical transformations in their livelihoods and their culture. The spectacular growth of agro-export economies caused a significant ecological, social and cultural transformation of rural communities.

Land loss and internal migration directly conditioned the development of social movements that, following a period of repression, led to civil wars that ripped apart the fabric of Central American rural societies, accelerating the pace of ecological and cultural change. Due to its unique political history, Mexico avoided the civil wars of the 1980s but nonetheless its rural inhabitants, in particular indigenous people, have experienced analogous forms of rapid and profound cultural change. Although many documents have been produced dealing with the conflicts in the 1980s, the more subtle yet crucially significant changes in peoples’ lives have left relatively little documentary trace.

Similarly, the linguistic and cultural transformations of the indigenous peoples of Mexico have not been documented adequately. Since millions of migrants from that region's countryside moved recently to the United States, Project CAMVA considers it vitally important to achieve a high level of understanding of their cultural history. The principal aim of this project is to address this profound need: to better understand the recent social-cultural histories of Central America and Mexico in order to gain a better appreciation of our new neighbors north of the border as well as those who remain in their respective countries.

Before the rapidly deteriorating film and video archives of this vital region are irreversibly destroyed, Indiana University (IU) will lead a collaborative project to create a digital record available to researchers, teachers, and students everywhere via the internet. This project purports to select audio-visual material that will otherwise likely perish.

Those materials include large amounts of film and video that offer vital insights into the cultural history of the region’s rural peoples who, despite massive urban migration, still account for approximately 35 percent of the population. It is highly important to recognize that the overwhelming majority of the rural people of Central America and Mexico have not left written records and, therefore, these audio-visual archives can play a crucial role in allowing scholars and policy makers to understand the cultural roots of the new immigrants, their present cultural universe, and their evolving worldviews and practices. Project CAMVA will take a major step toward meeting this need.

The main activity of Project CAMVA is to create a regional audio-visual archive where no other exists, even at the national level. The collected, processed, and distributed materials will allow students, scholars and policy makers to create cultural/historical benchmarks against which historical comparisons and contemporary studies can be measured. Specifically, the project in Mexico will focus on videos and raw footage collected through years of anthropological studies at CIESAS dealing with the indigenous peoples, mainly of Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Chiapas. In Nicaragua, Project CAMVA will also work with IHNCA in preserving and making accessible rapidly deteriorating videos, films, and raw video footage stored at the Universidad Centroamericana, the Centro de Historia Militar ( Center of Military History), as well as footage from television companies. Most of the videos and television footage deal with rural conditions and conflict during the 1970s and 1980s.

Finally, in El Salvador, Project CAMVA will select and process materials from the vast MUPI collection, containing over sixty reels of film, dealing in large part with the rural-based guerrilla struggle of the 1970s and 1980s among the eastern Salvadoran peasantry of mestizo, indigenous, and hybrid identities. In fact, all collections, rich in cultural and historical material, are imminently perishable, which forms the single, most compelling rationale for the project.