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Disasters in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba

About the Author

Stacks of archived footage
Director, UCLA Film & Television Archive

In addition to his long career in film archiving and curating, Jan-Christopher Horak has taught at universities around the world. His recent book, Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design (2014) was published by University Press of Kentucky.

"Archival Spaces" Blog - Ithaca College

Permanencia Voluntaria

The earthquakes in Mexico and Hurricanes Irma and Maria all caused significant damage to the film archives of our colleagues in Latin America.  The earthquake destroyed the Permanencia Voluntaria film archive in Tepoztlán, Mexico, with whom UCLA Film & Television Archive has worked very closely over the past couple years, as we staged our retrospective, Recuerdos un cine en español: Latin American Cinema in Los Angeles, 1930-1960.  Only two years ago I was down there, helping them organize their archive in a warehouse space.  A year ago, we moved Pemanencia’s nitrate holdings to Los Angeles, so they remain safe.  Viviana Garcia Besné, the Director of Permanencia Voluntaria, has dedicated this small, privately-funded archive to the work of her grandfather and her uncles, the Calderón Brothers, who for 70 years were producers of popular Mexican cinema, including rumbera musicals, erotic ficheras, and wrestling films with the legendary masked wrestler, Santo.  The earthquake caused damage to the archive’s roof and tossed their films like a salad.  As of September 20, a building inspector certified that the building was structurally sound and repairable, but 80% of their shelving had collapsed and there was also a main water break, so that flooding was also a danger.  The archive is in desperate need of cash, film cans, reels, new shelving, and other film supplies.  The archive also included a small cinema, apparently now destroyed.  Immediately after the earthquake, a small volunteer corps was on hand to physically move materials off the floor, but there is no place safe to store materials, no funds to move to another dry location.  It will also take some time to re-can, reorder and catalog all the films.  Here is more information on how you can help.

Meanwhile, our colleagues at the Cineteca Nacional de México report that they are OK and the archive was not damaged, thanks to their newer construction.  The Filmoteca de UNAM apparently sustained some damage, but happily the staff is all right there, too, and probably have a major clean up job ahead of them.

In Cuba, it was Hurricane Irma that wrought havoc.  We have not heard from our colleagues at the Cinemateca de Cuba, but conditions were already dire there, due to a lack of climate and humidity control.  As we know from the news, in Puerto Rico it was Hurricane Maria that destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure.  We have heard from Marisel Flores-Patton via Facebook that the Puerto Rican film archive (pictured right) experienced serious damage, due to the storm.  With electricity and A/C out, their biggest worry now is the humidity and the heat.

We wish all our colleagues well in their hour of desperate need.  Please give to the relief organization of your choice.

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Comments

Wow, thanks Chris for this update. It's such a fragile film heritage to start with that this is a real blow. While our first priority always has to be people's lives and well being, we also need to attend to cultural survival.