Inesita Papers Processing the inesita papers in the cfprt

by Carolina Meneses, Information Studies | SAA/ARL Mosaic Scholar

For the last few months, I have been processing a collection which reflects the life and eighty year career of flamenco dancer extraordinaire, Inesita. Her papers are mostly related to performances in Los Angeles and a few other places around the world. The type of materials range widely and speak to the length of time that she has been performing as an artist -- from hand-written letters to blog posts. Through these materials, you can see her growth as an artist, from performing flamenco in cabaret environments in the 1940s to presenting lecture-demonstrations in schools during the 1960s across Southern California which she called, The Mystery of Flamenco.

Polaroids from the Mystery of Flamenco lecture-demonstration at a K-12 school, circa 1970s.
More polaroids from the Mystery of Flamenco lecture-demonstration at a K-12 school, circa 1970s.
A page from one of many versions of Inesita’s script for The Mystery of Flamenco
Another page from one of many versions of Inesita’s script for The Mystery of Flamenco

While processing her collection, it has been remarkable to see how devoted Inesita has been to the art of flamenco. She recognized her true calling at a very young age and threw herself into the art, despite significant training in classical music and the wishes of her parents to pursue a more traditional trajectory. She learned flamenco as if it were a second language and her studies inevitably took her to Spain where she trained under the flamenco masters, Valencia y Rendón de Ávila (“El Estampio”) and Regla Ortega. Her work has evolved significantly through the years, insofar as incorporating elements from her early years of classical training, as seen in her dances choreographed to the harpsichord sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti.

Photograph of Inesita and Oscar Tarriba during their brief partnership, circa 1941. (left)

Inesita had a role in introducing flamenco to Los Angeles and arguably to the rest of the country. She started off performing in revues to an audience that had perhaps never seen flamenco. In her words, “Spanish dance and particularly flamenco was an exotic specialty mostly misunderstood by the public.” These first engagements eventually led to appearances in films such as Here Come the Girls (1953), which gave her more recognition.

Inesita in publicity photo for Here Come the Girls, 1952.

The actual day-to-day processing of the Inesita papers was, for me, a learning experience as a new archivist. Though Inesita gave me a great starting point with the nearly immaculate arrangement of her materials, there were moments when I had to intercede and change her original order. This was done with LSC’s users in mind to facilitate the material’s discovery. I think it’s about finding a sweet balance between professional archival judgment in imposing order and doing no harm. This is something I’m still learning.

Inesita at a 1962 concert.
Inesita in 1975.
Inesita in Campero costume, 2000.

This collection also served as my introduction to digital preservation and processing. At the same time, it was LSC’s first hybrid collection to have paper material processed concurrently with digital material. This posed challenges because I found myself in new territory. However, thanks to the help and guidance I received from the digital archivist and a fellow intern, I learned how to navigate between processing the digital and paper materials. Perhaps this was the perfect collection from which to learn. Since I had such a small amount of digital material to work with, it was much easier to manage that discrepancy. My biggest takeaway might be learning about how vulnerable digital objects can be, especially optical discs. It took a bit of troubleshooting to ultimately copy the content from all the discs onto our server and transfer it to Archivematica, our digital preservation system.

It has been an incredible opportunity to work with this collection, given my interest in dance archives. I continue to have an understanding that dance archives have a diversity of material, such as audiovisual and digital, which demands specific care. Moreover, it was extraordinary that I happened to be there when the curator was negotiating the accession of the collection with Inesita. It was kismet that her papers were selected for me to process as part of my fellowship. It feels special that I was able to see her collection from the very beginning of its movement to UCLA to finally its processing and availability for researchers. I genuinely hope that her work will gain larger recognition given its access to teachers, dancers, and historians of flamenco.


Images and video from the Inesita Papers (Collection 902). UCLA Library Special Collections. | gm: Inesita. “Summation of a Long Career.” Accessed August 4, 2019. https://flamenco-inesita.com/2017/06/05/summation-of-a-long-career/

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