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A window to western Mexico

January 20, 2012

A small but prestigious college whose library includes books over 500 years old is keeping the history of Guadalajara and Jalisco alive.

Located in Zapopan’s historic center, the Colegio de Jalisco, which celebrates its 30th birthday later this year, was founded November 9, 1982. Focusing “fundamentally on western Mexico,” with special focus on the metropolitan zone, the college proclaims itself “a window to the west.”

“The Colegio de Jalisco performs two very important roles: teaching and investigation,” says President Jose Luis Leal Sanabria. Aside from these primary functions, the college also stages events such as art exhibitions, conferences and book presentations.

The college’s third president since its inception, Leal describes himself as the organization’s legal representative and explains, “it’s up to me to coordinate everyone.”

“The Colegio de Jalisco forms part of a network of 12 colleges” across Mexico, he says. It offers two postgraduate courses. “The first is a doctorate in social sciences, and the other is a masters in regional studies.”

The college currently has 11 doctorate students and 10 studying for a masters. Additionally, there are 22 students taking another course in professional public policy. Those taking the two postgraduate courses receive grants of 8,000 to 10,000 pesos per month from the National Council for Science and Technology for as long as their studies last.

The college itself currently receives funding “from the state government budget, through the Jalisco Education Secretary. This is relatively recent, before we had to ask for donations,” reveals Leal. Further funds come “from the Guadalajara and Zapopan city councils and our own resources,” he adds.

“We have one of the best specialist libraries,” boasts Leal.  “The building is municipal property. The library is not just for internal use by our investigators; we also have a public room for the general population.”

The Miguel Mathes Library takes its name from a U.S. historian, who in 1995 donated the Colegio de Jalisco his collection of 45,000 documents on the colonial history of northern and western Mexico. Dedicated to social sciences and humanities, the library aims to provide the academic community and general public with easy access to printed and electronic information.

The library has 95,000 items in total, including books, newspapers, magazines and maps, some of which are unique editions. There are also over 1,000 audiovisual items, including CDs, DVDs, audiocassettes, slides and microfilms.

Wrapped in special protective paper, the oldest documents are carefully stored at a specific temperature and humidity to ensure their condition does not deteriorate.

Donning surgical gloves and even a mask, a library assistant gingerly withdraws the oldest book in the library. An account of the life of Jesus Christ, Ludol Saxerre’s “Vite Christe” dates back to 1498. It is a unique pressing with a manually made leather cover.

Other antique items include one of Guadalajara’s earliest newspapers: “Juan Panadero,” a liberal tabloid from 1871.

But the college is not focused on merely preserving items from the past; its purpose is to investigate and learn from local history in order to help shape a better future.

“The fact that there is always a scientific community interested in its internal problems completely justifies the existence of an institution such as this one, which studies and analyzes the problems of all the inhabitants of the state,” says Leal.

This scientific community fosters both local and international collaboration, he adds. “Investigators could be foreign or from other parts of Mexico, this adds a real richness to our work.”

The Colegio de Jalisco is on 5 de Mayo #321, in Zapopan. Its Miguel Mathes Library is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information or to consult the online catalogue, see http://www.coljal.edu.mx/

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