Congressman Moakley in Santa Marta, El Salvador.

LAURA KINTZ: THE PEOPLE’S CONGRESSMAN: JOE MOAKLEY’S MISSION FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE IN EL SALVADOR

My name is Laura Kintz, and I designed an Omeka site, THE PEOPLE’S CONGRESSMAN: JOE MOAKLEY’S MISSION FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE IN EL SALVADOR, as my capstone project for the Archives Track of UMass Boston’s History MA program.

The goal of my site is to display and contextualize archival materials that document Congressman John Joseph Moakley’s important work related to issues in El Salvador during that country’s civil war from 1979 to 1992, especially his career-defining leadership of the “Moakley Commission:” a congressional task force that investigated the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. This project reflects my interests in both 20th century American history and issues of archival access.

Congressman Moakley (1927-2001) was a Democratic South Boston politician whose career spanned the second half of the twentieth century. His papers are at Suffolk University in Boston, which is both my alma mater (BS in History, 2006) and Moakley’s (JD, 1956). The John Joseph Moakley Archive and Institute (JJMAI) at Suffolk University has digitized thousands of Moakley Papers documents, including hundreds relating to El Salvador, for use by off-site researchers; these are accessible via their online catalog. Fifteen years after his death, though, Moakley’s work related to El Salvador remains largely unknown.  With one exception (Moakley’s biographer, Mark Schneider), historians have largely ignored Moakley and his career as historical subjects. The wealth of materials available in the Moakley Papers begs for further research, and thus far, no one has mined these materials and presented them digitally in a cohesive way. My goal in creating a digital exhibit is to change that. The site allows historical researchers and members of the general public to learn about a politician who worked tirelessly to help the victims of Salvadoran injustice.

This site includes a short sketch of Congressman Moakley’s life and career, as well as a timeline of El Salvador’s history, with a focus on the years of the civil war. The “Archival Materials” section comprises the bulk of the exhibit; it features correspondence, memoranda, press releases, government documents, reports, photographs, and other pieces of evidence that chronicle Moakley’s introduction to El Salvador; immigration reform; the 1989 Jesuit Murders and the Moakley Commission; the end of the civil war; and Moakley’s legacy. An “Oral History” section includes transcripts of interviews with Moakley’s family, friends, colleagues, and even with Moakley himself. A final section includes a bibliography and notes on copyright.

In crafting my site, I had nearly 500 digitized archival documents at my disposal. These represent only a small portion of the total number of documents in the Moakley Papers, but nonetheless provide significant insight into Moakley’s career. I selected documents that best support the overall narrative of Moakley’s work and then divided them into categories that reflect the general trajectory of this work. The narrative contextualizes the documents, but the documents also speak for themselves. Each document has its own accompanying identifying information, or metadata, that provides further details, including a general description of the document. In some instances, for presentation purposes, I have divided multi-page documents into separate PDFs; I have noted these instances in the metadata for the relevant files.

My work on the site aligns with my main goal as an archivist, which is to uncover history by providing access to primary sources.The complicated nature of Moakley’s work and of El Salvador’s history in general made this process challenging at times. Given these complexities and my desire to present the material in a succinct and readable way, there are certain aspects of Moakley’s work and El Salvador’s history that this site does not cover. The primary source documents that I have contextualized nonetheless illuminate the unceasing efforts of a United States congressman whose commitment to human rights in El Salvador defined his career and is an example to citizens of today’s world, politicians and civilians alike.

I would like to the staff, past and present, of the Moakley Archive and Institute for all the wonderful work they have done to digitize Congressman Moakley’s papers. This project would not exist without their commitment to providing access to their materials. I would especially like to thank archivist Julia Howington, whose advice and assistance were invaluable as I worked on this digital exhibit.

I would also like to give very special thanks to my advisor and mentor, UMass Boston Archives Program Director, Dr. Marilyn Morgan. Without Dr. Morgan’s encouragement, I may not have realized that archives are my true calling. Dr. Morgan’s support not only helped me create this exhibit, but also helped me learn how to be an archivist, and for that, I am immensely grateful.

Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, and fellow students for all of their support during my graduate career. I would like to dedicate this exhibit to my husband, Rob Kintz, without whom I never would have been able to start, let alone finish, graduate school. He has always believed in me, and for that, I cannot thank him enough.