Latin American Cultural & Political Journals: a Digital Selection

Gaceta Literaria (Buenos Aires, Febrero de 1956), p. 1. CRL collections

Following the independence of Latin American countries in the early 19th century, the periodical press played a decisive role in political activity and in the development of cultural and national identity. The press was instrumental in the diffusion of knowledge and the spread of such concepts as liberalism, nationalism, federalism, citizenship, and modernity.

Initially geared toward intellectuals and the “cultural elite,” journals published an array of articles, stories, serialized novels, poems, and cultural reviews. Many journals sought a readership beyond the local population, publishing articles by and for the elite in other Latin American and European countries. Often they took strong political positions, evoking success or repression depending on the winds of political change. As a result, many controversial journals were short-lived or changed names and editorship frequently.

These journals have experienced a resurgence of scholarly interest as primary source material in recent decades, fueled by growing digital accessibility of numerous titles previously available only in print to a limited audience. National libraries and academic and specialized research institutions in Europe, the United States, and Latin America are now preserving and digitizing these cultural resources, facilitating new analysis and interpretation.

CRL, largely through the expertise and focus of the Latin American Materials Project (LAMP), has collected many of these journals over time, and is now expanding access through digital delivery to scholars at CRL institutions as well as participants in the Global Collections Initiative. The following is a representative selection of Latin American journals digitized by CRL. Additional digitized titles and extended holdings in print and microform may be found through CRL’s online catalog.

Selected Titles

  • El Argos de Buenos Ayres (Argentina) began in 1821 as a periodical covering political, literary, and other news from the province and beyond. This weekly was edited by members of the Sociedad Literaria and devoted particular attention to culture, theater, and literature. However, its principal contribution (along with those of contemporaries like El Ambigú de Buenos Aires) was its liberal support of federalism and the establishment of a republic—consistent with the incumbent Rivadavia government of the province—and its push for an enlightened citizenry engaged in political discourse to help form a uni ed state.

  • In Chile El Correo Literario first appeared in 1858 as an independent literary magazine publishing political, literary, scientific, and opinion articles. Its active concern with political affairs and opposition to the conservative government of Manuel Montt are revealed in critical articles and illustrations. In December of the same year, El Correo Literario met its early demise when a state of siege suspended publication of opposition newspapers. The journal resurfaced in 1864 and again in 1867, both times with short runs.

  • Like many early literary journals of its kind, El Gráfico (Bogotá, Colombia) sought to fill a void in the availability of literary content for the cultural elite in Bogotá. El Grafico maintained a sizable readership for much of its long run (1910–1941) due to its mix of literary contributions, political and cultural news, and a variety of illustrations and photographs.

  • Embodying the spirit of modernism that emerged during the end of the 19th century, El Cojo Ilustrado first appeared in Caracas, Venezuela in 1892. The journal published stories and poems as well as articles across a range of the arts, sciences, history, intellectual life, and current affairs. El Cojo Ilustrado was also a pioneer in photojournalism, publishing more than 3,000 photographs during its 23-year run. While maintaining a balanced, pro-governmental stance, El Cojo Ilustrado still employed indirect social critique through the use of humor, allegory, and satire.

  • The modernization of Mexico and growth of literacy during the Porfiriato led to an explosion of new magazines, journals, and newspapers. El Hijo del Ahuizote, founded in 1885 by independent journalist Daniel Cabrera, was notable for its strong critique of the regime of Por rio Diaz through the use of satire and caricature. Under a regime where dissent was quickly suppressed, the paper stood out for its support of the Mexican liberal ideology and as a staunch defender of the freedom of the press. Despite political pressure and more than one forced closure (and Cabrera’s imprisonment in 1893 and 1900), the paper managed to survive until 1903 when—under the increasingly partisan editorship of anarchists Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón—it was forced into permanent closure by the Porfirian government.

  • In the 20th century much of the literary and political press gradually evolved toward the pursuit of broader audiences, publishing a range of articles on topics of cultural and general interest including arts, fashion, cuisine, and the cinema. In Chile, Zig-Zag, founded in 1905 by publisher Agustín Edwards Mac-Clure (publisher of the newspaper El Mercurio), was produced as an illustrated weekly. It made extensive use of photographs, illustrations, and reproductions employing state-of-the-art printing techniques. Many of Chile’s most prominent writers and artists were featured in the magazine, which continued for nearly sixty years.

Literary and cultural journals continue to be a fertile source for researchers across the globe. The Latin American Journals Project at Cornell University was established to provide a “hub” for access to literary and cultural journals from Latin America published during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The project has supported the digitization of over 20 historical journals and seeks to extend the use of these materials through natural language processing and other text and data mining techniques. CRL supported the project by digitizing an extensive selection of journals from its collection—aside from the titles listed above—and providing files to Cornell for further processing and study.

In the area of popular magazines, CRL’s Global Collections Initiative partner, the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut (IAI) in Berlin, has embarked on an ambitious program of acquiring and digitizing Latin American cultural periodicals from the late 19th to the early 20th century. With support from the German Research Foundation (DFG), the IAI will enlarge its already extensive holdings of popular literature by purchase and digitization of periodicals from selected countries—including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, and Puerto Rico. Subject to permissions, digitized content will be available locally, nationally, or to the international community for research. Recent additions soon to be accessible include Tía Vicenta, the most important political satire magazine of the second half of the 20th century in Argentina, and several 19th century magazines not listed as held by any library in the U.S. or the national libraries of Argentina or Uruguay (for example, Noticioso–Buenos Aires 1854).

Expressing Opposition – La Protesta and the Anarchist Movement in Argentina

Issue cover. La Protesta: diario anarquista de la mañana (Buenos Aires, Mayo de 1940) Año XLIII No. 7892

Founded in 1897 by militant workers in Argentina, La Protesta is an anarchist newspaper that served for many years as the unofficial voice of the Argentine Regional Workers’ Federation (FORA), the nation’s first national labor confederation. La Protesta is the longest running of the many anarchist and libertarian titles published in Argentina during the 20th century, and is a key resource for the study of the workers’ movement in Argentina.

A significant run of this title (1903–41) was microfilmed by IDC Publishers in the “Latin American Anarchist and Labour Periodicals” series (recently converted by Brill into an online resource). Members of the Latin American Materials Project (LAMP) first identified the title as an important primary source in 1998, initiating a project to identify gaps in the IDC collection and extend the run of this publication on microfilm. However, finding sufficient holdings hindered the progress of this effort.

In 2012 LAMP worked with the organization Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Cultura de Izquierdas (CeDInCI) in Argentina to locate holdings available in collections in Argentina to assemble as complete a run as possible. Horacio Tarcus, Director of CeDInCI, personally directed the project, sourcing content from CeDInCI’s own collection as well as from the Biblioteca Nacional Argentina (BN), Federación Libertaria Argentina (FLA), and the Biblioteca Popular “José Ingenieros” (BPJI). LAMP committed to digitize the holdings from print originals where possible or from microfilm held by the BN.

The end result of the project, completed in 2015 and brought online by the Center for Research Libraries in 2016, is a virtually complete run of 405 issues of La Protesta covering 1935–2012. Many of the issues are scanned in full color.

Argentina’s anarchist movement lost much of its strength in the repression following the military coup and dictatorship of the 1930’s, and the unionization of workers during the Peron era. La Protesta began to publish more sporadically (no issues were published between October 1943–September 1945, nor between July 1976–June 1983), and the publication has weathered various attempts at closure by the government over time. Even in its diminished role, La Protesta represents an important symbol of the anarchist movement and the dissemination of its ideals.

LAMP’s preservation effort recently yielded an unexpected benefit. In 2017 the of offices of CeDInCI suffered an electrical surge that damaged the hard drives upon which their digital copy of La Protesta were stored. LAMP was able to provide a copy of the digitized files to the organization to restore access through CeDInCI’s digital portal for Latin American publications of the 20th century.