The historical presence of Basque immigrants and their descendants in several Latin American countries from the age of colonialism to the present has led to the creation of a web of Basque diasporic communities whose members combine their political identity as citizens of their countries of residence and, in most cases, also of birth, with a cultural, ethnic identity as Basque Argentinians, Basque Uruguayans, Basque Mexicans and Basque Cubans, among others. For centuries the organization of these communities crystalized in the formation of a network of voluntary associations in which the preservation of Basque identity was usually linked to more practical aims such as mutual aid, leisure, and education.
Recent advances in the treatment of information, especially the benefits of digitization and the increasing use of the Internet as a tool for communication in all the spheres of human activity, have led to the appearance of initiatives to make this information available both to know and to research the past and present of these Basque diasporic communities, in the Americas and worldwide. These initiatives have been favored by the political evolution in the Basque homeland, with the retrieval of home rule and the creation of its own institutions of regional government, especially in the Spanish side of the Basque Country. Because of this, different websites are now available that provide researchers and general public with a gateway into deeper knowledge of how the Basque diaspora has evolved and what it is today.
First of all are the primary sources for reconstructing the history of the Basque diaspora in Latin America. The efforts have been focused on trying both to preserve the documentary heritage of collective endeavors of previous generations of Basques in the region, and to make this heritage as open as possible. This has led to the creation of several digital archives that hold and make available the papers of Basque clubs and associations (in the colonial age, as well as in the period after Latin American independence), the periodicals created by and for the communities of Basque immigrants, the views of others about these communities, and some personal archives to any interested person. Among these initiatives is the attempt to recover the memory of one of the latest forced migratory movements to hit the Basque Country: political exile after the Spanish Civil War.
The second type of resource is derived from the later attempts of some Basque diasporic communities to construct their own historical memory, using oral history as their principal tool. Most of the archives of oral sources created through these initiatives are available either on the Internet or in other publicly accessible ways.
Third, there are also websites whose aim is to provide the reader with first-hand, easily comprehensible articles on topics related to the Basque diaspora. Some of them deserve special comment because of the variety and richness of their contents.
Finally, the lack of specific online, digitalized libraries on the Basque diaspora is somehow compensated for by the emergence of new types of cultural constructs relating to the diaspora in audiovisual form that are also a good source for approaching the topic.
Matthew Butler and David A. Bliss
The Hijuelas project is a multi-domain international collaboration that makes available in digital form a large and valuable source on nineteenth-century indigenous history––the so-called libros de hijuelas or deed books recording the statewide privatization of indigenous lands in Michoacán, Mexico. These deed books, 194 in total, have been digitized and described over a two-year period by a team of History students from Michoacán’s state university, the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás Hidalgo (UMSNH), trained by and working under the supervision of archivists of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies-Benson Latin American Collection of (LLILAS Benson) of the University of Texas at Austin. Additional logistical support has been provided by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) as a partner institution in Mexico of the University of Texas at Austin and by the state government of Michoacán via the Archivo General e Histórico del Poder Ejecutivo de Michoacán (AGHPEM), which is custodian of the hijuelas books. The project was generously funded by the British Library through its Endangered Archives Programme (EAP 931, “Conserving Indigenous Memories of Land Privatization in Mexico: Michoacán’s Libros de Hijuelas, 1719–1929”).
The project seeks to be innovative in two ways. As a post-custodial archiving project, first and foremost, it uses digital methods to make easily accessible to historians, anthropologists, and indigenous communities the only consolidated state-level record of the land privatizations (reparto de tierras) affecting Mexican indigenous communities in the 19th century. It therefore projects digitally a key source for historians and one that possesses clear identitarian and agrarian importance for indigenous communities. It also makes widely available a source that is becoming physically unstable and inaccessible because of the difficult public security conditions affecting Michoacán. As a collaboration involving diverse institutional actors, furthermore, the project brings together institutions from three different countries and is an example of what may be achieved through equitable international collaborations.
Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, was launched in 1997. The library contains almost five million documents (manuscripts, books, journals, newspapers, maps, iconographic documents, and recordings), many of which are connected to Latin America, offering rich perspectives on the relationships between France and Latin American countries across the centuries. The many travel narratives, testimonies, essays, photographs, and maps available provide rich insight into French perception of Latin America from the early 16th century to the mid-20th century. Although Gallica’s collection of manuscripts on Latin America is not plentiful, one of its main goals is to provide easy access to rare French books printed centuries ago, of which not many copies are available today and which are rarely present in other digital libraries. The richest collection is probably on Brazil, since Gallica has organized a special collection titled “France-Brésil” which provides access to the rich personal collection of books and manuscripts of the first French historian of Brazil, Ferdinand Denis (1798–1890), among other treasures. Gallica has undeniable value for researchers specialized in Latin American history, although working on its collections requires at least reading proficiency in French as the vast majority of the accessible resources are in French.