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Article

COVID-19 and Digital Archives in Latin America  

Ian Kisil Marino and Thiago Lima Nicodemo

Historians devoted to telling the story of the COVID-19 pandemic should question the archival conditions involved. In this article, we approach the archival landscape in Latin America in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, which particularly unfolded in the digital environment. First, we suggest a review of archival digitization in Latin America, providing context for the conditions observed during the pandemic. Second, we discuss the emergence of digital memory initiatives that focused on COVID-19, showing typological relations that may arise from transnational analyses. Accordingly, we dive into some Brazilian archival initiatives with major ethnographic rigor since, in addition to closely representing the reality of the region, they provide us with a more accurate immersion into the agents, platforms, and challenges of this pandemic digital undertaking. Lastly, we point out the complex situation of public archives amidst the mass of documents resulting from the pandemic. This way, we pose questions about the increasingly important interface between history, archives, and a policy for transparency of data.

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Digital Resources: Colonial Brazilian History  

Mônica da Silva Ribeiro

Research on questions related to colonial Brazil has always been a challenge for historians of the period. In addition to the habitual adversities of historiographic research, studies of the colony have presented some specific difficulties as it involves documentation with at least three centuries of existence. For this reason, these primary sources have often seriously deteriorated due to the actions of time, environmental factors, or bad conservation. In addition to these problems, there exists the question that these documents are scattered among various archives in different regions of Brazil and on the other side of the Atlantic in Portugal, since the central administrative bodies of the Portuguese Empire were concentrated there, from where they communicated with their colonies and conquests. To shorten these distances, preserve the sources, and allow wide-ranging democratic access, websites have emerged to host the digitalized documentation of archives, libraries, and research collections. Since the 2000s, websites with both specific and more general subjects have been created, covering a wide range of content related to colonial Brazil, organized in digital collections. Various types of sources, such as cartographic, iconographic, and textual which allow aspects from social, political, economic, and cultural history to be dealt with, among others, can currently be found and analyzed without researchers having to physically visit institutions, which can be many kilometers from their residence. Much work which previously was either not done or which was limited due to the lack, or even the complete absence, of documents can now be carried out, which above all collaborates with the growth of the area.

Article

Digital Resources: En el Ojo del Huracán, Private Letters from the Caribbean to Spain  

Werner Stangl

The early 19th century was a period of intense turmoil and chaos in the Spanish-speaking world: The Napoleonic Wars and French occupation of the Peninsula in the 1800s, independence movements in the Americas, the liberal constitution of Cádiz, Napoleon’s defeat, and the reinstallation of the Bourbons in the 1810s, and finally, the second constitutional period, the iron fist of restoration, and the eventual loss of most American possessions between 1821 and 1825. The least affected areas in the midst of this turmoil were the loyalist islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico, metaphorically the “eye of the hurricane.” It is within this context that a corpus of some dozen letters, preserved in the Spanish National Archive, were written. They were produced in the circum-Caribbean region—most in Puerto Rico—and addressed mainly to relatives and business partners on the other side of the Atlantic. The letters in question were archived without accompanying documentation, probably seized by authorities loyal to the restoration of the Ancien Régime. As a central element, this digital resource—“En el Ojo del Huracán”—displays these primary sources in an online presentation. Beyond the historiographic value of the sources, the project explores the differences between traditional and digital edition standards (TEI) for digital letter editions with the aim of showcasing the benefits of implementing the digital paradigm and for different visualizations, functionalities, analysis and incorporation in larger infrastructures.

Article

Digital Resources: HGIS de las Indias  

Werner Stangl

HGIS de las Indias is an open-access Spanish-language database and web platform on the temporal and spatial developments in the territorial organization and settlements of all Spanish America (from Nutka to the Malvinas) during the reign of the Bourbon dynasty until the eve of the independence movements (1701–1808). It consists of several components: a platform for visualization of the database in an interactive web application, an engine for the creation of base maps, and a repository for the raw data files that can be used in specialized software. Also, HGIS de las Indias has a feature that allows registered users to create spatial data sets from tabular data. Beyond its practical use as finding aid, data provider, and mapping resource, it aims at fulfilling an even more fundamental function of infrastructure. The unique resource identifiers (URIs) for places and territorial concepts in HGIS de las Indias can be used as identifiers across projects and text annotations. Also, there exist easy workflows to prepare research data with a spatial component in tabular form and connect it with the database. HGIS de las Indias may thus serve as a link between otherwise unconnected data sets and is itself integrated in more fundamental infrastructures like Pelagios or the World Historical Gazetteer that constitute a bridge to the wider world of the semantic web.

Article

Digital Resources: Housing and Urban Development in Latin American History  

David Yee

Beginning in the 1880s, the modern foundations for architecture as a profession and academic discipline were established in Latin America’s major cities. Soon thereafter, urban planning (urbanismo) began to emerge as a distinct discipline in a period of scientific and technological innovation. This rich history has been compiled, digitized, and made available to the public by two key institutions: the Facultad de Arquitectura of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (FA-UNAM) in Mexico and the Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Urbanismo of the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina (FADU). Collectively, these two digital projects contain a wealth of information for scholars to research the cultural and intellectual histories of cities in both Argentina and Mexico. The primary resources available on both platforms provide valuable insights into how Latin America’s leading architects and planners analyzed, debated, and envisioned urban life in the 20th century.

Article

Digital Resources: José de San Martín and the Independence of Latin America  

Sebastian Raya

The documents in General José de San Martín’s collection offer detailed knowledge about the man he was, his thoughts, and his actions. In turn, the collection allows scholars to glimpse the rise of American independence movements through a leading American revolutionary. These documents date from 1723 to 1850; however, the majority of them date from 1814 to 1823. The records mainly cover the Argentine and South American territory although there is some foreign affairs material. In general, the collection mainly comprises correspondence carried out by José de San Martín, but there is also documentation of a military nature—trades, copybooks of military orders, parts of battles, files, and some sketches and drawings of plans—as well as a few personal papers. These documents were published for the first time in 1910 by the National Centennial Commission with the assistance of the Mitre Museum, who has been in charge of the documents since 1907 when the museum was established. In 1953, the Sanmartiniano Institute began to track, photograph, and compile all relevant documents about San Martín that were in private and public collections. Despite the historical relevance of the character for Latin American countries and for studies on Latin American independence, the documents published in volumes are digitized in a very irregular way and are difficult to access. However, other essential resources are also needed online to allow the user to access a comprehensive overview of the life and work of the liberator.

Article

Digital Resources: Malvinas/30, an Interactive Documentary on the South Atlantic Conflict  

Alvaro Liuzzi and Tomás Bergero Trpin

The Malvinas War, also known in Spanish as the South Atlantic Conflict (conflicto del Atlántico Sur), was a war between Argentina and the United Kingdom that took place in the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia, and South Sandwich between April 2 and June 14, 1982. During 2012, thirty years after the conflict, the Malvinas/30 web documentary was produced in Argentina, conceived as a transmedia production in real time. It was designed to serve as a space of collective digital memory that would involve users and recreate on social networks the hostile atmosphere of the South Atlantic Islands at the time of the skirmish. The documentary, produced by an interdisciplinary team, was developed as a continuous interactive production for five months that, by extending its narrative through different digital platforms, sought to allow users to relive the events of the Malvinas War as they had occurred three decades before in 1982. To meet this goal, Malvinas/30 was organized along three central axes: narrative synchronization between past and present (telling the story as if it were happening today); unfolding the story on different media (social networks, traditional media, and other media); and generating interactive responses from users (a collective story as a space for historical memory).

Article

Digital Resources: Medical History of Latin America in the 20th Century  

Nicole L. Pacino

Scholarship on Latin America’s medical history has traditionally relied on collections located in specific countries that are housed in national and regional archives, universities, medical schools, and government institutions. Digitized source repositories and reference websites will make these materials more accessible for researchers and students, and it is likely that digitized content will become increasingly available in the coming years. In the 21st century, various institutions in Latin America and the United States have made a concerted effort to digitize materials related to the study of health and medicine in Latin America. This effort is the product of advancements in technology that make digital preservation of material possible, as well as a growing awareness that not all archival collections, especially in Latin America, are stored in optimal conditions. The push for digitization, therefore, is centered on two primary goals: first, to make resources more available to researchers and remove obstacles to the use of archival collections, including accessibility and physical distance or travel restrictions, and second, to preserve materials in danger of decay or neglect from storage in subpar conditions. The digitization of a broad array of materials, including historical documents, newspapers, popular culture, photographs, music, and audio recordings, fosters greater use of these collections by researchers, teachers, and students inside and outside of Latin America and enhanced interaction with the institutions that maintain the digital and original collections. While not exhaustive, these sites demonstrate the extensive range of digitized sources available for the study of Latin America’s medical history. Materials span from the pre-Columbian through modern periods; the priority is collections with significant 20th-century content, but those focused on the colonial period and the 19th century are noted. The collections tap into several historiographical themes and discussions prominent in Latin American medical history, including questions about individual agency and the role of the state in administering health and medical initiatives; race, gender, and discriminatory health practices; social issues, such as prostitution and alcoholism, as public health concerns; debates about who can produce medical knowledge; the creation of medical professionalism and medical authority; and Pan-Americanism and the role of United States influence on Latin American health programs. The pace of digitization has been uneven across Latin America. A country’s wealth and access to resources determines the extent to which materials can be digitized, as do political considerations and legislation regarding transparency. Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina are well represented in the entries, and the collections are either supported by national institutions, such as universities, libraries, or government archives, or sponsored by grants that facilitate the digitization of materials. For example, the collection from Peru relies on a UK-based charitable foundation for its existence. Digital collections based in the United States are located in archival institutions and research centers and focus on the activities of Inter-American, Pan-American, and philanthropic organizations, although not exclusively. Digitized collections greatly improve accessibility to sources related to Latin American medical history, but also depend on the user’s ability to navigate different interfaces and knowledge in how to limit and target searches. Many of the sites allow for keyword searches and the opportunity to browse collections; therefore, a user’s familiarity with the topic, scope, and keywords of a collection will determine the usefulness of search results. Where downloadable material is available, it is provided free of charge, and most of these repositories state a commitment to open access and to growing their digital collections.

Article

Digital Resources: Modern Slavery and the Slave Trade in Latin America  

Jorge Felipe-Gonzalez

The expansion of the Internet and computing technologies has transformed, heuristically, methodologically, and epistemologically, the scholarship on modern Atlantic slavery and the slave trade. An increasing number of primary and secondary sources are now available online. Archives, universities, libraries, research centers, and other institutions have digitized partially or entirely historical collections and archival records and made them public through digital portals in a variety of formats. Users can instantly access, analyze, search, share, transfer, visualize, and interact with a vast amount of historical data on slavery and the slave trade, which, in the late 20th century, was scattered across archives and libraries. The increasing Web presence of digital repositories on Latin American historical slavery and the slave trade is changing previous scholarly perceptions about broader demographic, historical, and social issues, as well as about the everyday life of enslaved Africans. Digital databases on the slave trade, for instance, are answering long-term historiographical concerns regarding the number of captives carried to the Americas, their African embarkation regions, or the nationality of the carriers. Digital repositories and databases help to better understand the African geographical origins of the slaves and their ethnicities, a key component in the formation of the Afro-Latin American culture. Digitized repositories such as baptismal, marriage, and burial archival records and databases on runaway or self-liberated slaves, plantation lists, or court cases are filling gaps in scholars’ understanding of the internal dynamics of the institution of slavery, which characterized most of Latin American history for about three centuries.

Article

Digital Resources: The Sandino Rebellion Digital Historical Archive, Nicaragua, 1927–1934  

Michael J. Schroeder

From May 1927 to December 1932, the Nicaraguan nationalist Augusto C. Sandino waged guerrilla war against the U.S. Marines and Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua to expel the “Yankee invaders” and achieve genuine national sovereignty. The war was centered in Las Segovias, the mountainous, sparsely populated northcentral region of Nicaragua bordering Honduras. The website is envisioned as a comprehensive, interpretive, open-access digital archive on this much-discussed but still dimly understood “small war” of the interwar years. Rigorous accuracy, judicious interpretation, and the democratization of knowledge rank among the website’s most important guiding principles. Before mid-1927 there is very little documentation on Las Segovias. Then, starting with the June 1927 Marine invasion and occupation, our documentary base explodes. For nearly six years, the US imperial spotlight—expressed in a dazzling variety of texts—illuminated the hidden corners of a society and history hitherto almost totally obscured. Alongside this explosion of imperial texts was the proliferation of texts and artifacts created by the Sandinista rebels. In January 1933 the spotlight vanished, and a month later Sandino's rebellion ended in a provisional peace treaty with the newly elected Sacasa government. The Marines went home, carting hundreds of boxes of records with them. What the U.S. imperial gaze spotlighted for those six or so years constitutes the bulk of this website’s focus. Smaller in scale but often punchier in impact are the textual fragments and social memories produced in Las Segovias that survived the brutal repression that followed Sandino’s assassination in 1934. Inspired by social and cultural history “from the bottom up,” this project conceives of the Sandino revolt as a social and cultural process, as a local response to foreign invasion and occupation. The documents presented here reflect this focus, selected because they speak in some fashion to the agency of Nicaraguans and Segovianos in shaping their own history—including campesinos and Indians, tenants and sharecroppers, smallholders and squatters, miners and migrant workers, seasonal and day laborers, as well as townsfolk and artisans, smugglers and bootleggers, peddlers and traders, boat-drivers and mule-drivers, ranchers and coffee growers, merchants and professionals, politicians and military leaders—individuals, families, and communities caught up in a whirlwind of foreign invasion and insurgency as complex and multifaceted as any in history. What manner of revolutionary movement was this? What were its origins, characteristics, and legacies? All the documents presented here speak to these broader questions and themes. A work in progress, the website currently houses nearly 5,000 primary documents from U.S., Nicaraguan, and other archives, including patrol and combat reports, intelligence reports, photographs, letters, diaries, maps, oral histories, propaganda fliers, and more. Comprised of 20 expansive, interlinked digital file cabinets organized by archival repository and theme, this noncommercial, easy-to-navigate website contains a goldmine of readily accessible information for students, teachers, and scholars on the period of the Sandino rebellion.

Article

Digital Resources: The Digital Library of Ibero-American Heritage  

Silvia E. Gutiérrez De la Torre and Miguel D. Cuadros-Sánchez

The Digital Library of Ibero-American Heritage: Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano (BDPI) is a metasearch engine that provides access to the digital resources of fifteen countries in Iberian-America. This tool is provided with a simple search, an advanced search, and an Application Programming Interface (API), all of which provide different points of entry into the digital objects’ metadata as well as direct links to these sources in their original repositories. These objects can be queried through multiple fields such as resource type, author, edition, date, full text search, and providing institution, among others. The BDPI’s collections contain a selection of documents curated by specific word searches on the digital objects’ metadata. These collections range from botany and fauna to gastronomy, folk tales, the Paraguayan War, and sound records, just to name a few examples. The BDPI is part of a new stage in the long-term efforts of national libraries across Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, with the purpose of enabling public access to historical materials via the Internet. Thus, the analysis of this initiative implies also a reflection about the overall public importance of libraries and the open access to their collections. Due to technological and institutional difficulties, the BDPI still has a lot of room for improvement, especially in terms of mapping variants into more standardized metadata. Nonetheless, this digitization and web outreach initiative has great potential for scholars around the globe interested in the study of Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula.

Article

Digital Resources: The League of Nations and Latin America  

Fabián Herrera León

Historical research on the phenomena of the multilateral interaction and transnationalization of institutional structures and norms centered on the international organisms of the interwar period, with the League of Nations as the central axis, have benefited enormously from the creation and development of several digital resources in first decades of the 21st century. One challenge for this period involves efforts to reconstruct the trajectories, collaboration, and interaction of Latin American members in relation to those international organizations, but these have been increasingly favored by these resources because of the information they concentrate or make available, and because they combat the omissions and imperceptibility to which this region has often been subjected. International histories centered on Geneva that radiate out toward Latin America could represent a new area of development for websites that specialize in consolidating such digital resources as the United Nations Office at Geneva (library and archives), the League of Nations Photo Archive, the League of Nations Search Engine (LONSEA), and the History of the League of Nations.

Article

Digital Resources: The Study of Brazilian History  

Álvaro Pereira do Nascimento

At least four major periods help to understand Brazilian history from pre-contact until modern times: the era of indigenous societies prior to 1500; the Portuguese colonial period (1500–1808); the experience of the Monarchy (1808–1889); and the Republic (1889–2019). Although the expanding and varied repositories offering digital resources do not necessarily cover these four highlighted periods thoroughly, researchers should still know them before navigating through the documents and images such repositories are making freely available to the public. Historical Brazilian digital holdings can be grouped into nine broad areas: (1) documents produced by national, state, and municipal governments; (2) records relating to specific historical moments; (3) sources for immigrant, indigenous, and African and Afro-Brazilian studies; (4) collections helpful for examining labor, industry, and plantations; (5) sources relevant for sex and gender studies; (6) materials for the history of science; (7) personal and private collections; (8) periodicals (newspapers and magazines); (9) and sources related to artistic, patrimonial, and cultural production. Researchers will find abundant sources about Brazilian society, political changes, the economy, education, commercial relations, wars and revolts, urban reforms, companies, violence, customs, and values, among many other topics and issues. Scholars and students can access interviews, photographs, newspapers, magazines, books, civil and parish records, laws and reports from government institutions, correspondence, music, movies, documentaries, maps, and much more.

Article

Digital Resources: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database  

David Eltis

The Slavevoyages website completed ten years of successful operation in 2018. Drawing on four decades of archival research on five continents, a revolution in computer-processing costs, and the more recent explosive growth of the worldwide web, the site currently offers public access to several databases on slave trading in the Atlantic World. The two most important of these are first, a database of 36,000 slave-trading voyages between Africa and the New World, and second, a database of 11,400 voyages from one port in the Americas to another—a traffic known as the intra-American slave trade. The time span covered is from the 16th to the late 19th century. The site also offers personal information on 92,000 Africans found on board some of those voyages, which is stored in a separate database, as well as an interface that permits users to explore our estimates of the overall size and direction of the transatlantic slave trade broken down by each of the 340 years of its existence. In other words, the site attempts to allow for voyages for which information has not survived. The site currently averages over 1,000 visitors per day, who consult a mean of eight pages per visit. It was one of the first web-based databases to use crowdsourcing to correct existing information and attract new contributions to its core database. These are currently refreshed on an approximately annual basis and earlier versions are made available to users on a download page. Slavevoyages has become the basic reference tool for anyone studying the transatlantic slave trade, and is used widely by teachers, genealogists, and scientists as well as historians and, more specifically, scholars of slavery and the slave trade.

Article

Digital Resources: Tulane University’s Collection of Cuban American Radionovelas, 1963–1970  

Christine Hernández

The Latin American Library (LAL) at Tulane University is the repository for the Louis J. Boeri and Minín Bujones Boeri Collection of Cuban American Radionovelas (hereafter, Radionovelas Collection). The physical collection contains 8,934 individual reel-to-reel tapes containing audio recordings produced by Boeri’s Miami-based America’s Production Inc. (API). Boeri founded API in 1961 to create and license radio programming to serve an expanding commercial market of Spanish-language audiences across Latin America, Europe, and the United States. Boeri employed some of the best writing, acting, musical, and technical talent in the business, most of whom were recent emigres from Cuba, the wider Caribbean, and Mexico. API’s radio soap operas went silent after the company closed in 1970 and as the listening public and commercial sponsors increasingly turned to television for serialized entertainment. The LAL began a multiphase initiative in 2015 to digitize its aged audio tapes. With generous support from the Latin American Research Resources Project (LARRP) of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) and the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), the LAL converted one third of the collection’s audio recordings to digital. Beginning in 2020, forty-one of API’s “soaps,” most in their entirety, are accessible via a digital collection in the Tulane University Digital Library (TUDL). Available in the digital collection are programs that span multiple genres with titles like Agente Secreto 009 [Secret Agent 009]; La Hora de Misterio [Mystery Hour]; and Amarga Espera [Bitter Awaiting]. API print materials including advertising, program catalogs, and company photographs will also appear in digital. The Radionovelas Collection offers new perspectives and insights into the use of media for Cold War political and cultural propaganda by Cuba and the United States. It also provides a public resource to engage with and research the history of popular culture, sonic literature, and mass media among Spanish-speaking audiences all over the world.

Article

Palm Oil and Afro-Brazilian Cultures  

Case Watkins

Palm oil is fundamental in Afro-Brazilian cultures, economies, and ecologies. Perhaps no other single material is as essential to Afro-Brazilian identities and cosmologies as is palm oil. Known in Brazil as dendê, or more precisely, azeite de dendê, palm oil exemplifies the intricate relations linking cultures and environments in the African diaspora. During colonial overseas expansion, the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) crossed the Atlantic to become a transformative but underappreciated African contribution to cultures and ecologies in the Americas. In Brazil, the palm interspersed within mangrove ecosystems, secondary forests, shifting agriculture, and diversified agroforests on the coasts of Bahia, creating complex landscapes and economies that supplied palm oil for a variety of Afro-Brazilian cultural expressions. In complement to those landscapes of domestically produced dendê, by the 18th century, transatlantic commercial networks had begun importing palm oil in bulk from West and Central Africa to Bahia. Along with a range of other ancestral goods, including colorful West African textiles and stimulating kola nuts, African palm oil served as an essential base material in growing Afro-Brazilian foodways, aesthetics, and religions. When these trades fell into decline in the late 19th century, demand for locally produced palm oil spiked, and Bahia’s domestic economy consolidated regional dendê cultures, ecologies, and markets. In the 21st century, palm oil remains integral in Afro-Brazilian identities and cultures, and complex traditional landscapes continue to supply local and national markets. Enduring as a living monument to resistance in the African diaspora, dendê provides livelihoods for rural communities, the unmistakeable flavor of Afro-Brazilian foodways, and a sacred symbol and ritual element in Afro-Brazilian religions.