Latino Studies Latina/o/x Archives
Regina Mills
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0271


Recovery, expansion, and the visibilization of power have been at the heart of Latina/o/x archives. Latinx people, when identified as a pan-ethnic category, are frequently viewed in hegemonic media and literature as uniformly oppressed, with shared politics, and similar (lack of) access to power. The study of Latinx archives provides three major conclusions that should be essential to Latinx studies as a whole: (1) physical archival spaces privilege light-skinned, colonial-empowered Latinx voices; (2) popular culture and other non-state-sponsored sources provide the opportunity to see the heterogeneity of Latinx experience and history; and (3) definitions of Latinidad are frequently determined by which archives one privileges. The term archives is itself fraught. According to the Society of American Archivists, definitions of the term are fiercely debated, usually in ways that narrow what counts, such as focusing on organizational models and chain of custody or whether an archive has gone through a selection process. However, those who study and create Latinx archives are more interested in expanding the term archive. Latinx archival studies generally agrees that the primary documents of history are skewed toward colonial, imperialist, and hegemonic power structures. The kind of Latinx history that comes from official and state-sponsored archives erases Black, Asian, and Indigenous Latinidades. These archives justify anti-immigrant and racialized violence and privilege white Latinxs who embraced white supremacy or found ways to play its game. However, the selections in this entry also argue for the radical potential of archive-building by Latinx communities as well as the ability for memoir, testimony, oral history, and ethnography to challenge shallow understandings of the Chicano Movement or Puerto Rico’s colonial legacy, for example. The scholarship and curation projects sampled here fill lacunae, provide models for future scholarship and anthologies, and read against the archival grain to recast and recenter marginalized and understudied peoples and histories. This bibliographic entry focuses on providing a general overview of the texts that have influenced Latinx archives and archival studies. In addition, key scholarship that uses Latinx archives as well as texts and projects that create and curate new archives are provided. This entry ends with a section on important Latinx archives, both traditional (physical) and digital.

General Overviews

The foundations of Latinx archival studies include a few texts outside of what might be seen as Latinx studies, such as Certeau 1992, Hartman 1997, and Stoler 2009. However, these works have influenced scholars of Latinx and Caribbean archives and history, in works such as Trouillot 1995 and García-Peña 2016 (cited under Alternative Archives and the Borders of the Archive). Studies on AfroLatinx archives and literature, for instance, frequently point to Hartman 1997 and Hartman 2008. For the most part, the works in this section are not overviews themselves, but, taken together, they provide an overview of the key themes and questions that drive the study and creation of Latina/o/x archives. Power and positionality propel Coronado 2013, Gutiérrez 1991, Hartman 1997, Martínez 2008, Sánchez 1995, Stoler 2009, and Trouillot 1995. Kanellos and Martell 2000 alongside Jiménez Román and Flores 2010 represent the importance of recovery projects in Latinx studies. In addition, they provide a sense of how these recovery projects have been structured and what they have historically valued.

  • Certeau, Michel de. The Writing of History. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

    The Writing of History is an influential piece leading to the creation of cultural studies and represents a key approach to the study of Latinx archives: contextualization and identifying the historical processes and individual methods that lead one to “do history.” As Phillipe Carrard notes, de Certeau’s approach “assumes that a text was written by someone, for someone else, and under circumstances that can usually be specified” (2001, 467). For de Certeau history is a type of story. His concept of diction is adapted in García-Peña 2016 (cited under Alternative Archives and the Borders of the Archive).

  • Coronado, Raúl. A World Not to Come: A History of Latino Writings and Print Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674073913

    Coronado’s study explores early Spanish American writings in Texas, a land that changed hands several times in less than a century. His sources cover the late 1700s through the early 1900s and show how these early Latinos navigated constant upheaval. Paired with the index in Kanellos and Martell 2000, this book provides an excellent overview of Tejano print culture. Harvard University Press provides a supplementary bibliography available online prepared by Coronado that makes transparent the archives on which his book depends.

  • Gutiérrez, Ramón A. When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1515/9780804766029

    This social history of marriage examines the Spanish colonial project in Pueblo lands, in what is today considered northern New Mexico on US maps. This book influenced future archivists and historians to see beyond the idea of an American “monologue,” viewing instead a “dialogue;” that is, how the Spanish and Pueblo peoples influenced each other. Indigenous voices are provided more nuanced analysis than in previous work on Spanish colonization.

  • Hartman, Saidiya. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

    A foundational work that illuminates how archives and forms of domination intertwine. Scenes of Subjection also provides an exemplar of what expanding the archives looks like, as she uses slave narratives, performance pieces, legal cases, and other creative and nonfiction documents to build her argument about post-abolition experiences for Black Americans and “the afterlife of slavery.” Hartman’s work has been influential for 21st-century Latinx studies and ethnic studies more broadly.

  • Hartman, Saidiya. “Venus in Two Acts.” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 12.2 (2008): 1–14.

    DOI: 10.1215/-12-2-1

    This article introduces the concept of “critical fabulation” that readers see in her earlier memoir/study Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (New York: Macmillan, 2008) and that would be developed even further in Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals (New York: W.W. Norton, 2019). This article provides a method for telling counter histories in the absence of hegemonically defined evidence.

  • Jiménez Román, Miriam, and Juan Flores, eds. The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

    An anthology, archive, and field-defining collection, The Afro-Latin@ Reader provides a historical overview of AfroLatinx presence and influence throughout the Americas. The anthology contains life narratives, creative writing, and poetry, as well as theorizations of AfroLatinidades from scholars, artists, and those outside academia. This book recovered and compiled AfroLatinx literary and scholarly contributions and catapulted the field of AfroLatinx studies.

  • Kanellos, Nicolás, and Helvetia Martell, eds. Hispanic Periodicals in the United States, Origins to 1960: A Brief History and Comprehensive Bibliography. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 2000.

    Published by the famed Arte Público Press, whose mission is to recover the Hispanic literary tradition, this index of more than 1,700 Spanish-language newspapers contains annotations that contextualize each periodical, including information such as mergers and name changes. Kanellos’s substantial historical overview covers Mexican Americans from California to the Gulf Coast as well as Cuban and Puerto Rican exile media.

  • Martínez, María Elena. Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1515/9781503626591

    Using Spanish archives, Martínez provides a history of the construction of “blood purity” (pureza de sangre) within the religious and political institutions of colonial Mexico, though the book speaks just as strongly to Latin America more broadly. Genealogical Fictions is essential reading for archival methods and those interested in theories of mestizaje, racial democracy, and racial inclusion.

  • Sánchez, Rosaura. Telling Identities: The Californio Testimonios. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.

    Telling Identities is itself an archive of testimonios, one that influenced future work on Californios and early Mexican American history in the United States. Sánchez argues that the letters, testimonios, and documents that present Californio voices give us insight into a people dispossessed from their land and power. Her claim that the voices of the former hegemony were made subaltern has been questioned, but, nonetheless, this work has proved to be foundational to future work on Californios and reclaiming Mexican American voices.

  • Stoler, Ann Laura. Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

    Along the Archival Grain continues similar postcolonial work on archives in Stoler’s earlier books. Her past theoretical contributions are provided alongside newer ones. For Stoler, archives are not solely physical objects or repositories; rather, the affective and the bureaucratic are in constant dialogue, always producing the archive. In this study, Stoler explores the failures and weaknesses of imperial power, rather than characterizing the state as an all-powerful entity.

  • Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston: Beacon, 1995.

    Haitian anthropologist and intellectual Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s foundational book pairs well with Certeau 1992 in that Trouillot explores the method of history and archival study. However, Trouillot’s positionality provides a powerful meditation on the role of power in writing history. His argument about the importance of the Haitian Revolution (and the West’s refusal to acknowledge such influence) has been influential to much work in AfroLatinx studies.

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