6 Hispanic Heritage Archives to Explore Online

Libraries document and celebrate the importance of the Hispanic community, past, and present.

Note that some of the collections mentioned need permission or appointments to visit. However, increasingly archives are digitized and made available from the comfort of your home.

The Library of Congress Hispanic Reading Room. The official U.S. library has a sizable research collection devoted to the Caribbean, South America, Central America, Spain, and Portugal. Information about the indigenous cultures of those countries is a specialty of these archives. People influenced by those cultures, such as Latinos in the U.S. and people of Portuguese or Spanish heritage who emigrated to Africa, Asia, or Oceania, are also a focus.

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Chicago’s Newberry Library has an extensive collection of Latin American history items focused on Central and South America. The collection includes everything from exploration and colonization in these regions to maps and atlases. Visitors can also view Mayan and Mexican archaeological materials. A vast array of artifacts from sixteenth to eighteenth century colonial and Jesuit histories of Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela are also housed there.

The John Carter Library in Providence, RI, has nearly 50,000 rare books and manuscripts, including many items related to European exploration and travel in the Americas. The archives hold the first Latin edition of Columbus’ letter of 1493 and accounts of discovery and settlement by Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English explorers in modern Central American and South America.

The University of North Texas in Denton has Latino Collections focused on the impact of Hispanic heritage in the southern and southwest regions of the United States. Topics are wide-ranging and include the artistic, political, economic, and cultural roles that Latino communities play. The collections are for students studying Mexican-American studies, history, and anthropology, and community members interested in local history, genealogy, and future filmmakers.

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Another Texas library at the University of Houston has a Hispanic Research Collection. A singular focus is the works of the Arte Publico Press, which is Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project. The press is a long-lasting Latino publishing house in the U.S. The university archives also contain the Mexican Documents Collection, with items dating from 1570–1898.

It is fitting that the University of Miami, in the same city as the renowned Little Havana, has the Cuban Heritage Collection. The archive includes extensive works exploring the global Cuban diaspora, the most comprehensive collection of items about Cuba outside of Cuba itself. The materials onsite include rare and contemporary books, journals, photos, maps, newspapers, correspondence, manuscripts, and a growing digital archive.

Speaking of digital, ARtstor (a nonprofit focused on bringing research online in a variety of disciplines) has an online Latin American Studies collection. Contents touch on every subject, from history and culture to art, architecture, and photos of historical events and figures.

All across the U.S., libraries are documenting and celebrating the importance of the Hispanic community, past and present.