Archiving Censorship in Latin America (1959-1986): A Peek Into Book Banning and State Repression

September 19, 2023

This exhibit was curated by Gloria Morales Osorio, a dissertator in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, with editorial assistance from Laura Martin, Ibero-American Studies and Romance Languages Librarian. Displayed in this exhibit you will find texts banned and censored by regimes in Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba during the second half of the 20th century, all of which have been part of our circulating collections at Memorial Library. The exhibit asks us to engage with the labor of censorship, what it takes to make a text disappear, but also what it takes to save one. While these examples of censorship and repression are removed in time and geography, the final exhibit case encourages the viewer to engage with contemporary examples of efforts to limit and prohibit access to texts.

Book banning has been inextricably woven into the history of print culture worldwide. This exhibit offers a glimpse into three Latin American countries where government officials deemed certain presses, authors, and cultural works as political threats during the twentieth century. Reflecting on censorship requires an effort to unveil what is presumed to be invisible: censors disappearing books, readers safeguarding materials, and banned authors continuing to write, all wishing their efforts to go unnoticed. In this small exhibit, you can visualize how the Argentinian, Brazilian, and Cuban states acted as subjects fixated on the archive, with the ability to confiscate manuscripts and collect, preserve, or burn books. Furthermore, although it is not depicted here, you are invited to explore the endeavors of individuals, collectives, and institutions that have used writing, reading, and sharing books as essential forms of resistance.

The exhibit will run through October 23, 2023. A digital version of this exhibit is available on the UW-Libraries Exhibits website. It includes additional resources and short translations into English of some of the banned materials.