AALL 2019 Recap: Locating Latin American Legal Sources

By David Isom

Moderated by Sarah Jaramillo, Reference Librarian for International and Foreign Law at NYU Law School, the “Locating Latin American Legal Sources” session on July 15, 2019 consisted of presentations from Jade Madrid, Latin American Studies & Iberian Languages Liaison & Reference Librarian at Georgetown University; Shana Wagger, Program Lead for Digital Projects and Repositories at the World Bank; and Francisco Macías, Head of the Iberia/Rio Office Section at the Law Library of Congress. Each discussed unique aspects of the Latin American materials available at their respective institutions.

Locating Latin American Legal Sources panel.JPG

From left to right: Sarah Jaramillo, Jade Madrid, Shana Wagger, Francisco Macías.

Madrid began by noting various research guides on Latin American legal materials available at Georgetown and elsewhere. She also discussed the challenges that a researcher can encounter when attempting to locate sources of Latin American law: non-hispanophone/non-lusophone researchers may encounter difficulties when seeking primary sources, of course, but there can also be country-specific challenges. For example, while the Library of the National Congress of Chile includes coverage of Chilean law beginning in 1965, it has no coverage for the 17 years (1973–1990) under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Madrid also mentioned several special collections related to Latin American law available at Georgetown: the papers of Colombian diplomat Tomás Herrán (many relating to the Hay–Herrán Treaty of 1903, which was ratified by the United States Senate but not by the Senate of Colombia); the papers of James Theberge, director of the Latin American and Hispanic Studies Center at Georgetown and United States Ambassador to Nicaragua and Chile; the papers of Panamanian educator, feminist leader, and diplomat Esther Neira de Calvo; and the Alliance for Progress Cartoon Book Program collection, which includes digital copies of comic books produced by the American anti-communist development program in Latin America established by President John F. Kennedy.

Escuela de Traidores.jpg

Escuela de Traidores (School for Traitors), date unknown, from Georgetown’s Alliance for Progress Cartoon Book Program collection.

Wagger said that the World Bank’s open access program that publishes 90–110 books a year, primarily digitally. The program is intended to make information available to the decision-makers involved in development programs in order to support the World Bank’s broad mission of ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. Wagger explained that the World Bank produces four major types of resources: focused publications (such as the Doing Business series of national and regional economic profiles, the Latin American Development Forum series covering economic and social issues, and the World Bank Legal Review); electronic repositories (the Documents & Reports platform which includes more than 330,000 World Bank documents from 1946 to the present, the Open Knowledge Repository of almost 29,000 publications from roughly 2000 to the present, and the subscription World Bank eLibrary); the World Bank Open Data platform, which provides free access to various types of development-related information, including demographic, environmental, financial, and industry data; and other specialized resources such as the Projects & Operations website, the World Bank Group Archives, and the Access to Information portal.

Macías started his presentation by discussing the history of the Law Library of Congress’ collection of foreign law materials, which began in 1848 (in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War) when President James K. Polk ordered the Library to begin collecting materials concerning the law of Mexico. Since then, the Law Library of Congress has grown substantially, collecting the laws of more than 270 jurisdictions in more than 200 languages. Five foreign law specialists work in the unit which covers the laws of Spain, Portugal, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Philippines. Electronic materials include country-specific research guides available in the Library’s Guide to Law Online and the In Custodia Legis blog—see, for example, this post on “Cinco de Mayo and the History of Mexican Codification.” One highlight of the Library’s Latin American materials is the Mexican Revolution and the United States exhibition, which includes historical newspaper articles, maps, photographs, and film footage.

Posada Asalto de Zapatistas.jpg

José Guadalupe Posada, Asalto de Zapatistas (Assault of the Zapatistas), 1910, from the Library of Congress’ Mexican Revolution and the United States exhibition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s