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National Hispanic Heritage Month 2022: PALABRA Archive Releases 50 New Streaming Recordings

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The following is a post by Catalina Gómez, curator of the PALABRA Archive in the Latin American, Caribbean and European Division. It originally appeared on 4 Corners of the World: International Collections.

Following its annual National Hispanic Heritage Month tradition, the Hispanic Reading Room in the Latin American, Caribbean and European division (LAC&E) announces the digital release of 50 new streaming audio recordings in the PALABRA Archive — the Library’s treasure trove of recordings of 20th and 21st century Luso-Hispanic poets and writers reading from their works. With recorded authors from all over Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, the Caribbean, and other regions with Hispanic and Portuguese heritage populations, the PALABRA Archive includes close to 850 recordings, a growing portion of which are available for online streaming.

The newly released recordings include contemporary and historic gems. Among these are July 2022 recording of U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón in conversation with Argentine poets Laura Wittner and Daniela Auginsky during an event organized in Buenos Aires by the Queen’s College low-res program where Limón teaches; and a historic recording of Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo reading an essay on General Francisco Franco’s death on November 20th, 1975. Recorded in the Laboratory at the Library of Congress only thirteen days after the General’s death, this two-part recording includes an interview and the essay (forward to minute 08:35). The powerful obituary, titled “In Memoriam” was later published in 1978 in a book titled Libertad, libertad, libertad.

Photo portrait
U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. Photo by Shawn Miller, Library of Congress
Two portraits side by side
Spanish author Juan Goytisolo (Wikimedia Commons), and Spain’s General Francisco Franco Bahamonde, 1953 (Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

Other new releases this year include the first recordings from the PALABRA Archive in the Mapuche language recorded in 2019 in Villarica, Chile and a unique tri-lingual recording with poet and scholar Inés Hernández Ávila who is Niimiipuu-Texan and also of Mexican heritage. Hernández Ávila reads in English, Spanish, and the Niimiipuu language, a Sasaphian language, which is spoken by Native American peoples in the Columbian Plateau of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Cuban-American poet and anthropologist Ruth Behar offers a special bilingual recording of the 45 poems by Cuban and American women poets which comprise Rolando Estévez’s “Otra piel para otra entraña” — a book-dress designed for Behar to wear.

photo of author at microphone
Niimiipuu-Texan poet and scholar Inés Hernández Ávila recording for the PALABRA Archive on November 21, 2021 in the Library of Congress Recording Lab
photograph of performance
Cuban-American author Ruth Behar models “Otra piel para otra entraña (Another Skin for My Insides)” at the Library of Congress, September 2, 2022. This one-of-a-kind performative work of poetry takes the shape of a black bridal gown that readers unfurl in a celebration of Cuban and American Women poets. Created by Cuban artist Rolando Estévez, the dress includes forty-five scrolls containing poems and illustrations, and comes with black and white veils, bouquets, mask, and fans. Designed for Behar, the dress pays homage to Cuban women poets chosen by Estevez and American women poets selected by Behar. Otra piel para otra entraña adds to the Library’s Latin American and American holdings. It serves as an extraordinary tribute to women poets such as Joy Harjo, Emilia Bernal, Nancy Morejón, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks and Emily Dickinson, to name a few. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress. Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply

In addition, this group of recordings includes a series that were part of a thrilling collaboration between the Hispanic Reading Room and the Washington State Center for the Book. Our partners based in Seattle were instrumental in helping us identify Latino/Latinx writers that reside in their state and helped coordinate and facilitate these recordings sessions for inclusion in the archive. The collaboration resulted in five special new recordings with Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna, and authors Kathleen Acalá, Carlos GilKristen Millares Young, and Donna Miscolta.

Click here to see the complete list of newly available recordings. We hope you enjoy our new digital treasures!

PALABRA has been curated by the Library of Congress Hispanic Reading Room  and continues recording the voices contemporary literary figures. Throughout its history, writers such as Nobel Laureates Gabriel García MárquezPablo NerudaGabriela MistralMiguel Ángel Asturias, and Juan Ramón Jiménez have been recorded for the collection, as well as other noteworthy figures like Jorge Luis BorgesJulio Cortázar, and Isabel Allende.

Together with other literary audio archives of the Library of Congress, the PALABRA Archive is a unique collection that reflects the Library of Congress’ longstanding literary tradition. It is a collection that has gone through its own evolution through time, not only in technological terms, but also in the ways that archive curators have increased their commitment to promote broader cultural representation within the project. Initiatives like PALABRA Indigenous Voices, for example, reflect recent efforts to include the immensely rich cultural and linguistic diversity of the Americas. This project records and adds to collection the voices of contemporary Indigenous poets and writers, whose works have been excluded from the literary cannon for generations.

**Note: A Spanish version of the PALABRA Archive’s Research Guide is now available. The Hispanic Reading Room’s research guides aim to provide online access to the Library of Congress materials related to the Caribbean, the Iberian Peninsula, Latin America, as well as Spanish and Portuguese heritage around the world.