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New AFC Latinx and Latin American Research Guide : Navigating AFC Collections During National Hispanic Heritage Month

The research guides from the American Folklife Center, found on this page, help researchers navigate the AFC collections by geographic region or by topic. One of our most recent guides, Latinx and Latin American Collections: Resources in the American Folklife Center, provides quick access to our Latinx and Latin American resources during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

What is a research guide?

Three women wearing gowns

Dressmaker Elsa Mantilla (center) posing with contestants wearing gowns made in her shop, 1994. Photo by Martha Cooper. View the full series of photographs in the Working in Paterson Project Collection (AFC 1995/028) here.

The Library of Congress’ suite of research guides are resources created by librarians across the agency meant to highlight relevant collections and teach researchers how to better search our millions of collection materials.

The American Folklife Center’s Archive of Folk Culture documents various cultural traditions from around the world in over 500 languages. The Center’s collections offer extensive global documentation of music and dance, storytelling and oral history, material culture, public art and collective experience, and more. This guide provides an introduction to the various archival collections documenting Latin American, Latinx, and diasporic expressive cultures in its various forms found throughout the Center. Keep in mind when searching the collections that Latinx traditions are not monolithic, and span numerous geographic regions, languages, and ethnic and racial groups. Even the term Latinx is not ubiquitous or used across all diasporic communities; you can learn more about the term and Latinx collections across the Library at large at this link.

Screen shot of the landing page for a new research guide about latinx and latin american collections at the Library of Congress. The image links to the page itself.

This research guide highlights selected online collections you can access from the comfort of your own home, such as the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection. These online collections include hundreds of hours of audio, thousands of photographs, and numerous recorded performances held at the Library of Congress throughout the years. This guide also points researchers to listen to relevant podcast episodes produced by AFC staff, as well as other Folklife Today blog articles researched and presented by our staff of folklorists and librarians. The guide also gives a few pointers to researchers of all levels on how to find items in our archive.

Searching Collections – A Sometimes Difficult but not Impossible Task

Most people feel comfortable searching by keyword, but it may take multiple tries to find what you’re looking for. For instance, I might want to search for books about running, and so I use the word “run” in a title keyword search. However, the book that I really need is titled Sprinting, Marathons, and other Distance Races. This means we have to be open to trying searches a few different ways, using a few synonyms, and of course, asking a librarian for help. This guide presents a few searches and results to better help you find collection materials using various keywords and subject headings.

Subject headings are terms chosen by librarians and catalogers as the most applicable categorization for an item. This means we pick the most narrow form of a term, so instead of “Latinos” we may use “Mexican Americans” if that term more accurately represents the people depicted in the work. Below is a portion of our research guide with searches already conducted for you to help get you started finding materials in our archive.

Screen shot of the "Searching the Collections" page for a new research guide about latinx and latin american collections at the Library of Congress. The image links to the page itself.

See an example of multiple subject headings used cataloging an item in our collection below:

Screen shot of the subject headings used to catalog a single item in AFC's collection. The headings include Music--Brazil- History and criticism. Folk Literature--Latin America--20th century--History and criticism. Folk Drama, Brazilian--Brazil. Folk Music-Brazil--20th century--History and criticism. Folk Music-Latin America--20th century--History and criticism. Brazilian literature--20th century. Brazilian poetry--20th century. Dance--Brazil--20th century. Dance--Latin America--20th century. Folklorists--Latin America. Folklore--Chile. Folklore--Cuba. Folklore--Mexico.

Here, the keyword used was “Latin” which would yield both “Latin America” or “Latin American” as results. See how in each subject heading there are multiple forms for Brazil? Both “Brazil” and “Brazilian” are used in cataloging this item. Be sure to use synonyms or other forms of a word when searching either by keyword or subject heading. An example of an advanced search using this technique can be seen below. In “Advanced Search” you can also refine your search by geographic region, language, or item format.

Screen shot of an Advanced Search box, revealing that you can search for "Mexico OR Mexican" in the same search, and further refine the search with drop-down menus containing authorized subject headings in which to search.


In addition to example searches, the Searching the Collections portion of the guide includes numerous collection summaries organized by country in Latin America, full finding aids for selected collections, such as the finding aid for the Alejandro Paz Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico Collection, and links to various catalog records for our collections not available online but still available for research in our reading room. We hope these selections get you interested in the AFC’s archive of over 3,000 collections, and give some easy entry points to discover the vast cultural heritage documented in the AFC.

Further Questions? Ask a Librarian!

This is only a picture! On a Research Guide, it would be linked to our Ask A Librarian service!

The research guides created by the AFC and the Library at large (available at guides.loc.gov), allow researchers to discover and access our collections from afar. These guides also connect researchers directly to Library staff! If you have a question, please use our “Ask A Librarian” form which is linked on every single research guide, as seen in the box to the right.

Our Ask A Librarian service can connect you directly with the correct division of the Library of Congress and their respective reference librarians and subject experts! The Library of Congress is open to all, and if we can’t answer your question, we may be able to direct you to your local library or other institutions to help you continue your research path. We hope our various research guides get you connected to collection materials at the Library, and we invite you to take the time to use them and explore the wealth of knowledge the American Folklife Center and Library of Congress offer.





From Conflict to Creativity: The Journeys of Matthew Gill and Teresa K. Howes

The following is a guest blog post co-authored by U.S. Navy veteran Matthew Gill and U.S. Army/Army National Guard veteran Teresa K. Howes. This is the second in a four-part guest series featuring military veteran artists who are members of Uniting US, a veteran-focused nonprofit arts organization. Go here to read part 1. In recognition […]

From Conflict to Creativity: The Journeys of AnnMarie Halterman and Ehren Tool

The following is a guest blog post co-authored by U.S. Air Force veteran, AnnMarie Halterman, who is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Uniting US, and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ehren Tool. This is the first in a four-part guest series featuring military veteran artists who are members of Uniting US, a veteran-focused nonprofit arts […]

Homegrown Plus Premiere: Ukrainian American Bandura Master Julian Kytasty

We’re continuing the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with Julian Kytasty, a third generation player of the bandura, a Ukrainian stringed instrument with similarities to the lute and the zither. Julian also sings beautifully and composes for the bandura and other instruments. In this blog you’ll find an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore!

More About “Hal An Tow”: Early Evidence of a May Song.

In this post we examine some of the earliest evidence of the Cornish May Song, also known as “Hal An Tow.” A version of this song was recorded from Lillian Short in Missouri by Vance Randolph in 1941. By that time, the melody to the song had changed in oral tradition, but this early evidence, a written transcription by Edward Jones from 1802, shows that the song was formerly sung to the same melody retained by Lillian Short. The post includes Jones’s 1802 passage describing the May 8 observances in Helston, Cornwall, which include the “Hal An Tow” song, the “Furry Dance” or “Flora Dance,” and other events; the sheet music as he published it; and a discussion of Jones’s interpretations of the Helston song in relation to AFC’s field recording.

Remembering the Life and Work of Tony Barrand: The 2003 Interview [Part 1]

The American Folklife Center mourns the passing of Anthony Grant “Tony” Barrand, a singer, dancer, teacher, and folklorist who donated the Anthony Grant Barrand Collection of Morris, Sword, and Clog Dancing (AFC 2003/005) to AFC in 2003. In addition to making this collection, Barrand has been a proponent of English folk traditions in America for more than 50 years. He was a longtime dancer as well as a singer and musician with the John Roberts and Tony Barrand duo, and with the quartet Nowell Sing We Clear. Barrand, who was born in Lincolnshire and continued growing up in Buckinghamshire, England, died on January 29, 2022 at age 76 in his adopted home of Marlboro, Vermont.

The interview was recorded to audio and video tape and is in the AFC archive. This post is the first in a series of posts, each of which will present a portion of the interview in transcribed form.

Caught My Ear: Dance Tunes in the National Jukebox from Collections by Cecil Sharp

Many divisions of the Library of Congress have fascinating collections that are closely related to folklife and that complement collections in the American Folklife Center. The Recorded Sound Section is a part of the Library that works closely with the American Folklife Center in a variety of important ways. Among their holdings are recordings related […]

La Llorona on the Folklife Today Podcast

Halloween and Día de Muertos are almost here! So, believe it or not, Season 4, Episode 1 of the Folklife Today Podcast, our 2021 Halloween and Día de Muertos episode, is ready for listening! It features interviews about the Weeping Woman, La Llorona, a spirit from Latin American folklore, plus related songs and stories. The people interviewed are Juan Díes, leader of the Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Camille Acosta, who wrote her masters thesis on La Llorona before interning at AFC, and Allina Migoni, AFC’s Latinx subject specialist. This blog contains links to download the podcast, background on our guests, and links to full audio of the songs.