(The following is a post by Talía Guzmán-González, Reference Librarian, Hispanic Division.)
Since 1966 the Library of Congress’ overseas office in Rio de Janeiro has been collecting publications by civic grassroots and political organizations, government agencies and NGOs in an effort to document Brazilian social movements and provide primary resources to researchers. This collection of ephemera and gray literature is organized into categories, microfilmed, and grouped under the name “Brazil’s Popular Groups” (BPG). An introduction to the collection and microfilm reel guide is available on the Library’s web site. (A introdução também está disponível em português.) The brochures, pamphlets, posters, newsletters and reports included in the BPG Collection are not commercially produced and, in most cases, are extremely hard to obtain. The Library of Congress is able to amass this unique collection through contacts at local organizations, donations, and fieldwork. By gathering this material, the Library hopes to provide researchers with a more nuanced picture of the social, political, and economic issues in Brazil.
The first set of BPG covers the years 1966-1986, which includes the harshest years of the Brazilian military rule following the 1964 coup d’état. The early years of the military regime were known for political unrest, political repression, curtailment of civil liberties, and human rights violations. Publications like pamphlets, leaflets and posters became a way to disseminate ideas, organize communities, and educate people about their rights. For example, the first BPG supplement includes numerous publications by the progressive Catholic Church groups known as Comunidades Eclesiais de Base (Basic Ecclesiastical Communities). These groups tried to organize people at the grassroots level while condemning human right abuses committed by the regime. Publications by the Comissão Pastoral da Terra and the Pastoral Universitária Nacional show how religious organizations played a key role in raising awareness about a variety of issues like agrarian reform, health, and education.
Brazil’s gradual political liberalization is also represented in the collection. Pamphlets document events like demonstrations for voting rights and the development of new labor movements, as the country headed toward a democratic presidential election in 1985.
The categories covered by the 1966-1986 set include:
Agrarian Reform and Land Issues
Human and Civil Rights
Children and Youth
Education and Communication
Environment and Ecology
Ethnic groups: Blacks
Ethnic groups: Indians
Ethnic groups: Others
Homosexual and Bisexual
Labor and Laboring Practices
Political Parties and Issues
Religious Organizations, Ecumenical Groups and Movements
Women and Feminists
Later collections cover 1987-1989 and 1990-1992, with annual sets after that. The goal of BPG is to document current events from the perspective of the participants by collecting their intellectual output. The pamphlets and posters, and other materials provide a ground level view of important social, political, environmental, and governmental institutions and how their agendas evolve over time. BPG is an invaluable primary resource that documents the work of activists and the outcomes of political and social movements.
Visit the Hispanic Reading Room and ask to see the BPG Collection. We’d love to help you explore this fascinating resource!