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Hispanic Audio Archive Rebrands as the PALABRA Archive and Releases New Recordings

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(This post is by Catalina Gómez, Reference Librarian and Curator of the PALABRA Archive, Hispanic Division)

With the Library’s Hispanic Heritage Month festivities underway, it is time to celebrate one of our institution’s most treasured Luso-Hispanic collections. This year, as is tradition during the heritage celebrations, the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress announces the release of fifty new audio recordings from the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT) for online streaming. The release makes available new material from this literary audio archive of Iberian, Latin American, Caribbean, and LatinX poets and writers reading from their works.

In addition to this year’s release of new digitized recordings, the Library is also thrilled to announce the re-branding of this historic collection, as well as the launch of a series of accompanying online features. The online features shine new light on the archive, and allow us to share it with a worldwide audience of all ages.

Re-branding the Archive

Effective this month, the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT) will become the PALABRA Archive. “Palabra” and the similar “palavra” mean “word” in Spanish and Portuguese respectively. Both have their origins in the Latin word “parabola” meaning story.

Why the name change? In recent years, those of us who work with this collection have become increasingly aware that its original name, the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (given to the collection when founded in 1943), is no longer appropriate for today’s users. We now live in a world where new generations are estranged from 20th century analog recording methods and where listeners of all ages connect to recordings through new media. As archivists working in these technologically transitional times, we want to share our work with as many people as possible and we realized the name needed to change to reflect our new practices and outlook. With the new brand, the Library of Congress marks this archive’s transition from an analog archive to a digital one (as of today, all the recordings that were on magnetic tape have been converted to digital, and since 2006, authors and poets have been digitally recorded), and celebrates a new era for the collection.

By moving forward, we embrace the new, but also honor what came before. Without the wonders of the magnetic era of audio recording, some of the most important recordings from this collection would have not been possible. Today, we can marvel and listen to numerous 20th-century literary giants such as Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, and Gabriela Mistral, and so many others, thanks to the wonderful technologies that preceded our current one.

New PALABRA Research Guide and Online Features

As part of our festivities and this re-branding effort, the Hispanic Division is also launching a series of new online features that will celebrate the PALABRA Archive and show you and others how to better access its materials.


The first, the PALABRA Archive Research Guide, will function as the official comprehensive guide to the collection. This resource will refer you and other archive users to the recordings that are available for online streaming, as well as to the list of materials not yet available online, but accessible on our Capitol Hill campus. The PALABRA Archive Research Guide joins the growing list of Hispanic Studies and Literature guides, which are compiled by curators and librarians across the institution, and made available on the Library of Congress website.



The second feature is the StoryMap “Traveling Words and Sounds: The PALABRA Archive from the Hispanic Division,” an immersive audiovisual journey through some of the PALABRA Archive’s most treasured recordings. While navigating this page, you will experience some of the unique recordings from the archive, while enjoying photographs from the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division. The images depict some of the landscapes that have inspired so much of the poetry and literature represented in the collection. The website also includes a map that provides a geographical orientation of to the contents of the archive.

Fifty New Recordings Available for Online Streaming

Last but not least, as is our tradition during Hispanic Heritage Month, fifty new audio recordings from the PALABRA Archive are becoming available for online streaming. Among the newly available sessions are those of Guatemalan Nobel Laureate Miguel Ángel Asturias, Cuban poet and essayist Nancy Morejón, and prominent Chicano writer Rudolfo Anaya, who recently passed away (Anaya’s life and career was honored in a recent 4 Corners blogpost.

This year’s release will also include a series of recently recorded sessions of Maya Tsotsil and Maya Tseltal poets and writers from the Chiapas region in Mexico, an effort that was made possible thanks to a new partnership between the Library’s Hispanic Division and Dr. Inés Hernández-Ávila (Professor of Native American Studies, UC Davis), and Dr. Juan A. Ávila Hernández (independent scholar). This new collaboration aims to increase the diversity of the archive by recording more Indigenous literature and highlighting communities which have historically been under-represented in the Luso-Hispanic literary canon.

Here are the fifty new authors, listed by country:





Costa Rica


Dominican Republic









Puerto Rico




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