Archiving Censorship in Latin America


(1976 – 1983)

Argentina (1976 – 1983)

Between 1976 and 1983 Argentina underwent a military dictatorship, that began with the leadership of Jorge Rafael Videla. This authoritarian regime garnered transnational support and justified its actions by claiming to combat corruption and the perceived dangers of leftist ideologies. According to Human Rights organizations, there were 30,000 desaparecidos or missing people during this time. The military junta, an alliance of the navy, air force, and army that governed the country, employed illegal methods to persecute and capture students and workers. In some instances, they killed their captives and disposed of their bodies in the sea or the desert. Additionally, they forcibly took babies from female prisoners and placed them in new homes. The junta also established the General Direction of Publications (Dirección General de Publicaciones), an organization responsible for determining which books were considered subversive and dangerous to the population. Besides novels, essays, and children’s books, certain editions of dictionaries, almanacs, and atlases were banned too.

Black and white photo of burned books
In 1980, a judicial order was issued that demanded several books from the Argentine publishing house Centro Editor de América Latina – CEAL to be burned. Figueira was asked to record the process in Sarandí, Buenos Aires.
Photo: Ricardo Figueira. Source: “La quema”
Collections of photos of books that had been dug up
Picture of the installation ‘Nexo’ by Argentinian artist Marcelo Brodsky, who documented the process of unearthing several books that citizens Nélida Valdez and Oscar Elissamburu had buried underground for almost twenty years to avoid persecution by the state. Rolf Gallery.

Shelves 1, 2, 4, and 5 showcase several notable books. These included Ganarse la muerte (1976), by Griselda Gambaro, Queremos tanto a Glenda (1980) by Julio Cortázar, the 1970 Spanish translation of the book Educação como prática da liberdade, by Brazilian author Paulo Freire, and Campesinado y reforma agraria en América Latina (1972) by Nidia R. Areces. In Shelf 3, we have placed numerous library cataloging cards featuring books that were banned during this dictatorship, along with their respective call numbers for users to access them. For a comprehensive list of banned books, you can refer to the online resource Biblioteca de libros prohibidos.

Additionally, we highly recommend two other resources. The first one is a video that showcases the story of “El partenón de los libros” [“The Parthenon of Books”], an itinerant installation created by Argentinian artist Marta Minujín in 1983. This impressive piece replicates the Acropolis of Athens, measuring 229 feet in length, 98 feet in width, and 65 feet in height (69m x 29m x 19m). It is filled with books that have been banned worldwide.

The second resource a 2022 BBC News short video covering the retrieval of books that once belonged to victims of the dictatorship in Argentina and Chile.

Book Covers Displayed on the Exhibit