International History of Magazines 5: Latin America

LATIN AMERICA

“Latin American” (Iberoamericano) is here defined geographically to refer to those magazines published in South and Central America, Mexico and the West Indies. The diversity of the region and its histories is enormous, but, despite the risks of flattening the very varied historical and geographical terrain, the amount of material to cover is not as large as it might be. In several countries in the twentieth century the press was either nationalised or very carefully state controlled, and it is not therefore surprising that while there are substantial histories of the press covering Latin America in general and its constituent countries, these are almost all exclusively concerned with newspapers and their role as political actors. A few of these histories are referred to below for the purposes of background for the study of magazines. Most of what there in terms of magazine history focuses on the high-status literary: substantial accounts of the popular magazine in Latin America are lacking. With the establishment of associations for media researchers such as Red de historia de la prensa y el periodismo en Iberoamérica at Guadalajara University in 1999 and the Brazilian Associação Brasileira de Pesquisadores de História da Mídia (from 2008, its associated journals is Revista Brasileira de História da Mídia, founded in 2011) more work is already being done in the area.

The press in Latin America, begun in the 1720s by European colonists, mainly comprised newspapers until late in the nineteenth century, though there is the odd exception, such as the Diario literario de México (founded in 1768, its name recalling the Spanish Diario de los literatos de España of three decades earlier) and the equally short-lived El ilustrador mexicano (1823). Brazil had a literary magazine even earlier (As Variedades, 1812). During this period, almost all magazines in Latin America closed after a few issues: the Buenos Aires-based Cosmopolitan (1831-1833), an Anglophone magazine founded by an Englishman, was unusual in lasting over two years. Mention of this magazine reminds us that, just as  British or American publishing history has a vast array of non-Anglophone newspapers and magazines, it should not be thought that in Latin America all magazines were in  Spanish or Portuguese. Late in the century religious periodicals for English-speakers such as the Buenos Aires Scotch Church Magazine was started (1880-), followed by the Falklands Islands Magazine (1889-1933) founded by the Colonial Chaplain.

Magazines in general in Latin America began to take off in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, including modernist ones such as the well-known Mexican Revista azul (1894-1896), but it was only in the twentieth century that magazines, like newspapers, became truly widespread. Their success is especially visible in Brazil where O Cruzeiro (1928-1975), Senhor (1959-1964) and the news magazine Realidade (1966-1976) established circulations of hundreds of thousands. Popular pulp magazines after the American model had appeared in the 1930s at the same time that women’s magazines, sporadic in the nineteenth century and with restricted circulation, achieved longevity and wide readerships spanning the entire region: the Mexican La Familia, begin in 1930, was by the 1960s being published in 25 countries in Latin America and the Philippines, by which time there was a plethora of women’s titles. From the 1970s the globalisation of the market was increasingly evident, as international media conglomerates published local versions of their magazines, but counter to those, indigenous media companies such as the Mexican Publicaciones also thrived.

OVERVIEWS

Calderón, Carola García. 1987. Revistas femininas: La mujer como objeto de consumo. Mexico: Ediciones El Caballito. 3rd edition

Focussing on women’s magazines available in Mexico in the 1970s (and historical for that reason alone), the volume, whose first edition was published in 1980, is one of the earliest Marxist-feminist studies of the media in Latin America. It both analyses texts and examines ownership patterns in an engaging manner that in some ways anticipates Ballaster, Beetham, Frazer and Hebron (q.v.).

Godoy, Antonio Checa. 1993. Historia de la prensa en Iberoamerica. Seville: ediciones Alfar.

A comprehensive account of the press in Latin America from the Gazeta de México in 1722 to 1989. It is broken down into numerous short chapters mainly focussing on brief periods in different countries.  Magazines are referred to but the main thrust of the narrative concerns newspapers and their role in politics. Useful for understanding a general narrative of the press.

Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1963, 1964. Las Revistas literarias de México (2 volumes). Mexico City: Institituto Nacional de Bellas Artes

Two collections of 8 essays each derived from conferences held the previous years on Mexican literary magazines. The focus is on the relationship of magazines to modernism, though the first essay in volume 1, by Eduardo Enrique Ríos, offers a selective history of Mexican magazines conceived of as carriers of ideas.

Marshall, Oliver. 1996. The English-Language Press in Latin America. London. Institute of Latin American Studies.

A comprehensive dictionary of Anglophone magazines and newspapers from their beginnings in the mid nineteenth, comprising brief descriptions organised alphabetically under country

Palacio Montiel, Celia del. Ed. 2000. Historia de la prensa Iberoamericana. Guadelajara, Mexico: altexto.

36 essays and an Introduction cover mainly the history of the newspaper press and its relation to politics all over Latin America, though magazines are mentioned throughout. In addition there is a chapter on the nineteenth-century Mexican scientific press.

DATABASES

Publicaciones periódicas del Uriguay  http://www.periodicas.edu.uy/index.php

An elegantly designed database of magazines and newspapers starting with the Estrella del Sur/ The Southern Star, a bilingual newspaper in 1807 when Uruguay was under British control. It is still being added to (2015). By no means all numbers of the periodicals are available and the text has not been OCR’d, the search facility being limited to the categories given in the advanced search facility (“busquéda avanzada”), but this remains a remarkable achievement given the parlous state of survival of many magazines available here.

Red de Historiadores de la Prensa y el Periodismo en Iberoamérica  http://www.historiadoresdelaprensa.com.mx/index.shtml

The site for the Network of Press and Journalism Historians in Latin American houses various articles on the Latin American press by its members, including some on magazines (notably women’s). The database is not searchable and the user must scroll through the list of articles. These are available as pdfs or Word documents.

Published by

Andrew King

Andrew King is Professor of English Literature and Literary Studies at the University of Greenwich. He has always been interested in how and why certain texts are kept for posterity and others disappear. His first degree was in classical and medieval Latin, and he has MAs in Medieval Studies and English. He completed his PhD in English at Birkbeck, supervised by Laurel Brake. He taught for many years at Universities overseas, though immediately before he came to Greenwich in May 2012, taught at Canterbury Christ Church University. His official profile can be found at http://www2.gre.ac.uk/about/schools/humanities/about/departments/cca/staff/andrew-king.

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