Skip to Main Content

History 356: Culture and Identity in Latin America

Tools and tips to locate secondary, primary and visual resources on Latin American history.

General Guidelines for Primary Source Research

Keep in mind that, as with all information, primary sources may be biased and/or incomplete. Editors, authors and compilers choose what to include and exclude. Memories become fuzzy or unclear, and are always subjective. All creators have bias. 

In U.S.-based archives, you are more likely to find archives that reflect the dominant (white Eurocentric) culture. It takes money, time and physical space to create and collect archival resources, even if they weren't intended as such from the moment of creation. 

When you find a primary source focused on a non-dominant group, examine it closely. Who created this resource? What was the power hierarchy between the creator and the subject?

Three Steps to Finding Primary Sources on Google

Search Terms

Make a list of search words and phrases related to your search. You will edit and refine this list as you go through your search process and learn more. 

Things to consider:

  • Terms may have changed over time. For example, "The Great War" was used in the time of WWI. 
  • Be prepared to find and use terms (in searching, not in writing) that are outdated or offensive. 
  • Think about non-academic terms that might be used.

Date Range

  • Create a timeline and plot the date ranges by key events. 
  • Add 70 years to account for memoirs, interviews and reflections.

Google Advanced Search

Use domain limiter (.org, .edu, .gov) - but be careful. These sites could still be business or political sites masquerading as information sources.

Additional primary source search terms to try if needed:

  • "special collections"
  • "digital exhibit"
  • "teacher's kit"
  • library
  • museum
  • manuscripts

Or, try these format specific search terms:

  • "archival footage"
  • ephemera
  • ledgers
  • newspapers

source: Robin M. Katz, How to Google for Primary Sources. (Click for additional search terms.)

To evaluate your sources, go as far as you can. Look for:

  • The repository - is it trusted organization or agency?
  • Collections - are there related sources that may be helpful?
  • Metadata - for context and further information
  • The source itself. Can you watch/download/read/see it?

source: Robin M. Katz, Evaluating Primary Sources Online. (Click for more.)

CSUSM Primary Source Collections on Mexican History

These collection are generally password-protected as CSUSM licenses the content from commercial providers. Use your campus ID and password to gain access. 

This is a sampling of collections from the CSUSM databases. Depending on your topic, there may be other databases that would be helpful. Below this box is a list of some internet (free-access) quality websites. While these are US-focused, there is content regarding Mexican politics, international relations, art, famous people and more that could be useful. 

Newspaper Archives Databases

A number of CSUSM databases are backfiles of newspapers. There are other newspaper collections freely available on the internet and are listed in the Internet Primary Collections section. More current issues are available as separate databases in the CSUSM Databases collection.

Latin America History Internet Collections

These collections are assembled by universities, archives, museums and other organizations for free access. You will need to give citation credit for materials used even if they are free of charge. Some collections are more US-centric than others, but because the two countries share a border and have trade relations, etc., the history of Mexico is well-represented in these collections. 

Library of Congress Digital Collections includes documents and images held in the Library of Congress. Options for limiting results to photographs or documents are on the left of the results list. 

American Memory from the Library of Congress covering topics ranging from advertising to Westward Expansion, containing documents, photographs, music files and more. 

Chronicling America contains newspapers not available in fee-based digital databases, generally smaller papers with localized coverage. Date range 1789-1963. 

Calisphere is a cooperative effort between California scholarly institutions to provide access to image collections and digitized materials. A companion site is the Online Archive of California but much of the content listed in OAC is not digitized. 

Internet Archive offers an interesting range of digitized materials including books, moving images, and sound files. This collection depends on volunteer contributions so the range of topics is widespread and not necessarily deep on some topics. 

Historic Mexican and Mexican America Press covers over 100 years of press publications (1800s-1970s) from both sides of the border. 

Bexar Archives Online from University of Texas at Austin contains original documents with English-language translations from the 18th and early 19th century pertaining to Texas prior to statehood and nearby regions in Mexico. 

Dupee Mexican History Collection Broadsides from Brown University contains documents published since 1821 expressing contemporary opinions on a variety of topics. Most in Spanish.

Mexican Presidential Messages 1821-1994. There is no search function and Spanish language only, but all content is browsable in chronological order. 

Jose Guadalupe Posada collection, circa 1875-1913 (Digital items only) from Stanford University contains political cartoons, corridos lyrics, and more as Posada worked to express the voice of the people. 

Zapatistas! Documents of the New Mexican Revolution (referring to the 20th Century revolution as opposed to earlier.) Materials have been translated and some are excerpts due to difficulties with the original. 

National Archives of Chile (all in Spanish) 

Bay of Pigs (Cuba) CIA papers 

Digital Archive of Latin American and Caribbean Ephemera (leaflets, posters, etc.) 

Castro Speech Database (translated) in the Latin America Network Information Center (LANIC) site

Beisbol Diplomacy a selection of materials from the National Security AgencyMake the Dirt Fly! (Smithsonian exhibit on the Panama Canal)

Slavery and Revolution: Jamaica and Slavery in the Era of the Revolution is mostly a collection of letters from a Jamaican slave owner with ties to Britain. 

Perry-Casteñada Historical Map Collection from the University of Texas offers digital maps of the world, specific regions and a wide variety of time periods.