Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Image of a skull. Click to enlarge.

José Guadalupe Posada
Calaveras de la cucaracha: una fiesta en ultratumba
Zinc etching
15 13/16 x 11 7/8" (40.2 x 30.2 cm)

Latin American Studies

The Ransom Center offers a rich variety of materials in the field of Latin American studies. Collections include manuscripts, rare books, artifacts, artwork, and photography from noted Latin American artists, authors, and cultural figures.

Books, Manuscripts & Artifacts

The recently acquired Julia Alvarez (b. 1950) collection contains both published and unpublished works. Born in the U.S. she spent her childhood in the Dominican Republic before moving back. Alvarez's collection contains manuscripts covering her writing career including fiction, nonfiction, essays, poetry, correspondence, journals, and professional files. Her work is semi-autobiographical, drawing on her experiences as an immigrant, with language, and her bicultural identity. This collection should be available for research in mid 2015.

The papers of Daniel Catán, Mexican-born composer of operas and other musical works and writer on music and the arts cover the entirety of Catán's professional career.

The Center's manuscript holdings also feature the archives of the prolific translator Margaret Sayers Peden (b. 1927), who published English versions of Isabel Allende's Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, and Daughter of Fortune, and Carlos Fuentes' Terra Nostra and Burnt Water, among many others. The Peden collection also includes a sizable number of inscribed first editions of each of the many works she has translated.

A small archive of the work of famed Argentinian writer Jorge Luís Borges (1899-1986) contains drafts of some of his earliest work. Borges himself lectured at the University of Texas and the campus is the setting for one of Borges' short stories in The Book of Sand. Borges is also represented in the collection of literary translator Andrew Hurley.

Nobel Prize-winning Mexican poet Octavio Paz's (1914-1998) collaboration with his English translator (and former editor of University of Texas Press) Lysander Kemp, contains correspondence, and translations. The Kemp/Paz collection also contains typescripts of several of Paz's most important essays in the original Spanish, in-depth business correspondence and corrected galley proofs surrounding the 1976 translation of his book of essays on poets, The Siren and the Seashell.

All aspects of the personal and professional career of Anita Brenner (1905-1974) are reflected in her papers. The archive includes materials relating to her writing career, her books and articles on Mexican art and history as well as her contributions and editorial work on several periodicals, correspondence and photographs. Brenner was friends with many of the major Mexican intellectuals, writers, and artists in the 1920's and 30's. In addition to this, the archive of her sister, Leah Brenner (1915-2004) contains correspondence and materials related to her writing career and work with Diego Rivera.

Also present are the archives of Angel Flores (1900-1992), the literary critic who first applied the term "Magical Realism" to Latin American literature in the 1950s, and Ronald Christ (b. 1936), a scholar and translator of Mario Vargas Llosa.

Voluminous business correspondence from the Latin American authors published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and the archive of the bilingual Mexico City journal of art and literature from the 1960s, El Corno Emplumado (The Plumed Horn), round out the collection.

The collection of author and philanthropist Edward Larocque Tinker includes books, art, photography including images of the Mexican Revolution, and artifacts concerning South America and Mexico with special emphasis on life in the Argentine Pampas region. The Nicolas Acosta collection of Bolivian documents forms a part of this collection.

A collection of approximately 400 letters between Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico (born Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph of Austria, 1832-1867) and his consort Empress Carlota (Princess Charlotte of Belgium), commencing during the couple's engagement and ending shortly before Maximilian's execution in Mexico, provide insight into the political, religious, and social situation in Mexico.

Also of colonial interest is a manuscript volume of the Viceroys of Mexico during the Reign of Carlos IV of Spain (1748–1819).


Work by well-known Latin American photographers includes that of Manual Alvarez Bravo (1902-2002) of Mexico, whose images capture the surreal nature of Depression-era Mexico and later, dating from 1920 to 1972. The Center also has extensive holdings of historical photographs from the Mexican Revolution, largely by unknown photographers, but many by the pioneer photojournalist James "Jimmy" Hare (1856-1946). Contemporary Latin American photography is represented by the William P. Wright, Jr. Peruvian Photography Collection, which totals one hundred four prints, from sixteen Peruvian photographers. Notable among these is Fernando Castro, whose work uncovers the complexities of modern Peruvian life.

The photographers John Christian (fl. 1960s), Fritz Henle (1909-1993), Jesse Herrera (b. 1945) and Paul Strand (1890-1976) all worked extensively in Latin America.

The Inside El Salvador photojournalism collection includes black-and-white images concerning that country's civil war and its aftermath. Containing images by a wide range of photographers it focuses on a single episode in history with eyewitness testament to the humanity and struggles of the Salvadoran people and past human rights abuses. Work by Donna DeCesare (1955- ) also focuses on El Salvador and covers the end of the Salvadoran civil war and youth violence in both El Salvador and the Salvadoran community of Los Angeles.

The recently acquired Magnum Photos Collection, 1929-2004, contains many images for Central and South America.

Fine Art

The Ransom Center Art Collection has three works by the renowned Frida Kahlo (1907-1954): Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, Still Life (with Parrot and Fruit), and Diego y Yo, a sketch of herself with her husband, the artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957), who is himself represented by Portrait of Jean Cocteau, 3 Mexican Market Scenes, and Una Niña Con Muñeca (Little Girl With Doll).

The Nickolas Muray Collection of Mexican Art, containing over one hundred paintings, drawings, and prints by twentieth-century artists, is highlighted by four of Miguel Covarrubias' (1904-1957) gouache caricatures painted for Vanity Fair magazine in the 1930s, part of a series called Impossible Interviews. These paintings depict brilliant pairings of prominent politicians, artists, writers, and actors who would never have been seen together in real life, such as Clark Gable vs. The Prince of Wales and Mussolini vs. Huey Long. Complimenting this is the collection put together by Covarrubias' biographer Adriana Williams, and her husband Tom Williams, containing an extensive collection of artwork and books, as well as research materials, photographs, and other items related to Covarrubias and his circle of friends.

The Ransom Center also owns the important painting Cow Swatting Flies by artist Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991). This painting shows the clear influence of the European Cubist movement on Tamayo's style.

In addition to these paintings, the Art Collection houses over three hundred prints (etchings, woodcuts, and lithographs), including over one-hundred Corridos y Calaveras broadsides by José Guadalupe Posada (1851-1913), featuring scenes from daily life as well as popular character types, portraits of heroes, and depictions of dramatic religious scenes in Mexico.

The Dudley Smith Collection of Latin American Artwork focuses on folklórico, or peasant images, and contains watercolors and oil paintings by Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957), and watercolors by Ecuadorian artist Eduardo Kingman (1913-1998), as well as oils on canvas by Peruvian artist José Sabogal (1888-1956). The Edward Larocque Tinker and Joshua B. Powers Collections include works by Argentinean artists Molina Campos (1891-1959), A. M. Paz, and Uruguayan artist Enrique Castells Capurro (1913-1997).

One of the most popular and most remarkable works of art in the Ransom Center's Latin American collection is the Portrait of George Gershwin in a Concert Hall (1936), given to the Center by Ira and Leonore Gershwin in 1961. Painted by Mexican muralist, activist, and painter David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), the massive oil-on-canvas seems to spread out of its own frame, depicting a 1932 concert given by Gershwin in New York. (Gershwin is purported to be playing his own Concerto in F in the painting.) The pianist and Siqueiros were great friends, recognizing the commonality in the art forms of music and painting, and, at Gershwin's request, Siqueiros painted the faces of Gershwin's family into the first few rows of the audience. Siqueiros also added his own face into the crowd, gazing amusedly askance.

The art collection also has works by Fernando Castillo (1895-1940), Guillermo Meza (1917-1997), Roberto Montenegro (1887-1968), Raphael Navarro (1921- ) and Juan Soriano (1920-2006). (See also Art & Art History.)