PUL leads the Ivy League in Latin American Indigenous languages materials

Maya painted bowl

Maya painted bowl bearing hieroglyphic texts, thought to be from late classic Maya tombs. Made in Guatemala, 700-899. Princeton Mesoamerican Manuscripts.

According to a recent article published in College & Research Libraries (C&RL), Princeton University Library (PUL) ranks as the third academic library in the U.S. for holdings in Latin American Indigenous languages, behind Tulane University and the University of Texas. 

PUL leads the Ivy League with over 850 items in languages such as Quechua, Nahuatl, Guaraní, Zapotec, Maya, Mapudungun, and Aymara. The collections include books, periodicals, manuscripts, and ephemera, many of which exist in no other library in the world. 

“Our collections range from documents created centuries ago during the Spanish colonization of Mesoamerica to publications produced by Indigenous activists in recent years,” said Fernando Acosta-Rodriguez, librarian for Latin American studies, Latino studies, and Iberian Peninsular studies. “The article actually undercounted our holdings as it missed numerous items in a variety of Indigenous languages found among the Latin American Ephemera Collection.”

Several faculty use these collections in their courses such as Catalina Méndez Vallejo, associate director of Spanish language program, who will be teaching “Languages of the Americas,” in fall 2021, and Noa Corcoran-Tadd, associate research scholar and lecturer in Latin American studies, who teaches the spring 2021 course, “Reading the Landscapes of Colonial Latin America.” 

“The Indigenous map collections – particularly those from the Nahua, Mixtec, and Zapotec-speaking regions of central and southern Mexico – have been central to my teaching at Princeton,” said Corcoran-Tadd. “Often combining preconquest writing and graphical traditions with European forms, these documents give students a vivid perspective on the complex histories of both loss and resilience that characterized Indigenous life in colonial Latin America.” 

To improve its support of the research, teaching, and learning of Indigenous peoples, PUL recently launched an Indigenous Studies Working Group (ISWG) that aims to curate Library resources, survey collection development policies, learn from Indigeous studies scholars to inform decision-making, and improve discoverability of related materials.

PUL’s ISWG supports Princeton’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative (NAISIP), which fosters a cross-disciplinary dialogue among faculty, students, staff, and community members whose research and teaching interests focus on Indigenous peoples.

Learn more about PUL’s Latin American collections here

Related story: Virtual teaching with collections: ‘Reading the Landscapes of Colonial Latin America’

Published on April 23, 2021

Written by Emily Judd, Publicity Manager

Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications