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Latin America and the Caribbean in Photographs at the Library of Congress

Photo Archives

The Prints & Photographs Division has multiple archives with photography depicting Latin America and the Caribbean, most notably the Archive of Hispanic Culture created by the Library of Congress in the 1940s. Please note that some collections have not yet been fully organized and described. These generally have "unprocessed" in their call number. To access these "unprocessed" collections,  please submit an online request form at least 14 days in advance to visiting the Prints & Photographs Reading Room.

Archive of the American National Red Cross

Most negatives from the American National Red Cross are available online and include representation from, for instance, Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru.The photographic prints includes a Geographical File depicting Latin America and the Caribbean in the early- to mid-twentieth century, especially the years 1917 to 1921. Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Panama, and Puerto Rico are prominently represented. The photos show health services provided by the Red Cross, natural disasters and diseases, youth organizations and United States military occupations.

Archive of Hispanic Culture

The Assistant Director of the Hispanic Foundation (now the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress) Robert C. Smith and his colleague Elizabeth Wilder founded the Archive of Hispanic Culture in 1940. It grew to contain over 20,000 prints, slides, and negatives supplied by cultural institutions and individual photographers throughout Latin America, Western Europe, and the United States. Highlights include photography by Guillermo Kahlo (1871-1941) in Mexico, Genevieve Naylor (1915-1989) in Brazil, Edouard Peloux (1901-1994) in Haiti, and Carlos (1885-1979) and Miguel Vargas (1887-1976) in Peru.

Carpenter Photograph Collection

World travelers, photographers and authors Frank G. Carpenter (1855-1924) and his daughter Frances (1890-1972) took photos and collected prints as they journeyed across Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. The collection as a whole contains over 22,000 images and includes photography by Marc Ferrez (1843-1923), Guilherme Gaensly (1843-1928), and J. Charles Kroehle (1876-1902) in Brazil, Jorge Allan in Chile, Hugo Brehme (1882-1954) in Mexico, and Max T. Vargas (1874-1959) in Peru.

FSA/OWI Photograph Collection and Standard Oil Collection

Between 1935 and 1944, the Resettlement Administration and its successors, the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, had a photography program led by Roy E. Stryker (1893-1975). While most FSA photographers documented the US mainland, Jack Delano (1914-1997) and Edwin (1903-1985) and Louise Rosskam (1910-2003) photographed Puerto Rico.

Separate from the FSA/OWI photograph collection, the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) in 1943 hired Stryker to organize a new team that would photograph the oil industry. Stryker recruited former FSA photographers John Vachon (1914-1975) and John Collier, Jr. (1913-1992) to photograph the company’s operations in Venezuela and Colombia. Edwin Rosskam, who photographed Standard Oil in Louisiana, would later return to Puerto Rico and take pictures for the Puerto Rican Information Service. 

Arnold Genthe Photograph Collection (Cuba & Guatemala)

Born in Germany, Genthe (1869-1942) migrated to the United States in 1895, settling in San Francisco, where he taught himself photography and opened a portrait studio in 1898. In 1911, he moved to New York, then in the mid-1920s he visited Cuba and Guatemala and photographed people, landscapes, and architecture in both locations. You can access digital scans of Genthe’s negatives of Cuba and Guatemala in the online catalog. Not every negative, however, has a corresponding print.

Panama Canal Zone Collection

Assembled by the Panama Canal Commission and Panama Canal Zone Library, the Panama Canal Zone Collection was on loan to the Library of Congress between 1983 and 1992. The material that remains at the Library includes news photos, photo albums, portraiture, postcards, and souvenir booklets depicting the Panama Canal, the Panama Railroad, and the Panama Pacific Line. It also includes an album by Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) and prints by German photographer Otto Siemon and French photographer Abel Briquet (1833-1926). A continuous tone microfilm is available to facilitate research in the collection.