Latin American Studies

The present collections in Latin American Studies at the University of Toronto Libraries support the research and teaching in all aspects of the area’s languages, literatures, history and culture.

Brief historical introduction

Scholars and students at the University of Toronto have studied Latin America for many years. The strength of the collection of Latin American materials in the University of Toronto Libraries has long provided the vital base for study of the region. Efforts to create a University community of Latin Americanists began in the 1960s: hirings in the Faculty of Arts and Science, distinguished visiting professors from Latin America, and a seminar devoted to the study of Brazil were among the significant accomplishments of this time.

An external donation in the early 1990s saw the foundation of the Ibero-American Studies Programme (IAS). IAS pioneered a team-taught introductory course and sponsored occasional upper-level seminars, renewing student interest. In the first years of the present century, efforts to revitalize a broader enterprise picked up steam and enthusiasm grew for reconfiguration into a truly multi-disciplinary unit.

Latin American Studies was born in July 2005 as a programme within the Faculty of Arts and Science. It works to serve a wide range of scholars and students of the region, and to realize the University of Toronto’s potential for international leadership and integrated area knowledge.

Collections overview

Latin American Studies is an interdisciplinary program for students in the social sciences, humanities and sciences. The present collections in Latin American Studies at the University of Toronto Libraries support the research and teaching in all aspects of the area’s languages, literatures, history and culture. They provide the necessary resources for the LAS programs, as well as being an important resource in the programs in Comparative Literature, Family Medicine, Geography, History, History of Art, History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Law, Linguistics, Music, Philosophy and Political Science.

The Latin American Studies collections cover the wide range of themes and subjects taught at this University, all literary forms, theory and criticism, with all major and minor authors of all countries and periods being well represented. The Libraries collect in strength in the disciplines and subjects that are or have been the core of LAS since its relatively recent inception at this University: history of all countries in the area in all periods, with particular strengths in pre-Colombian history and civilization, discovery and colonial history, and labour history of the Andean and South Cone regions. Brazilian colonial and contemporary history, and the geography of sugar production have been areas of research and study at this University, with particular focus on human geography and the history of slavery. The Libraries have worked closely with the faculty in creating excellent collections to support the scholarly efforts, especially with a unique funding opportunity from Brascan that allowed the Libraries to acquire retroactively and build one of the best collections of such materials in the world.

While the U.S. embargo of post-Revolution Cuba has impacted negatively in the library collections of the United States, the University of Toronto Libraries have been able to collect in strength materials chiefly in the social sciences and humanities directly from sources within Cuba, building thus one of the best collections on contemporary Cuba.

Art History, with strengths in pre-Colombian art and archaeology that resulted from the Royal Ontario Museum’s active field-work in the excavation and documentation of Mayan archaeological sites in the 1960s and 1970s, and of similar work being done now in pre-Colombian sites in Peru. Colonial and post-colonial art are well represented in the Libraries’ collections with particular concentration in the Baroque period in Latin America, which is an active area of study, research and teaching at this University.

The Toronto School of Theology is a consortium of seven theological schools: Emmanuel College (United Church of Canada), Knox College (Presbyterian Church in Canada), Regis College (Roman Catholic: Jesuit), St. Augustine's Seminary (Roman Catholic: Diocesan), University of St. Michael's College (Roman Catholic: Basilian), University of Trinity College (Anglican), and Wycliffe College (Anglican, Evangelical). The presence of the TST in the University has resulted in strong collections that support theological and divinity studies. In the area studies of Latin America this has led to the building of first-rate collections in liberation theology and the populistic expansion of present-day Evangelical-based creeds and cults in what had been a traditional Roman Catholic subcontinent.

The collections in Latin American Studies reflect to a certain extent the linguistic variety of the area. Materials are collected in the two main languages of the area, Spanish and Portuguese, as well as in all other major languages. Some materials are collected in the aboriginal languages of the area, with representative presence of the Mesoamerican language families (Mayan, Oto-Manguean, Totonacan, etc.), Andean (chiefly Aymara and Quechua) and Guaraní. Some materials are collected in other Native American languages of the area, mostly for use in linguistics study and research.

In the federated environment of the University of Toronto the Library System integrates collections from all the libraries that exist in the three campuses, covering the full range of subjects that fall within the scope of Latin American Studies at the central Robarts Library, the Thomas Fisher Rare Books and Manuscripts, as well as the college and TST libraries.

NB: for materials on the Spanish and Portuguese languages and literatures of the area see under the CDD separate headings for SPANISH and PORTUGUESE.


The University of Toronto Libraries maintain comprehensive materials-acquisition approval plans with book dealers and vendors worldwide. These plans ensure that the Library receives materials from publishers all over the world in a timely and efficient manner. In support of Latin American Studies, we specifically receive books through plans with several agents in Latin America, as well as others in Europe and North America, in all languages. In addition to these plans our bibliographers select unique and related scholarly materials not covered by the approval plans. These additional selections include contributions to the collections of the Thomas Fisher Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, the TST and other campus libraries, as well as any special requests from faculty, students and patrons at large.

Collections are acquired in all formats to meet the variety of needs, preferences and styles of our users. The University of Toronto Libraries are committed to collecting both print and electronic materials in support of Latin American Studies at the University.  Our Media Centre has a good collection of films for the use in the cinema programs; most recently we have had a significant increase in Luso-Brazilian films in response to interest growth among faculty, students and patrons at large.

The Gifts program brings in important materials from private and institutional collections, like a recent donation from the Consulate General of Mexico in Toronto.

Teaching and research support

The Library plays an important role in the teaching and research in Latin American Studies at the University. Information literacy instruction is offered to assist in meeting degree level expectations in the ability to gather, evaluate and interpret information through program-specific instruction. Upon request, the bibliographer for Latin American Studies provides personalized assistance ranging from specific assignment support to graduate and postgraduate research needs.  The Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office helps the faculty and students in Latin American Studies through their course reserve and syllabus service, guidance and advice on obtaining copyright permissions, compliance for film screenings, and tailored research, workshops or presentations on a variety of topics such as copyright, open access, author rights, licensing and permissions assistance, as well as research metrics.

We are grateful to the Latin American Studies program for their permission to use material from the LAS web site [] [accessed 27 January 2016]

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Selection area reference
Miguel Torrens