On September 7, 1977 – the same day President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty to hand over control of the Panama Canal to Panama – Gabriel García Márquez read excerpts of El otoño del patriarca for the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress’ archives. It might seem like two unrelated events, but García Márquez – who actually attended the signing as part of Panama’s delegation – mentions the historic signing when he went into the Washington, DC studio to record part of his novel.
For the past 73 years, the Library of Congress has built an impressive archive of recordings from Latin American and Latino authors. Some of them feature short interviews, but mostly, the recordings are about the work. The 700-deep files look into the past. And because the library continues to add to this collection, it’s preserving contemporary works as well.
For most of its history, researchers could only access the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape at the Hispanic Division Reading Room. But last year for Hispanic Heritage Month, the library made the recordings available online for the first time – meaning you can now hear Gabo whenever the mood strikes you. The full catalog – which includes recordings of authors from 32 different countries in English, Spanish, French, Náhuatl, Zapotec, Aymara – isn’t digitized. However, with nearly 200 recordings online, it’s still easy to get lost in the virtual library. That’s why we put together a list of 12 authors to get you started. Listen to them below: