A Survey of Spanish Posters and Related Graphics at the National Archives

This post is by Daniel Dancis, a Textual Records Archivist and blogger at The Text Message.

The National Archives Catalog includes digitized posters and graphics with Spanish text that run the gamut from World War II propaganda posters to contemporary public service announcements. Many of the posters were created for use abroad but there is also material made for Spanish speakers in the United States. In addition to Spanish, there is also material in Aymara and Quechua, official languages in Bolivia and Peru.

The posters reflect activities of America’s World War II information agencies, the United States Information Agency (USIA), and more recently, domestic agencies and their outreach to Spanish speakers.

You can browse the posters in the National Archives Catalog and use the filters on the side-bar to refine by record group.

World War II Propaganda Posters (Record Group 44 and Record Group 208)

A large category of posters with slogans and text in Spanish is from World War II and was created primarily for audiences in Latin America. The posters promote solidarity and victory. 

CIAA Poster, Spanish version. NAID 44268165, Local ID 44-PF-833

Many of these posters came from the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), the U.S. war time agency responsible for enhancing commerce and solidarity with Latin American countries. The CIAA posters have strong aesthetic appeal having been illustrated by fine artists and designers. They were created with versions in Spanish, Portuguese, and French and then distributed throughout Latin America during the war years. 

While most of the WWII Spanish language posters were created for use abroad there were also exceptions. Artist Leon Helguera was commissioned by the U. S. Office of War Information (OWI) to create domestic posters with Spanish and English slogans. (For more information see: Researching World War II Spanish Posters at the National Archives). 

The collection also includes a dozen WWII posters produced in Mexico that promote the ongoing war effort. They are at the National Archives today probably because the OWI collected or received them as examples of propaganda produced by Allied countries during the war. There are also two posters in English promoting tourism from the National Railways of Mexico and two from the Brazilian Information Bureau in New York City.

Most of the remaining posters from the WWII period are general war posters created by the OWI which commissioned identical posters in multiple languages.

Additionally, there is a set of 6 posters promoting malaria prevention in Nicaragua

United States Information Agency Posters (Record Group 306)

Posters from the United States Information Agency (USIA) account for the largest number of digitized Spanish language posters at the National Archives. These were created for distribution in Latin America by the USIA as part of the work that the agency carried out in the second half of the twentieth century to influence public attitudes abroad in support of U.S. foreign policy objectives. 

Included are posters related to the Alliance For Progress (Alianza Para El Progreso), a program started by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, which aimed to improve relations with Latin America through peaceful economic cooperation and development. The Alliance posters include sets of Almanaque Noticioso, El Correo Grafico, and Heraldo Grafico posters, which are pictorial bulletins promoting U.S. funded development projects in Latin American countries. There are also anniversary posters for the Alliance’s third year.  

Other USIA posters promote exhibits of art and culture from the United States, space exploration, the Voice of America, as well as agricultural initiatives such as fighting mosquitos and bovine diseases, and posters about the war in Vietnam. Many of these posters were made in multiple languages for distribution around the world.

In addition, there are also posters in Aymara and Quechua related to the “Peruvian-United States Cooperative Program to Aid Victims of the Drought.” Handwritten annotations on the posters translate the text into English and identify the languages. 

For more information about USIA posters you can search the series Master File Copies of Field Publications, 1951-1979, (National Archives ID 1126039) (this series is not digitized).

Domestic Agencies (FEMA, Census, NIH, HUD, NASA, etc.) 

The remaining posters and graphics are related to the activities of various domestic agencies. Many of these are from recent decades. From the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) there are public service and safety announcements relating to flood insurance and securing emergency telephone numbers; from the Bureau of the Census there are posters promoting participation in the 2010 Census with special posters for Puerto Rico; from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) there are public health posters; from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) there are posters of outer space; and more. 

You can explore these and other posters in the link at the top of the post. Additional posters in Spanish and graphics related to Hispanic and Latinx Americans exist in the holdings of the National Archives, though they have not been digitized yet. These records are waiting for you to come and discover!

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