Project Reviews

Colonial Latin America
Created and maintained by Peter Bakewell

The Colonial Latin America site is a wealth of media that is meant to allow a person to better understand the culture and history of Latin America. The site is minimalist when it comes to text, and offers no analysis, opinion, or clear idea of who the authors are. However, it is direct in the point of the site, which is to approach this culture in a more dynamic way. Since there is no analysis, and plenty of materials, I would say that this is not so much digital scholarship as it is an online archive of materials.

This site offers a chronology, first, on the left side of the page in order to orient one's self (or at least refresh their history). It dos not say who this site is meant to serve most, but one would assume that since it is created by a professor at a university and has not been updated since 1998, most likely it was classroom tool that serves a specific crowd under specific context. Again, due to the lack of text, we have no idea exactly what that is. The browser must simply prepare his or herself to dive right in to the materials.

"Think-Sheets" come after the chronology, and act as an "online" packet for a particular subject. Covering Spanish Administration to Geography, they are a simple, but helpful way to further understand the topics at hands. There are more detailed explanations for these links, and plenty of hyperlinking to the information desired, but sadly the information is inconsistant in how it appears. Sometimes its a new page, other times it's a whole new browser. As a matter of organization, most people generally do not care to see a new browser pop up when looking at a site. Still, the Think-Sheets are very effective learning tools, as well as versatile, considering they can be read online or printed out.

Under "Browse the Site" the direction one can take is a little bit less clear. One could look at "historical periods" which covers major time frames associated with the history of Latin America. Or, one could examine the media, either by author/creator, or by the type of object (as in sound, image or text) itself. This is a bit confusing at first, but the attention paid to crossing the language barrier with these materials is fantastic. Everything has been transcribed, and even the sound bites include transcriptions and English Translations.

This is a site meant to be viewed under guidance. Although there are plenty of materials to enjoy and learn from, over all there is a lack of context and analysis necessary to make this truly digital scholarship. The availability of these materials are fantastic for those who cannot reach these items in person, but unless one's background is in Latin American history, many of the subtleties of the information available would be lost on the average browser. There is also not even a search engine, and without an introduction, we're not even sure from what time period, country, or idea the materials have been gathered around. Due to its simplistic layout various materials, the site has a great foundation to become a teaching/learning tool. If at the very least, a greater context could be placed around each item gathered, then the site would move leaps beyond its present (yet appreciable) state.

Jenna Valadez
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Reviewed: Spring 2007