In September 2008, the Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center began a new online feature, the “Item of the Month,” which showcases an item from the Archives & Special Collections for the University Libraries.  Each month, one of the curators from the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center selects an item from the collections, such as a photograph, letter, manuscript, rare book, or other item to be featured online for the duration of the month.  All items can be also viewed in person (by request) at the John P. MacDonald Reading Room at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, Monday- Friday, from 10 am to 4 pm.   The Item of the Month feature has been well-received by University faculty, staff, and students, and serves as a monthly reminder to the University community of the unique historical materials located in the Archives & Special Collections of the University of Connecticut Libraries. 

For October 2010, we’ve selected materials from the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) Records pertaining to oil exploration and expansion in the Ecuadorian Amazon.   These materials have been selected in conjunction with the Dodd Research Center’s ongoing Human Rights Film Series, which continues with a screening of the documentary film, Crude, directed by Joe Berlinger.  The film will be shown on Wednesday, October 13, at 4 pm in Konover Auditorium, and is free and open to the public. 

The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) was founded in response to the April 1965 U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic. This armed intervention by the United States against a popular uprising–classic gunboat diplomacy–preempted the restoration to power of freely elected president Juan Bosch. It also paved the way for the thirty year dictatorship of caudillo Joaquín Balaguer. NACLA’s founders were especially struck by the Johnson administrations’ ability to disseminate its version of events virtually unchallenged, while mainstream opinion makers set the tone of a limited public debate. Moreover, as the U.S. intervention in Vietnam began in earnest, progressive critics and opponents of U.S. policy, both abroad and at home, began seriously to consider questions about the nature of public education, the role of independent media, and how to make critical analysis of the U.S. power structure accessible to a broad and interested public. 

NACLA, which took shape from these questions, was founded in October and November of 1966 in a series of meetings of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the University Christian Movement, and returned Peace Corps volunteers, along with assorted other individuals and organizations. According to its articles of incorporation, NACLA’s role was “to encourage, produce and distribute information designed to identify and explain those elements and relationships of forces in the United States and Latin America which inhibit and frustrate urgently needed profound social and economic change.” The “congress” in NACLA’s name was suggested by the “Congress of Unrepresented People,” a contemporary group of civil rights, antiwar, and labor activists who came together to challenge elite conceptions of the national interest as fundamentally opposed to the real interests of the majority of the American people. 

Most of the materials contained in this NACLA Collection were collected during the first twenty years of NACLA’s history (1966-1986). The special reports, newsletters, and eventually, magazines appearing under the NACLA imprint were the outcome of research and writing done by members of the collective. The materials that they amassed in their files ranged from newspaper clippings to original government documents to revolutionary communiques to corporate proxies. As NACLA established fraternal links with publications, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations across the region, it also acquired a substantial and varied collection of periodical publications, many of which can now be found only in this collection.   (Information from the preface to the finding aid for the collection, http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/findaids/nacla/nacla.pdf)

The item of the month below is a selection from the periodical holdings from the NACLA Collection, from August 2, 1987  (NACLA Box 125, Folder 5). 

Action Bulletin from Survival International USA, a non-profit organization that aims to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.

First page from the Survival International USA Urgent Action Bulletin.

For further information about these materials, contact Valerie Love, Curator for Human Rights Collections, or Marisol Ramos, Curator for Latin American and Caribbean Collections.   More information about the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and using the archival collections can be found here.   

Further reading: 

Sawyer. Suzana.  Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador (Duke University Press, 2004). 

Varea, Anamaria and Pablo Ortiz-T.  Marea negra en la Amazonia : conflictos socioambientales vinculados a la actividad petrolera en el Ecuador  (Quito, 1995).

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