Family Papers

The Latin American Library at Tulane has acquired by donation the Chamorro Barrios Family Papers (1767–1997), one of Latin America’s most influential families and key players in the national life of Nicaragua since the 18th century.

portrait of Hortensia Calvo, director of the Latin American Library at Tulane
Hortensia Calvo is the Doris Stone Librarian and director of the Latin American Library. The library has recently acquired the Chamorro Barrios Family Papers and will make these documents of a prominent Nicaraguan family available to scholars later this year. (Photo by Sally Asher)

“The collection is rich in previously unexplored documents which will add new insights on the history of Nicaragua from all periods, including such topics as freedom of the press and civil liberties, political parties and elections, civil society, economic development and border issues with neighboring countries among many others,” said Hortensia Calvo, the Doris Stone Librarian and director of the Latin American Library.

The archive includes the papers of four prominent members of the Chamorro family: Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Zelaya, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and Antonio Lacayo Oyanguren.

The papers of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Zelaya, a distinguished journalist and historian whose life spanned the first half of the 20th century, are especially rich in the documentation on earlier periods of Nicaraguan history. He acquired Nicaragua’s leading newspaper La Prensa in the 1930s, which has been led by successive generations of the Chamorro family and served as a key organ of dissent against the repressive regimes of the Somoza family earlier in the century, as well as the current government led by Daniel Ortega.

“This collection substantially enhances Tulane’s historical role as a center for Central American scholarship.”

HORTENSIA CALVO, the Doris Stone Librarian and director of the Latin American Library

Also included in the collection is the Chamorro family archive containing family documents, political writings and other papers from 1767 through the 20th century. The papers of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal contain personal correspondence and thoroughly document events surrounding his 1978 assassination. The papers of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, the first elected woman president of the Americas, cover her presidential campaign in the late 1980s and the years she served as head of state as documented in nongovernmental, private papers and correspondence and thousands of photographs. The papers of Antonio Lacayo Oyanguren, a key adviser to Mrs. Chamorro, cover her years as a presidential candidate and later as head of state, as well as his own political activity. The family’s personal files relating to the newspaper La Prensa hold extensive documentation of government censorship from the 1930s into the 1980s.

Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, journalist and daughter of Pedro Joaquin and Violeta Chamorro, said, “History is not written with propaganda speeches but rather with evidence gathered in the archives of its protagonists. These documents should be put at the service of new generations so they can learn from history’s lessons and mistakes.”

Chamorro Barrios added, “The Chamorro Barrios family considers The Latin American Library at Tulane University the best place to preserve and make accessible to the public the documentary legacy of Joaquín and Violeta Chamorro and, in general, of those who have been important actors in the modern history of Nicaragua. We are grateful to Tulane for serving as the guardian of this historical collection.” 

The Chamorro Barrios Family Papers will be available for consultation to the public upon completion of cataloging and preservation measures in late 2021.