Spanish-Language Cuban Radionovelas to Be Digitized

From the 1930s to the 1950s, Cuba exported more Spanish-language daytime and nighttime radio shows than any other nation in the Spanish-speaking world. When Cuban immigrants landed in Miami post-revolution, they began creating their own original Spanish-language radio soap operas, called radionovelas. 

The Latin American Library at Tulane University is digitizing a large collection of 1960s-era Spanish-language radionovelas and encouraging academic study of Cold War soaps. 

From his office and studios on the fifth floor of “the Freedom Tower” in Miami, Italian-American Louis J. Boeri and his company, America’s Productions, Inc. (API), formed a radio-programming empire, selling their products to the U.S. government, to 200 radio stations in Latin America and Spain, and to Spanish-language radio stations in the U.S. during the latter half of the 1960s. 

The Louis J. Boeri and Minín Bujones Boeri Collection of Cuban-American Radionovelas, 1963–1970, provides a selection of titles from API’s unique entertainment catalog contained in the collection of the same name held by the Latin American Library, the vast majority of which falls within the radionovela genre. In 2016, the Latin American Research Resources Project (LARRP), part of the Global Resources initiatives of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), generously funded a pilot project to digitize eight titles from the extant master audio recordings created by API for its entertainment library. Each title with its constituent episodes will now be available in digital audio format for the first time since they originally aired in the late 1960s. Along with the radionovela recordings themselves, the collection includes images of some of API’s promotional materials that describe the process of creating a radionovela program and brief storyline descriptions, ephemera, and photographs of the actors, actresses, writers, and production staff of API.

The digital version of the Louis J. Boeri and Minín Bujones Boeri Collection of Cuban-American Radionovelas is a rare resource for the study of the history of the political, cultural, and commercial ties between the U.S. and Cuba via public broadcasting during a pivotal moment in the 20th century. The collection offers new perspectives and insights into the use of media as political and cultural propaganda by Cuba and the U.S. during the Cold War era, as well as the history of popular culture and mass media in the wake of the 1959 Cuban Revolution among Spanish-speaking audiences in the U.S. and the Spanish-speaking countries to which the programs were exported.

The Latin American Library plans to have the first third of its collection of radionovelas available for online research by December.

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