1. Journalism in Latin America began as an extension of
Peninsular journalism. In the colonial era,
relaciones (accounts), which recorded important or
unusual events, appeared in the New World. Some of these
relaciones arrived from Spain while others were produced
locally containing local news. In 1539, shortly after the
installation of the first press in Mexico, the first
relación was published
entitled,Relación del espantable
terremoto que...ha acontecido en la Indias en una ciudad
llamada Guatemala. Mexico and Lima, the two
great centers of Spanish presence in the Latin America,
produced the majority of relaciones and later
gazettes in the infancy of this genre. Some of the first
gazettes published were mere reprints of editions from
Madrid but soon the American presses were publishing
gazettes with their own personality and content.
2. Early in the colonial period, periodicals were published in Mexico (1722), Guatemala (1729), Lima (1743), and Cuba (1764), yet, in other areas of Latin America this occurred much later. Neither Bolivia nor Paraguay had a press until independence was consolidated. Chile did not publish its first title until 1812. Uruguay’s first paper, La Estrella del Sur-The Southern Star, a bilingual publication, appeared in 1807 edited by the English during the British occupation of Montevideo.
3. Periodicals dedicated to literary and cultural themes and articles on science and technology were published through out the 18th century. As urban criollos (persons of Spanish decent born in the Americas) felt their nation becoming increasingly different from the mother country, they created a "prensa ilustrada" (learned press or enlightened press) to express their concerns and to contribute to knowledge about their nations and dissemination of this information.
4. El Mercurio Peruano (1791-1794), the publication of the powerful Sociedad de Amantes del Pais de Lima, had its origin in a reunion between Rosi e Hipólito Unanue and Juan Egaña in 1787 in which they decided to form an association to comment on and discuss daily life and culture. The majority of the authors believed in national sovereignty and promoted consciousness raising among the public urging the need to look for alternative ways of living and governing. The periodical encouraged love of country through promotion of its countryside, its people, its history, and its riches.
5. Napoleon’s invasion of Spain helped to unify public opinion in Latin America in support of the endangered monarchy as well as create radical opposition to the French. The press published articles and patriotic manifestos garnering support for the struggle developing on the Peninsula. Many periodicals that were established in this period filled their pages with news of victories against the French and demonstrated loyalty to the crown. During this same period, however, the efforts of the local liberals continued as well resulting in polarization of opinions and the separatist movement.
6. La Gaceta del Gobierno de Lima (est. 1810) published local information as well as news from Spain. Its main purpose was to consolidate loyalist opinion and promote integration of the American territories into the Spain Monarchy. It gave a triumphant image to the loyalists causes and discounted the rapidly spreading insurgency movement.
7. The Gaceta de Caracas (est. 1808) was a typical anti-Napoleonic paper defending the rights of the Spanish Monarchy. It obtained much of its news from English and Peninsular sources but also published original submissions from regular contributors such as Andrés Bello. Bello was a leading force in the insurgency movement.
8. It was difficult to ignore the increasing demands of the local criollo oligarchy in Caracas who succeeded in forming their own Junta (governing body) in 1810. La Gaceta immediately changed its focus and called on the populace to respect the authority of the Junta. From this point until its last issue in 1821, La Gaceta alternated between the hands of loyalist editors and those of separatists.
9. One of the most significant results of the Cortes de Cádiz (1810) and the shake up of the old Spanish regime was freedom of the press. The birth and development of political journalism in Latin America as well as Spain, despite intermittent absolutist intervals, was an immediate and irreversible consequence. The press became the most utilized channel for propagating subversive messages in Latin America’s struggle for independence.
10. Venezuela was the first to declare independence in 1811 forming a Federal Republic under the presidency of Francisco de Miranda. Although it fell back to loyalists forces a year later, Simón Bolívar restored the republic between 1813 and 1814. In 1818 Bolívar established El Correo de Orinoco while preparing the configuration of Gran Colombia. He published political texts such as "El Discurso de Angostura".
11. La Gaceta de Buenos Aires (1810-1821) was the official publication of the Junta established in Argentina after the Revolución de Mayo in 1810. It was witness and participant in the political struggles that were occurring in the Argentine capital and defended independence for the entire continent. 12. El Investigador (Peru, 1813-1814) established local journalism in Peru. It used paid submissions as a usual feature and contained articles on a wide variety of themes. Two themes that predominated, however, were articles criticizing the clergy and the poorly run government.
13. Chile established its own government and institutions starting in 1810 even though it had yet to declare independence. During the next decade the nation was lead by both realists loyal to the old regime and independents who envisioned a new nation. Periodicals were established during this period to promote both views. The internal struggle for power was reflected in such periodicals as El Duende de Santiago (est. 1818), El Sol de Chile (est. 1818), and El Argos de Chile (est. 1818).
14. In Mexico, Agustín de Itrubide lead the first "government" after independence in 1821. Itrubide was supported by such papers as La Gaceta Imperial de Gobierno de México (1821-1822).
15. One of the most significant pieces of liberal journalism published in Guatemala was El Editor Constitutional (est. 1820). The initial objective of El Editor was to unite criollos and peninsulares in the search for independence. As time went on its liberal convictions became stronger. In 1821, El Editor changed its title to El Genio de Libertad and was clearly independentist.
16. Central American independence was ratified with the Constitución Federal de Centroamérica in 1824. This constitution included a freedom of speech clause (title XI, art. 175). The first Ley de Imprenta was published in 1832. During these years of political transition various periodicals were published including El Redactor General de Guatemala (1824), La Gaceta de Gobierno de Guatemala (1825), La Tertulia Patriótica (1826) and El Indicator (1824). Among these periodicals El Indicator is the most significant. It was the official publication of the conservative party. Among its editors were members of the clergy who published articles on the reorganization of the newly independent government.
17. Political independence in Spain unlocked a period of decolonization in the Américas characterized by political instability, violence, disorganization of economic activity, and the search for models that would substitute for the missing colonial state. In the period 1824-1850, dailies and periodicals were founded with intent to establish a particular platform and convey specific ideologies. These papers reflected the social, political, cultural, and ideological panorama of the new nations and were forums for debate and manifestos. During this period the internal structure of the press also began to standardize its features with fixed sections organized by theme and leading articles and editorials that expounded the editors’ views.
18. In Mexico, one of the most important papers of this period was El Siglo XIX (1841-1896) which maintained a critical attitude toward all types of government. El Monitor Republicano (1844-1896), also important for this period, published articles on literature and commerce as well as politics and introduced advertisements into its pages.
19. El Venezolano (est. 1840) was directed by Leocadio Guzmán, a liberalist leader. Guzmán tried to reach the general masses with his publication. It was a success for presenting, in a clear and direct manner, information about topics that up until this point had been inaccessible to the general public.
20. Journalism in Bolivia developed parallel to its birth as a nation in 1825. Many papers that were established during the first two decades were strictly official in nature such as La Gaceta de Gobierno (est. 1841). While others such as La Epoca (1845-1867) seemed to support which ever figure was in power at the time.
21. In Chile, the renunciation of O’Higgins began a period of great instability which lasted until 1830. Among the numerous periodicals of this period that reflected this climate of political disorder are El Verdadero Liberal (1827-1829), El Indicador (1827), La Clave (1827), El Cometa (1827), and El Pipiolo (1827).
22. El Mercurio de Valparaíso (est. 1827), one of the most important papers of Chile and one of the most veteran papers of all Latin America, appeared in Valparaíso en 1827. The paper was important not only for its duration but also for its acceptance and influence among the general public. According to the historian Silva Castro, the key to its success was its ability to know what the public wanted to read, it was shaped in part by its own readers, it employed some of the best writers, the most advanced machinery, a good system of advertisements, and efficient distribution agencies.
23. The Chilean press of the 1830s followed the same tendencies as the previous decade. El Popular (1830) recorded the ascent of Diego Portales and wrote about the recent arrival of Andrés Bello. La Opinión (1831) chronicled the formation of the nation’s political institutions. El Defensor (1831) was edited by the military and presented Portales’ reforms. El Correo Mercantil (est. 1832) reported on new mining discoveries. El Lucerna (1833) reprinted the proceedings of the convention for Constitutional reform. El Araucano (1830-1877) was an official government publication in which Portales defended his governing style. Andrés Bello managed El Araucano between 1835 and 1850. At the beginnings of the 1840s, Chile stood out as an intellectual center of Latin America. Many literary and scientific periodicals, such as El Crepúsculo (1843), were published during this decade.
24. A number of political papers were also founded in Chile during the 1840s. El Siglo (est. 1844) contained articles on politics, literature, and commerce. La Tribuna (1849-1851) was established to "moderate the all-powerful influence of the government in the public life of the citizens". El Amigo del Pueblo (1850) was an official publication of the "Sociedad de la Igualdad" (Society for Equality) and attacked conservatives in power at the time.
25. From 1850-1910 the national states began to form. The new international order, lead by Great Britain, positioned the Latin American countries as producers of natural resources and potential consumers of manufactured goods. At this point the cycle of post-independence seemed to close and a new stage began intent on creating conditions that would give viability to the new governments.During this period liberalism and positivism were the most influential ideologies. By the end of the 19th century, the growth "hacia afuera" (outward growth) caused the emergence of new social sectors, such as the workers movement, which sought to occupy a place in the political apparatus, braking up total hegemony of the traditional oligarchy. In this context, the press held an ever increasing role as an effective means of communication and expression for insurgent as well as traditional group interests. During the 19th century the authoritative press predominated servicing the oligarchy whose principal objective was to mold public opinion. However, at the same time, the middle class and the working class established new papers and periodicals in order to convey their own message. The cultural and scientific periodicals that remained outside the struggle for power, also reflected the complexity of these changing societies.
26. The Ley de Desamortización Civil y Eclesiástica, approved in 1856, and Constitutional articles approved in 1857, shook Mexican society. The discussion that ensued in the press succeeded in changing public opinion. El Siglo XIX (1841-1896) published one of the most profound studies of the Constitution by José María Iglesias, under the title "Cuestiones Constitutionales" (Constitutional Questions). El Monitor Republicano (1844-1896) published articles on the conditions of rural and urban workers. This paper became increasingly more radical to the point that it defended a coup d’état against an excessively moderate system.
27. After the elections of 1867, El Monitor Republicano accused Juárez of being a dictator while El Siglo XIX openly supported Juárez. In 1876, Porfirio Díaz came to power supported by El Monitor Republicano, La Tribuna (1874), and El Combate (1876-1880). Yet, El Siglo XIX saw its liberties restricted as Díaz directly attacked the opposition press.
28. In Venezuela, a press had developed that fluctuated with the rhythms of the country’s political upheavals. The large number of titles that appeared in the second half of the 19th century and into the 20th century multiplied in times of elections and all but disappeared when they became inconvenient for those in power. The predominant themes were articles on national news and critiques of public personalities. 29. After a succession of short-lived governments, an armed revolt brought Antonio Guzmán Blanco to power in 1870. Son of a journalist, he was familiar with the dangers freedom of the press could cause for those in power. During his first presidency, between 1870-1877, La Opinión Nacional (1868-1892) was his biggest supporter and continued to praise Guzmán Blanco until it ceased in 1892. Even while in exile, preparing his return to power, Guzmán Blanco published in La Opinión Nacional under the pseudonym Alfa. Other papers in the country, such as El Siglo (est. 1881) furiously attacked Guzmán Blanco attempting to block his return.
30. In Peru, General Ramón Castilla’s rise to power in 1854 ended the cycle of post-independence caudillismo (government by a strong political boss) and opened a new phase of history characterized by the integration of the Peruvian economy into the international market through the large scale exportation of guano. When the guano trade ended, saltpeter was substituted but had a lesser economic impact. Peru fell into economic crisis which worsened when the country entered the War of the Pacific in 1879.Periodicals such as El Comercio (est. 1839) became very important during this period. It was conceived as a business and was run like a business. One of the initial successes was the paper’s "comunicados", a mix of letters from readers and reports. Those who submitted letters or articles to the paper paid to see their works printed. The paper’s proprietors also owned other businesses which helped the paper survive in troubled economic times and through changes of government. Other papers published during this period included El Mercurio (1862-1864), a commercial and political daily noted for its informative nature and elegance, El Perú (1864) founded to oppose the government of Pezet, and El Tiempo (1864-1865) which supported President Pezet.
31. In 1873, La Opinión Nacional (Lima, 1873-1913) was founded to support the first civilian government of Peru’s history established in 1872. This was an influential daily which competed with El Comercio. It’s prestige was due to its editorials, columns, and direct style.
32. In Bolivia, caudillismo extended well into the second half of the 19th century. The press continued to be used heavily by political factions and political bosses into the end of the century. The government of Jorge Córdova published an official paper, Nueva Era (est. 1855), edited in Sucre. Other papers of the period included El Revolucionario (Sucre, 1855), La Transmissión Legal (Cochabamba, est. 1855), and El Telégrafo (La Paz, 1858-1864), which in the beginning supported the presidency of José María Linares (1857-1861) but later firmly opposed him.
33. When the new Bolivian regime took power in 1871 the press continued to divide support among the political factions. El Illimani was published in that same year in La Paz. After the assassination of President Morales, El Ferrocarril (est. 1873) began to published in Potosí in support of Corral’s candidacy.
34. In 1879, Chilean troops invaded Bolivia. The press put aside their differing views to create a unified front against the aggression. In La Paz, La Tribuna and El Civilista were both established in 1880 to support this cause.
35. In the second half of the 19th century, Chilean periodicals actively participated in political debates, promoting various causes and serving as propaganda tools for the different political parties. In 1855, El Ferrocarril was founded to support the Montt administration. Some of the principal Chilean authors of the day contributed to this daily.
36. Among other periodicals published in Chile during this period was El Independiente (1864-1891) which defended the Church.
37. Many periodicals appeared in the decade of 1880 in Chile. La Epoca (1881-1892) was established to fight against Balmaceda. It was also considered the best literary daily of its time. Rubén Darío contributed to the paper. Among its editors were Alberto Blest Gana, son of the novelist, who published articles on customs and manners, Ricardo Cruz Coke, editor of parliamentary sessions until 1885, and Augusto Orrego Luco, political editor.
38. The brothers Galo and Alfredo Irarrázaval founded La Tarde (Santiago, 1897-1903) to create a more dynamic journalism that would combine political and economic themes. The paper criticized the Chilean-Bolivian treaty of 1895.
39. The provincial press in Chile was no less active during this period. In Valparaíso, besides the well-known El Mercurio, several other periodicals were published. El San Martín (1864-1866) dedicated its pages to articles against Isabel II and Spanish intervention in the Pacific.
40. Despite dictatorships, cyclical economic crises, and difficult means of transportation, the press grew continually throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century. Beginning around 1880 specialized periodicals began to appear with pedagogical, medical, and agricultural themes as well as those dealing with economic issues in general. Political and literary periodicals continued to grow and the number of dailies was expanding rapidly. By 1900 the number of daily newspapers had doubled in almost all of the Latin American capitals.