Translating from/for the margins of empire: The Gaceta de Guatemala (1797–1807) and the enlightened elites

Aura E. Navarro and Catherine Poupeney Hart

Abstract

The third series of the Gaceta de Guatemala (1797–1807) represents a high point of early journalistic production in colonial Spanish America. It benefitted from the presence of a particularly dynamic and cohesive group of young men involved in the development of the paper as a means of improving the social and economic situation of a territory extending from Chiapas to Costa Rica. Against a backdrop of censorship, and undeterred by their marginal position vis-à-vis the European centers of knowledge, they managed to include a surprising number of translations and references to foreign works. In conjunction with Colonial Studies, the Translation Studies perspective adopted in this article highlights how the editors of the Gaceta and their close collaborators, far from being passive consumers, managed to use translation as a tool to engage in, and prepare their readership for, dialogue with the Enlightened elites of the Western world.

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Table of contents

During the Spanish colonial period in the Americas, severe restrictions were generally imposed on the formulation and diffusion of ideas with far greater and more systematic zeal than in the European provinces under the Hispanic Monarchy. This meant not only institutionalized censorship but also extreme limitations on access to printing presses and paper (Poupeney Hart 2010a, 9). It also meant narrow circles of potential writers, mainly urban men of European descent, all largely connected to the administration of the Empire (Rama 1984). The emergence and development of journalism in Spanish America was thus an extremely late phenomenon compared to other areas of the Western world. Even at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, when it experienced a remarkable expansion, the periodical press in the Americas still depended significantly on the goodwill (though not the financial help) of the colonial power, which considered it a channel for curbing rumors and promulgating its reformist economic programs.

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