Libraries at the Time of Mexico’s War of Independence

Previous part: Spanish Libraries in Mexico: Shift from Religious and Private to Secular and Public

The next major event of interest to libraries is Mexico’s War of Independence, which took place from 1810-1821, resulting in the separation from Spain and the creation of a new republic (Francis).

Around this time, in line with the spirit of the independence movement, libraries in Mexico continued to become more secular and liberal in character, although they would continue to face many of the same access problems as in the colonial period, even if the official politics had changed. One of the first library developments in independent Mexico was the understanding of the need for public libraries by several local governments.

This resulted in the creation of the first state library in Oaxaca in 1826. This library was more secular and general in nature than any of the libraries in the colonial period, although it still contained around 50% religious books (Peñalosa 117). In this period, the discrepancy between official policy and actual status was becoming even more pronounced.

Although after independence, “public institutions were decreed to be for the entire population,” (Lau 2010a 3625) few institutional changes actually changed the situation for the masses. Libraries may have been officially open to anyone, they continued to serve only elite patrons, as 80 percent of the Mexican population (of ten years of age and older) was illiterate, and thus, the vast majority of the population still lacked access and the institutions continued to serve a very select group (Zamora 1997 228).

Continue reading: The Foundation of Mexico’s National Library: History and Cultural Context

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