The Washington Office on Latin America Records span the dates 1962 to 2008 and consist of research and project files on nearly every country in Latin America, administrative files, clippings, correspondence, and printed material, all related to the work of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights advocacy organization based in Washington D.C. WOLA partners with local organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean to raise awareness of human rights abuses in the region and to influence the foreign policy agenda of the United States government. Materials in this collection provide a rich resource for the study of politically motivated violence and other human rights abuses throughout Latin America, and document the changing political attitudes towards the region on the part of the U.S. government over nearly four decades. Numerous files of individual human rights abuse cases, including torture, forced disappearances, and executions can be found in this collection. In addition, WOLA's efforts to lobby for legislative change are chronicled throughout the collection. Material includes some ephemeral or hard-to-find printed material produced by leftist or guerilla groups in Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico, as well as some audiovisual recordings housed within country files.
The collection is arranged in the following series: Administrative Files, Geographic, Initiatives and Activities, Sound Recordings, and Oversize Material. The Administrative Files Series contains records kept by WOLA directors and staff, many funding-related files, some overviews of WOLA's activities, and other files of an administrative nature such as meeting minutes and planning, and staff retreats. The largest in the collection, the Geographic Series is divided into subseries for most countries in the region, documenting the major political and human rights issues associated with each country. These files typically include large sub-groupings on the following broad topics: human rights cases specific to that country; economic development; drug policy and related issues, especially in Colombia and Mexico; elections; police and military; U.S. policy; international relations; files related to WOLA visits to or activities in that country; and in some cases, files of printed materials assembled by WOLA staff. The human rights files cover such issues as labor rights, peasants' rights and land reforms, indigenous people's rights, politically motivated abuses, killings, and discrimination, civil rights cases of all kinds, reconciliation and truth commissions, and the activities of human rights organizations in each country and in the U.S. The Initiatives and Activities Series, divided into topical categories as arranged by WOLA staff, covers the organization's issue-based work in areas such as U.S. drug policy, trade and banking, democratic and peace processes, economic development, issues related to the deployment of military and police forces, and more. A large group of records documents the extensive legislative work performed by WOLA on behalf of human rights issues. There is considerable overlap between this series and the Geographic Series. The Sound Recordings Series contains recordings of conferences, speeches, and events sponsored by WOLA and other groups. Finally, the six boxes in the Oversize Material section at the end of this collection guide contain large items such as posters and newspapers separated from the main collection and rehoused for preservation purposes. Materials are chiefly in English and Spanish, with a smaller percentage in French and Portuguese. All of the series and each subseries are described in more detail in the description of the collection that follows. Unprocessed additions to the collection have been added at the end of the finding aid. Collection was acquired as part of the Duke University's Archive for Human Rights.
Processed by Christian Ferney, with assistance from Jordan Anderson, Robert Carlson, Jonathan Grilli, Paula Jeannet, Michael Shumate, Dani Shocken, and Aaron Thornburg, April 2009
Encoded by Jordan Anderson, Christian Ferney, Paula Jeannet, Michael Shumate, Dani Shocken, and Aaron Thornburg, April 2009
Accessions 2007-0189, 2008-0050, 2009-0017, and 2010-0069 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.
Accession 2013-0053 processed in 2013 by Erin Foster and Patrick Stawski.
Web content described by Michelle Runyon, May 2020.