Manuel Zapata Olivella (1920-2004) was known throughout Latin America as the “Dean of Black Literature” and is considered one of the 20th century’s most important Afro-Hispanic narrators. He was also a noted Colombian anthropologist, folklorist, physician, playwright and novelist; his work to document and preserve the history and culture of Afro-Colombia through oral history, television, radio, and literature is legendary. Vanderbilt’s Special Collections houses his personal papers that consist of over one hundred fifty boxes of manuscripts, correspondence, publications, tapes, interviews, scrapbooks, and photographs. Fernanda and Gretchen worked together to select correspondence in the collection which provided a unique window on the history and society of Colombia and on people of African descent in the Americas as a whole. Essays by Gretchen Selcke focused on the writing of Changó and Zapata Olivella’s literary relationships. Fernanda Bretones Lane discussed Afro-Colombian identity and the anthropolgist’s role in promoting black culture through the Congresses of Black Culture in the Americas.
Fernanda Bretones Lane is a PhD candidate in history at Vanderbilt University and is engaged in research on Cuba and its connections with the greater Caribbean. She holds a master’s in social history from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, a master’s in Iberian history from the University Jaume I, Spain, and a B.A. in history from Pontificia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil. Ms. Bretones has worked in archives in Cuba, Spain and Brazil and received a Pre-Prospectus summer fellowship from the Cuban Heritage Collection. She is the recipient of a Vanderbilt Latin American Studies field research grant and two research grants from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo.
This project was developed through the collaborate efforts of two fellows. Meet Gretchen Selcke.