The Voz de los Abuelos Project is a Colombian oral history archive that comprises part of the Manuel Zapata Olivella Collection of Vanderbilt University Special Collections. The project includes over 400 interviews during the 1980s-1990s with Colombians from many regions. It was developed to capture their earlier traditions, folkways, origins, and beliefs.
Zapata Olivella, a noted Afro-Colombian novelist, anthropologist, and physician was founder and Director of the Fundación Colombiana de Investigaciones Folclóricas. In conjunction with the Ministerio de Educación Nacional he arranged that Colombian high school students be required to interview these "abuelos analfabetos" as part of their social service requirement for high school graduation. In interviewing older members of their communities, the students used a series of 100 questions that surveyed a wide range of topics such as religion, beliefs, magic practices, social behavior, housing, food ways, and many other aspects of everday life and cultural traditions. The archive includes interviews with some slave descendants and illustrates a wide variety of themes that underscore Colombian regional differences and African-based religions and folklore—themes that also resonate in Zapata Olivella's novels. Upon completion, all of the interviews, recordings, transcriptions and corresponding photographs for each region will be accessible and fully searchable in this digital archive.
We hope the collection will be an exceptional resource for researchers in Latin American and Afro-Hispanic Studies who are engaged in a variety of fields, including literature, cultural studies, history, floklore, and anthropology.