Researching the Law of Latin America

By Julienne E. Grant

Julienne E. Grant currently serves as Instructor & Reference Librarian at the Louis L. Biro Law Library at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law. She previously spent almost eighteen years as the Foreign & International Research Specialist at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Ms. Grant has contributed to published guides on Mexican and Cuban law, and she recently co-authored a chapter (with Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns) in Latin American Collection Concepts: Essays on Libraries, Collaborations and New Approaches (McFarland, 2019). She is a member of the FCIL-SIS of the American Association of Law Libraries and has served as Chair of its Latin American Law Interest Group. Ms. Grant earned a B.A. magna cum laude in Spanish from Middlebury College, an M.A. in Ibero-American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.A.L.S. from Rosary College (now Dominican University), and a J.D. cum laude from DePaul University. Ms. Grant also received a Certificate in Editing from the Graham School at the University of Chicago, and she is a freelance editor, writer, and translator.

Published November/December 2022

(Previously updated by Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns in May/June 2014 and by Julienne E. Grant in January 2018)

See the Archive Version

1. Introduction

The goal of this article is to provide a roadmap for researching the general topic of Latin American law as well as the law of individual nations in that region. The term “Latin America” here refers to the 20 original members of the Organization of American States (OAS) (excluding the U.S.).[1] These nations share a civil law heritage, which is based on Roman law, and which generally rejects the principle of stare decisis. In civil law jurisdictions, the most important primary legal materials are the laws themselves, which appear in comprehensive codes that provide the frameworks for private, commercial, penal, and other areas of law.

Although adhering to the civil law tradition, it should be noted that each Latin American nation’s legal regime is unique, with its own judicial system, set of primary laws, and legal nomenclature. Each country also has its own body of secondary legal literature, which may include dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, treatises, and journals. Secondary legal scholarship, or doctrine (doctrina, in Spanish), is generally highly valued and is the “main source for interpretation of code provisions.”[2]

As indicated above, the scope of the article’s coverage is resources on Latin American law in a broad sense as well as those that collectively provide information on individual Latin American legal systems. Both print and digital sources are listed, but electronic resources are emphasized. Secondary sources chosen for inclusion are primarily in English, although some Spanish-language materials are also mentioned. The related topic of the Inter-American System is not treated in detail here, as it is the subject of the GlobaLex contribution, “The Inter-American System of Human Rights: A Research Guide” (Aug./Sept. 2010, updated July/Aug. 2016).

An *asterisk* indicates a subscription database.

2. Introductory Materials

The following are recent publications (2017–2022) that provide overviews of the civil law tradition and various aspects of Latin American law.

  • Albert, Richard, Carlos Bernal, and Juliano Zaiden Benvindo, eds. Constitutional Change and Transformation in Latin America. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2019.
  • Caserta, Salvatore. International Courts in Latin America and the Caribbean: Foundations and Authority. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.
  • Esquirol, Jorge L., Ruling the Law: Legitimacy and Failure in Latin American Legal Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.
  • Figueroa, Dante, and Daniel Rocha de Ferias. “UPDATE: Current Constitutional Developments in Latin America.” GlobaLex (Nov./Dec. 2021 ).
  • Fortes, Pedro et al., eds. Law and Policy in Latin America: Transforming Courts, Institutions, and Rights. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.
  • Hübner Mendes, Conrado, Roberto Gargarella, and Sebastián Guidi, eds., Oxford Handbook of Constitutional Law in Latin America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022.
  • Merino, Roger. Socio-Legal Struggles for Indigenous Self-Determination in Latin America: Re-imagining the Nation, Reinventing the State. New York: Routledge, 2021.
  • Merryman, John Henry, and Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo. The Civil Law Tradition: An Introduction to the Legal Systems of Europe and Latin America. 4th ed. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018.
  • Oquendo, Ángel R. Latin American Law. 3rd ed. St. Paul, MN: Foundation Press, 2017.
  • Orrego Hoyos, Gloria. “Judicial Power and High Courts in Latin America.” GlobaLex (Sept./Oct. 2021).
  • UPDATE: The Amparo Context in Latin American Jurisdiction: An Approach to an Empowering Action.” GlobaLex (Sept./Oct. 2017).
  • Sieder, Rachel, Karina Ansolabehere, and Tatiana Alfonso, eds. Routledge Handbook of Law and Society in Latin America. New York: Routledge, 2019.

3. Electronic Research Guides

The research guides listed below, hosted on two academic law library sites, cover Latin America as a region. The annual Guide to International Legal Research (George Washington International Law Review, LexisNexis) contains a lengthy chapter on Latin America and is available on Lexis (and in print). For guides on individual countries, see GlobaLex, the Foreign Law Guide*, and individual law library sites. Examples of the latter include the Law Library of Congress’s Guide to Law Online: Nations and the Country Research Guide, compiled by librarians at Yale’s Lillian Goldman Law Library.

4. Primary Sources of Law and Court Decisions

Constitutions, legislation, codes, administrative regulations, and treaties are all part of the corpus of Latin American law. The first four types of primary law are covered below in section 4.1. International treaties and agreements are discussed in section 8.1 under the general heading of “Latin America in the Global Arena.” Addressed in section 4.2 below are national and regional court opinions, which are generally not considered binding precedent in civil law jurisdictions.[3]

4.1. Constitutions, Legislation, Codes, and Administrative Law

The current texts of Latin American constitutions, legislation, codes, and administrative rules are usually not difficult to locate in the vernacular. Most governments in the region now have transparency laws in place requiring that national norms be published on the Web.[4] Online access to legislation is thus often available through various government portals, and daily government gazettes are likewise posted on the Web. Links to these sites are provided in the Guide to Law Online: Nations entries under the “Legislative” category. Numerous Latin American government ministries also post sector-specific administrative regulations on their websites.

The hierarchies and nomenclatures of the various legal instruments of Latin American jurisdictions, however, can be unwieldy. Individual GlobaLex articles are often a good source for unraveling these. Although published over 40 years ago, the following title is also a useful resource in this regard.

A number of IGOs and NGOs have created subject-specific databases for national legislation, which include that of Latin American countries. Examples are NATLEX (labor laws, International Labour Organization); WIPO Lex (intellectual property laws, World Intellectual Property Organization); Investment Laws Navigator (foreign investment laws, UNCTAD); and ECOLEX (environmental laws, jointly administered by IUCN, UNEP, and FAO).

English-language translations of Latin American primary legal materials are relatively scarce, and locating them can often be challenging—the exception being constitutions. For a list of Latin American codes available in English, check the website of Lawrence Publishing Company (Baton Rouge, Louisiana). Lawrence has published English-language translations of several Latin American nations’ codes, including the civil codes of Brazil (4th ed., 2019), Chile (2017), Colombia (3rd ed., 2019), Ecuador (2017), and Mexico (2nd ed., 2021).

The following Web resources can help locate the major primary sources of Latin American law in the vernacular and in English-language translation, if available.

  • Constituciones Hispanoamericanas: Hosted on the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes site, this source offers access to current and historical constitutions of Latin American countries where Spanish is the main language.
  • Constitute: Developed and directed by the Comparative Constitutions Project, this is an online collection of the world’s constitutions in English-language translation. The site allows for the cross-comparison of constitutional passages.
  • Global-Regulation*: This Toronto-based resource enables searching across the laws of 110 jurisdictions, including many from Latin America. Laws are machine translated into English, but links are also provided to the official texts. The database is updated monthly.
  • Oxford Constitutions of the World*: This is Oxford University Press’s collection of national constitutions in English-language translation, complemented by secondary materials.
  • vLex*: Based in Barcelona, vLex’s publisher describes the database as the “world’s largest collection of legal and regulatory information.” The product is particularly strong for European and Latin American content, which includes legislation, jurisprudence, and secondary sources.
  • World Constitutions Illustrated*: Available via HeinOnline, WCI provides access to historical and current texts of foreign constitutions in their original language. Most entries also include at least one English-language translation as well as links to relevant journal articles and other materials.
  • World Legal Information Institute: Several non-profit regional legal information initiatives created and maintain World LII. The massive database offers subject-based links for individual nations, including to legislation. Click on “All Countries” for an alphabetical list of jurisdictions covered in the platform.

4.2. National and Regional Court Decisions

Latin American countries each have their own judicial system and publishing protocol for court opinions. See international legal research platforms such as GlobaLex and the Foreign Law Guide* for specific information on sources for domestic court decisions. Databases such as vLex* and those listed in section 8.2 below also provide access to Latin American national judicial opinions. Note that the majority of Latin American countries follow the European model in that they have established autonomous constitutional courts or chambers for constitutional review purposes.[5] Some Latin American countries have also created courts with highly specialized jurisdictional competences, such as the Guatemalan Courts for High-Risk Crimes (Tribunales de Mayor Riesgo) and Chile’s Environmental Courts (Tribunales Ambientales). In general, Latin American jurisprudence is not translated into English.

The Due Process of Law Foundation (Washington, D.C.) has produced several digests in digital format of Latin American national court opinions. The subjects of these are: Rights of Victims (2015, available in English); International Crimes (2 vols., 2010, 2013, available in English); and Indigenous People’s Rights (2013, available in Spanish only).

There are four regional courts that are operative in Latin America. Listed below are those with functioning websites that include access to case decisions. As of this writing, the Central American Court of Justice (Corte Centroamericana de Justicia), located in Managua, does not have an operating website.

  • Caribbean Court of Justice: Based in Trinidad and Tobago, the Court was established by treaty in 2001 and inaugurated in 2005. The CCJ has both original and appellate jurisdiction, and its website currently lists 15 contracting states.
  • Court of Justice of the Andean Community (Tribunal de Justicia de la Comunidad Andina): Seated in Quito, the Court is the judicial arm of the Andean Community. The Court was established in 1979 under the Cartagena Agreement and began operating in 1984. The Court has jurisdiction over two types of claims: nullification and noncompliance. It also renders decisions on community law as requested by national courts of member states.
  • Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos): The Court was established in 1979 to enforce the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights. Seated in San José, Costa Rica, it is an integral component of the OAS’s Inter-American System. Many of the Court’s decisions are translated into English and are available on the Court’s website. The Court’s jurisprudence can also be searched by topic and applicable Convention article via the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Project (Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review).

5. Secondary Sources

When researching the law of any foreign jurisdiction or region, it is often advantageous to start with a secondary source. Some secondary sources treat Latin American law collectively; others lead to information on individual countries. A useful tool for identifying works that include discussions on Latin American nations separately is HeinOnline’s Multinational Sources Compared: A Subject and Jurisdiction Index*, now in its 2nd edition. This compilation will lead researchers to sources that are international in scope but treat a country or countries of interest within.

London-based Global Legal Group provides free online access to its International Comparative Legal Guides. The 40+ Guides cover topics ranging from copyright to family law—often including chapters on individual Latin American jurisdictions. Similarly, Law Business Research, also based in London, provides complimentary access to its collection of law reviews on almost 90 topics that include individual national reports.

To identify titles of legal secondary sources published locally, in a specific Latin American country, see research guides, such as the “Research Guide to Mexican Law” (Legal Reference Services Quarterly 35.1 [2016]: 18-76), and the “Guide to Cuban Law and Legal Research” (International Journal of Legal Information 45.2 [2017]: 76-188). Note that vLex* has a full-text collection of Latin American secondary sources as does the free platform Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual. The latter is part of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas website.

Other secondary sources on Latin American law topics can be identified by utilizing the useful Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS). Edited by the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, the Handbook is an interdisciplinary bibliography of works pertaining to Latin America. It is an excellent tool for identifying relevant published works on both Latin American law and politics. HLAS Web includes content from the 1970s forward, and HLAS Online is a legacy site with content from the mid-1930s forward.

5.1. Encyclopedias & Compendiums

In some Latin American countries, there are topical encyclopedic sets available that focus on domestic law. Check legal research guides and articles for individual countries to identify these. The following resources include Latin American jurisdictions in their scope:

  • International Encyclopaedia of Laws*: Available on the Kluwer Law Online platform as well as in loose-leaf format, this collection is divided by topic and then by country as “national monographs.” Many Latin American countries are covered across the set. Some of the included topics are cyber law, environmental law, intellectual property law, media law, and tort law.
  • Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law*: Launched in early 2017, and available via Oxford University Press, this online encyclopedia contains scholarly articles in the context of comparative constitutional law. Latin America-related contributions include José María Serna de la Garza’s entry on “Amparo,” and David Landau’s piece on the “Constitutional Court of Colombia (Corte Constitucional de Colombia).”
  • Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law*: Available through Oxford University Press, this is one of the most authoritative reference sources in the field of public international law. Examples of Latin American content are “Boundary Disputes in Latin America” (María Teresa Infante Caffi) and “Central American Court of Justice (CACJ)” (Roberto Virzo).
  • Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to COVID-19: This is an open-access platform that provides detailed country-by-country descriptions of how existing and new norms have been applied in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History*: Edited by Stanley N. Katz, and published by Oxford University Press in 2009, the Encyclopedia includes a lengthy entry on “South and Central America.” The article contains a general overview as well as coverage of the precolonial and Spanish and Portuguese colonial eras. There are also separate entries for Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. The set is available in print and online.

5.2. Books

Searching on the following Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) in online library catalogs will yield books related to the general topic of Latin American law. To locate books on individual countries, substitute “Latin America” with the country name (e.g., Law–Chile).

  • Law–Latin America
  • Rule of Law–Latin America
  • Civil Law–Latin America
  • Human Rights–Latin America
  • Judicial Process–Latin America
  • Justice, Administration of–Latin America
  • Latin America–Politics and Government

5.3. Journals and Periodical Indexes

Academic law reviews are published throughout Latin America, including some in English (e.g., Mexican Law Review). There are also several law journals dedicated to the topic of Latin America that are published outside the region, including the University of Miami Inter-American Law Review. Latin Lawyer (Law Business Research), which is aimed at practitioners, is published in London and focuses on business law developments in the region.

Interdisciplinary academic journals that concentrate on Latin America can also be useful for researching the region’s law. Examples of such publications in English are the Latin American Research Review (Latin American Studies Association, Cambridge University Press) and the Journal of Latin American Studies (Cambridge University Press). These types of publications are often available in subscription databases, such as JSTOR.

There are also several open-access scholarship initiatives that include Latin American content. Latindex collects bibliographic information for Latin American and Iberian serials. SciELO is a publishing platform for scholarly publications, primarily in the sciences (but with some legal content). RedALyC is another indexing and publishing platform for Latin American and Iberian academic output. CLACSO (Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales, Latin American Council of Social Sciences), based in Buenos Aires, has a network of virtual open-access libraries that collect Latin American scholarship. Dialnet is an open-access scholarship repository based in Spain that also covers Latin America. Finally, Elsevier’s SSRN is an excellent resource for locating open-access working drafts and published pieces on Latin American legal topics.

The following online journal databases and indexes can also help identify and locate relevant articles.

  • HeinOnline Law Journal Library*: The HeinOnline Law Journal Library contains scanned images of U.S. and some foreign law reviews, generally back to their inception. An index of journal titles is available by subject and country of publication.
  • Hispanic American Periodicals Index*: According to the database description, HAPI Online “provides complete bibliographic citations to the contents of scholarly journals published around the world on Latin America and the Caribbean since the late 1960s.” The database is primarily an index (over 400 publications are covered), but links to full-text articles are provided when available. HAPI is a project of the Latin American Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals*: IFLP, available electronically through HeinOnline, indexes foreign (including some non-English-language) law journals. Journal titles are listed by region and country. IFLP, which is produced by the American Association of Law Libraries, also offers a monthly customized e-mail alerts service.
  • Latin American Journals & Serials: The Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section (FCIL-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries maintains this list, which is a work in progress. The titles of listed journals are organized by country, and there is also a general category for Latin America. U.S. law library holdings for each title are noted, although they are limited to Yale, Duke, and a few other universities.

5.4. Theses and Dissertations

Often overlooked by legal researchers, theses and dissertations contain exhaustive research and extensive bibliographies and can be useful sources of information on Latin American law. Along with the Web platforms listed below, many universities post digital copies of their own students’ theses and dissertations.

  • DART-Europe E-theses Portal: This open-access portal is a partnership of various European research libraries and library consortia. It provides access to theses from almost 600 European universities, representing 29 countries. The database is multilingual.
  • Open Access Theses and Dissertations: This is an online collection of open-access theses and dissertations from around the globe. Over 1,000 education and research institutions are represented, including a number from Latin America.
  • Latin American Theses: Hosted by the University of Chile’s System of Information and Library Services, this portal is part of the Red Repositorios Latinoamericanos and includes the full texts of theses from a number of Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.
  • ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global*: According to the database description, PDTG includes over 5 million citations and 3 million full-text works from thousands of universities.

6. Current Awareness: News Sources and Blogs

Newspaper and news websites, as well as blogs, can be excellent sources for information on Latin American legal developments. Lists of Latin American newspapers are posted on various websites, such as English-language newspapers, including the New York Times and the United Kingdom’s Guardian, cover Latin American events extensively. There are a limited number of English-language newspapers published in Latin America, including the LatinAmerican Post, produced in Bogotá, and the Buenos Aires Times .

The following is a list of selected news sources and blogs that cover Latin American law and politics. Note that a comprehensive collection of links for legal-related blogs is available on JUSTIA’s BlawgSearch; the lists there are organized by practice area, geographic focus, and law school sponsorship.

  • Global Americans (“Smart News & Research for Latin America’s Changemakers”): Global Americans is a non-profit research and policy initiative that publishes articles about Latin America in a global context. The organization distributes a free weekly electronic newsletter, the “Hemisphere Weekly.”
  • Global Legal Monitor: Compiled by personnel at the Law Library of Congress, the Monitor provides regular e-mail updates on legal developments around the world. See also the LLOC’s blog, In Custodia Legis, for occasional posts on Latin American legal topics.
  • Latin America Working Group: Based in Washington, D.C., LAWG is a non-profit that works to compel U.S. lawmakers to change policies on Latin America. The website posts current news and research reports and also hosts a blog.
  • NACLA: The website of the North American Congress on Latin America, based in New York City, includes news and in-depth articles. A free subscription to the organization’s electronic newsletter, “NACLA Update,” is available.
  • NTN24: Nuestra Tele Noticias is a 24-hour Spanish-language news channel based in Bogotá.
  • teleSUR: Based in Caracas, teleSUR (La Nueva Televisión del Sur) is a pan-Latin American multimedia platform sponsored by various countries in the region, including Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Although controversial for its leftist leanings, teleSUR can be a valuable source of information on local legal developments. Its website is available in both Spanish and English.

7. Human Rights

The OAS’s Inter-American System is the main human rights mechanism in force among the OAS member states.[6] The System’s two entities are the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. As noted above in section 1, there is an extensive GlobaLex article about the System. See the following list for additional sources for researching human rights in Latin America.

  • Amnesty International (Americas): Based in London, Amnesty International is an NGO that focuses on improving human rights worldwide.
  • Columbia International Affairs Online*: CIAO is an international affairs database that includes the full texts of books, policy briefs, conference papers, journal articles, and other secondary materials. It is available via Columbia University Press.
  • Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: The U.S. Department of State publishes annual human rights reports on U.N. member states and countries that receive financial assistance from the U.S.
  • Equipo Nizkor: This international NGO investigates human rights abuses and fights against impunity; its geographic emphasis is the Americas and Europe. According to its website, Equipo Nizkor “manages the world’s biggest online human rights documentation centre in Spanish.” The website itself has versions in Spanish, English, and French.
  • Human Rights Watch (Americas): An NGO headquartered in New York City, Human Rights Watch investigates human rights conditions in about 90 countries.
  • RefWorld: This is a comprehensive online database, maintained and supported by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which focuses on human rights in the context of asylum and refugee law. Documents published by various NGOs, such as Freedom House and Minority Rights Group International, are included in the database.
  • Universal Human Rights Index: The Index, hosted on the site of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), provides access to country-specific recommendations issued by various U.N. bodies. See also the OHCHR’s pages on the Americas region.

8. Latin America in the Global Arena

Most Latin American countries achieved independence from their European colonizers in the early 19th century. Since that time, independent nations in the region have entered into binding treaties, have had disputes with nations outside their borders, and have been engaged in trade and commerce with the rest of the world. The resources listed below are recommended for researching Latin American law in a global context, specifically in the areas of treaties and agreements; international courts and tribunals; and business, investment, and trade. For a collection of scholarly articles on public international law developments in Latin America, see the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law*, which is described above in section 5.1.

8.1. Treaties and Agreements

Bilateral and multinational treaties and agreements form part of the corpus of Latin American law. To locate the texts of these documents, there are a number of Web-based collections that can be searched. These include the United Nations Treaty Collection and UNCTAD’s International Investment Agreements Navigator. The Web source below provides access exclusively to the texts of inter-American treaties and agreements.

8.2. International Courts and Tribunals

Latin American countries have been involved in a number of disputes submitted to international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). ICJ and ITLOS judgments are posted on the courts’ own websites. The following resources also contain decisions of international courts and tribunals.

  • International Law Reports*: Published by Cambridge University Press, ILR is “devoted to the regular and systematic reporting in English” of international and national court opinions. Four volumes are published annually, and the set has consolidated indexes. ILR is available in print and online.
  • International Legal Materials*: Published by the American Society of International Law six times annually, ILM reprints selected legislation, international agreements, and judicial decisions. ILM is available via a number of commercial online platforms, including HeinOnline, Westlaw, Lexis, and JSTOR.
  • Oxford Reports on International Law*: This comprehensive database, available through Oxford University Press, provides access to international jurisprudence in five modules: International Law in Domestic Courts; International Criminal Law; International Human Rights Law; International Courts of General Jurisdiction; and International Investment Claims.

8.3. Business, Investment, and Trade

Many Latin American nations are heavily immersed in regional and international commerce, and some actively promote foreign investment at the domestic and regional levels. Latin American countries are members of the World Trade Organization, and there are also several regional initiatives that promote trade and economic cooperation. The Andean Community (Comunidad Andina), based in Lima, comprises Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru. MERCOSUR (Mercado Común del Sur), headquartered in Montevideo, is a trade bloc consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay (Venezuela’s membership was suspended in 2016). The Pacific Alliance (Alianza del Pacífico) is a trade bloc involving Chile, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. The Latin American Integration Association (Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración), composed of 13 nations, promotes economic integration in the region and is working towards the creation of a Latin American common market. There is also a Central American Integration System (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana), and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has economic integration as one of its four main organizational pillars.

Library research guides on international trade and business can be helpful when researching these areas in the Latin American context. Similarly, there are GlobaLex articles on the associated topics of international commercial and investment arbitration (see “UPDATE: International Commercial Arbitration” (April 2017) and “UPDATE: International Arbitration Between Foreign Investors and Host States (Investor-State Arbitration)” (Mar./April 2022).

The following Web portals are specifically recommended for researching topics related to Latin American business, investment, and trade. There are also numerous books published on these topics that can be identified by searches in WorldCat. See also Law Business Research’s “Getting the Deal Through” series (via the Lexology* platform), which is available by separate subscription, or in Bloomberg Law*.

  • Lex Mundi: Guides to Doing Business: Lex Mundi is a global organization of some 160+ law firms. Member firms author country-specific guides on conducting business. Latin American countries featured in the collection include Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.
  • SICE (Sistema de Información sobre Comercio Exterior, Foreign Trade Information System): SICE is the OAS’s Web platform for foreign trade information. The site includes the texts and histories of Latin American free trade agreements (including NAFTA and CAFTA), trade policy news, and links to information on related areas, such as antidumping and competition policy. The site is available in Spanish and English.

9. International, Regional, and National Organizations

The websites of various international, regional, and national organizations can be useful for locating information on Latin American legal developments and for accessing research and policy papers. All of the websites of the organizations listed below include virtual collections of materials.

10. Digital Archives and Historical Materials

The following resources are useful for conducting historical research on Latin American law as well as identifying more contemporary sources. Several of the listed sites are well-known digital repositories with multiple contributing institutions—some located in Latin America.

  • Aztec and Maya Law: This is an online exhibition and bibliography created jointly by the Tarlton Law Library and Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Digital Library of the Caribbean: The dLOC is a digital platform for materials related to the Caribbean region. It contains over 2.5 million pages of content and has a separate “Cuban Law Collection.” The dLOC has many partner institutions, including Cuba’s national library, the Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba José Martí.
  • HathiTrust Digital Library*: HathiTrust is a partnership of over 100 research institutions and libraries. Many of the works contained in this multidisciplinary and multinational database are in the public domain. Only partner institutions, however, are permitted to access some areas of the platform.
  • Latin American Network Information Center: Although no longer updated, LANIC is still a useful online platform for research on Latin America. Among LANIC’s many components are historical digital collections (under “Digital Initiatives”), some of which have legal-related content. The platform also includes links to other online archives (under “Libraries & Reference”). The portal is part of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, the Benson Latin American Collection, and the University of Texas Libraries.
  • LLMC Digital*: LLMC (Law Library Microfilm Consortium) Digital is a repository for at-risk global legal and government materials. The database includes historical primary and secondary sources from Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Venezuela. Some items are in English.
  • Making of Modern Law: Foreign Primary Sources, Part II*: Part of Gale’s multi-database collection of historical legal materials, this digital archive includes codes and code-related commentaries from around the globe, including Latin America. Coverage is 1600-1970.
  • Monitoring the Legal Response to COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: This platform in a blog format serves as an archival source of information on the region’s legal responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of librarians, professors, and legal and regional experts contributed to the project, which was active between March 2020 and October 2021. The site also includes materials and videos from a related conference on access to information in the Americas held virtually in September 2021.

11. U.S. Libraries with Noteworthy Collections

The following U.S. libraries have significant Latin American collections, many that include current and historical legal materials. Some of these items are digitized and available directly on library websites. For general information on Latin American library resources, see the website of SALALM (Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials).

[1] These were Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. See Charter of the Organization of American States, April 30, 1948, 2 U.S.T. 2394, 119 U.N.T.S. 3 (entered into force December 13, 1951),

[2] M.C. Mirow, Latin American Law: A History of Private Law and Institutions in Spanish America 197 (2004).

[3] For a discussion of the status of judicial precedent in Latin America, see Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns, “Judicial Power in Latin America: a Short Survey,” Librarian Scholarship Series, Paper 32 (2015),

[4] See Bill Orme, “Access to Information: Lessons from Latin America” Cuadernos de Discusión de Comunicación e Información 8, UNESCO, 2017.

[5] Ángel R. Oquendo, Latin American Law. 3rd ed. 224 (2017).

[6] However, there are varying levels of commitment to human rights in the region. See Francisco A. Avalos, “UPDATE: The Inter-American System of Human Rights: A Research Guide,” GlobaLex (July/Aug. 2016),