Miniature Messages

The Semiotics and Politics of Latin American Postage Stamps

Miniature Messages

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 154 color images Published: July 2008

Author: Jack Child

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies

In Miniature Messages, Jack Child analyzes Latin American postage stamps, revealing the messages about history, culture, and politics encoded in their design and disseminated throughout the world. While postage stamps are a sanctioned product of official government agencies, Child argues that they accumulate popular cultural value and take on new meanings as they circulate in the public sphere. As he demonstrates in this richly illustrated study, the postage stamp conveys many of the contestations and triumphs of Latin American history.

Child combines history and political science with philatelic research of nearly forty thousand Latin American stamps. He focuses on Argentina and the Southern Cone, highlighting stamps representing the consolidation of the Argentine republic and those produced under its Peronist regime. He compares Chilean stamps issued by the leftist government of Salvador Allende and by Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Considering postage stamps produced under other dictatorial regimes, he examines stamps from the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Paraguay. Child studies how international conflicts have been depicted on the stamps of Argentina, Chile, and Peru, and he pays particular attention to the role of South American and British stamps in establishing claims to the Malvinas/Falkland Islands and to Antarctica. He also covers the cultural and political history of stamps in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Grenada, Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela and elsewhere. In Miniature Messages, Child finds the political history of modern Latin America in its “tiny posters.”


Miniature Messages suggests the possibilities technology can play in generating and disseminating research within and beyond both a classroom’s walls and a book’s pages. Its pages (and CD-ROM) will interest many who study and teach Latin American history and public culture.” — Seth Fein, Hispanic American Historical Review

“Child's examination of Latin America postage stamps, which includes the South Atlantic Islands and the South American quadrant of Antarctica, provides the reader with keen insights into the history, politics, culture, and national identity of the Latin Americans. . . . The greatest strength of the study lies with Child's examination of the role of stamps in international relations.” — Michael R. Hall, Journal of Third World Studies

“This engaging book now offers scholars and students a model to evaluate postage stamps as expressions of national politics, identity, ambitions, idealism, natural resources, and diversity throughout Latin America.” — William H. Beezley, The Americas

“Child’s book is a careful analysis of the body of existing Latin American stamps. Making use of a wide array of cultural studies knowledge about Latin America, he examines the stamps as minitexts, not quite as one might a poem, but as bounded complexes of semiotic meaning. The result is fascinating and the first such analysis of the Latin American corpus. It is important to note that this study has been published by Duke University Press, the premier forum for Latin American cultural studies and that the book comes accompanied with a CD of the actual stamps themselves, organized in an accessible registry.” — David William Foster, Chasqui

“Child’s book is a significant contribution to the argument that academia should expand subject legitimacy to a broader range of materials. It has also got great stories about the complex world of Latin American politics and the role of government propaganda.” — Lincoln Cushing, A Contracorriente

“Professor Child. . . is that rare combination of social scientist and philatelist and bravely attempts to use the principles and methods of social science to analyse the politics of Latin-America postage stamps. . . . The study. . . is fascinating because of its breadth, his commitment to philately and the attempt to find explanations for differences in the choice, style, composition and production of postage stamps.” — The London Philatelist

“The passion and expertise with which this book is written confirm, in the author’s own words, that it has been a ‘labour of love.’ Beautifully written and illustrated, Miniature Messages also offers a colourful and engaging tool for teaching Latin American studies, an approach taken by the author throughout a teaching career dedicated to improving understanding of the region whose students, we can speculate, must clearly have been among the luckiest on campus.” — Gavin O’Tolle, Latin American Review of Books

“To the non-stamp collector the world of philately can be a somewhat desiccated subject. However, here in a well-illustrated, thorough and entertaining book, Jack Child, having examined some 40,000 Latin American postage stamps certainly manages to engage the interest of the wider reader. . . . [Child] has managed to marshal numerous miniature messages into a fascinating and valuable text.” — Igor Cusack, Bulletin of Latin American Research

Miniature Messages is a trailblazing study that demonstrates how an unfamiliar approach can throw light on different aspects of Latin American history, politics, and culture.” — David Bushnell, author of Simón Bolívar: Liberation and Disappointment

“The thoroughness and in-depth coverage of Miniature Messages are remarkable. Jack Child is probably the only person to possess the requisite knowledge and background to combine political science, history, and philately so well.” — Frank Nuessel, author of Linguistic Approaches to Hispanic Literature


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jack Child is a professor in the Department of Language and Foreign Studies at American University in Washington. He is the author of many books and articles on Latin American culture, translation, and geopolitics.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Preface xv

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction 1

1. Semiotics, Popular Culture, Politics, and Stamps 13

2. An Overview of Latin American Postage Stamps 43

3. Internal Politics and Latin American Stamps 57

4. International Relations and Latin American Stamps 75

5. Argentina 95

6. The Falklands/Malvinas 124

7. South American Antarctica 142

8. Other Miniature Messages of Note 161

Conclusions 190

Notes 197

General Index 225

Index of Stamps 235
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4199-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4179-6
Publicity material