Argentina’s Billiken is the world’s longest-running children’s magazine and celebrated its centenary with the publication of issue number 5143 in November 2019. For generations of children in Argentina and across Latin America, Billiken was a childhood companion, offering entertainment and helping with schoolwork.
With funding from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Dr Lauren Rea is leading research into the history and legacy of this magazine, and is working with Billiken’s publisher, Atlántida, on the future of the brand.
Billiken is an archival treasure trove of educational material, illustrated short and serialised stories, comic strips, graphic novels, craft activities, readers’ letters, photographs, cover artwork and publicity. The Billiken Centenary Project draws on different fields including Cultural History, Literature, History of Education, Childhood Studies and Graphic Design to understand how the changes in the magazine over the years both reflect and shape the perceived role of children in Argentine society. The project also considers how children’s reading practices and engagement with educational materials and popular culture have changed over the last hundred years.
For a century, Billiken maintained near continuous publication in the face of Argentina’s shifting political and economic climates. Billiken today faces the challenges that the digital world increasingly poses to all forms of print culture and is moving beyond print to become a multi-platform product. The research into the history of the magazine is shaping this process and Lauren Rea is working in partnership with Billiken on the piloting of digital educational resources for Billiken’s new educational platform. The historical research is also inspiring the creation of new narratives. To commemorate the 100 years of Billiken, Lauren Rea and Billiken’s director, Euhen Matarozzo, collaborated on the publication of the illustrated children’s book 100 Grandes Mujeres Latinoamericanas [100 Great Latin American Women] as a first step towards redressing the imbalance of gender representations found historically in Billiken.
In October 2020, the project was awarded follow-on funding under the UKRI GCRF Collective Fund. For the Great Latin American Women Project, the partnership is developing audio-visual and digital educational resources based on 100 Grandes Mujeres Latinoamericanas. The project aims to foster greater gender equality in Latin America by encouraging the integration of women’s histories into educational curricula and increasing the visibility of contemporary leading women’s achievements.