Arts and Humanities Academic’s Book Published to Acclaim in Argentina

Professor Lauren Rea’s 'La historia de Billiken', on the history of the world’s longest-running children’s magazine, has been published by Penguin Random House in Argentina.

Dr. Lauren Rea speaking at a academic conference
Professor Lauren Rea and journalist Lorena Peverengo at the launch of 'La historia de Billiken' at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Buenos Aires

La historia de Billiken is the Spanish-language adaptation of Children’s Culture and Citizenship in Argentina: A History of Billiken Magazine (1919–2019), the first complete academic history of this important product of Latin American popular culture. Billiken published 5144 issues over one hundred years, educated and entertained generations of schoolchildren, and came to occupy a central role in Argentine cultural life.

On producing this adaptation, Lauren said: ‘It was important that this book on a topic so significant to Argentine culture should be available in Spanish, in Argentina. For the generations who grew up with this magazine, the book elicits powerful feelings linked to childhood memories. This study moves beyond nostalgia to offer a critical analysis of how Billiken reflected and shaped society, becoming part of the national imaginary’.

The book’s official launch was held at the Residence of the British Ambassador to Argentina where Ambassador Kirsty Hayes expressed her pride that Lauren, in undertaking this research project, ‘has helped us [the UK and Argentina] to know each other better and together, to know the history of Billiken’.

Ambassador Kirsty Hayes (centre) with Lauren Rea and Argentine actress Elena Roger who played the title role in Evita in the West End
Ambassador Kirsty Hayes (centre) with Lauren Rea and Argentine actress Elena Roger who played the title role in Evita in the West End

The significance of Lauren’s work for cultural diplomacy was further underscored by an invitation to present her research to future diplomats at the Instituto del Servicio Exterior de la Nación (ISEN), the Argentine government’s training institution for members of the diplomatic service. At this event, the institute’s director, Ambassador Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, along with Alejandra Pecoraro, director of Cultural Affairs for the Argentine Foreign Ministry, highlighted Lauren’s work to future diplomats, emphasising the importance of culture in a nation’s international standing and the centrality of culture in the building of international relations.

Lauren Rea speaking at the Instituto Del Servicio Exterior de la Nacion
With Alejandra Pecoraro and Ambassador Carlos Sersale di Cerisano at the Argentine National Foreign Service Institute

In Argentine academia, interest in the research project is wide-ranging as Billiken was a platform for Latin American children’s literature, illustration and design, whilst linking itself to the national education system. Lauren was invited to give research seminars to scholars of children’s culture at the Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento and to specialists in education at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Buenos Aires, and also gave a guest lecture to students of graphic design at the University’s Faculty of Design, Architecture and Urbanisation. It is not just the history of this longstanding magazine that is of interest to this academic community. The book’s epilogue reflects upon the collaborative work undertaken by Lauren and the director of Billiken, Euhen Matarozzo, in designing the future of Billiken beyond print around the time of its centenary, leading to the Great Latin American Women Project. Billiken’s digital transformation is now the subject of undergraduate dissertations.

Photo of a packed out lecture theatre for Lauren's book launch
Guest lecture to graphic design students at FADU, University of Buenos Aires

The launch of La historia de Billiken also coincided with the 48 th Buenos Aires Book Fair, an important event in the cultural calendar of a city with the most bookshops per inhabitant than any other in the world. Lauren’s public and media appearances included interviews with journalists Gustavo Noriega, Lorena Peverengo and Patricio Zunini. On the importance of the book in Argentina, Zunini said ‘it helps us to understand who we are and who we want to be for our children’.

Lauren speaking at a conference
Interview with Patricio Zunini (TICMAS/Infobae) at the Buenos Aires Book Fair

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