The abiding interest in human rights in the Americas can be traced to the Renaissance, when the issue of the humanity of Native Americans (and their consequent rights to life, property, and freedom from slavery) was actually debated in the Spanish courts. This interest continued in the writings of such thinkers as Montaigne and Rousseau, whose idealized views of the noble savages of the New World were used to enlighten Europe. And it was the realization that all Americans were entitled to human rights of self determination that justified the independence of the American territories from the colonial powers of Europe and the birth of brave new American nations. Similarly, it was the recognition that Africans throughout the Americas had human rights inimical to slavery that led to their Emancipation and to the advancement of their civil rights. And on the same grounds, the prolonged campaign for voting rights for women spread from North to South in an extended process from 1920 in the United States to 1961 in Paraguay. In spite of being enshrined in 1948 in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the human rights of thousands of Latin Americans were egregiously violated in the Dirty Wars from the 1960s through the 1980s against what was described then as communist subversion, as well as during civil conflicts in Central America, especially in the decade of the 1980s. Yet, appealing to those very rights, a number of steps towards acknowledgement and reparation are now being taken.
Since the 1980s, the indigenous peoples of the Americas have brought before the international community their specific demand for their human rights of self-determination. In the context of an increasing globalization, the human rights of transnational migrants are a growing concern as well. Activists and scholars have furthermore become increasingly aware that in situations of economic and political crises in the Americas, women and children are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses. And currently, the War on Terror has made the protection of human rights an urgent concern.
One of CSHRA's goals is to give access to documents pertaining to human rights in order to foster discussion, analysis, and evaluation—as well as to support those who work in the prevention of (and response to) human rights violations. We are currently building our library of documents and our collection of links. Your suggestions are most welcome.