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Hispanista: The Latin American Boom

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Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa and Julio Cortazar are some of the names literature connoisseurs tend to cite when they think of Latin American literature. It is no surprise that people name these authors; they are part of a literary movement dubbed the Latin American Boom.

This movement arose from the sudden attention Europe and the world directed at these hidden literary gems, publishing their work and leaving subsequent generations of writers with plenty of text to draw inspiration from.

This movement rose up in the midst of great political and social turmoil in Latin America during the 60s and 70s. In an interview with the Academy of Achievement in 2006, Mexican author Carlos Fuentes said:

Carlos Fuentes

“We didn’t come out of nothing; we came out of a very rich tradition. That tradition coincided with interest in Latin America, worldwide interest, because of the Cuban revolution. The Cuban revolution brought Latin America into focus after a long period of dictatorships and ignorance of what was going on. So there was this leader, Fidel Castro, and a lot of attention on Latin America — and who are the writers in Latin America? It happened to be us. It could have been another generation that had preceded us, or a generation yet to come. We coincided with a historical event, which was the Cuban revolution, and with the Alliance for Progress and Kennedy and a whole new interest in Latin America. So that is the publicity of the affair. I think we also wrote good books, naturally. If not, we wouldn’t be talking here. But the publicity moment was very good, and the books were good as well, so it was a very felicitous moment for our literature.”

Julio Cortázar

Their writing was considered experimental at the time because of their play with time and narrative voice, using nonlinear plots and different narrators. Their work doesn’t make for an easy or quick read, but the exquisite prose, complex structure and hefty motifs makes it hard not to fall completely in love with the writing of these authors once one gets used to it.

Turning the last page of one of these writer’s novels makes one feel accomplished and a bit overwhelmed by all the insights that a careful and analytical read can generate. Here are some recommendations to start you off in your adventure into the exquisite writing of the famous writers of the Latin American Boom:

Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez: This novel is often used as the poster child for magical realism, a style where fiction and reality become blurry and what is considered paranormal becomes ordinary. The novel tells the story of seven generations in the same family from the ficticious town of Macondo. The readers gets to meet a lot of characters which reflect different aspects of Latin American history and society.

Hopscotch, Julio Cortazar: In this novel Horacio Oliveira, an Argentine writer, returns to Buenos Aires after his love affair in Paris goes array. Back in his home country he reunites with his friend Manolo Traveler who is married to a woman that reminds Horacio of his lost Parisian love. Although it might seem like the novel has a linear plot, it doesn’t necessarily have to be read in order. Cortazar provides instructions as to how the novel can be hopscotched through, and on the internet you can find other ways to read this fascinating novel.

The Death of Artemio Cruz, Carlos Fuentes: This novel provides an insightful glimpse into Mexican history and Mexican politics. Artemio lies on his death bed remembering his past, which includes his participation in the Mexican Revolution. The story jumps from the present to Artemio’s memories, revealing how those experiences shaped the rich, but corrupt man he has become.

The Time of the Hero, Mario Vargas Llosa: This novel is set in a military academy in Peru. It brings the reader inside the minds and activities of young cadets while growing up, falling in love and experiencing death -but not just any death, one of the boys is shot by another cadet, opening a Pandora’s box of emotions and confusion among the young soldiers-in-training. The novel has been adapted into film.

As great as these authors are, they are getting older, publishing less and even passing away. This inevitably raises questions regarding their legacy in contemporary Latin American literature. Once this generation of authors is gone, who will be the great Latin American authors whose names will be recognized worldwide?

Remember we have just started our comment giveaway. When you comment on any Hispanista post you will automatically be entered into a giveaway for a signed copy of Anjanette Delgado’s novel The Heartbreak Pill. Check out this article and interview from last week’s Hispanista post. I look forward to reading your comments!.

–Silvia Viñas


Silvia grew up in seven different countries: Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, and The United States. She studied Spanish Literature, Political Science and TESOL at Brigham Young University. She enjoys reading fiction and non-fiction written by or about Latin Americans and Spaniards. She tweets in English and Spanish @silviavinas.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons

Read More: Love in the Time of Cholera and Melodramatic Movies

Written by Whitney Teal

April 2, 2010 at 11:14 am

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Hispanista: Interview with Anjanette Delgado

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After a successful career as a journalist and producer, Emmy award-winning writer Anjanette Delgado turned to fiction writing and published her first novel, The Heartbreak Pill.

Despite her success, Anjanette Delgado is surprisingly down to earth. She has a loud voice, big dark brown eyes, and a presence that —excuse the cliché— makes heads turn when she walks into the room. However, Anjanette is extremely approachable; you would never guess she is an award-winning writer if you simply met her on the streets of Miami. I contacted Anjanette through email, requesting an interview for this column. She accepted and invited me to her photo exhibit and poetry reading at Zu Galería Fine Arts, a small, beautifully decorated art gallery in Little Havana. I obviously couldn’t turn down the invitation. I went, and the result is this: my very first Hispanista podcast.

Disclaimer: We were outside during the interview and poetry reading, and if you’ve ever been to Little Havana (or anywhere in Miami, really) you know airplanes leave their audio footprint every fifteen minutes. So don’t get scared if you hear a loud rumbling noise during the podcast –it is just a plane.

To listen to the interview and poetry reading, click below. To download the podcast, right click and Save Link As or Download Link As.

Interview – Anjanette Delgado Part 1
Poetry Reading – Anjanette Delgado Part 2

To read more about Anjanette Delgado and The Heartbreak Pill, and to hear her read an excerpt from it, go to her official website. Also, make sure you visit her blog, The Wise Latina Woman Blog.

–Silvia Viñas


Silvia grew up in seven different countries: Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, and The United States. She studied Spanish Literature, Political Science and TESOL at Brigham Young University. She enjoys reading fiction and non-fiction written by or about Latin Americans and Spaniards. She tweets in English and Spanish @silviavinas.

Photos: Anjanette Delgado

Written by Whitney Teal

March 26, 2010 at 9:00 am

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Hispanista: Latino Writers On the Air

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A Podcast “book” search on iTunes yields results like NYtimes.com Book Review, World Book Club from the BBC and Book Tour from NPR; and although these Podcasts include some episodes where international authors are featured, Latino or Latin American literature is rarely discussed on these programs.

Latino literature buffs looking for a place with reviews, interviews and commentary on the genre and culture that surrounds it can tune into Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Have Their Say, a radio show based in Houston, Texas.

Image used with Nuestra Palabra's permission

A typical Nuestra Palabra show begins with music, and depending on the day, you might hear anything from classical Latin American folklore to reggeaton. Then comes the introduction, describing what the show is all about: “This is Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Have Their Say on the air, tuning you into the Latino literary renaissance in all its splendor. Interviews, teatro, rap, fiction, poetry, memorias, composer spotlights and more, always más.” The hosts are witty, good-humored and smart, and their guests are eye-opening and inspiring, making the hour-long show fly by.

Image used with Nuestra Palabra's permission

The Nuestra Palabra team works hard to build their community both inside and outside the radio studio. Their website is frequently updated with information on events, submission requests and workshops. Frequently, the team plays a vital role in these events; they have partnered with other organizations for “Made in Texas: Mexican-American Literature and Culture,” a free, interactive workshop for teachers in the Houston area, scheduled for April 10. A few days before the workshop, on April 8, they will launch a quarterly magazine called Aztec Muse.

This month the program is focusing on Women’s History Month, showcasing and interviewing local activists and women authors. You can listen to Nuestra Palabra every Tuesday from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. CST on KPFT, or you can listen to their recorded show online.

-Silvia Viñas

Written by Whitney Teal

March 18, 2010 at 11:11 am

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Hispanista: A Country of Earthquakes and Poets

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Chile was struck by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake last Saturday February 27 at 3:34 AM local time. The earthquake has left many Chileans homeless and hundreds killed. Chile is known to many as the most prosperous Spanish-speaking country in Latin America; Chile is also known for its copper exports, its empanadas (turn-overs), and its literary contributions. Chile has two Nobel prizes for literature: Gabriela Mistral in 1945 and Pablo Neruda in 1971 -both of them were poets.

Chileans have a special respect for nature; they’ve experienced so many earthquakes that those that live on the coast know to literally run for the hills to escape a possible tsunami after a strong quake. Along with this respect comes an admiration for nature. The two Chilean Nobel Laureates show this through their constant references to the sea, the forest, the mountains and the birds. Here are some examples.

Pine Forest by Gabriela Mistral

Let us go now into the forest.
Trees will pass by your face,
and I will stop and offer you to them,
but they cannot bend down.
The night watches over its creatures,
except for the pine trees that never change:
the old wounded springs that spring
blessed gum, eternal afternoons.
If they could, the trees would lift you
and carry you from valley to valley,
and you would pass from arm to arm,
a child running
from father to father

Those Who Do not Dance by Gabriela Mistral

A crippled child
Said, “How shall I dance?”
Let your heart dance
We said.

Then the invalid said:
“How shall I sing?”
Let your heart sing
We said

Then spoke the poor dead thistle,
“But I, how shall I dance?”
Let your heart fly to the wind
We said.

Then God spoke from above
“How shall I descend from the blue?”
Come dance for us here in the light
We said.

All the valley is dancing
Together under the sun,
And the heart of him who joins us not
Is turned to dust, to dust.

Water by Pablo Neruda

Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colors,
takes limpid lessons
from stone,
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam.

Bird by Pablo Neruda

It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography -
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

-Silvia Viñas
Photos: Wikimedia Commons

Written by Whitney Teal

March 6, 2010 at 2:33 pm

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Hispanista: Three Latinas To Add to Your Reading List

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Latinos are the largest minority in the United States. Their savory food and upbeat music is unavoidable wherever you go; but despite their visibility, Latinos don’t tend to make the Book section of The New York Times. Regardless of the media attention Latinos receive, there is a distinct Hispanic-American literary movement, and –I think it is safe to say—female authors are at its forefront.

So tune into your local Latin radio station to get in the mood and read on. Here are three Latinas and six recommendations to get you started:

Cristina García

Picture from CristinaGarciaNovelist.com

Cristina García is a Cuban-born writer; she moved to the United States when she was two years old and grew up in New York City. She began her writing career as a journalist, working for The Boston Globe, the Knoxville Journal, and Time Magazine as a reporter, researcher and correspondent. In 1990 García left Time and began writing fiction. Two years later Dreaming in Cuban, her first novel, was published. It was a finalist for the National Book Award.

She has written three novels since then: The Agüero Sisters, Monkey Hunting and A Handbook to Luck. This year she will be releasing her fifth novel, The Lady Matador’s Hotel.

García’s writing is beautiful; sentences flow easily one to the next, making her novels painless and enjoyable to read. She is known for the way she approaches the Cuban-American experience, exploring the Cuban exile from different perspectives–not just the anti-Communist Revolution angle many expect her to take. Her novels are filled with universal motifs that can be understood by readers of all ethnicities.

Add to your to-read List: Dreaming in Cuban or The Agüero Sisters

Click here for her website.

Sandra Cisneros

Picture from Flickr user Gwinnett County Public Library used under Creative Commons License

Sandra Cisneros is the author of The House on Mango Street, a novel many schools include in their Middle and High School curriculum. She was born in Chicago and holds an M.F.A in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. She has written one other novel, Caramelo, published in 2002. Caramelo was named “notable book of the year” by several newspapers like The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times among others.

She has also written short stories, poetry and a children’s book.

Cisneros is the queen of the Chicano Literary Movement, being the first woman in the movement to get her work published by giants like Vintage and Random House. She skillfully exposes gender and race inequality with an accessible yet substantial writing style; her work is easy to read, but she tackles subjects that allow for insightful analysis of universal themes.

Add to your To-Read List: Caramelo or Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (short story collection)

Click here for her website.

Julia Alvarez

photo copyright © by Bill Eichner. All rights reserved.

Julia Alvarez was born in New York City but shortly thereafter moved to the Dominican Republic. Her stay in the Dominican Republic didn’t last very long due to her father’s involvement in the underground opposition to dictator Rafael Trujillo. She returned to the United States when she was ten years old. Alvarez earned a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and published her first novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, in 1991.

She has written five other novels (In The Time of the Butterflies, ¡Yo!, In the Name of Salomé, Saving the World and Return to Sender) as well as poetry, non-fiction, children and young adult books.

Alvarez is one of the most prominent Latina writers. Latinos living in the United States like the way her writing deals with issues they face; and Latinos living in Latin America like the way she describes significant historical and political events in the Caribbean. Her exceptionally well-developed characters have allowed women of all races to see their experiences reflected in her work.

Add to your To-Read List: In the Time of the Butterflies or In the Name of Salomé

Click here for her website.

-Silvia Viñas

Written by Whitney Teal

February 26, 2010 at 8:07 am

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