Latin American Literature

Having grown in popularity during the middle of the 20th century, Latin American literature is a cornerstone of the magical realism period in literature. The mix of languages of Spanish, Portuguese and other traditional languages of the Latin American region form the foundation of this style of literature.

Due to the fact that Latin American literature came of age during the time that magical realism came into its own as a literary mode, this region of the world is well known for producing literature of this type. Its most famous author is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, born in Colombia in 1928, who is well known for his portrayal of Latin American life and customs.

Latin American literature finds it foundations in the culture, traditions and customs of Latin America. This heritage is a central part of its structure and could be seen in the oral tradition for a number of centuries. The antecedents of Latin American literature go back to times before Columbus set foot in Latin America. The oral traditions of this time period were developed by the indigenous tribes. Mythological and religious elements were at the heart of these traditions and were observed by the Europeans when they arrived and colonized the region. Although diminished by the introduction of the written word, the oral form still is present in modern times among certain tribes and native peoples across Latin America.

When the Europeans came to Latin America, the use of written literature grew in popularity. Explorers and settlers wrote stories of the new environment that surrounded them. Literature was a means to explain what was happening to the land and also the new culture Europeans were now living in. It also was a means of debate and discussion of the ethics surrounding colonization. This open forum led to a number of views among the Europeans. During this time, natives also contributed to colonial literature, learning a new skill brought to them through colonization. This literature highlighted the Spanish conquest and highlighted a different perspective on colonization that was a dramatic contrast to that of the Europeans.

In the 19th century, Latin American literature developed further and reflected the romantic period. It took a new form as it started to create a new identity for Latin America in the developed world. Many of the themes around Latin American literature were comparing the indigenous tribes to those who were colonized and assimilated during the colonization period. Some of the most popular authors during this time were Jorge Isaacs and Euclides da Cunha who discussed this contrast and its impact on local society. These authors are well known across Latin America and are often still read by children studying in school. Poetry also grew in popularity in the 19th century, adding to the romantic period in the literary world.

Toward the end of the 19th century, Latin American literature began influencing literature outside its own culture. This period was known as the modernismo movement in poetry. The founder of this movement was Ruben Dario. This movement highlighted Latin America's talent in literature while also being a style that was purely derived locally in the region.

Modernismo literature attempted to stay non-political. However, many authors in this period did take advantage of the exposure to debate social issues. This included discussion of the native people in Latin America and how they were being treated in the region. This led to another movement in Latin American literature known as indigenismo. This movement focused on providing a different perspective on the native people of Latin America and highlighting the issues that society imposed on them.

Born in 1899, Jorge Luis Borges gained international fame during the 1960s, and emerged as one of the most prominent Latin American writers of all time. Originating from Argentina, Borges developed a style of writing that offered a philosophical short story to his readers.

In more modern times, following both World Wars, Latin America has prospered economically but also in its contribution to literature. Literature produced in this region has been noted as rebellious in nature and experimental through language and writing style.

As a sign of its influence, many Western authors have followed the writing styles of Latin American writers in order to venture down new paths. This region has been highly influential over the 20th and 21st centuries in forming the modern literature that is familiar to today's public. Latin America continues to produce dynamic, innovative and provocative forms of literature.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Social Conscience of Latin American Writing
Naomi Lindstrom.
University of Texas Press, 1998
Searching for Recognition: The Promotion of Latin American Literature in the United States
Irene Rostagno.
Greenwood Press, 1997
Latin American Dramatists since 1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide
Tony A. Harvell.
Praeger, 2003
Latin-American Women Writers: Class, Race, and Gender
Myriam Yvonne Jehenson.
State University of New York Press, 1995
Theoretical Fables: The Pedagogical Dream in Contemporary Latin American Fiction
Alicia Borinsky.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993
The Social Imaginary/symbolic: Technology and Latin American Literature
Hoeg, Jerry.
Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 30, No. 4, December 1997
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