Hispanic Women Writers

Hispanic women from around 20 Spanish-speaking countries have been writing literature for a thousand years. Hispanic women writers work in various literary genres, which include the didactic prose, novel, drama, short story, lyric poetry, history and biography. Some have been nuns or aristocrats, while others are peasants or prostitutes.

Women writers cover their depression and anxiety under words of sadness, guilt, suffering or morbidity. They mitigate frustration and anger by using literary codes or adopting masks. Hispanic women writers often decided to be innovative and rebellious and to fight against cultural prejudices. According to Women in Hispanic Literature: Icons and Fallen Idols by Beth Kurti Miller, there are only three women writers of late medieval Spain who have left any important work: Leonor Lopez de Cordoba, Teresa de Cartagena and Florencia Pinar.

During the Enlightenment several women writers emerged in the Spanish theater. They wrote neoclassical plays, musical comedies and Romantic tragedies according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Some of them wrote for small private audiences such as convents and literary salons, others wrote for broader public performance. Margarita Hickey translated Jean Racine and Voltaire, while Maria Rosa Galvez composed 13 original plays.

Venerable Madre Isabel de Jesus (1586 to 1648) and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1648 to 1695) were also prominent. De la Cruz is considered to be a Mexican writer, as she lived in the colony then known as New Spain. She wrote plays, poetry and prose and was a defender of women's rights to education and intellectual life. De Jesus had to struggle for 25 years to become a nun. She wrote in a world of religious visions and had to present her work not as literature but as a religious exercise.

In 18th century Spanish drama, the female character was presented as a dependent being, first subject to her father and family and later to her husband. This archaic role of the woman in the Spanish-speaking world generated waves of discontent and created conditions for the work of writers such as Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda y Arteaga, widely known as la Avellaneda (1814 to 1873). Born in Cuba, she arrived in Spain when she was 22 years old. Her favorite themes were love, feminism and a changing world, and she worked on poems, autobiographies, novels and plays. She was recognized as a genuine 19th century Romantic poet. Her first novel called Sab (1841) is about a Cuban slave who is in love with Carlota, his master's daughter.

The 20th century is commonly recognized as the most productive period for both women writers in Spain and in Latin America. Isabel Allende Llona, born in Lima, Peru, on August 2, 1942, wrote books translated into more than 30 languages. She is often associated with the literary style of magical realism. Probably her most popular novel is The House of the Spirits (1982).

Luisa Valenzuela was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 26, 1938. A novelist and short story writer, she used a feminist perspective to question hierarchical social structures. Valenzuela criticized the military dictatorship of 1970s Argentina in works such as Como en la Guerra (1977), Cambio de armas (1982) and Cola de lagartija (1983).

Elena Poniatowska was born in Paris, France, on May 19, 1932. A Mexican journalist and author, in 1971 she published La noche de Tlatelolco, in which she included her interviews with survivors and families of those who died in the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City in 1968.

Hispanic Women Writers: Selected full-text books and articles

Latin-American Women Writers: Class, Race, and Gender By Myriam Yvonne Jehenson State University of New York Press, 1995
U.S. Latino Literature: A Critical Guide for Students and Teachers By Harold Augenbraum; Margarite Fernández Olmos Greenwood Press, 2000
Breaking Boundaries: Latina Writing and Critical Readings By Asunción Horno-Delgado; Eliana Ortega; Nina M. Scott; Nancy Saporta Sternbach University of Massachusetts Press, 1989
Women Writers of Spain: An Annotated Bio-Bibliographical Guide By Carolyn L. Galerstein; Kathleen McNerney Greenwood Press, 1986
Latino Literature in America By Bridget Kevane Greenwood Press, 2003
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