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Spanish America

Spanish America

Spanish American literature shares many European literary and cultural patterns and at the same time gives voice to a distinct and different American reality. For the most part, period styles in Spanish American literature correspond to those in Europe (for example, Renaissance, baroque, neoclassicism, romanticism, realism). Vigorous national literatures are in evidence in a number of Spanish American countries (the most notable examples being Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina), and many first-rank individual writers have achieved international distinction.


Well-defined national literatures, it could be argued, make ineffective the use of the more general Spanish American construct that is here being applied. There is a large degree of commonality among the national literatures, stemming in large part from the relative constancy of the Spanish language and the numerous similarities in literary movements and period styles. In spite of some legitimate concerns about its usefulness, the Spanish American construct offers a valid framework for literary study and commentary in this diverse area of the world.

Terminology and Periodization

An even more complex question is the particular approach to be used in considering the development of a multifaceted literary expression in Spanish America. One could focus, for example, on the various literary genres (Spanish American poetry, for example, or the Spanish American novel), on various aesthetic or thematic patterns that transcend national boundaries (the literary conceptualization of Spanish America, the regionalist "novel of the land," social and political themes in literature), or on a series of major figures who exemplify the peculiar mix of European and local elements in Spanish America. The most productive design for a general discussion, however, is a combination of several of those approaches, in which political period, epoch style, and genre development find expression in a complex literary interweaving that has been in process for nearly five centuries. The principal periods can be divided into pre-Hispanic literature; the colonial period (extending from 1520 to 1820 and including accounts of exploration, conquest, and consolidation during the sixteenth century; baroque literature during the seventeenth century; and neoclassicism during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries); independence and the development of national literatures from 1820 until 1915 (including romanticism, realism-naturalism, and modernism); and the development of modern literature after 1915.

Pre-Hispanic Literature

Any consideration of Spanish American literature should take as a point of departure the cultural richness of the well-developed pre-Columbian civilizations in the Western Hemisphere, a richness that is expressed in languages other than Spanish. The principal indigenous cultures encountered in the European conquest were those of the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs in central Mexico, the Mayas of southern Mexico and Guatemala, and the Quechua speakers of the Andean Incan Empire. Other cultures were those of the Otomí, the Zapotecs, the Mixtecs, and the Tarascans in Mexico; the Cunas in Central America; Arawaks and Caribs in the Caribbean; and the Chibchas, Aymaras, Guarani, and Araucanians in South America. At the time of the Conquest all those cultures enjoyed a more or less developed literary expression, most often in orally transmitted form, although in some areas written transcription was in use.

In the Nahuatl-speaking area of Mexico a very elaborate historical and artistic expression was recorded and transmitted in both oral form and by means of pictographic codices inscribed on such materials as amate paper or leather. A few of these documents survived the Conquest, but most of our present-day information comes from the efforts of certain Spanish clerics, in particular Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, whose informants transcribed Nahuatl materials using the Latin alphabet. Poetry (religious, warmaking, epic, lyric, dramatic) is the most significant literary genre, showing a notable richness of imagery and awareness of form. Several individual poets can be identified, foremost among them Net-zahualcóyotl (king of Tetzcoco, 1402–1472).

The Maya culture in Yucatán and Central America showed a much greater variation in linguistic patterns than the Nahuatl but had a similar combination of oral and written traditions. An ideographic/phonetic system was developed in the lowlands, and various kinds of historical and literary materials were recorded on paper codices and engraved on stone. As in central Mexico, however, the most important collections of literary materials are those transcribed after the Conquest using the Latin alphabet. The most famous of these texts, for example, is the Popol Vuh or Libro del Consejo, a narrative and mythological text transcribed from Guatemalan K'iche'-Maya and translated into Spanish in the eighteenth century by Fray Francisco Ximénez. The various mytho-historical texts known as the Chilam Balam books were transcribed from Yucatecan Maya; the best known, the Chilam Balam de Chumayel, was found and published in the mid-nineteenth century. In those same years the K'iche' tragedy Rabinal Achí was also transcribed from an ancient theatrical tradition.

The Quechua-speaking cultural area in the Andes (the Inca Empire) also had a well-developed literary tradition, but in contrast to the high cultures to the north it lacked a formalized writing system. The cords, knots, and colors of the mnemonic quipu apparently aided in the transmission of statistical, historical, mythical, and even literary information, but the system was essentially different from the pictographs or the ideographs used in the other centers. Once again, the principal sources of cultural and literary information in this area are the post-Conquest chronicles, in particular Cristóbal de Molina's Relación de las fábulas y ritos de los Inkas (1575), Juan Santacruz Pachacuti's Relación de antigüedades de este Reyno del Perú (1598), and El Inca Garcilaso De La Vega's Comentarios reales (1609). As in the Nahuatl area, poetry was the preferred literary genre, and anonymous creators used a number of traditional forms to express their ideas (e.g., the sacred or heroic jailli, the sentimental arawi, the musical wayñu, or the funereal wanka). The Quechua-language Ollantay, an anonymous dramatic text discovered in the early years of the nineteenth century, is generally considered to be of pre-Hispanic origin.

Exploration, Conquest, and Consolidation (1520–1620)

An essentially Hispanic culture was established and refined in the New World, a culture built around the linguistic, social, and religious values imposed by a European power structure that attempted to repress all vestiges of indigenous cultures. That very process of colonization and mestizaje (racial mixing), which brought together in differing proportions the European settlers, the aboriginal populations, and imported African slaves, is the hallmark of what has come to be seen as a distinctive Spanish American society. Literature was an essential component of that developing Hispanic society. The New World attracted the attention and, on occasion, the presence of distinguished Spanish writers, among them Gutierre de Cetina, Tirso de Molina, and Mateo Alemán. Such figures, together with the clerics and other educated persons who were a part of the early colonization efforts, were very much influenced by the humanistic Renaissance style then current in Europe, a circumstance that ensured that most of the early literature in Spanish America followed that same Renaissance model.

The most important literary genres from this early period are the crónica (an expository prose text of exploration and conquest, including letters, accounts, histories, etc.) and epic poetry. The earliest of the chroniclers are Christopher Columbus (1451–1506), whose diary and letters (perhaps the best known of which is a letter dated 1493 to Luis de Santangel, a secretary to Ferdinand and Isabella) describe and justify his discoveries in the New World, and Hernán Cortés (1485–1547), who recounted his exploits in the conquest of Mexico to King Charles I in his Cartas de relación (1519–1536). More compelling as a chronicle of conquest is the account of one of Cortés's foot soldiers, Bernal Díaz del Castillo (ca. 1495–1584), whose Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (finished in 1568 but not published until 1632) presents the most vivid and readable account of the conquest of Mexico. The most famous chronicler of the period is probably Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474–1566), whose polemical treatise Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias (1552) was translated rapidly into a number of other languages and contributed to the so-called Black Legend of the Spanish conquest. Most of Las Casas's other voluminous writings were not published until well after his death.

The first major chronicler born in the New World was El Inca Garcilaso De La Vega (1539–1616), the mestizo son of an Inca princess and a Spanish captain. Following his early years in Cuzco, the Inca Garcilaso completed his education and spent the remainder of his life in Spain. His most important works, La Florida del Inca (1605) and the Comentarios reales (1609, 1617), reflect a unique dual culture. On the one hand, El Inca is clearly a Hispanic writer, and, on the other, his command of Quechua and his access to primary sources through personal family experience give unusual authority to his historical commentary.

The most important epic poet was Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga (1533–1594), who as a young Spanish officer took part in the wars of conquest against the Araucanians in Chile. His personal experiences were the basis for La araucana (published in three parts in 1569, 1578, and 1589), a long narrative poem that in many ways can be seen as a rhymed chronicle of the Spanish conquest of Chile. At the same time Ercilla's poem is probably the best example of the Renaissance epic (on the model of Ariosto and others) in Spanish literature. Arauco domado (1596), by Pedrode Oña (1570–ca. 1643), follows in the epic tradition set by Ercilla. Bernardo de Balbuena (ca. 1562–1627) wrote Grandeza mexicana (1604), a descriptive epic in terza rima on Mexico City, as well as the heroic epic El Bernardo, o Victoria de Ronces-valles (1624). La Cristíada (1611) was a religious epic on the Passion of Christ written by Diego de Hojeda (ca. 1571–1615).

Baroque (1620–1750)

By the mid-seventeenth century a solid Hispanic social structure had been consolidated in the Spanish American colonies, with the viceregal capitals of Mexico City and Lima as the two political and cultural centers. The relative turbulence of the Conquest had long since passed, and colonial life was carried forward with a sense of stability and coherence, most especially in the upper levels of society. Affluence and conspicuous luxury were much in evidence, and the often exaggerated forms of the European baroque were used as models in colonial art, architecture, music, and literature.

The first major literary figure in this period was Juan Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza (1580–1639), a poet and playwright whom Alfonso Reyes has called the "first universal Mexican." Alarcón spent most of his life in Spain, where he wrote and saw produced a number of first-rank dramas, among them La verdad sospechosa and Las paredes oyen (both published with other plays in 1628 and 1634). The central figure of the baroque period, however, was Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (ca. 1648–1695), an extraordinary Mexican writer and intellectual whose works place her in the first rank of Spanish American authors from all periods. Her literary work is varied and extensive, including a number of dramas of different types, several significant prose texts, and a large body of poetry. Her best-known plays are Los empeños de una casa (1683) and El Divino Narciso (1690); her prose works include Carta athenagórica (1690), a learned commentary on a sermon by Antonio Vieira, and Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz (1691), an unusual autobiographical justification of her intellectual life. The best of her poetry is to be found, perhaps, in a series of masterly love sonnets and in Primero sueño (1692).

The acerbic verses of the satirical Peruvian poet Juan del Valle y Caviedes (ca. 1652–ca. 1697) circulated widely in manuscript outside his local area (for example, Sor Juanawrote fromher convent in Mexico requesting copies of his texts), but his Diente del Parnaso was not published definitively until 1873. Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645–1700), a leading Mexican intellectual and scientist, produced a number of literary works, among them a gongorine poem titled Primeravera indiana (1668) and Los infortunios de Alonso Ramírez (1690), a first-person narrative chronicle. Another leading figure is the Peruvian intellectual Pedro de Peralta Barnuevo y Rocha (1663–1743), whose accomplishments as a scientist, historian, and creative writer place him in the transition between the seventeenth-century baroque and the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. His best-known work is a long epic poem on Pizarro titled Lima fundada (1732).

Enlightenment and Neoclassicism (1750–1820)

The eighteenth century in the Spanish colonies was a period of further cultural and political development in which the liberal ideas of the French Enlightenment provided a kind of ideological framework. By the middle of the century, the extremes of the baroque style in art and literature had largely been replaced by the more playful lightness of the rococo, which in turn soon gave way to more controlled neoclassical patterns. In politics the impact of the American and French revolutions was widely felt; by the end of the century the now rather frail colonial institutions seemed ripe for change, which swept through the colonies in the early decades of the nineteenth century.

The most notable representative of Enlightenment ideas in Spanish America was Andrés Bello (1781–1865), who had a distinguished career as a public figure, educator, scholar, and writer in both Venezuela and Chile. Among his best-known works are the neoclassical silvas "Alocución a la poesía" (1823) and "La agricultura de la zona tórrida" (1826). The Ecuadorian José Joaquín de Olmedo expressed in heroic style several of the battles in the struggle for independence. The most striking is La victoria de Junín, canto a Bolívar (1825), a long silva that celebrates Bolívar's 1824 victory with grandiose images. José María Heredia y Heredia (1803–1839) is a transitional figure between the waning of neoclassicism and a developing romanticism. Born in Cuba, he spent most of his life in exile; the resulting tension is visible in many of his poetic works. His two best-known texts are neoclassical odes. "En el Teocalli de Cholula" (1820) uses the Mexican pyramid for a reflection on tyranny and the passage of time; "Niágara" (1824) describes the famous cataract in precise terms but at the same time is an impassioned comment on exile.

Two major prose writers of this period should be mentioned. Under the pseudonym "Concolor-corvo," Alonso Carrió de la Vandera (ca. 1715–1783) wrote El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes (1773), a first-person picaresque description of a journey from Buenos Aires and Montevideo to Lima. José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi (1776–1827), known also by his pseudonym "El Pensador Mexicano," was strongly influenced by Enlightenment ideas and by a desire for social reform. His most famous work is El Periquillo Sarniento (1816), a four-volume picaresque novel sharply critical of social conditions in prerevolutionary Mexico and often considered to be the first Spanish American novel. The best dramatist of this period was Manuel Eduardo de Gorostiza (1789–1851), whose work was identified both with Mexico and Spain. He wrote a number of plays and adaptations, the best known of which is Contigo pan y cebolla (1833).

Romanticism (1820–1880)

The coming of independence in Spanish America initiated an extended period of national definition. In the post-conflict decades many of the developing national entities were either anarchic or dominated by dictatorial strongmen, and it was not until well into the latter part of the nineteenth century that the now independent Spanish American nations were able even to glimpse the stability and democracy envisioned by the liberators.

Literary expression during these decades was centrally influenced by romanticism, which placed itself in opposition to the rational streams of neoclassicism and proposed to give a dominant place to strong human emotions. In keeping with a culture in the process of consolidation, the Spanish American romantics differed in many ways from the Europeans. They described a distinct landscape, for example, with regional languages and customs and with indigenous people and the gaucho as romantic heroes. They expressed as well the ongoing Spanish American conflict between rural and urban values or, as Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811–1886) expressed it, between civilization and barbarism.

After extended residence in Paris the Argentine Esteban Echeverría (1805–1851) became one of the principal standard-bearers for romanticism in Spanish America. He found himself in conflict with the despotic Juan Manuel de Rosas, and his literary associations and publications are colored by that tension. His best-known poem is "La cautiva" (1837), a work that applies European aesthetic ideas to an Argentine reality. He is most remembered, however, for his vivid short story "El mata-dero," a brutal denunciation of Rosas probably written in 1839 but not published until 1871.

Several romantic poets should be mentioned here. The most memorable works of the Cuban mulatto poet "Plácido" (Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, 1809–1844) are the ballad "Jicoténcal" and the ode "Plegaria a Dios." Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814–1873) was born in Cuba but spent much of her life in Spain, and in many ways was the prototypical anguished romantic. She wrote poetry (including such emotional texts as "Al partir" and "Al destino"), theatrical works, legends, and novels. Perhaps her most remembered work is the antislavery novel Sab (1841). Gaucho poetry in the River Plate region developed as a significant late romantic expression. Among the foremost poets are two Argentines: Estanislao del Campo (1834–1880), whose comic poem Fausto (1866) makes a unique contribution to this subgenre, and José Hernández (1834–1886), whose two-volume mock epic Martín Fierro (El gaucho Martín Fierro, 1872; La vuelta de Martín Fierro, 1879) has become Argentina's national work. In Hernández's poem the gaucho is no longer comic or folkloric, but in the person of Fierro rather a tragic figure who must deal with the contradictory demands of modern society. The Uruguayan poet Juan Zorrilla de San Martín (1855–1931) wrote an extensive lyrical epic titled Tabaré (1888), whose indigenous theme and musical language represent a point of transition between romanticism and modernism.

The prose writing of the period was varied and included both narrative and expository forms. Sarmiento, a central Argentine figure of romanticism, wrote the classic prose work Civilización i barbarie: La vida de Juan Facundo Quiroga (1845), generally known simply as Facundo, which is neither novel nor history; rather, it is a dialectical attempt to capture the essence of an area under development. The novel as such was carried forward by such writers as the Argentine José Mármol (1817–1871), whose Amalia (1851) was the best political novel of the period; by the Colombian Jorge Isaacs (1837–1895), whose María (1867) was the prototypical sentimental romantic novel; and by the Chilean Alberto Blest Gana (1830–1920), whose Martín Rivas (1862) used realistic detail to depict the society of its time. The Peruvian Ricardo Palma (1833–1919) occupies a unique place among late romantic prose writers. His Tradiciones peruanas, published in several series beginning in 1872, are short narrative pieces that allow Palma to make effective use of an encyclopedic knowledge of the colonial period and an unusual verbal inventiveness. The major essayist of the period was Juan Montalvo (1832–1889) of Ecuador, whose masterwork Siete tratados (1882) placed him among the best prose writers in the Spanish language. Also important is Moral social (1888), by the Puerto Rican Eugenio María de Hostos y Bonilla (1839–1903).

Realism-Naturalism (1880–1915)

By 1880 the majority of the Spanish American nations had enjoyed some fifty years of political independence, and from that point through the turn of the century they began to enjoy a modicum of stability and economic prosperity. Reflecting a concern for renovation, the literary expression of these decades can best be seen in two distinct and parallel dimensions: first, the development of prose fiction and other associated genres influenced by realism and naturalism and, second, the studied cultivation of poetic discourse in what came to be designated as modernism.

The beginnings of realism in Spanish America can be traced to Blest Gana and other writers of the preceding period. During the decades around the turn of the century, however, there are several very significant novelists and short-story writers who bring this focus to fuller development. First among them might be the Peruvian Clorinda Matto de Turner (1852–1909), whose Aves sin nido (1889) is considered to be the first true indigenista novel in Spanish America. Tomás Carrasquilla (1858–1940) of Colombia developed an engaging regionalist view of his own native area, in which popular language and situations are used effectively. His best works are Frutos de mi tierra (1896) and En la diestra de Dios Padre (1903). Roberto J. Payró (1867–1928) presented a picaresque view of Argentine life in El casa-miento de Laucha (1906) and Pago Chico (1908).

Naturalism, especially the work of Émile Zola, was a determining influence for several Spanish American writers. Carlos Reyles (1868–1938) of Uruguay, for example, wrote naturalistic novels, among them Beba (1894) and La raza de Caín (1900). Another Uruguayan, Javier de Viana (1868–1926), used the gaucho setting for a number of collections of naturalistic short stories, such as Campo (1896), Leña seca (1911), and Yuyos (1912). The Chilean coal mines, factories, and farms provided settings for the short stories of Baldomero Lillo (1867–1923), who was clearly influenced by Zola. Sub terra (1904), a very successful collection protesting mine conditions, contains such well-known texts as "El chiflón del diablo" and "La compuerta número 12." Sob sole (1907), a second collection dealing with the problems of peasants and other workers, is not of the same quality.

It is appropriate to consider under realism the works of the Uruguayan playwright Florencio Sánchez (1875–1910), who is the first major figure of the modern Spanish American theater. His principal works—M'hijo el dotor (1903), La gringa (1904), and Barranca abajo (1905)—represent in realistic terms the tension between rural and urban values.

Modernism (1880–1915)

The period of relative political stability after 1880 favored the parallel development of what is now known as modernism, which extended over some three or four decades, well into the new century, and gave rise to major literary centers (Mexico City and Buenos Aires, among others) and to significant literary journals (such as Revista Azul and Revista Moderna). Modernist writers, central among them such figures as José Martí, Rubén Darío, and Leopoldo Lugones, were motivated by the desire to revitalize what they saw as antiquated literary discourse in Spanish, and, using the French Parnassian and symbolist poets as models, they strove for musicality and perfection of form in their works. Figurative language was rich and sensorial, with preference given to chromatic imagery and elegant symbolism (i.e., the color blue or the graceful figure of the swan). Themes were exotic or introspective, and a profound disenchantment with mediocre surroundings led many modernists to take refuge in invented "ivory tower" worlds.

The multifaceted literary work of the Cuban patriot José Martí (1853–1895) is at the center of a first group of modernist writers. Martí's political activities forced him to spend much of his life in exile, and his sizable literary production is closely related to his life-long profession as a journalist. His prose writings (essays, crónicas, short stories, and Amistad funesta, a novel published in 1885) represent an important contribution to the renovation of prose style during the modernist years. His books of poetry are, however, his most significant literary contribution: Ismaelillo (1882), short poems written to his absent son, and Versos sencillos (1891), a collection of musical eight-syllable poems containing some of Martí's best-known lines. Two other collections, Versos libres (written around 1882 but not published until 1913) and Flores del destierro (written between 1882 and 1891 but not published until 1933), appeared after Martí's death. Other early modernists were the Mexican Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera (1859–1895), the Cuban Julián del Casal (1863–1893), and the Colombian José Asunción Silva (1865–1896). Nájera, a recognized journalist, founded the well-known modernist journal Revista Azul. His musical and strikingly chromatic verses appeared largely in literary journals and were collected after his death as Poesías (1896). Casal's sensorial poetry, particularly that published in Nieve (1892) and Bustos y rimas (1893), expressed in a most poignant way modernism's pessimistic dimension. Silva's poems also appeared first in literary journals, and only after he committed suicide were they finally collected and published as Poesías (1908). Silva's "Nocturno" is his best-known single work; its sensuality and novel use of a four-syllable rhythmic foot earned the poet a considerable international reputation.

Rubén Darío (pseudonym of Nicaraguan writer Félix Rubén García Sarmiento, 1867–1916) is the central figure of a second grouping, and indeed can be seen as the quintessential modernist presence. He left his native Central America as a young man and with varied diplomatic and journalistic assignments spent many years in South America and Europe. His extensive literary production, which includes short stories, essays, and travel commentaries, as well as a number of volumes of poetry, reflects a varied international life. Darío's Azul … (1888; 2d ed., 1890) combines prose and poetry and is often cited as a key early modernist work. More innovative than his poems are Darío's lyrical short stories (e.g., "El pájaro azul"), especially in the 1888 edition. The Prosas profanas y otros poemas (1896; 2d ed., 1901) is the high point in Darío's luxuriant and aristocratic modernist art. The third work is Cantos de vida y esperanza. Los cisnes y otros poemas (1905), perhaps Darío's best single poetry collection and one that represents at the same time a period of maturity in modernist development. Darío's later collections, El canto errante (1907) and Poema del otoño y otros poemas (1910), continue this same introspection but do not reach the level attained in Cantos de vida y esperanza.

Other poets who with Rubén Darío contributed to the second modernist group include the Bolivian Ricardo Jaimes Freyre (1868–1933), the Mexican Amado Nervo (1870–1919), the Colombian Guillermo Valencia (1873–1943), the Peruvian José Santos Chocano (1875–1934), and the Uruguayan Julio Herrera y Reissig (1875–1910). In his unusual work Castalia bárbara (1899), Jaimes Freyre made novel use of Nordic myths and imagery and also experimented with metrical form. Nervo's voluminous work revolves around religious and existential concerns, in particular the anguish resulting from the loss of a loved person. In form, his poetry moved from the modernist patterns of Perlas negras and Místicas, both published in 1898, toward the spare presentations of Serenidad (1914) and Elevación (1917). Valencia's Ritos (1899) shows modernist elegance and precision in its attention to metrical form and chromatic imagery. Chocano's principal work, and the one most closely aligned with modernism, is the torrential Alma América; poemas indo-españoles (1906). One of the most fascinating and difficult figures of the entire movement, Herrera y Reissig represented in many ways the epitome of a bohemian and extravagant modernist lifestyle, and his published poetic work, collected the year of his death in a volume entitled Los peregrinos de piedra (1909), has at its center a most demanding metaphorical structuring.

The central figure in a third modernist group is the Argentine Leopoldo Lugones (1874–1938), whose some thirty-five published volumes include poetry, prose fiction, political commentary, historical treatises, and literary and cultural studies. His very sizable contributions to prose fiction came with such titles as La guerra gaucha (1905) and Las fuerzas extrañas (1906); similar contributions to history, culture, and literary studies are in Historia de Sarmiento (1911) and El payador (1916). His major poetic works are Las montañas del oro (1897), a collection of rather audacious texts using an innovative prose-like form; Los crepúsculos del jardín (1905), a volume of carefully worked texts in modernist style; Lunario sentimental (1909), a curious mix of poetry, fiction, and dramatic pieces using the lunar theme; and Las horas doradas (1922), simple contemplations on the beauties of the natural world.

Other poets to be considered in this third group are the Mexicans Enrique González Martínez (1871–1952) and José Juan Tablada (1871–1945), and the Peruvian José María Eguren (1874–1942). The early works of González Martínez are very much within the modernist poetic, but his sonnet "Tuércele el cuello al cisne" (in Los senderos ocultos, 1911) appeared to call for a violent end to Darío's modernism. Tablada published a collection of modernist verses under the title of El florilegio (1899), and then, in books like Li-Pó y otros poemas (poemas ideográficos) (1920), turned to experimentations with miniature Oriental forms and visual poetry. Eguren's delicately chromatic verses, generally in short lines and also with figures in miniature, were collected in Simbólicas (1911) and La canción de las figuras (1916).

Three other modernist prose writers deserve mention. The most important novel by Venezuelan Manuel Díaz Rodríguez (1871–1927) is Sangre patricia (1902), a poetic work that uses a shifting point of view to examine the internal dimensions of its central character. The best modernist narrative work, however, is La gloria de don Ramiro (1908), a historical novel written by the Argentine Enrique Larreta (1873–1961) in which sixteenth-century Ávila, Spain, is brought to life in a veritable symphony of places, persons, and sensorial impressions. The principal essayist of modernism is the Uruguayan academic José Enrique Rodó (1872–1917), whose most famous work is Ariel (1900), a philosophical essay in six chapters that uses Shakespeare's character to speak in support of morality and beauty and to inveigh against materialism, especially that of the United States. Motivos de Proteo (1909) is a fragmented gathering of parables, exhortations, confessions, and allegories that together illustrate Rodó's working out of a kind of spiritual autobiography.

Connecting the final stages of modernism and the beginning experimentation of the vanguardists is a transitional grouping, to which the Mexican Ramón López Velarde (1888–1921) clearly belongs. His first two poetry collections, La sangre devota (1916) and Zozobra (1919), are largely in the modernist tradition; his later work, published posthumously as El son del corazón (1932), anticipates a number of the stylistic complexities of the vanguardists. Another major figure is Chilean Gabriela Mistral (pseudonym of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, 1889–1957), who in 1945 was the first Spanish American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Her principal collections—Desolación (1922), Tala (1938), and Lagar (1954)—reveal a poetic discourse that evolved away from the decorative aspects of modernism toward an impassioned and anguished simplicity. Also a part of this group are the Uruguayan Juana de Ibarbourou (1895–1979), whose sensual verses appeared in Las lenguas de diamante (1919) and Raíz salvaje (1922); the Uruguayan Delmira Agustini (1886–1914), whose best-known work is Los cálices vacíos (1913); and the Argentine Alfonsina Storni (1892–1938), whose acid feminist verses are best represented in Ocre (1925).

Several essayists belong to this transitional group. The Mexican Alfonso Reyes (1889–1959), a talented poet as well as a novelist and an essayist, produced in Visión de Anáhuac (1917) a major contribution to the consolidation of a Spanish American cultural unity. A fellow Mexican, José Vasconcelos (1882–1959), commented on the cultural role of the mestizo and the indigenous people in La raza cósmica (1925), and the Peruvian José Carlos Mariátegui (1894–1930) dealt with similar concerns in his Siete ensayos de interpretación sobre de la realidad peruana (1928). The writings of Pedro Henríquez Ureña (1884–1946) of the Dominican Republic displayed wide interest in language, culture, and literature; one of his best works is Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión (1928).

Vanguardism (1915–1945)

Three major political events during the second decade of the twentieth century introduced a period of rejection of established values: the Mexican Revolution (1910–1917), World War I (1914–1918), and the Russian Revolution (1917). As was the case in the preceding period, Spanish American literary expression in the two or three decades following 1920 once again developed essentially in two distinct but parallel dimensions: the intense and multiform experimentations in poetic discourse now generally designated as vanguardism and the equally significant exploration of Latin American problems and values in regional criollista prose fiction.

Vanguardism was strongly influenced by such experimental European movements as Cubism, Futurism, and Surrealism, but in its Latin American setting vanguardism was primarily a rejection of the modernist aesthetic. Truth and beauty were no longer to be found in musicality, order, and careful delineation; the destruction of such "antiquated" concepts was necessary in order to fashion altered poetic worlds envisioned by the "new" poet or those to be found in the disordered flow of the subconscious. Free verse took the place of metered form; nonregular structures, hermetic imagery, and visual typographic experimentations became hallmarks of vanguardist poetic discourse.

The most important vanguardist figure is without doubt the Chilean Vicente Huidobro (1893–1948), who spent significant periods of his life in France and Spain and whose work includes both the elaboration of a theory he called "creationism" and a very substantial poetic praxis. At the center of Huidobro's theory are the concepts that the "new" poet has divine powers in his small realm (Huidobro averred in one of his most famous lines that the poet is a minor god) and that imitative conventionalities should not interfere with those powers. Huidobro's poetry was published in both Spanish and French, with such titles as El espejo de agua (1916), Horizon carré (1917), and Poemas árticos (1918). His masterwork is Altazor, o el viaje en paracaídas (1931), whose descending imagery is at once the culmination and the destruction of the poet's theoretical ideas.

A second major figure, though one not so centrally identified with the theoretical issues of vanguardism, is the Peruvian César Vallejo (1892–1938). Vallejo also spent significant portions of his life in Europe, principally in France and Spain, and in his essays and prose fiction took a committed political stance. His best works, however, are still his three volumes of poetry. In Los heraldos negros (1918), Trilce (1922), and Poemas humanos (1939), Vallejo experiments with structure and figurative language but at the same time communicates a profound and tragic vision of human existence. Other important figures in a first vanguardist group are the Argentines Oliverio Girondo (1891–1967) and Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986), and the Cuban Mariano Brull (1891–1956). Girondo and Borges made major contributions to the development of Ultraism in Argentina, the first with his collections Veinte poemas para ser leídos en el tranvía (1922) and Calcomanías (1925), and the second with Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923), Luna de enfrente (1925), and Cuaderno de San Martín (1929). Brull's playful sonorities are best represented in Poemas en menguante (1928).

A second vanguardist group followed the central figure of the Chilean Pablo Neruda (pseudonym of Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, 1904–1973), whose voluminous poetic production extended over almost five decades and earned him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971. In contrast to Huidobro, Neruda paid little attention to theoretical concerns, preferring to express in poetry the ever-changing vision of the world around him. His first major work, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (1924), over the years became Neruda's most popular book. His most vanguardist verses are Tentativa del hombre infinito (1926) and Residencia en la tierra (1933, 1935), the second reflecting Neruda's often anguished consular service in Southeast Asia. Beginning with España en el corazón (1937), an incandescent protest volume on the Spanish Civil War, a political and openly Marxist commitment became increasingly evident in Neruda's poetry: Tercera residencia (1947); Canto general (1950), which includes the well-known "Alturas de Macchu Picchu" (the Incan fortress city); Canción de gesta (1960), a celebration of the Cuban Revolution; and Incitación al Nixonicidio (1973), a scathing denunciation of the United States. Neruda also developed a spare, columnar poetic form to represent the small details of his surrounding world. These novel texts appeared first in Odas elementales (1954) and were continued in several additional collections during the 1950s.

Other important figures in the second van-guardist group are the Puerto Rican Luis Palés Matos (1898–1959), the Cuban Nicolás Guillén (1902), and the Mexicans José Gorostiza (1901–1973) and Xavier Villaurrutia (1903–1950). Palés Matos and Guillén are the most important representatives of the vanguardist experimentation in Afro-Antillian forms and rhythms, Palés with Tuntún de pasa y grifería (1937) and Guillén with Motivos de son (1930), Sóngoro consongo (1931), and West Indies, Ltd. (1934). Gorostiza and Villaurrutia combined complexities of language and death imagery with carefully worked poetic form; Gorostiza's Muerte sin fin (1939) is one of the great twentieth-century poems in the Spanish language, and Villaurrutia's major collection is Nostalgia de la muerte (1938).

The Regional Novel and Short Story (1915–1945)

Prose fiction during these decades showed a pattern of development parallel to but distinct from that of the experimental poetic forms of vanguardism. The jungles, the plains, the cities, and the conflicts of modernization became the settings for a number of compelling works, as first-rank writers established an international readership and set the stage for the Boom period in the latter half of the century.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 provided the motivation for one of the most significant examples of a regionally specific prose fiction. The central figure is Mariano Azuela (1873–1952), a novelist and medical doctor who himself fought in the Revolution. His most famous novel, and the prototypical novel of the Revolution, is Los de abajo (1915), in which Azuela depicts with graphic detail and a cyclic structure the disorderly development of the conflict. Other significant novels by Azuela are La Malhora (1923) and La luciérnaga (1932). The most famous work of Martín Luis Guzmán (1887–1976) is El águila y la serpiente (1928), not really a novel but rather a representation of important personalities and events during the revolutionary years. Once again, the author was himself a participant, and his personal view of such figures as Carranza and Villa make his account an especially compelling one. José Rubén Romero (1890–1952) wrote several novels on the Revolution, among them Mi caballo, mi perro y mi rifle (1936), but he is probably best known for his salacious depiction of Mexican life contained in the picaresque La vida inútil de Pito Pérez (1938).

Both the Venezuelan Rómulo Gallegos (1884–1969) and the Colombian José Eustasio Rivera (1888–1928) situate their novels in northern South America. Gallegos's masterwork, Doña Bárbara (1929), is set on the Venezuelan llano, and depicts through a strong female central character the struggle between the same antagonistic forces of civilization and barbarity that Sarmiento had earlier studied. Rivera chose the rubber-growing region of the Colombian jungle as the setting for La vorágine (1924). His protagonist is ultimately swallowed up by the "green hell" of the jungle, and Rivera's vivid first-person descriptions remain the most significant dimension of the novel.

Social protest is a central concern of the indigenist novel, particularly that set in the Andean region. In his Raza de bronce (1919) the Bolivian Alcides Arguedas (1879–1946) represented the unresolved conflict between indigenous people and landowners, though more in a spirit of submission than protest. The protest is intensified in the works of the Ecuadorian Jorge Icaza (1906–1978), whose Huasipungo (1934) is probably the most representative indigenist novel. The indigenous community mounts a disorganized and unsuccessful rebellion against the despotic landholders who want to remove them from their small parcels of land (huasipungos). The most famous work of the Peruvian Ciro Alegría (1909–1967) is El mundo es ancho y ajeno (1941), a novel that once again deals with the dispossession of indigenous community lands by a rapacious landowner.

Many of the short stories of the Uruguayan Horacio Quiroga (1878–1937), most especially those from Cuentos de amor, de locura y de muerte (1917), reveal a sharp awareness of both the remote Argentine-Uruguayan setting of Misiones and the unusual narrative techniques of Edgar Allan Poe. The Argentine Ricardo Güiraldes (1886–1927) wrote poetry and short stories but is best known for his splendid gaucho novel Don Segundo Sombra (1926). The "master" Don Segundo is seen through the eyes of his young admirer Fabio, and becomes the shadowy embodiment of the entire gaucho tradition.

The Chileans Eduardo Barrios (1884–1963) and Pedro Prado (1886–1952) should be considered here, through their best novels are not necessarily regional in setting. Barrios is best known for El hermano asno (1922), a psychological study of the closed world of a monastery; Prado's master-work is Alsino (1920), a fanciful poetic novel about a young boy who grows wings.

Poetry, Drama, and the Essay, 1945–1995

The last half of the twentieth century was a period of considerable tension, brought on by the Cold War, the Cuban Revolution, widespread guerrilla movements, and the growing drug trade. Against that backdrop, however, literary expression has shown extraordinary development in all genres. In poetry the major figure is the Mexican Octavio Paz (1914–1998), whose imposing work won him the Nobel Prize in 1990. Libertad bajo palabra (1949, expanded in 1960) is a compilation of his earlier poetry; Blanco (1967), Pasado en claro (1975), and Árbol adentro (1987) represent his later work. Paz was also a brilliant cultural and literary essayist; El laberinto de la soledad (1950), a commentary on modern Mexican culture, and Los hijos del limo (1974), on the interconnections between romanticism and the avant-garde, are only two of many influential works. Other important poets who are roughly contemporaneous with Paz are the Cuban José Lezama Lima (1910–1976), the Nicaraguan Pablo Antonio Cuadra (1912–2002), and the Chileans Nicanor Parra (b. 1914) and Gonzalo Rojas (b. 1917). Lezama's anguished and self-reflective poetry found its fullest expression in La fijeza (1949) and Dador (1960); both his essays and his novel Paradiso (1966) reveal similar complexities. Cuadra's poetry develops a central view of his native country; Cantos de Cifar (1971), set in the central lake region of Nicaragua, and Siete árboles contra el atardecer (1980), a totemic vision of a multiple Nicaraguan reality, are examples of that view. Parra is best known for Poemas y antipoemas (1954), which set in motion a denunciatory poetic style. Rojas is passionate, irreverent, and at the same time brilliantly sensorial in his poetic language. Materia de testamento (1988) is an excellent collection of his recent work.

A number of writers born in the 1920s or later have made significant contributions to the development of contemporary poetry, but there is space here only for the most schematic of representations. Important poets born in the 1920s, for example, would include Álvaro Mutis (Colombia, 1923), Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaragua, 1925), Rosario Castel-lanos (Mexico, 1925–1974), Jaime Sabines (Mexico, 1925), Roberto Juárroz (Argentina, 1925), Carlos Germán Belli (Peru, 1927), and Enrique Lihn (Chile, 1929–1988). Significant poets born in the 1930s include Juan Gelman (Argentina, 1930), Roque Dalton (El Salvador, 1935–1975), Alejandra Pizarnik (Argentina, 1936–1972), Óscar Hahn (Chile, 1938), and José Emilio Pacheco (Mexico, 1939). Among those poets born in the 1940s or later who should be mentioned are José Kozer (Cuba, 1940), Antonio Cisneros (Peru, 1942), Rosario Ferré (Puerto Rico, 1942), Arturo Carrera (Argentina, 1948), Néstor Perlongher (Argentina, 1948), David Huerta (Mexico, 1949), and Coral Bracho (Mexico, 1951).

The drama has enjoyed spectacular development over the past several decades, a transformation that critics have referred to as the "new" Spanish American theater. Significant initial contributions to that development were made by the Mexicans Xavier Villaurrutia (1903–1950) and Rodolfo Usigli (1905–1979). Villaurrutia's best full-length play is a reworking of the Hamlet theme titled Invitación a la muerte (1943; staged in 1947); Usigli is best known for his use of Mexican culture and history, particularly in El gesticulator (1943; staged in 1947) and Corona de sombra (1943; staged in 1947). René Marqués (Puerto Rico, 1919–1979), Carlos Gorostiza (Argentina, 1920), and Carlos Solórzano (Guatemala, 1922) made substantial contributions in the 1950s. Marqués's best plays are the ever-popular La carreta (1952), which depicts the disintegration of Puerto Rican rural life, and Los soles truncos (1959), in which the pressures of the modern world produce the suicide of three aging sisters. In El juicio (1954) and El pan de la locura (1958), Gorostiza uses realistic staging for pointed social commentary. Las manos de Dios (1956), Solórzano's best play, also carries a strong social message but one that is expressed in the more symbolic terms of traditional religious drama.

In the 1960s, a group of brilliant younger dramatists began to make their presence known and have continued to express themselves up to the present. Emilio Carballido (Mexico, 1925) is a major figure, whose extensive work includes such successes as Yo también hablo de la rosa (1970), a commentary on multiple reality, Tiempo de ladrones (1983), a long melodramatic presentation based on the bandit-hero Chucho el Roto, and Rosa de dos aromas (1986), a double-sided spoof on traditional machismo. The plays of Egon Wolff (Chile, 1926), especially Los invasores (1964) and Flores de papel (1970), depict the invasion and destruction of middle-class values. Loss of freedom and movement is the dominant theme in the plays of Griselda Gambaro (Argentina, 1928), as seen sharply in Los siameses (1967) and El campo (1967, staged in 1968). Fellow Argentine Osvaldo Dragún (1929) is best known for his Historias para ser contadas (1982), a series of whimsical but often sharply critical one-act plays. El cepillo de dientes (1967), depicting bizarre everyday rituals by El and Ella, is an obvious incursion into theater of the absurd by Jorge Díaz (Chile, 1930). Equally absurdist but considerably more violent is La noche de los asesinos (1965, staged in 1966) by José Triana (Cuba, 1933): the three characters act out over and over the murder of their parents. The plays of Eduardo Pavlovsky (Argentina, 1933) deal with the violence of recent Argentine history: El señor Galíndez (1973), for example, is set in a well-equipped torture chamber that becomes increasingly visible as the play progresses. Vicente Leñero (Mexico, 1933) makes adroit use of everyday Mexican language in his Jesucristo Gómez (1986; staged in 1987), a present-day reworking of the Gospel of Luke in which Christ becomes an ordinary bricklayer, and in his Nadie sabe nada(1988), a searing denunciation of Mexican journalism and public life.

Prose Fiction, 1945–1995

The novel and the short story have also enjoyed extraordinary development over the past several decades, and critics have used the stock-market term "boom" in discussing what has been seen as the new narrative in recent Spanish American literature. This development really began before 1945, with the publication of La áltima niebla (1934) and La amortajada (1938) by the Chilean María Luisa Bombal (1910–1980). These two novels represent a sensitive probing of the feminine psyche but at the same time make effective use of a poetic style and experimentation in point of view. In the 1940s the movement toward a new narrative can be seen clearly in the works of Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1899–1986), whose brilliant short fiction was collected first in Ficciones (1944) and then in El aleph (1956). The labyrinthine circularities of Borges's best tales, among them "La biblioteca de Babel," "El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan," "La muerte y la brájula," and "Las ruinas circulares," call into question the very processes of writing and reading. El informe de Brodie (1970) contains some of Borges's best later work. Miguel Ángel Asturias (Guatemala, 1899–1974) is best known for El señor presidente (1946) and Hombres de maíz (1949), two novels that combine sophisticated narrative technique, social message, and indigenous myths. Asturias was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1967. Eduardo Mallea (Argentina, 1903–1982) was a prolific and expansive novelist; his best works are La bahía de silencio (1940) and his masterpiece, Todo verdor perecerá (1941), both intense psychological studies presented in a complex narrative style. The unusual historical and musical background of Alejo Carpentier (Cuba, 1904–1980) found brilliant expression in his novels and short stories, especially in El reino de este mundo (1949), a novel based on the Haitian revolution, and the shorter historical pieces of Guerra del tiempo (1958). Agustín Yáñez (Mexico, 1904–1980) is best remembered for Al filo del agua (1947), a novel that uses sophisticated narrative techniques to present the tensions of a small Jalisco village at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Juan Carlos Onetti (Uruguay, 1909) is a prolific novelist and short-story writer, whose masterworks are La vida breve (1950), a complex interplay between fiction and reality, and El astillero (1961), in which the pointless rebuilding of a ruined shipyard becomes an allegorical reference to Uruguayan reality.

In the 1950s other younger writers began to contribute to the developing new narrative. José María Arguedas (Peru, 1911–1969) published Los ríos profundos (1958), an unusual novel that uses both Spanish and Quechua in the communication of a multicultural Andean reality. Augusto Roa Bastos (Paraguay, 1917–2005) received international attention for Hijo de hombre (1960) and Yo, el supremo (1974), the second a contribution to the so-called dictator novel. Juan Rulfo (Mexico, 1918–1986) produced two masterworks. The first is El llano en llamas (1953), a collection of short stories set in rural Jalisco, and the second is the extraordinarily complex Pedro Péramo (1955), a novel in whose pages the living hell of the created town of Comala and its inhabitants can be experienced. Juan José Arreola (Mexico, 1918–2001) is best known for his brilliant and highly intellectual short fiction, collected first in Confabulario (1952) and then in Confabulario total (1962). In Balún Canán (1957) and Oficio de tinieblas (1962), Rosario Castellanos (Mexico, 1925–1974) uses the indigenous setting of her native state of Chiapas in making a memorable contribution.

The 1960s and 1970s saw the publication of an unusually large number of first-rank narrative works, and the consequent coining and wide use of the Boom terminology to characterize the production of those decades. The oldest of the principal figures is Julio Cortázar (Argentina, 1914–1984), whose novel Rayuela (1963) was one of the opening salvos in this war of innovation. The most celebrated feature of the novel is an open-ended "Table of Instructions," which invites readers to follow an idiosyncratic and rather whimsical pattern established by the author or to invent their own approaches to the reading of the novel. The first novel by Carlos Fuentes (Mexico, 1928) was La región más transparente (1958), a mythical-realistic incursion into the roiling world of Mexico City; in La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962) Fuentes uses an unusual triadic structure to delve into a contradictory personality that is representative of post-Revolutionary Mexico. La ciudad y los perros (1963), a complex narration set in a real Lima military academy, was the prize-winning first novel by Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru, 1936); even more involved was his second novel, La casa verde (1966). Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Cuba, 1929–2005) published the highly inventive and very Cuban Tres tristes tigres in 1967. The best-known work of Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia, 1928), who received the Nobel Prize in 1982, is Cien años de soledad (1967), the paradigmatic Boom novel. Set in the banana-growing region of Colombia, the work develops the history, often in magical terms, of the fictional town of Macondo and its leading family. García Márquez's successful later novels include Crónica de una muerte anunciada (1981) and El amor en los tiempos de cólera (1985). The principal contributions of Manuel Puig (Argentina, 1932–1990) came with La traición de Rita Hayworth (1968) and Boquitas pintadas (1969), novels that demonstrated connections to the cinema and other popular art forms. José Donoso (Chile, 1924) contributed to the wave of new fiction with El obsceno pájaro de la noche (1970), a dark representation of Chilean society, and then with Casa de campo (1978), an allegory of the 1973 military coup.

There are a number of post-Boom prose fiction writers who deserve attention, among them are Severo Sarduy (Cuba, 1936–1992), Luisa Valenzuela (Argentina, 1938), José Emilio Pacheco (Mexico, 1939), Alfredo Bryce-Echenique (Peru, 1939), Gustavo Sainz (Mexico, 1940), Antonio Skármeta (Chile, 1940), Eduardo Galeano (Uruguay, 1940), Cristina Peri Rossi (Uruguay, 1941), Isabel Allende (Chile, 1942), Rosario Ferré (Puerto Rico, 1942), and Reinaldo Arenas (Cuba, 1943–1990).

                           Merlin H. Forster


Since the mid-1990s, there has been a noticeable break with past generational models, as new writers shaped by more recent history have arisen, and new genres and forms have gained prominence.

Prose Fiction

The most pronounced characteristic of Spanish American fiction since the mid-1990s is its distance from the writing models associated with Magical Realism, the literary genre that predominated in the Spanish-language editorial market during the 1980s. At least two important milestones indicate this transition. The first is the appearance in 1996 of the controversial anthology of short stories McOndo, coedited by Alberto Fuguet (Chile, b. 1964), who became known in the early 1990s for his novel Mala Onda (Bad Vibes, 1991). The second milestone is the upsurge of another Chilean, Roberto Bolaño (1953–2003), on the literary scene in the mid-1990s. As suggested by the title, McOndo (an ironic allusion to García Márqueźs mythical town of Macondo) proposes a writing style inserted into an urban, globalized, transnational setting—the anthology indistinctly incorporates both Spanish and Hispano-American writers—profoundly affected by the mass media. In the same spirit has emerged the self-proclaimed "Crack Generation" ofMexican writers, whoannounced themselves with a collectivemanifesto in 1996. In this generation of prolific writers, the most prominent include Jorge Volpi (Mexico, b. 1968), author of the novels En busca de Klingsor (1999; In Search of Klingsor, 2002) and El fin de la locura (The End of Insanity, 2003) and Ignacio Padilla (Mexico, b. 1968), author of Amphitryon (2000; Shadow without a Name, 2003). These writers are represented in the anthologies Líneas aéreas (Airlines, 1999) and Se habla español (2000), the latter edited by Fuguet and Edmundo Paz Soldán (Bolivia, b. 1967) and distributed in the United States.

Perhaps the most influential Hispano-American writer at the turn of the twenty-first century is Robert Bolaño, author of the groundbreaking novel Los detectives salvajes (1998; The Savage Detectives, 2007) and the monumental posthumous novel 2666 (2004). Bolaño's importance however is not limited to his own work, but rather to the elaboration of a personal canon that has provided an alternative to that established by the Boom. Bolaño identifies literary figures who have renovated Spanish American literature of the late twentieth century, such as Sergio Pitol (Mexico, b. 1933), author of the celebrated novel El arte de la fuga (The Art of the Fugue, 1966), Fernando Vallejo (Colombia, b. 1944), who was internationally recognized for his novel La virgen de los sicarios (Our Lady of the Assassins, 1994) and the critic and novelist Ricardo Piglia (Argentina, b. 1940), who, following his acclaimed work Respiración artificial (1980; Artificial Respiration, 1994), published two novels during the 1990s, La ciudad ausente (1992; The Absent City, 2000) and Plata quemada (1997; Money to Burn, 2003). The noteworthy writers born approximately during the 1950s include Diamela Eltit (Chile, b. 1949), author of an important work dating back to the 1980s and Pedro Lemebel (Chile, b. 1951), author of urban chronicles who is also a performance artist. Daniel Sada (b. 1953), who has been praised for his radical handling of the language, the acclaimed novelist and poet Carmen Boullosa (b. 1954), and the novelist, chronicler and short story writer Juan Villoro (b. 1956) are a few of the most important Mexican writers within this same period. Some significant literary aspects of writers within this period are the "dirty realism" of Pedro Juan Gutiérrez (Cuba, b. 1950), in which eroticism coexists with humor and violence, the minimalist and laconic work of Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Guatemala, b. 1958), and the irreverent irony of Ana María Shua (Argentina, b. 1951). One of the most recognized members within this group is the prolific and eccentric Argentinean writer César Aira (b. 1949), who to date has published approximately fifty novellas in addition to numerous literary essays and a heterodox Diccionario de autores latinoamericanos (Dictionary of Latin American Authors, 2001). The literary figures born around the 1960s who merit emphasis include the Mexican authors Mario Bellatin (b. 1960), Cristina Rivera Garza (b. 1964) and David Toscana (b. 1961), and the Argentineans Alan Pauls (b. 1959) and Rodrigo Fresán (b. 1963).

The characteristics of the narrative production of the past few years include the current relevance of the detective genre (and, in some ways, the new historical novel), in addition to the increasing prevalence of the theme of social and political violence, reflecting the extreme violence that still plagues the region. Mayra Santos Febres (Puerto Rico, b. 1966), Leonardo Padura Fuentes (Cuba, b. 1955), the prolific Hispano-Mexican writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II (b. 1949), Élmer Mendoza (Mexico, b. 1949), and Santiago Gamboa (Colombia, b. 1965) are among this genre's leading figures. Authors such as the Argentineans Guillermo Martínez (b. 1962) and Pablo de Santis (b. 1963) are also associated with a revival of the analytical detective novel, although in a more Borgesian than hard-boiled way. Political and social violence in areas devastated by internal warfare, drug trafficking, and corruption over the past twenty years can be found in the work of Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador, b. 1957), of the Colombians Fernando Vallejo, Laura Restrepo (b. 1950), and Carlos Franco (b. 1962), and of the Peruvians Alonso Cueto (b. 1954), and Santiago Roncagliolo (b. 1975).


The publication of the anthology (or "sample," as it is called) Medusario in 1996, which introduced the concept of neobaroque poetry, referred to as neobarrosa in the Río de Plata, marks a phenomenon of rupture within 1990s poetry similar to that in narrative prose. Joining established poets such as Marosa di Giorgio (Uruguay, 1934–2004), Gerardo Deniz (Spain, b. 1934), and Rodolfo Hinostroza (Peru, b. 1941), several younger and less publicized poets, all born around the 1950s, appeared on the sccene, including Eduardo Milán (Uruguay, b. 1952), Coral Bracho (Mexico, b. 1951), Eduardo Espina (Uruguay, b. 1954), Tamara Kamenszain (Argentina, b. 1947), and the Peruvian settled in Argentina Reynaldo Jimenez (b. 1959). The neobaroque poets have reacted against the Anglo-Saxon conversational poetic tradition imposed by the continental poets of the Generation of 1950 (continued in the so-called social poetry of the 1970s and 1980s). Other important names of poets born since 1940 include the Peruvians José Watanabe (1946–2007), Carmen Ollé (b. 1947), Enrique Verástegui (b. 1950), and Mario Montalbetti (b. 1953); the Salva-doran Jacinta Escudos (b. 1953); the Chileans Gonzalo Millán (1947–2006), Raúl Zurita (b. 1950), and Marjorie Agosín (b. 1955); the Colombian Juan Gustavo Cobo Borda (b. 1948); the Mexican David Huerta (b. 1949); the Argentine María Negroni (b. 1951); and the Guatemalan Humberto Ak'abal (b. 1952). There are also a number of older poets who have acquired iconic status among the young: Peruvians Jorge Eduardo Eielson (1924–2006) and Blanca Varela (b. 1926), and the Chilean Jorge Teillier (1935–1996).

                              Juan Carlos Galdo

See alsoAgustini, Delmira; Alegría, Ciro; Allende, Isabel; Arenas, Reinaldo; Arguedas, Alcides; Arguedas, José María; Arreola, Juan José; Asturias, Miguel Ángel; Azuela, Mariano; Balbuena, Bernardo de; Barrios, Eduardo; Bello, Andrés; Blest Gana, Alberto; Bolaño, Roberto; Bombal, María Luisa; Borges, Jorge Luis; Boullosa, Carmen; Brull, Mariano; Bryce Echenique, Alfredo; Carballido, Emilio; Cardenal, Ernesto; Carrasquilla, Tomás; Casal, Julián del; Castellanos, Rosario; Chilam Balam; Chocano, José Santos; Cortázar, Julio; Cuadra, Pablo Antonio; Dalton García, Roque; Darío, Rubén; Díaz del Castillo, Bernal; Díaz, Jorge; Donoso, José; Dragún, Osvaldo; Echeverría, Esteban; Eguren, José María; Ercilla y Zúñiga, Alonso de; Ferré, Rosario; Fuentes, Carlos; Galeano, Eduardo Hughes; Gallegos, Rómulo; Gambaro, Griselda; García Márquez, Gabriel; Garcilaso de la Vega, El Inca; Gauchesca Literature; Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga, Gertrudis; González Martínez, Enrique; Gorostiza Acalá, José; Guillén, Nicolás; Güiraldes, Ricardo; Gutiérrez Nájera, Manuel; Guzmán, Martín Luis; Henríquez Ureña, Pedro; Hernández, José; Herrera y Reissig, Julio; Hostos y Bonilla, Eugenio María de; Huidobro Fernández, Vicente; Ibarbourou, Juana de; Icaza Coronel, Jorge; Isaacs, Jorge; Larreta, Enrique Rodríguez; Las Casas, Bartolomé de; Leñero, Vicente; Lezama Lima, José; Lihn, Enrique; Lugones, Leopoldo; Mallea, Eduardo; Mariátegui, José Carlos; Mármol, José Pedro Crisólogo; Marqués, René; Martín Fierro; Matto de Turner, Clorinda; Mistral, Gabriela; Montalvo, Juan; Mutis, Alvaro; Neruda, Pablo; Nervo, Amado; Olmedo, José Joaquín de; Oña, Pedro de; Pacheco, José Emilio; Palés Matos, Luis; Parra, Nicanor; Paz, Octavio; Peri Rossi, Cristina; Pitol, Sergio; Pizarnik, Alejandra; Popol Vuh; Prado, Pedro; Quiroga, Horacio; Rabinal Achi; Reyes Ochoa, Alfonso; Rivera, José Eustasio; Roa Bastos, Augusto; Rodó, José Enrique; Romero, José Rubén; Rulfo, Juan; Sahagún, Bernardino de; Sánchez, Florencio; Sarduy, Severo; Science Fiction in Latin America; Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos de; Silva, José Asunción; Skármeta, Antonio; Solórzano, Carlos; Storni, Alfonsina; Tablada, José Juan; Theater; Triana, José; Usigli, Rodolfo; Valdés, Gabriel de la Concepción; Valencia, Guillermo León; Valenzuela, Luisa; Valle y Caviedes, Juan del; Vallejo, César; Vargas Llosa, Mario; Vasconcelos Calderón, José; Villaurrutia, Xavier; Wolff, Egon.


Albuquerque, Severino João. Violent Acts: A Study of Contemporary Latin American Theatre. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1991.

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                           Bibliography assembled by Merlin H. Forster
                                Juan Carlos Galdo

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