Latin America Literature

South America

With the colonization of South and Central America by the Spaniards and the Portuguese, a rich chronicle literature emerged describing the nature and people of the new world. In the beginning, these were European chronicles, many soldiers and clergy, and later also Native Americans who had learned the language of the colonial rulers. The Chronicles are the only prose of the colonial period, i.e. because the Spanish crown banned imports of the popular knight novels that were supposed to demoralize the Indians.

Thus, there was no background to the development of a novel genre such as in contemporary Europe. The colonial era’s works in lyric and drama are, with a few notable exceptions, a pale rendition of European literature.

After the wars of independence in the 1800s, Latin American countries began to develop independent literatures in opposition to the former colonial powers, though often with an uncritical orientation against trends and fashion trends in Europe, in particular France. Check Countryaah for population and country list in South America.

Country Literacy (percent) Literacy women (percent) Literacy men (percent) Literacy among young people (percent)
Argentina 99.1 (2016) 99.1 (2016) 99.1 (2016) 99.5 (2016)
Bolivia 92.5 (2015) 88.6 (2015) 96.5 (2015) 99.4 (2015)
Brazil 92.0 (2015) 92.3 (2015) 91.7 (2015) 99.0 (2015)
Chile 96.9 (2015) 96.7 (2015) 97.0 (2015) 99.4 (2015)
Colombia 94.7 (2016) 94.9 (2016) 94.4 (2016) 98.7 (2016)
Ecuador 94.4 (2016) 93.3 (2016) 95.4 (2016) 99.1 (2016)
Guyana 85.6 (2014) 85.0 (2014) 86.3 (2014) 96.7 (2014)
Paraguay 94.7 (2016) 93.8 (2016) 95.5 (2016) 98.5 (2016)
Peru 94.2 (2016) 91.2 (2016) 97.2 (2016) 98.9 (2016)
Suriname 92.9 (2012) 91.0 (2012) 94.9 (2012) 97.7 (2012)
Uruguay 98.6 (2016) 98.8 (2016) 98.2 (2016) 99.2 (2016)
Venezuela 97.1 (2016) 97.2 (2016) 97.0 (2016) 98.8 (2016)
  • AllCityPopulation: Offers a list of main cities in the continent of South America by population.

Throughout the century, a number of literary groups were formed with the aim of stimulating modern national literature and discussing their preconditions and goals. The first Latin American novels saw the light of day, and in Spanish-language lyricism, the symbolist-inspired modernism with Nicaraguan Ruben Darió as the founder of a pioneering movement away from a stiffened Spanish tradition. It should not be confused with the Portuguese-language, Brazilian modernism that emerged in the 1920s and was futuristically oriented.

In the 1900s. there is an explosive development in Latin American literature, i.e. under the influence of political upheavals. It manifests itself in all genres and with widely different themes and aesthetic expressions, characterized by the authors’ anchoring in the ethnically diverse cultures and their individual international orientations.

Some Latin American writers stayed in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s and returned with inspiration from European surrealism. Others had North American role models such as William Faulkner and John Dos Passos.

Man’s struggle against nature, political corruption, violence and racism are some of the overall romantic themes that often unfold in the so-called magical realism, where reality, myth and magic exist side by side, as seen, for example, by Brazilian Mário de Andrade and the two Nobel laureates, Colombian Gabriel García Márquez and Guatemalan Miguel Ángel Asturias. The contention of rationality and order is a characteristic feature of modern Latin American literature and is also reflected in Argentine Jorge Luis Borges’ philosophical short stories and essays, where fiction itself is often the subject.

Within the lyric, diverse directions are cultivated, from the politically agitatory to the refined form-experimenting poem. Peruvian César Vallejo, Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz and Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda are examples of landmark innovators of the lyrical expression. The dramatic genre is also flourishing, not least in Chile, Argentina and Mexico, where the dramatic tradition is strong. Ibsen, Brecht and French absurdism have been important sources of inspiration, but otherwise existential and political themes are presented in highly varying and original forms.

In addition to literature written in Latin America, Latin American literature includes a number of works by authors who are permanently or temporarily resident abroad. Thus, in the United States there is quite a wide range of Spanish-language literature, authored by Puerto Rican and Mexican immigrants, addressing the clash between Latin American and North American culture.

With the so-called boom of the 1960s, Latin American literature became one subject of intense international attention. A large number of works have been translated, also into Danish, just as Latin American drama in translation has found its way to Danish scenes.