Hispanic Contributions to World Literature
Latin American literature by Hispanic writers has made a great impact in recent decades. These writers have created their own genres and shared a unique point of view and approach to many social matters.
This is a curated list of the most influential Hispanic writers who influenced their chosen genres, countries, regions, other prolific writers, and more. (I didn’t include the 6 Latin American Nobel Prize Winners in Literature on this list—so now you have two separate articles to read!)
Let’s learn about Spanish and Latin American literature characteristics and enter the fantastical and complex world of Hispanic writers.
6 Most Influential Hispanic Writers
Remember that Hispanics are those who speak Spanish as their native language, including almost all Latin Americans and Spaniards. Latinos are those who were born in Latin America, including Brazilians who speak Portuguese.
1. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Juana Inés Asbaje Ramírez de Santillana, better known as Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, was a Mexican feminist writer and poetess during the Spanish golden age of literature. Considered by experts as the tenth muse, she wrote prose, religious texts, plays, and poems—in Spanish and náhuatl, the Aztec tongue. Her style was Spanish late baroque.
She learned to write and read at age 3, and according to oral tradition, she dressed as a man in order to receive proper education. As a teenager, Sor Juana entered the viceroy court and obtained help for her literary production from many patrons. She became part of a highly cultivated environment.
Her most famous poem is Hombres necios que acusáis (Foolish men who accuse) among other pieces like Amor es más laberinto (Love is more a Maze), and Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz (Answer to Sor Filotea de la Cruz). She stopped writing suddenly, probably due to the misogyny of her superiors who ordered her to get rid of her library and scientific instruments. Nevertheless, she went down in history as one of the best Latin American literature authors.
2. Miguel de Cervantes de Saavedra
Miguel de Cervantes, also known as El manco de Lepanto (the one-armed of Lepanto) or El príncipe de los ingenios (the prince of wits), was the Spanish soldier, poet, and novelist who wrote Don Quijote. This famous title has been translated to so many languages and edited so many times, that the only book that surpasses it is the Bible.
Miguel de Cervantes is one of the most important Hispanic writers in history. His genres were a twist of the dying chivalric romance, picaresque novel, and crime fiction. His style was Spanish realism and his best work also includes La galatea and Novelas ejemplares (Exemplary Novels).
3. Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes was a Mexican writer, one of the greatest expositors of Latin American literature, and one of the most prominent Hispanic writers. He was part of the Latin American Literature Boom and had among his masterpieces La región más transparente (The Most Transparent Region), La muerte de Artemio Cruz (The death of Artemio Cruz), and Aura.
He received many artistic and royal awards including noble titles and was an honorary member of the Mexican Language Academy. He was doctor of honoris causa of many universities including Harvard, the UNAM, and Cambridge. Carlos wrote novels, plays, essays, and short stories in a realist style.
4. Mario Benedetti
Mario Benedetti was an Uruguayan journalist, poet, and playwright. Part of the Generation of 45, he wrote more than 80 books that were translated into more than 20 languages. His most famous titles include La tregua (The Truce), Primavera con una esquina rota (Spring with a broken corner), and Gracias por el fuego (Thanks to the Fire).
The Truce was adapted to cinema, theatre, radio, and TV. Mario used colloquial language with a touch of surrealism and existentialism. When it comes to Latin American literature greats, Benedetti can’t be left out.
5. Laura Esquivel
Laura Esquivel is a Mexican writer and politician. Her masterpiece, Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), has been translated into over 30 languages, was made into a movie, and won 10 major awards.
In it, she promotes the revolution from within as a source of empowerment and a cause of outward revolution. She also emphasizes the importance of the nuclear family, the kitchen and cooking, and how to be loyal to yourself. Her genre is magical realism, and she is one of the most important contemporary Latin American literary giants.
6. Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Carlos Ruiz Zafón was a Spanish novelist. His masterpiece La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind) has sold over 15 million copies and is one of the 100 best Spanish books of the last 25 years.
He is considered to be one of the most relevant and influential Hispanic writers in the world. Carlos is the only Spanish contemporary author to be a megaseller. Ruiz Zafón intended to create a genre hybrid saga where tragedy, datire, love, thriller, intrigue, and crime fiction converge.
Learn Spanish Through Classic Latin American Literature
When it comes to Latin American literature, it’s ideal to read these books in their original Spanish. Learning Spanish is an amazing idea. It enables you to travel easier to Hispanic countries, boost your resume, and unlock the door to new cultures and arts—including literature—in Spanish.
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