TW: mentions blood, death, and repression.
The last decade has seen an improvement in promoting diversity in the book industry. It does have a long way to go to be great, but it is an improvement nonetheless. But why are classrooms still so focused on western-centered literature? I’m writing this today to tell you the story of a group of friends from beautiful Latin American countries, who have impacted literature in ways you might not even be aware of.
The Latin American Boom started at the beginning of the sixties and continued throughout the seventies. This decade dyed Latin America’s cobbled stones red. Cuba, 1959. Castro, the infamous dictator, rose to power. His regime would oppress whoever opposed him. Ecuador, 1965. Troops marched into universities, subduing students and workers. Mexico 1968. Students protested on the verge of the Olympic Games, all attacked by the army. The phrase «Dos de octubre no se olvida» (October second is unforgettable) is still whispered among Mexican citizens. Brasil, 1969. Death penalty was approved for whoever dared stand against the government. Chile. Venezuela. Dominican Republic. Bolivia. All countries where people, specifically, students and workers who demanded change, were brutally silenced. All while the United States slithered around the continent, supporting whoever they found most convenient (Cinema 23).
El Boom Latinoamericano emerged in this context.
Madrid, autumn 1958. A young writer sat in a bar called «El Jute», a cigarette in one hand, a pen in the other. Five years later, he would publish The Time of the Hero, one of the first novels of the Boom, alongside Carlos Fuentes’ The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962). These publications were followed suit by plenty of iconic novels, short stories, and novellas, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez), and Rayuela (Julio Cortázar). And of course, we cannot forget the mastermind behind it all, literary agent Carmen Balcells, who worked with editor Carlos Barral. She saw the potential in these writers and promoted the publication of their pieces in Spain, their translation to French and English, among others. The tense atmosphere of the decade, plus the initiative of publishing in Spain, and the influence of European movements like vanguardism and surrealism, became the terrain in which writers could plant the first seeds of a movement that would carry with it the fears and dreams of our continent.
The Boom is the representation on ink and paper of our culture, our suffering, our terror, and our love of the time. It is a historic time in which dozens of authors decide to publish abroad and take their people with them. It is a time for fantastic stories, abstract and full of symbolism. An age in which Latin American people could appropriate literature, and make it their own. It also reflected the social, economic, political, and moral conflicts of the decades. During the sixties and seventies, beyond literary prizes and chain publications, emerged authors who would show our depths to the world. Their pieces mourn our deceased and bleed our blood. But they also celebrate our victories and challenge our society. The Boom (ironically called in English), is part of our Latin American identity in the world of letters. And there is nothing quite like seeing yourself be represented on the page.
I am not saying it did not have flaws. All of the movement’s authors were men and some of them are highly controversial (Márquez ended up supporting Castro. He also punched Llosa, some say because he was jealous about his friend spending time with his wife). What I am saying is that for the first time, Latin American authors were recognized internationally. Their works were marked by our countries and vice versa.
The movement proposed new literary techniques, some of their characteristics include.
This is the story of a literary movement that reached beyond Latin America and spread throughout the world the way the smell of gardenias spread through a room. Fierce, and unrecognizable by many. I surely hope that you learned something new today.
Oh, and I almost forgot. If you are a Latin American writer, please allow me to remind you that your work matters. It really does. Don’t forget to embrace your culture. After all, you could be part of the next Boom.
is a young planster with too much passion and too little time on a day. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, whether they are thoroughly researched flash fiction pieces or improvised bedtime stories.
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