Latin-American literature, literature of the Spanish-speaking countries of the Western Hemisphere. It also includes Brazil, where the native language is Portuguese, not Spanish. The literary period began with the explorations in the 1400s and lasted some 300 years. The earliest literature was written by soldiers and missionaries describing new lands and civilizations. Hernando Cortés, the conqueror, wrote his Five Letters (1519–1526) for King Charles I of Spain, outlining his campaign in great detail. Many works deal with the period of conquest. Bartolomé de las Casas wrote of the brutal treatment of the Indians by the Europeans in The Devastation of the Indians: A Brief Account (1552). La Araucana (1569–1589) by Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga is considered the greatest poem of the time and heralded the bravery of the Chilean Indians in resisting the Spanish invaders.
The ornate baroque style arose in the latter 1600s. The Mexican nun, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, wrote plays, satire, philosophical works and poetry in the baroque style.
In the early 1800s, Romanticism, stressing individualism, nationalism and artistic freedom spread to Latin America. Nomadic cowboys called Gauchos became a literary topic. The best example of this is the epic poem Martin Fierro (1872–79) by José Hernandez of Argentina. The Romantic period gave rise to the novel. Jorge Issacs of Columbia wrote a sentimental love story Maria (1867) that remains popular today. The “noble savage” theme was popular among the romantics who felt that the Indians were superior to the corrupt Europeans. Realist writers, seeking to capture external reality in an objective way, emerged in the 2nd half of the 19th century. The modern period lasted from 1888 to 1910 and Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darió gave it its form. His books of poems Azul (1888) marked the beginning of the period. Jose Martí of Cuba was a celebrated journalist, essayist and poet of this period.
In the 20th century women poets emerged with work dealing with love and the role of women in society. Gabriela Mistral of Chile won the Nobel Prize for literature (1945). Novels explored social and political problems. The Mexican revolution (1910) inspired Mariano Azuela's novel The Underdogs (1916). Poets experimented with form and technique. Vincente Huidobro and Pablo Neruda of Chile, César Vallejo of Peru, Mario de Andrade of Brazil and Jorge Luis Borges of Argentina created poetry with unusual imagery. In the mid 1940s the “new novel,” combining authentic subject matter with various themes and experiments, appeared. The President (1946) by Miguel Angel Asturias of Guatemala and The Edge of the Storm (1947) by Augustín Yáñez of Mexico are well known examples of the new novel. Since the 1950s Latin American novelists have enjoyed international renown. The best known authors of this period are Carlos Fuentes of Mexico; Alejo Carpentier of Cuba, who coined the term “magical realism;” Julio Cortázar of Argentina; Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru; and Gabrial García Márquez of Colombia, who brought the use of realism to its greatest expression in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), considered by many one of the most important literary works of the 20th century. Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982.