Latin American Narrative – Information, authors and works

We explain what the Latin American narrative is, its history and characteristics. In addition, its most important authors, stories and novels.

Latin American narrative
The Latin American narrative can originate from Inca tales or from explorers’ texts.

What is the Latin American narrative?

The Latin American narrative it is the national literature of the Latin American countries, born of the Spanish and Portuguese colonization of the American continent in the 15th century and the complex dynamics of ethnic and cultural hybridization between Europeans, Africans and indigenous peoples, which took place within this colonial society over four centuries.

The Latin American narrative, therefore, is relatively young, compared to other Western and Eastern traditions, since its origins are the same as those of Latin American culture, and they are not always easy to locate in time.

Are the mostly oral accounts of pre-Columbian peoples part of it? The African religious imaginary of slaves brought to America? Or only the European culture that the conquerors imposed with blood and iron? This constitutes a complex cultural panorama to which Latin American literature itself seeks to respond.

In this sense, the Latin American narrative can have many origins: the mythical texts of the Inca peoples, such as the Popol Vuh, or the quasi-fantastic descriptions of the Spanish explorers and conquerors upon their arrival in the so-called New Continent. His first formal steps, during the colonial era, were part of Spanish literature itself, and often followed its aesthetic trends and schools, such as the baroque of the sixteenth century.

However, the influence of France on Latin American politics, philosophy and arts in the 18th century would be decisive for the emergence of the narrative tendencies typical of the young Latin American republics, which began their independent political life in the 19th century.

The twentieth century witnessed the brightest moment of the Latin American narrative until that moment, which crystallized in the so-called “Boom” of the years 1960-1970.

With the novel as the main genre, the narrative of these countries set out to reflect its cultural, historical and social complexity, at a complex political moment in which Latin America was the scene of the ideological conflicts typical of the Cold War. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 was a very important event in that sense.

The Latin American narrative enters the 21st century with an identity of its own, defined largely by its opposition or its affinity to the Boom postulates.

For example, Magic Realism became one of the most popular trends in regional narrative since 1960, against which the literary group “McOndo” rose up in the 1990s, to denounce the exoticism of their stories and propose a change towards the urban, global and pop imaginary of Latin America at the end of the 20th century.

Characteristics of the Latin American narrative

In very general terms, the Latin American narrative is characterized by the following:

  • It groups together the literary productions of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela. Sometimes other countries in the region such as Haiti can be added.
  • It is written mostly in Spanish and to a lesser extent PortugueseAlthough there are also some works written in indigenous languages ​​that have survived the conquest, or in linguistic crossings typical of the border regions, such as the Chicano language.
  • They have presented from the beginning an important determination to answer the question about the originIn other words, trying to think about how Latin America is defined, what it is and how it can be distinguished.
  • It has been a narrative very committed to politics, particularly since the 19th century, when writers faced the responsibility of founding a literary canon for their newly founded republics.
  • It had its moment of greatest splendor and world popularity between 1960 and 1970, in the so-called “Latin American Boom”.

Most recognized authors of the Latin American narrative

Latin American narrative authors
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was the greatest exponent of the Spanish Golden Age in Latin America.

A list of the most important Latin American storytellers would necessarily include the names of:

  • Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz (1648-1695), nun from New Spain (Mexican) and greatest exponent of the Spanish Golden Age in Latin America, cultivating not only prose, but also lyrical, auto sacramental and theater.
  • Esteban Echeverria (1805-1851), Argentine writer and poet who introduced the prevailing romanticism in France to his country, and composed many of the foundational works of the Argentine tradition.
  • Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811-1888), Argentine writer, teacher, military and politician, who ruled his country from 1868 to 1874, was the author in others of a jewel of the Latin American narrative: Facundo or civilization and barbarism, 1845.
  • Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980), Cuban journalist, musicologist and writer considered one of the key authors of the 20th century Spanish language, and founder of a style that would be of vital importance for later authors, called the “Real Wonderful”.
  • Romulo Gallegos (1884-1969), Venezuelan novelist and politician, considered one of the greatest writers on the continent and author of classics of Latin American literature that were sometimes taken to the cinema. He held the presidency of his country very briefly, before being overthrown by a military coup.
  • Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), Argentine short story writer and poet, considered one of the greatest authors of literature in Spanish and in the world. His short story work with a characteristic fantastic tone and cultured references marked a before and after in the history of Latin American narrative.
  • Miguel Angel Asturias (1899-1974), Guatemalan writer, journalist and diplomat, considered one of the greatest exponents of continental letters. He won the Lenin Peace Prize in 1965 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1967.
  • Jose Maria Arguedas (1911-1969), Peruvian poet, writer and anthropologist, considered one of the greatest literary representatives of his country, whose work incorporated a much richer and more intimate vision of the indigenous world into the tradition.
  • Juan Rulfo (1917-1986), Mexican writer and photographer, considered one of the fundamental authors of the Spanish-American 20th century and of all Mexican literature. Introverted and enigmatic, he is a cult author who published only two books of narrative.
  • Julio Cortazar (1914-1984), Argentine short story writer and novelist, considered one of the masters of the short story and one of the most popular authors in Latin America. At the time he played an important avant-garde role with his novel Hopscotch from 1963.
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014), Colombian writer and journalist, recognized worldwide for his stories inscribed in the “Magic Realism”. Winner of the Nobel Prize in 1982, he is considered one of the great authors of the “Boom”.
  • Elena Poniatowska (1932-), Mexican writer, journalist and activist, with a novelistic work very marked by the political conflicts in Mexico, has received many awards, including the Cervantes Prize in 2013.
  • Mario Vargas Llosa (1936-), Peruvian novelist and essayist, ranked among the most important literary voices in the Spanish language and the main representative of the Boom together with García Márquez, has received the Cervantes Prize in 1994, the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010 and practically all the Other high-caliber literary awards in the Spanish language.
  • Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003), Chilean short story writer, novelist and poet, author of more than two dozen books and winner of many of the great novel prizes in the Hispanic world. At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, he has become a cult author in Latin American letters.

Famous stories and novels of the Latin American narrative

narrative latin america borges works stories novels
Jorge Luis Borges is one of the greatest authors of literature in Spanish and in the world.

Here are some of the most popular stories and novels of the Latin American tradition:


  • “The twilight of the Devil” (1919) by Rómulo Gallegos.
  • “Journey to the seed” (1944) by Alejo Carpentier.
  • “El Aleph” (1949) by Jorge Luis Borges.
  • “We are very poor” (1953) by Juan Rulfo.
  • “The most beautiful drowned man in the world” (1968) by Gabriel García Márquez.
  • “Amor 77” (1979) by Julio Cortázar.


  • “Facundo or Civilization and Barbarism” (1845) by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.
  • “Doña Bárbara” (1929) by Rómulo Gallegos.
  • “The Lord President” (1946) by Miguel Ángel Asturias.
  • “The kingdom of this world” (1949) by Alejo Carpentier.
  • “Pedro Páramo” (1955) by Juan Rulfo.
  • “The deep rivers” (1958) by José María Arguedas.
  • “Hopscotch” (1963) by Julio Cortázar.
  • “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967) by Gabriel García Márquez.
  • “Pantaleón and the Visitors” (1973) by Mario Vargas Llosa.
  • “The wild detectives” (1998) by Roberto Bolaño.