19 julio, 2024

Latin American boom: what it is, characteristics, themes, authors, works

We explain what the Latin American boom is, its historical background, characteristics, recurring themes, authors and representative works.

What was the Latin American boom?

He latin american boom It was a literary and editorial movement that took place in the 1960s and 1970s, and which placed the narrative of Latin America in the international foreground.

Even though there were already renowned and increasingly influential literary figures, such as Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel Ángel Asturias or Juan Rulfo, as well as poets like Pablo Neruda, it was this boom that put the literature of the American continent in a prominent place.

Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes were the main authors of the boom, which also included authors from Brazil, Cuba, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, etc.

This unique movement occurs thanks to the appearance in a very short time of works such as Hopscotch (Julio Cortazar), one hundred years of solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), The city and the Dogs (Mario Vargas Llosa), The death of Artemio Cruz (Carlos Fuentes) and Three sad tigers (Guillermo Cabrera Infante).

Origin and historical context

The decade of the sixties in Latin America was marked by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution (1959), left-wing agitation in much of Latin America, and the military and conservative reaction, with coups d’etat and various dictatorships.

To this situation must be added the economic growth of the 1960s, the presence of a reading middle class and an increasingly important role for universities.

It is also a period with a growing publishing industry, with at least three important poles:

Mexico DF (with Fondo de Cultura Económica, the main Mexican state publishing house).
Buenos Aires (mainly the Sudamericana publishing house, private).
Barcelona, ​​Spain (with the publishing house Seix Barral in charge, also private).

In addition, with a migratory movement caused largely by political convulsions, which favored the presence of Latin American researchers in academic centers in the United States and Europe.

This academic presence, as well as that of Spanish-American writers living in France and Spain, and the literary conferences and prizes, created the conditions for the emergence of the boom.

literary background

Since the 1930s, the Latin American novel and short story, partly influenced by North American narrative and the European avant-garde, had been making its way and showing extraordinary quality.

Proof of this are the works of authors such as the Uruguayan Juan Carlos Onetti, the Argentines Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares and Ernesto Sábato, the Guatemalan Miguel Ángel Asturias, the Brazilians Jorge Amado, Clarice Lispector and João Guimarães Rosa, the Mexican Juan Rulfo and the Cuban Alejo Carpentier, among others.

Characteristics of the Latin American boom

The novel as total fact

Although they also published short stories, the quintessential genre of the Latin American boom is the novel, seen as an instrument to explore different aspects of Latin American history and reality.

Literature and integration

The boom breaks with the vision of national literature and promotes another perspective, external and internal, that allows us to speak of a Latin American literature, with common objectives and interests.

social commitment

In most of the authors involved in the publishing boom phenomenon there was a strong interest in reflecting in their works the social and political conditions of the Spanish-American countries.

democracy and revolution

This position of social commitment among the writers of the boom led to strong support for the Cuban Revolution, which exerted great influence on figures such as Gabriel García Márquez and Julio Cortázar.

Authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa or the Cuban Guillermo Cabrera Infante separated from these ideas and took a stand for the democratic projects of the continent.

Exile and literature

One factor that favors integration and the notion of a Latin American literature is the fact that the authors of the boom carried out part of their work outside their countries of origin.

As an example: Julio Cortázar wrote Hopscotch in Paris, Gabriel García Márquez one hundred years of solitude in Mexico, and Mario Vargas Llosa The city and the Dogs between Madrid and Paris.

Criticism and the publishing industry

In the dissemination and internationalization of the award, Spanish, Argentine and Mexican publishers were essential, as well as literary agencies, among which Carmen Balcells’s in Barcelona (Spain) stands out.

On the other hand, literary critics and university professors promoted, through their classes and congresses, the reading of Latin American authors in the United States and Europe.

historical novel

The authors of the boom gave a new impetus to the historical novel, by recreating key moments in the history of Latin America and Spain, emphasizing the figure of dictators (as in I the supremeby Augusto Roa Bastos, or The Autumn of the Patriarchby Garcia Marquez).

The formal break with tradition

The authors of the boom have in common a concern to radically renew the narrative genre, incorporating elements of the European avant-garde (internal monologue, temporal ruptures, surreal or dreamlike elements), orality and popular language, etc.

In all of them there is a deep questioning of the traditional novel and its function of entertainment.

The role of awards and recognition

Some literary prizes were also important in the dissemination of boom novels, such as the Rómulo Gallegos Prize (awarded in Caracas to García Márquez, Vargas Llosa and Fuentes), or the Biblioteca Breve de Novela Prize, from Seix Barral (Spain).

The role of the media in spreading the boom

The critic Ángel Rama attributes an important role in the diffusion of the boom narrators to the journalistic teams of magazines and weeklies in Latin America, the United States and Europe, which contributed through reviews and interviews to the diffusion of Latin American authors.

frequent topics

There are a number of recurring themes in the Latin American boom:

Social, political, economic and social conflicts.
Politics, social repression, social denunciation of totalitarian governments, indigenous massacres, etc.

Consequences of the Latin American boom


The boom brought Latin American literature as a whole to the fore, gaining readers not only in Europe and the rest of the world (thanks to numerous translations), but also in Latin American countries themselves, who began to read their own authors.

The real magic

The work of the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, especially one hundred years of solitude (which is perhaps the most translated novel in Spanish in the world, along with The Quijote), turned the literary current known as magical realism into a phenomenon of worldwide character and influence.

Spain and Latin America

Although the boom was made up of Latin American writers, it would have been impossible without the presence of Spain. The boom contributed to a rapprochement and dialogue between writers and readers from Spain and America.

Reinforcement of speech and popular culture

The spread of novels written in the different dialectal forms of Spanish (Argentine, Peruvian, Mexican, Cuban, etc.), strengthened the perception and self-esteem of local languages, and enriched the Spanish language as a whole.

Role of literary agencies

The role played by literary agencies contributed to making relations between writers and publishers more equitable, in relation to copyright.

Dissemination of other authors and works

The boom helped to publicize the work of Latin American authors who published before the 1960s, or whose work had been less widely distributed.

Representatives and works of the Latin American boom

Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru, 1936)

Peruvian narrator and essayist (Spanish national), he ventured into Peruvian politics as a presidential candidate and has been the subject of numerous awards and recognitions, among which the Nobel Prize for Literature (2010) stands out.

He is the author of an extensive narrative work, in which stand out The city and the Dogs (1963), The green House (1966), Conversation in the Cathedral (1969), The War of the End of the World (1981) and The party of the goat (2000).

Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia, 1927-2014)

Colombian storyteller and journalist, author of a great narrative work, in which the cycle of stories and novels about Macondo stands out, an imaginary place where his main novel takes place, one hundred years of solitude (1967).

He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 and his works include The colonel has no one to write to him (1962), The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), A Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981) and Love in the time of cholera (1985), among others.

Julio Cortazar (Argentine, 1914-1984)

Narrator, poet, essayist and translator, this Argentine writer is the author of one of the most important novels of the 20th century, Hopscotch (1963), and along with Jorge Luis Borges, he has been considered one of the greatest short story writers in the Spanish language.

He is the author of storybooks Bestiary (1951), game over (1956), the secret weapons (1959), Stories of cronopios and fames (1962) and Octahedron (1974), among others, and of novels such as The awards (1960), 62 Model to assemble (1968) or Manuel’s book (1973).

Carlos Fuentes (Mexico, 1928-2012)

This Mexican writer cultivated narrative, theater and essays and is considered one of the great Latin American authors. Among his main works are: The most transparent region (1958), The death of Artemio Cruz (1962), Aura (1962), Change of skin (1967), Terra Nostra (1975) and old gringo (1985).

Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Cuba, 1929-2005)

Cuban narrator, essayist and screenwriter (British national), he went into exile from Cuba in 1965 and is described as one of the great renovators of Latin American literature.

His main work is the novel Three sad tigers (1967), and is also the author of As in peace as in war (1960), A profession of the 20th century (1963), Havana for a deceased infant (1979) and Crime for dancing the chachachá (nineteen ninety five).

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