Latin American boom authors characteristics consequences

Latin American boom

The Latin American boom was a literary and publishing movement that took place in the 1960s and 1970s, and that placed the Latin American narrative on the international stage.

Even though there are 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 is due to the appearance in a very short time of works such as Hopscotch (Julio Cortázar), One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez), The City and the Dogs (Mario Vargas Llosa), The Death of Artemio Cruz (Carlos Fuentes) and Tres Tristes Tigres (Guillermo Cabrera Infante).

It should also be mentioned that the Spanish, Mexican and Argentine publishing industry, academic critics and literary agents, such as the well-known Carmen Balcells, played a fundamental role in this phenomenon.

Origin and historical context

The 1960s in Latin America was marked by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution (1959), leftist agitation in much of Latin America, and the military and conservative reaction, with coups and various dictatorships.

To this situation must be added the economic growth of the sixties, the presence of a reading middle class and an increasingly relevant role of the universities.

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

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

In addition, with a migratory movement caused largely by political upheavals, 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 congresses and awards, created the conditions for the emergence of the boom.

Literary background

Since the 1930s, the Latin American novel and short story, partly influenced by the North American narrative and by the European avant-gardes, have been making their way and showing an 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 a total fact

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

The storytellers of the boom incorporate history, myths and traditions, urban language, and popular music in their works.

Literature and integration

The boom breaks with the vision of national literature and promotes another perspective, external and internal, which 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 phenomenon of the boom there was a strong interest in reflecting in their works the social and political conditions of the Spanish-American countries.

Democracy and Revolution

This posture of social commitment among the writers of the boom led to strong support for the Cuban Revolution, which will exert 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

A factor that favors the integration and the notion of a Latin American literature is the fact that the authors of the boom carry 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 publishing houses were essential, as well as literary agencies, among which Carmen Balcells in Barcelona (Spain) stands out.

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

The 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 Yo el Supremo , by Augusto Roa Bastos, or The Autumn of the Patriarch by García Márquez).

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-gardes (interior monologue, temporary breaks, surreal or dreamlike elements), orality and popular language, etc.

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

The role of awards and recognitions 

In the dissemination of the novels of the boom, some literary awards were also important, such as the Rómulo Gallegos Prize (awarded in Caracas to García Márquez, Vargas Llosa and Fuentes), or the Short Novel Library Prize, by Seix Barral (Spain).

During the sixties, Miguel Ángel Asturias received the Nobel Prize for Literature, which in later years Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa would also receive.

The role of the media in spreading the boom

The critic Ángel Rama attributes an important role in the dissemination 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 dissemination of Latin American authors.

Consequences of the Latin American boom 


The boom brought Latin American literature as a whole to the forefront, gaining readership not only in Europe and the rest of the world (thanks to numerous translations), but also in Latin American countries themselves, which 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 Don Quixote ), turned the literary trend known as magical realism into a phenomenon of global character and influence.

Spain and Latin America

Even if 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 diffusion of novels written in the different dialect 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 the relations between writers and publishers more equitable, as regards copyright.

Dissemination of other authors and works

The boom contributed to publicize the work of Latin American authors who published before the 1960s, or whose work had been less widely known, such as those mentioned in the “literary background” section.

To these should be added authors such as José María Arguedas, Julio Ramón Ribeyro, José Lezama Lima, Mariano Azuela, Felisberto Hernández, Macedonio Fernández, Arturo Uslar Pietri, among others.

Other contemporary authors with the boom, such as José Donoso (Chile), Augusto Roa Bastos (Paraguay), Manuel Puig (Argentina), Manuel Scorza (Peru), Augusto Monterroso (Guatemala), among many others, benefited from the interest in Latin American literature.

Representatives and works of the Latin American boom

Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru, 1936)

Peruvian narrator and essayist (nationalized Spanish), 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, including The City and the Dogs (1963), The Green House (1966), Conversation in the Cathedral (1969), The War at the End of the World (1981) and The Festival of the Goat. (2000).

Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia, 1927-2014)

Colombian narrator and journalist, author of a great narrative work, in which the cycle of stories and novels around Macondo stands out, the imaginary place where his main novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), takes place.

He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 and his works include The Colonel has no one to write (1962), The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), Chronicle of an announced death (1981) and Love in the time of cholera (1985) , among other.

Julio Cortázar (Argentina, 1914-1984)

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

He is the author of the short story books Bestiario (1951), Final dejuegos (1956), Las armas secretas (1959), Historias de cronopios y de famas (1962) and Octaedro (1974), among others, and novels such as Los Premios (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. His main works include: The most transparent region (1958), The death of Artemio Cruz (1962), Aura (1962), Cambio de piel (1967), Terra Nostra (1975) and Gringo viejo (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 Tres tristes tigres (1967), and he is also the author of Thus in peace as in war (1960), A trade in the twentieth century (1963), Havana for a deceased infant (1979) and Crime for dancing the chachachá (1995).

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