US Latino Writers


The history of Latino literature begins in 1848, when the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed and half of the territory of Mexico became part of the United States. A multitude of Spanish names were then integrated into the toponomy of the northern nation. In most cases, their meanings are transparent: Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Los Angeles. Other names have a more recondite history: California was an island featured in a chivalric novel published in 1510. Its inhabitants were black Amazons who lived under the rule of Queen Calafia. The deep relationship between ancient Spanish texts and contemporary works by Latino writers is evident in the novels of Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, the dean of Chicano letters, who used titles from Castilian accounts of the 15th century in some of his works. As Hinojosa-Smith’s compound last name reveals, the complex relationship between English and Spanish underlines the development of the Hispanic literatures of the United States. Hinojosa himself switched from writing in Spanish to English in the middle of his career. Most Latino authors write in English, but the sustained strength of Spanish in the communities that they represent makes them acutely aware of the importance of the language of their ancestors, which permeates and inflects their works in significant ways. Hispanic-American writers belong to a set of communities with different national origins, but a constant process of exchange and interaction among them has resulted in the consolidation of a shared identity. In different degrees, Mexicans, Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Central and South Americans living in the United States feel that they are part of a larger Latino community. Language plays an important role in this phenomenon. Fueled by a continuously renovated influx of immigrants, the constant interaction between different communities is resulting in the creation of a new variety of Spanish in this country. In this course, we will study the literatures of the different US communities of Latin American origin from their inception to recent times. Some authors whose work we will study are Josephina Niggli, Nicholassa Mohr, Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, Oscar Hijuelos, Dagoberto Gilb, Cristina García, John Rechy, Francisco Goldman, Ana Menéndez, and Daniel Alarcón