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These 23 Latin American Writers And Poets Changed The World With Their Work

In spite of the anti-immigrant rhetoric pervading the US these days, there’s no doubt that Latin American literature has seen a recent surge in popularity and relevance worldwide. While this is only a sample of notable Latin American authors ranging from just south of the border all the way to south of the world, take note and you might just include a few in your regular reading rotation.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Considered by many as the best Spanish writer of all times, this Colombian journalist and author received the Nobel literature prize in 1982 after the enormous success of his epic “100 years of solitude.” Garcia Marquez was universally acclaimed as the father of “magic realism” which he used to depict everyday situations with just the right touch of weird. He passed away in 2014.

Gabriela Mistral

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The nation of Chile is no stranger to wonderful writers and poets, and Lucila Godoy, whose nom de plume was Gabriela Mistral, was not the exception. Back in a time when women writers were a rarity, she became the first female writer from Latin America to be awarded the Nobel literature prize in 1945. Her writings were poetic, and full of powerful, idealistic, emotions.

Pablo Neruda

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His political inclination towards Communism had Neruda at odds with the Chilean government at the time, leaving his friends to hide him in a farmhouse to avoid his detention. When he was awarded the Nobel literature prize in 1971, it didn’t sit well with the anti-Communist agenda. His writing style had plenty of surrealist poems, historical epics, overtly political manifestos and love. Even today there is debate of how he died, most probably killed by the Chilean government that overthrew Allende.

Isabel Allende

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Born in Peru, although originally Chilean, she is American by marriage. She is a relative of the former socialist president Salvador Allende, and her writings are dotted with hints of the magic realism. Considered one of the foremost feminist writers in the world, she often relates her own experiences growing up in Latin America as the sources for her writings. She frequently lectures throughout the US.

Alejo Carpentier

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Cuba has had its fair share of extraordinary writers, and Carpentier was one of the first writers to redirect the Baroque style that other Latino writers assimilated into their own artistic vision. Born in Switzerland, he never left that European viewpoint in his writings, which were laced with affinity toward revolutionary movements like the one in Cuba in the late 50s led by Castro. A lesser-known aspect of his life was his thorough study of music, especially the Cuban bolero.

Alfonsina Storni

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Born in the final years of the 1800s century, she took her own life in 1938. One can only imagine what would have been of this prolific writer’s works. Starting as a journalist, she befriended many other writers in Argentina and Latin America as a whole. Many consider her as the front runner for the feminine movements that started much later in the century. In fact, a large part of her work was centered around feminism and women’s rights.

Octavio Paz

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Diplomat and poet are sometimes seen as opposites, but in the case of Paz they were a fit for a man equally as contrasting. As a Mexican diplomat he was sent to Paris in 1945, where he wrote his masterpiece “The Labyrinth of Solitude.” In 1990 he was awarded the Nobel literature prize.

Norah Lange

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Another notable woman writer from Argentina, Lange was normally associated to the avant-garde movement of South American writers that dominated the literary scene in the ’20s and ’30s. Her writing style was concurrent with the movement of the times, mostly regarded as “art for art’s sake”. The ultra-modernistic style of Lange had a definite influence in many Argentine writers of the postwar period.

Carlos Fuentes

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Loved by many, despised by many, Carlos Fuentes is described as one of the most admired writers in Spanish, and one whose influence is notable in the Latin American literary explosion in the late 60s and 70s. One of his writings, “Old Gringo” was adapted into a screenplay by Hollywood in a movie starring Gregory Peck. His works were always with the reader in mind, thus when he sat down to write he always asked himself, “am I writing this for?” Many feel he deserved the Nobel, but never won the award. Died in 2012.

Julia De Burgos

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One of the earliest proponents of women’s liberation movements worldwide, this Puerto Rican poet was also an ardent advocate of the island’s independence from the USA. In her writings, she stands out for the oppressed people chronicling their social struggles and combining that with the intimate side of feminism. In her final years, she wrote in English, including her “Farewell in Welfare Island” detailing her bouts with depression and alcoholism. She was largely anonymous when she died in 1935; her body claimed a few weeks later.

Mario Vargas Llosa

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A native of Peru, he is one of the leading writers of his generation and also considered a significant novelist and essayist who also had the greatest impact internationally than any other writer of the Latin American boom started in the late 60s. He is one of the few leading writers of his time to gradually shift politically from the left into right-wing liberalism, a move that garnished him some ill-advised opinions from his peers. He was awarded the Nobel literature prize in 2010.

Delmira Agustini

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Such a short life, full of expectations and tragedy. The precocious daughter of Italian immigrants was born in Uruguay in the late 19th century. From childhood she excelled in all of the fine arts, specially music and writing. Her works are laced with overt erotic undertones, uncharacteristic of her time. She dallies into sexual escapades with vivid imagination. Unfortunately, just a month after she married, her husband shot her in the head and then took his own life. One can only imagine what may have become of this extraordinarily gifted writer.

Jorge Luis Borges

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Blindness perhaps would bring most people down in their hopes, but in the case of Borges, it aided him into creating innovative literary symbols that later led into the magic realism so present in Latin American literature. Born at the end of the 19th century in Argentina, he is better known for his short stories with interconnected dreams, sometimes whimsical twists and turns, and plenty of fantasy. Sitting at the political center, he struggled both with communism and capitalism, criticizing both. His career started as a translator, thus he was familiarized with many works.

Albalucia Angel

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Unlike many male writers of her generation, this Colombian didn’t receive the rave reviews of critics, publishing houses and academics. Born during the first quarter of the 20th century, she studied in France and later in Italy where she perfected a literary style that, although set in the Latin American boom phase, was rather independent in her worldview. She delved into poetry, novel, theater, essays and screenwriting. Twice Alice is one of her most famous works.

Julio Cortazar

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Considered one of the most innovative and original writers of his time, he also started his career as a translator assisting in his contact many different works of literature. Cortazar was admirable in crafting short stories, poetic prose and major novels, creating a new wave in Latin American literature. Like many writers in Latin America, he was not for into the political turmoil going on and, protesting against the government of his native Argentina, he was nationalized French in the early 50s and spent the last days of his life in Europe. He died in 1984, always a fierce atheist.

Cecilia Meirells

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This Brazilian writer, journalist and educator, grew up in hardship, which she overcame by becoming a writer at the early age of nine. Even her first marriage brought about hardship as her husband, struggling with depression, took his own life. Her writing style is considered timeless, ethereal. She is credited with having started the Brazilian modernism in literature. Her educational children’s books are still used today. She lectured at the University of Texas during the 40s.

Alberto Girri

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This Argentinian writer is noticed for his intellectual writings laced with stoic references of self-denial of pleasures. Another translator originally, he revised the works of many English-speaking authors such as TS Elliot, Frost and others that definitely left a mark on the writer. He insisted that poetry was a vehicle for philosophical rationale, but always affirmed the need for letting go of oneself and possessions. He died in 1991 in his beloved Buenos Aires.

Jaime Sabines

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This Mexican author of Cuban and Lebanese descent left an indelible mark in the literature of the second half of the 20th century. A simple man, he decided to live and dwell among the common folk, learning and absorbing everything from them. He was lauded by his peers and critics alike, because of his close regard for the people. Politicians noticed his status and offered him different positions, which he took, but never felt comfortable in it. His work is influenced by Neruda. Sabines died in 1999, at the age of 72.

Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz

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The illegitimate child of a Spanish soldier, she was born just outside Mexico City and studied on her own from a library the family had inherited from her grandfather. Book reading was forbidden for girls, so she was obviously enlightened by the opportunity. Those books opened the young girl to many fields: sciences, literature, theology, jurisprudence and philosophy. Taking a vow as nun, she faced opposition from the Bishop of Puebla because of her writing defending women’s right to education, a taboo back then. She died at 43 in 1651, infected of plague while tending to other sick nuns.

Mario Benedetti

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Uruguayan born in 1920, he is considered one of the greatest Latin American writers of the second half of the 1900s. Journalist, poet and novelist, he adorned the pages of many printed media with his short stories and poems. Being of German descent from his mother, he was Kafka’s first translator in Uruguay, although his Dad made his take distance from Mom’s homeland during the rise of Nazism. His works are prolific, he was a tireless writer. Also tireless as a political activist he was ordered removed from his country by the dictatorship in the early 70s. He passed away back home in 2009.

Rosario Castellanos

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Mexican writer, diplomat and ardent feminist, she graduated from the school of philosophy in Mexico City and later became lecturer in the Universities of Wisconsin, Colorado State and Indiana. Her failed marriage led to her interest in defending women from the strongholds of “machismo” at the time. Her poetry was an attempt to always reach the root cause of anything, using the word as her tool. Politically, she was appointed Mexican Ambassador in Israel and died in Tel Aviv in 1974 in a strange home accident, electrocuted by an appliance after showering.

Victor Jara

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Not exactly a writer, but Jara, a Chilean singer-songwriter, became the face of freedom amidst the brutal dictatorship that rattled the land during the mid-part of the 70s. His political inclination to the radical left made him many admirers, but also the worst of foes in the military junta that toppled the government of Allende in 1973. The same day Allende was overthrown and killed, the dictator’s forces captured Jara and led him to a concentration camp. His body was found a week later with over 40 gunshot wounds. It took 17 years for the government to finally admit he was tortured and killed by the ruling forces. His work has inspired many contemporary singers, writers and authors.

Elena Poniatowska

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Born in Paris, but Mexican by her mother, she had to move back to America after war broke in Europe in the late 30s. She didn’t study high school, but was eager to work in a newspaper, first as secretary then covering the burgeoning social scene of the Mexico City of the 50s. All this sparked her interest in achieving better living conditions for Mexican women. But her moment of glory came when covering the events of a bloody stop to a student revolt in 1968, days before the Olympics in Mexico, “The Night of Tlatelolco” became a mandatory reading for those interested in the subject that still today is a matter of controversy, almost 50 years after the fact. She is very active today.

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Luis Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Luis Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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