Latino Literature At Issue

At Issue

(Representations of Race in American Literature)

The term “Latino” includes a diversity of ethnic, racial, national, and cultural groups, with historic, economic, and social differences. However, these groups all share the use of the Spanish language. One of the most productive literary periods for Latinos began as a result of the cultural and political awakening that took place in the 1960’s.

Two literary groups have been recognized: the native Hispanic and the migrated Hispanic. The definition for “migrated” and “native” are problematic, especially when dealing with Puerto Ricans, but both groups exhibit a polarized identity and a common sense of marginality. Through nostalgic remembrances and memories of their ancestors or their own countries, writers create an idealized homeland as a key source of reference. They write in Spanish, English, or in both, according to personal experiences and objectives. For example, Rosario Ferré, a leading Puerto Rican writer, wrote The House on the Lagoon (1995) in English; the migrated Puerto Rican Esmeralda Santiago translated her novel When I Was Puerto Rican (1993) into Spanish to reach more Latino readers.

Latino writers often indicate sociocultural hybridism and a need to preserve roots by including Spanish words and expressions in English text. Such switching from one language to another reflects the recognition of a double identity, Hispanic and Anglo, in New York-born Puerto Rican Nicholasa Mohr’s Nilda (1973), New York-born Cuban Oscar Hijuelos’s Our House in the Last World (1983), and Dominican Julia Alvarez’s How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991). In these works, the rendering of growing up Latino in the United States includes self-exploration through writing as an act of artistic survival.