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Latin American poetry is the poetry of Latin America, mostly but not entirely written in Spanish or Portuguese. The unification of Indigenous and Spanish cultures produced a unique and extraordinary body of literature in Spanish America. Later with the introduction of African slaves to the new world, African traditions greatly influenced Spanish American poetry.[1]

Pre-Columbian poetry Edit

We have multiple examples of Aztec poetry written in Nahuatl. Most of these were collected during the early period of the colonization of Mexico by Spanish clergy who involved themselves in an effort to collect first hand knowledge of all things related to the indigenous civilizations of the newly conquered territory. One of these Spanish Clergy, fray Bernardino de Sahagun, enlisted the help of young Aztecs to interview and record stories, histories, poems and other information from older Aztecs who still remembered the pre-conquered times. Much of the information that was collected by these colonial anthropologist has been lost, but researchers find originals or copies of the original research in libraries around the world. Miguel Leon Portilla has published multiple books on Aztec poetry and "Ancient Nahuatl Poetry" by Daniel Garrison can be found online at

The Colonial Era Edit

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During the period of Conquest and Colonization many Hispanic Americans were educated in Spain. The poets of this historical period followed the European trends in literature but their subjects were always distinctly American.

The struggle for independence of the Spanish Colonies saw a literature of defiance of authority and a sense of social injustice that is ever present in Spanish American poetics. José Martí is an example of a poet-martyr who literally died fighting for the freedom of Cuba. His most famous poem, Yo soy un hombre sincero has entered into popular culture as it has been reproduced hundreds of times into the song Guantanamera, most recently by Celia Cruz and even the Fugees.

The 19th Century Edit

Unsurprisingly, most of the early poetry written in the colonies and fledgling republic used contemporary Spanish models of poetic form, diction, and theme. However, in the 19th century, a distinctive Spanish-American tradition began to emerge with the creation of Modernismo (not to be confused with Modernism).

Modernismo: a literary movement that arose in Spanish America in the late 19th century and was subsequently transmitted to Spain. Introduced by Rubén Darío with the publication of "Azul" (1888), this new style of poetry was strongly influenced by the French symbolist and Parnassians. In rebellion against romanticism, the modernists attempted to renew poetic language and to create a poetry characterized by formal perfection, musicality, and strongly evocative imagery. The wider use of the term applies to the various experimental and avant-garde trends of the early twentieth century.

The 20th Century Edit

Toward the end of the millennium, consideration of Spanish American poetry has taken a multi-cultural approach, as scholars begin to emphasise poetry by women, Afro/a Hispanics, contemporary indigenous communities and other subcultural groupings. Poetry, and creative writing in general, also tended to become more professionalized with the growth of Creative Writing programs. After Modernismo and World War I, there were many new currents which influenced Spanish American poets — Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Ultraism — Argentinian poet Borges brings it to this continent. Creacionismo — Huidobro. All this (1910 and 1940). Many more movements and groups continue to write the history of Spanish American literature until the present.For instance the "Neo Baroco" movement with Nestor Perlongher, Emeterio Cerro...

The images found in pre-Columbian culture appear again in poets like from across Latin America.

Nicolás Guillén from Cuba and Luis Palés-Matos from Puerto Rico incorporate the African roots in the rhythm of their poetry, making their song unique. Afro-Caribbean trends reappear in the poetry of Nuyorican poets such as Pedro Pietri, Miguel Algarin and Giannina Braschi who continue the tradition of poetry as performance art with anti-imperialist political punch.

Contemporary Poetry Edit

Notable Latin American Poets Edit

Colonial Period
19th Century
20th Century

See alsoEdit


  1. Brotherston, Gordon (1975). Latin American poetry: origins and presence. CUP Archive. ISBN 0521099447. 
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