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Resistencia: The Poets
Born in Bogotá, Aguasaco’s writing has focused on resistance to narcotrafficking as well as issues surrounding the peace process in his native Colombia. His writing has been included in numerous anthologies and has been featured in a variety of media outlets. He has coedited six anthologies and authored three poetry collections. Aguasaco is the founder and director of Artepoetica Press, a publishing house specializing in Hispanic American themes and authors. He is also the director of the Americas Poetry Festival of New York. Aguasaco is currently an associate professor of Latin American Cultural Studies and Spanish at the City College of New York.
JOSÉ MARÍA ARGUEDAS
Writer, researcher, and promoter of the Quechuan cultures of the Andes, Arguedas was also a university professor and civil servant. Among the positions he held were director of Peru’s Casa de la Cultura and National History Museum. He has been awarded many distinguished prizes for his fiction. His poems in Quechua embrace the spirit of the Andean tradition and the spirit of protest, and highlight the social and ecological realities of his surroundings. After struggling for many years with anxiety and depression, he committed suicide in 1969.
Unable to go to print traditionally due to the Brazilian dictatorship’s censorship, Behr’s first poetic work, Iogurte com Farinha (Yogurt with flour) (1977) was printed by mimeograph, passed hand to hand, and became a bestseller. Over thirty more volumes would follow in the subsequent decades. In the 1980s, he made a living writing advertisements, and in 1982, he contributed to the foundation MOVE, Movimento Ecológico de Brasilia, the first environmental nongovernmental organization in the capital. In 1986, he left the advertising business to dedicate himself to ecology, particularly to the production of native seedlings. He would continue publishing poetry in the ’90s and eventually published his book of poetry Poesília (2010), which compiles the author’s texts involving the city where he lives, Brasília—a city that appears reformulated as a utopian proposal under the conceptual name of “Braxília.”
Renowned writer, feminist, and militant Sandinista, Belli was sent into exile in Mexico and Costa Rica because of her opposition to the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. With the triumph of the revolution, she carried out important work in the new government until 1986. Her poetry, considered revolutionary in a political sense as well as feminist and erotic, won important awards such as the Casa de las Americas Prize in 1978 for her book Linea de Fuego (Line of Fire). Her semi-autobiographical novel, La mujer habitada (The Inhabited Woman), has been translated into fourteen languages and has sold over a million copies. It won the 1989 Librarians, Editors, and Booksellers Prize for best political novel of the year in Germany. Now an outspoken former member of the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional party, currently in power in Nicaragua, she has been accused of terrorist activities and writes under great political risk. In 2019, she was awarded the Oxfam Novib/PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression for her commitment to free speech despite the danger to her own life.
A prolific writer, journalist, and member of the Generation ’45, Mario Benedetti collaborated on the most influential literary, cultural, and political journals of his native Uruguay, including the weekly paper Marcha, of which he also became director. Marcha was shut down by the military dictatorship in 1974. His many political and literary activities include founding and directing the Center of Literary Research of the Casa de las Américas, co-founding the leftist-Marxist political party March 26 Movement, and directing the Department of Hispanoamerican Literature at the Universidad de la República in Montevideo. He abandoned this last post to flee the country after the 1973 coup d’état, and did not return for two decades, though he continued to write prolifically while living in exile in various other countries. He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Queen Sofía Prize for Iberoamerican Poetry (1999) and the Iberoamericano Prize José Martí (2001).
(DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1949–)
Poet, cultural promoter and literary critic, Berroa is currently the chair of George Mason University’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages, where he has taught since 1989, specializing in Latin American literature. He has traveled extensively as a speaker and a poet, participating in numerous international poetry festivals such as the Festival of Izmir, Turkey, in 2008, and the International Poetry Festival in Medellín, Colombia, in 2010. In 2014, New York City’s annual Dominican Book Fair was dedicated to Berroa, and he was honored at Santo Domingo’s 2018 International Book Fair. In honor of his lifetime achievements, Berroa has received the Mihai Eminescu Prize (Romania), the Trieste Poesia International Prize, and the Médaille de Vermeil (Paris, France). Since 2001, he has published an anthology of the poets invited to participate in his celebrated “Poetry Marathon,” held every year at the Library of Congress and Teatro de la Luna in Arlington, Virginia.
One of the most distinguished poets of the indigenous Mapuche people, Chihauilaf writes in both Spanish and his native language, Mapudungun. His poetic themes include the imagination, Mapuche culture, and criticism of the discrimination to which his people have been and continue to be subjected. He has translated texts by Víctor Jara and Pablo Neruda into Mapudungun, and some of his poems have been set to music by composers, including Eduardo Cáceres. His book Sueños y Contrasueños was awarded the Santiago Municipal Prize for Poetry. He has served as the secretary general of the Association of Indigenous Writers.
A Catholic priest who was a vanguard of Liberation Theology, Ernesto Cardenal was a famed Sandinista poet, revolutionary, and politician who participated in the 1954 revolution against the military dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. With the triumph by the Sandinistas in 1979, he filled the position of minister of culture until 1987. He eventually came to criticize the government of the Sandinista Daniel Ortega, and moved his support to the Sandinista Renewal Movement. Among his numerous awards was the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1980 and the Pablo Neruda Prize for Ibero-American Poetry in 2009. He received honorary doctorates from numerous universities in the United States and Spain, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize of Literature.
Castellanos was an influential intellectual, diplomat, writer, and feminist. Beginning with her first writings, she called attention to the discrimination and exploitation to which indigenous communities were subjected, injustices that she had witnessed growing up on her parents’ farm in Chiapas. Castellanos unites the indigenous cause with the feminist fight for women’s rights in numerous and emblematic works of theater, essay, poetry, and fiction. Castellanos was a university professor in Mexico and the United States, and served as Mexico’s ambassador to Israel, where she was also involved in academia. She received many awards and recognitions, including the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize (1958) and the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize (1962).
After earning a PhD in Latin American Sociolinguistics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1985, Castro lived in the US, teaching at various colleges and universities. She continually fought for women’s rights while working to promote the art and literature of female artists, denouncing sexism, gender inequality, and gender violence. The author of several books of poetry, her verse poetry reveals her passion for feminism and social justice, appealing to a historical re-writing and to a collective consciousness of solidarity. She has defended the rights of sweatshop workers and founded the Siguapate Project to support women’s dignity and creativity.
Writer, diplomat, and journalist, Cerruto became initiated in political activism at a young age, a passion that would culminate in the publication of his renowned social novel, Aluvión de Fuego (Flood of fire) (1935), a stark and straightforward portrait of the tumultuous years of social, political, and racial conﬂict surrounding the Chaco War. The novel effectively placed Cerruto within the movement later known as the Combative Generation. His poetry is infused with his steady preoccupation with social justice, while also standing out for its avant-garde aesthetic and linguistic starkness. Cerruto served as a member of the Bolivian Royal Academy of Language, director of the newspaper El Diario, and Bolivian Ambassador to Uruguay, among other posts in public administration.
Author and politician Aimé Césaire wrote the influential book Discours sur le colonialisme (Discourse on Colonialism). The volume denounces European colonial and racist oppression, while tackling the concept of Négritude that had recently been coined in the pages of the magazine L’étudiant noir, which he had founded in Paris along with other activists and poets, including León-Gontran Damas and Léopold Sédar Senghor. Upon returning to Martinique after his studies in France, he and his wife, the intellectual Suzanne Roussi, founded the magazine Tropiques, in which they resisted the stereotyped vision of African culture in their country. With the help of the French Communist Party, Césaire was elected as a representative of the National Assembly and mayor of Fort-de-France, a post that he maintained until 2001. In the 1950s, due to his desire to claim his country’s autonomy, he renounced the party and founded the Progressive Martinique Party.
JUAN GUSTAVO COBO BORDA
Diplomat, journalist, and literary critic, Borda has served as subdirector of Colombia’s National Library and as cultural secretary of the Republic, among other political and cultural posts. As an author, he is considered a part of the Disenchanted Generation. He has published many collections of poetry and essays and has written frequently on themes of art and literature. He has also published and edited highly inﬂuential anthologies of Colombian and South American poetry and has worked as director at the literary magazines Eco and Graceta. Borda has also served as cultural attaché to Argentina and Spain and as Colombian ambassador to Greece, and he is currently a member of the Colombian Academy of Language.
Coy is a Maya Kaqchikel writer, painter, actress, and teacher. She writes in Maya Kaqchikel, Spanish, and in Maya glyphs. Her work has drawn international attention and she has been invited to many festivals for both her art and poetry. Coy published six different poetry collections between 2015 and 2019: XXXK’ (2015), Soy un búho (2016), Lienzos de herencia (2017), A orillas del fuego (2017), Tz’ula’, Guardianes de los caminos (2019), and Kikotem—Historias, cuentos y poesía kaqchikel (2019). She is active within her community’s cooperatives, including Ajtz’ib Escritores de Comalapa, Movimiento de artistas mayas Ruk’u’x, and Arte de Comalapa.
BRICEIDA CUEVAS COB
A Mayan writer who composes and publishes her verses in her native language, Cuevas Cob is a founding member of the Association of Indigenous-Language Writers of Mexico. She has traveled extensively as a conference participant and as a poet, and has instructed important literature workshops in her native region of Calkiní. In 2010 she was selected by the National Fund for Culture and Arts to become a member of the prestigious National System of Art Creators association. Her books include the collection Ti’ u billil in nook’ (From My Clothes’ Hem), published in 2008.
(EL SALVADOR, 1935–1975)
In 1956, Dalton founded the influential University Literary Circle in San Salvador alongside the Guatemalan poet Otto René Castillo. In 1969, he was awarded the prestigious Casa de las Américas Prize for his book of poems Taberna y otros lugares (Taverns and Other Places). He was part of the literary group called the “Generación Comprometida,” (The Committed Generation). His political activism, poetry, and essays led to his repeated imprisonment, during which he escaped execution on two occasions. Dalton later joined the guerrilla force of the People’s Revolutionary Army and was eventually assassinated by his own comrades due to an accusation that he had collaborated with the CIA (the accusation was later dismissed as completely false).
(FRENCH GUIANA, 1912–1978)
In 1934, Léon-Gontran Damas founded the student paper L’etudiant noir along with Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor, which is considered the basis of what would be called the Négritude Movement. Damas was a soldier during the Second World War and later a representative of Guiana in the National Assembly of France, as well as a representative of UNESCO. He traveled to numerous countries as a professor and lecturer. His last post was serving as professor and director of the African Studies Program at Howard University in Washington, DC. His acclaimed book of poems, Pigments (1937), has been considered central to the Négritude Movement. When poems from Pigments (translated into Baoulé) were recited by African draft resisters in the Ivory Coast in 1939, the book was banned throughout French West Africa.
JULIA DE BURGOS
(PUERTO RICO, 1914–1953)
Poet, feminist, and activist, Julia de Burgos was a tremendous civil rights advocate for women and Afro-Caribbeans. She was an active member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, which fought for the independence of the country. Born of humble origins, de Burgos worked a variety of jobs, including as a teacher and later as a journalist for the progressive New York newspaper Pueblos Hispanos. When she died in New York, her identity was unknown until the body was claimed by friends and relatives and moved to her birthplace, Carolina, Puerto Rico. Her legacy has inspired many distinguished homages and recognitions, both in her country and in the US.
A writer of communist convictions, Depestre participated in the student uprisings of January 1943, a youthful act for which he was arrested and later exiled. In France, he contacted surrealist and Négritude groups in addition to actively participating in French decolonization movements. His participation in these movements led to his expulsion from the country. Invited by Che Guevara in 1959, Depestre lived in Cuba for an important part of his exile, where he undertook various cultural and governmental posts and founded the famous cultural and writing center, the Casa de las Américas. Disillusioned with Castro’s regime, he returned to France in 1978, where he worked as a secretary for UNESCO. His work has been published in countries around the world and his poetry has appeared in many French, Spanish, and German anthologies and collections. He has spent many years in France, and was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 1988 for his work Hadriana dans Tous mes Rêves. He lives in Lézignan-Corbières in southern France and is a special envoy of UNESCO for Haiti.
CARLOS DRUMMOND DE ANDRADE
Carlos Drummond de Andrade is considered one of the most influential Brazilian modernist poets. In addition to being a prolific poet, he is also a translator of literary works by de Balzac, Maeterlink, Molière, and Knut Hamson. Drummond de Andrade was also a journalist, and he filled a variety of government positions, including director of the Património Histórico e Artístico Nacional. His literary work is characterized by its decidedly humanistic nature and a strong commitment to solidarity. In 1983, he declined an important award because it was given by the Brazilian military dictatorship. His work has received many significant awards, and he was considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Lourdes Espínola is a diplomat, cultural promoter, writer and literary critic. She has published numerous volumes of poetry and has received a variety of prestigious awards, including the Hérib Campos Cervera National Poetry Prize (2012), and the Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2011), bestowed on her by the French government. Espínola has travelled internationally as a poet and scholar. She is a full professor at the Universidad Americana and at the Universidad del Norte, and the director of cultural relations and tourism of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Paraguay.
TERESA CABRERA ESPINOZA
Teresa is a poet, essayist, and cultural activist, and is a member of the workshop Taller de Artesanía Salvaje which focuses on bringing collective research, video art, and political activism into public spaces. She has worked as editor of the magazine Poder and has published two acclaimed books of poems, Sueño de pez o neblina and El Nudo.
Brazilian author and scholar of humble origins, her body of work addresses the conditions of marginalized sectors of Brazilian society, denouncing violence and racism, but also giving value and voice to those routinely discriminated against, most particularly black women. She has worked with the Quilombhoje Group since it was founded in the 1980s to motivate and promote Afro-Brazilian literature.
A prolific writer, Galván’s poetry has won many prestigious awards and honors, including the 1980 Mexican National Young Poet’s Prize for her collection Un pequeño moretón en la piel de nadie (A Little Bruise on the Skin of Nobody). She has been a fellow at the National Institute of Fine Arts as well as at the Mexican Writers’ Center. The feminist perspective in her poems also informs her first novel, Los indecibles pecados de Sor Juana (The Unspeakable Sins of Sor Juana), published in 2010.
FERNANDA GARCÍA LAO
Fernanda García Lao is a novelist, poet, and playwright. Born in 1966, both of her parents worked as left wing journalists, and in 1975 they were forced to flee to Spain, where they lived in exile for nearly twenty years. When she returned to Argentina in the early nineties, she trained as an actress, playwright, and director. In 1999 her first play El sol en la cara (The sun on my face) debuted. Over the next five years, she wrote four more plays, several of which she also acted in and/or directed. Her first novel, Muerta de hambre (Starving), won the Premio de Novela por el Fondo Nacional de las Artes. She was named “one of the best kept secrets of Latin American Literature” at the 2011 Guadalajara International Book Fair. Her novels, stories, and poems have received wide acclaim, won various awards and accolades. They have been published in Latin America, Spain, France, Italy, the United States, and Canada.
Militant communist and staunch defender of the rights of the marginalized, Guillén is considered one of the pioneers of Afro-Antillean poetry. In Motivos del Son and Sóngoro Cosongo, Poemas mulatos he introduces the son of Cuban music and Afro-Cuban folklore into a literary context, never ceasing to condemn the discrepancies of class and imperialism. He traveled to give speeches and lectures in various countries both before and during his exile from the military regime of Fulgencio Batista. He returned to Cuba during Fidel Castro’s revolution. He remained actively involved in the revolution’s government until his death, primarily serving as the president of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. Among the many prizes that he has been awarded are the Lenin Peace Prize and the National Prize for Literature.
(COSTA RICA, 1960–)
Renowned playwright, actress, and poet, Istarú’s theater work has earned important awards such as the María Teresa de León Prize for drama writers in 1995, and the National Prize for Best Leading Actress in her country in 1997. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship for her artistic work in 1990. Her book of poems La Estación de fiebre (The Season of Fever) received the EDUCA Latin American Prize in 1982. Her poetry is sensual and erotic and imbued with a fundamental social commitment to the realities of her country and of Latin America.
Víctor Jara was a legendary, influential singer-songwriter of humble, campesino peasant origin. He was also a talented, energetic theater director, focusing on staging Chilean plays. Jara became famous as a fervent defender of the people through the neofolkloric lyrics of his songs that unreservedly denounced the abuses of government, war, and authoritarianism, and brought attention to the plight of the workers and those living in poverty. He directed a tribute to Pablo Neruda after the poet won the Nobel Prize, and he vigorously participated in the electoral campaign that would bring Salvador Allende to victory. After Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état in 1973, Jara was arrested along with hundreds of students, employees, and professors of the Universidad Técnica del Estado and was detained with them in the country’s major stadium, Estadio Chile, where he was brutally tortured and eventually killed. It was during his imprisonment there that he wrote the poem “Estadio Chile,” which a friend hid in his shoe and, after he was released, delivered to Jara’s wife. The poem quickly spread around the world. Thirty years after his death, the Estadio Chile was renamed the Estadio Víctor Jara in homage to him and those who suffered as he did.
A prolific poet and painter based in Peru, Jodorowsky came from a family of Ukrainian Jews who sought refuge in Chile. Raquel was born in a copper mine in the country’s desert north. She is considered a member of the Generation of ’50. In 2008, the Writers Commission of the International Pen Club of Peru honored her for her valiant literary contribution to the country that sheltered her. Similar honors were given at the XIII International Book Fair of Lima. Her books of poetry include América en la tierra (America on Earth) (1989), Nazca nacer (1992) and Chan-Chan maga lunar (1992).
Born Rebeca Eunice Vargas in Guatemala City in the middle of a civil war, she was named after an aunt who had been kidnaped and disappeared by the military government in 1981. As a teenager she became involved with various social movements and with groups of women using art as a means of political expression. Informed by these experiences, she began her own career as a poet and rapper, and, as a self-defined rap feminist and anarchist, has taken her message to international audiences. Her rap lyrics are about her experience in a female body and the struggle of women against sexism. She also speaks out about social problems in Guatemalan society, such as the consequences of war and the lack of justice. In 2014 she won first place in the “Proyecto L” contest with her song “Cumbia de la Memoria,” in which she discusses the genocide perpetrated by the military government during the war. She is also a founder of Somos Guerreras (We Are Warriors), a project that strives to transform the hip-hop culture by empowering women.
MARGARITA LOSADA VARGAS
Losada Vargas is a poet, psychologist, university professor and singer in a punk rock band. She is the author of the poetry collections Mejor Arder (2013) and Impermanencia (2019), and co-author of La Persistencia de lo Inútil (2016). Her work is included in the French-Spanish bilingual anthology of Colombian poetry, Vientre de luz / Ventre de lumiere 14 poetas colombianas + Jattin (Ladrones del tiempo, 2017), as well as in an Italian anthology, Il corpo Il eros (Ladolfi editore, 2018). Losada Vargas also runs the dynamic website lugarpoem.com that shares distintictive poerty from around the world.
The name Glauco Mattoso, which is the pseudonym of the São Paulo writer and countercultural columnist Pedro José Ferreira da Silva, refers to the author’s blindness caused by his progressive glaucoma. Like Nicolas Behr, he was part of the generation of underground poetas marginais of the 1970s who came together against Brazil’s military dictatorship. “Romeu e eu” (Romeo and I) was first printed in a fanzine, and not published in a book until 1982. During this time, Mattoso participated in the founding of the first gay tabloid and gay group organized in the country. Because of his blindness, he abandoned the graphic side of his poetry in 1995. He dedicated himself primarily to becoming a sonnet writer, publishing more than fifty books in this genre. Mattoso returned to visual and experimental elements as the internet evolved. He also translated Latin American authors into Portuguese, including Jorge Luis Borges and Severo Sarduy.
Of humble origins, Gabriela Mistral, literary pseudonym for Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, achieved great success as a grammar school teacher, pedagogue, essayist, diplomat, and poet. In 1914, while she was working alongside the Mexican Minister of Education José Vasconcelos, her Sonetos de la muerte (Sonets of Death) won an important prize at the Floral Games poetry competition in Santiago, Chile, starting her career as an author. A tireless traveler, she served in a diverse range of diplomatic posts and spoke at conferences in numerous countries. In 1945, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first ever awarded to a Latin American. Through her poetry and other writing and speeches, she fought against injustices facing children, women, workers, war victims, and Jews. She promoted the identity and independence of Latin America and its indigenous people. Mistral died in New York. All the royalties from her publications were willed to the poor children of Montegrande, in Chile’s Valle del Elqui, where her remains were buried.
A distinguished translator and writer, Morejón’s essays and poems have won several important awards, such as the National Essay Prize in 1980 and the National Literature Prize in 2001. Morejón has traveled extensively and has received international acclaim for her work, receiving prestigious recognitions such as the French Republic’s National Order of Merit and the Golden Wreath at the annual international poetry festival held in Struga, Macedonia. A significant portion of her work emphasizes Afro- Cuban identity, as well as the role of women in the formation of her nation, seen through a lens of historic reconstruction through the Cuban Revolution, which she has supported.
Pablo Neruda was born Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, and grew up in Southern Chile. At 16, he took up his pen name and, when he moved to Santiago to study at the University of Chile, he was quickly proclaimed the voice of the radical student movement. At the age of nineteen, he published Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Desperate Song), which would eventually become one of the world’s most popular books of poetry. From 1927 to 1932, Neruda served, as a consul in East Asia, a period of isolation and depression that fostered the surrealistic verse of his landmark Residencia en la tierra (Residence on Earth). In 1934, he was named consul to Spain, and his experience of the Spanish Civil War changed his poetry, compelling him to write in the more direct style characteristic of resistance poetry. In 1945, he was elected senator as a member of the Chilean Communist Party. While in that role, he denounced his president’s oppression of workers and leftists. His arrest was ordered and he fled into exile to Europe. In 1950, he published one of his greatest works, Canto General, a Marxist and humanistic interpretation of the history of the Americas. Neruda was named the Chilean Communist Party’s candidate for the 1970 Presidential elections, but withdrew to support the socialist-Marxist Salvador Allende. In 1971, while serving as Allende’s ambassador to France, Neruda was awarded the Nobel Prize. In 1973, he died twelve days after Augusto Pinochet’s military coup, sick from prostate cancer. Two days later, hundreds defied the regime to mourn their poet, filling the streets of Santiago, as his funeral became the first public act of resistance against the dictatorship.
JOSÉ EMILIO PACHECO
Essayist, poet, translator, novelist, and literary critic, Pacheco was a noted intellectual and member of the Spanish literary movement known as the Generation of ’50. His work highlights the refinement of language and social commitment as well as autocriticism, ideas that led him to rewrite some of his own works. Considered one of the most important Mexican poets of the second half of the twentieth century, Pacheco’s varied and influential body of work, which includes eighteen volumes of poetry and many other novels and short stories, earned him several noteworthy prizes throughout his literary career, including the Mexican National Poetry Prize and the Miguel de Cervantes Prize.
The work of Ernest Pépin, a decorated essayist, narrator, and poet, highlights the Creole movement and culture of his country, both of which centered around values of African origin, orality, and a genuinely Creole Caribbean identity. Before establishing himself as a writer, Pépin was a French professor, a consultant for UNESCO, and the adjunct director of the General Council of Guadeloupe, among other relevant positions. In 2001, he was named director of cultural topics of the General Council of Guadeloupe. Among his many awards are the 1990 Premio Casa de las Américas for his book of poetry Boucans de mots libres (Remolino de palabras libres) (Whirlwind of Free Words), for which he also received the Prix Littéraire des Caraïbes in 1993.
Teacher, journalist, radio and television scriptwriter, Peralta founded and co-edited the magazine El Pez Original (1968- 70) and has worked as a theater, music and literary critic. Her poetry and stories have received various prizes and honorable mentions, such as the Jose Marti International Conference of Poetry Prize, awarded for her work Un Lugar en la Esfera Celeste (A Place in the Celestial Sphere) (1971). In the category of short story, she was twice awarded the National Institute of Culture Prize (1974 and 1980).
JUAN MANUEL ROCA
Roca is considered a part of the “Disenchanted Generation,” which arose after the Colombian neo-avant-garde “Nadaístas” movement (derived from the Spanish word “nada,” meaning “nothing.”) Roca’s proliﬁc career as a poet, writer, and journalist has won him many prestigious awards and distinctions, among them the Simón Bolívar Prize for Journalism, in 1993, the National Poetry Prize for his collection La hipótesis de nadie (The Hypothesis of No One), in 2004, and the Casa de las Américas Award for the collection Biblia de pobres (Bible of the Poor), in 2009. For over a decade, he oversaw the highly inﬂuential “Magazín Dominical” section of the newspaper El Espectador. Roca currently teaches writing workshops at the Silva House of Poetry in Bogotá.
ANA MARÍA RODAS
Distinguished poet, writer, and journalist, Rodas’ work has been honored with many prestigious awards. In 1990, she was awarded first prize in two categories—poetry and short story—in the Certamen de Juegos Florales of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In 2000, she received the Miguel Angel Asturias National Literary Prize. For her journalism, she received the Freedom of the Press Award in 1974. Her first book of poetry, Poemas de la izquierda erótica (Poems from the Erotic Left) (1973), stands out in particular as a work that both created controversy and garnered international critical recognition.
REINA MARÍA RODRÍGUEZ
Author of numerous editions of poetry and prose, including Luciérnagas (2017) and Poemas de Navidad (Bokeh, 2018), Rodríguez won the 1984 Casa de las Américas prize for poetry with Para un cordero blanco, followed by the 1998 prize for La foto del invernadero. Among her many other awards are the Chevalier medallion of the French Order of Arts and Letters (1999), the 2002 Alejo Carpentier Medal for achievement in Cuban literature, Cuba’s 2013 National Prize for Literature, and the 2014 Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Prize for Poetry. Her latest editions in English translation are Other Letters to Milena (U. of Alabama Press, 2016) and The Winter Garden Photograph (2019, Ugly Duckling Press).
JOSÉ LEONEL RUGAMA
From humble origins, in great measure self-taught, Rugama joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1967. Three years later he died in combat against Somoza’s National Guard. His poems had a notable impact both inside and outside of his country, first being published by the university magazine Taller. His resistance up until his death at just twenty-one years old, embodied the heroic image of a young guerrilla; he stood out as one of the most influential figures of his generation.
NICOMEDES SANTA CRUZ
A distinguished representative and promoter of Afro-Peruvian culture, Nicomedes Santa Cruz travelled to numerous countries primarily as a “decimero,” a twentieth-century equivalent of a bard or minstrel who recites ten-line poems, or “décimas.” As he traveled, Santa Cruz also disseminated Afro-Peruvian and Afro-Latin American folklore through journalism, theater, television, music, and radio. He directed the first Festival of Black Art in Cañete, on the central Peruvian Coast, collaborated on the conference Négritude and Latin America in Dakar, Senegal, and taught a seminar on African culture in the Dominican Republic. He died in Madrid, where he worked for Spain’s public Radio Exterior (Foreign Radio). Due to his work’s vindication of Afro-Peruvian historic and cultural value, June 4th, Santa Cruz’s birthday, is now celebrated in Peru as the National Day of Afro-Peruvian Culture.
Journalist, professor, essayist, popular music composer, Shimose’s volume of poetry Quiero escribir, pero me sale espuma (I Want to Write, But Foam Comes Out) won the Casa de las Américas Prize in 1972. Shimose has directed the cultural magazine Reunión, and won the Bolivian National Cultural Prize in 1999. He belongs to the Bolivian Academy of Language. Shimose currently lives in Madrid, Spain, where he is part of the Spanish Association of Arts Critics. He also works as a Publications Advisor for the Iberoamerican-Cooperation Institute, directing their poetry collection.
MIGUEL OTERO SILVA
A Marxist writer and journalist, Silva was among the group of university students known as the “Generation of ‘28” that staged acts of resistance to the military regime, events he illustrates in his novel Fiebre (Fever) (1939). Silva’s activities and publications led to constant tensions with the series of authoritarian regimes that ruled Venezuela, and he was twice exiled. Following the 1958 fall of the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez, under whose administration he had been incarcerated, Silva was elected to the Senate and later went on to found the National Institute of Fine Arts and Culture. Years earlier, he started the influential periodical El Nacional. His work is greatly informed by his social, political, and humanitarian commitment, but his humor also stands out, as well as his use of Costumbrismo, a Romantic realist literary style focused on documenting the actual nuances of the current culture and happenings.
The national poet of Honduras, Roberto Sosa was born in Yoro, where it rains fish once a year. Because of the social and political criticism expressed in his poetry, he came to be considered a “highly dangerous” person by the government, yet he still managed to win important awards, such as the Premio Adonáis de España in 1968 and the Premio Casa de las Américas in 1971. He was in the US many times, first as a master’s student at the University of Cincinnati, and then later as a lecturer, writer, and professor of literature. A collaborator and director of influential Honduran and Central American newspapers and magazines, he was decorated as a Knight in the Order of French Art and Letters in 1990.
A leading feminist activist, Storni’s hauntingly beautiful, often erotic poetry had an international impact. She was born in Switzerland, where her parents were originally from. When she was four, they moved to Argentina. She worked first as an actress in a traveling theater company and then as a teacher. Later, she held various jobs in Buenos Aires and her poetry eventually created considerable impact, both nationally and internationally. Despite the obstacles she experienced as a woman, a feminist writer, and a single mother in that time, she succeeded in becoming part of the literary circles made up of the most renowned poets of the period. However, at the height of her career, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her body crushed with pain, depressed and exhausted, Storni walked down a Mar del Plata pier and drowned herself.
Poet, narrator, playwright, journalist, and political activist, César Vallejo’s 1922 book, Trilce, is considered an essential breakthrough work for the Latin American Vanguardia movement. Vallejo lived in Paris, where he collaborated with many European and Latin American intellectuals of the era, including Tristan Tzara, Juan Larrea, and Pablo Neruda. In Spain, he witnessed the rise of the Second Republic and struck up a friendship with writers like Federico García Lorca and Rafael Alberti. He participated in the historical Second International Congress of Antifascist Writers in Valencia in 1937. The horrors of the Spanish Civil War led to the creation of two of his last but most notable works, the book of poetry España, aparte de mí este cáliz / Spain, Take This Chalice From Me and the play La piedra cansada / The Tired Stone, both of which were published posthumously. Vallejo died in Paris and is buried in the Cemetery of Montparnasse.
RAQUEL VERDESOTO DE ROMO DÁVILA
A pioneering woman academic of her country, Verdesoto was named honorary professor of the Universidad Central de Ecuador. She was a cofounder of the socialist associations Feminine Alliance and Women of Ecuador. She traveled throughout Latin America as a representative of her country and a visiting lecturer, and was a delegate of the National Union of Ecuadorian Educators in Montevideo in 1950. As a researcher and a teacher, Verdesoto published scholarly texts, essays, and anthologies of Ecuadorian poetry. Her poetry and essays have received numerous awards and recognitions, such as the Juan León Mera Distinction for her contribution to Ecuadorian literature.
A member of the iconic “Generation of ‘45,” Vilariño served as Chair of the Uruguayan Literature Department at the University of the Republic, in Montevideo, once democracy was restored after the fall of the dictatorship. Vilariño contributed to some of the country’s most inﬂuential literary magazines, among them Marcha and La Opinión, and also co-founded other journals, such as Número, which she also directed. She is a well-respected and award-winning poet, translator (her translations of Shakespeare have been produced in Montevideo), literary critic, cultural researcher, and songwriter of emblematic songs, among them, “A una paloma” / “To a Dove” and “La canción y el poema” / “The Song and the Poem.”
BRIGITTE ZACARÍAS WATSON
Brigitte Zacarías Watson is a writer born in Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas), a village on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, where ethnicities and languages of a variety of origins—indigenous (Rama, Sumo-Mayangna, Miskito), African (Creole, Garifuna), and mestizo—all coexist. Due to her schooling in Spanish, Zacarías Watson writes her poetry first in Spanish and then in her native language, Miskito, spoken by at least 150,000 people, primarily along Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. Zacarías has served as a social worker for the government of the Nicaraguan North Atlantic Autonomous Region, and has worked for the Nicaraguan Institute of Women.
An influential author and political activist, Zamora joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua in 1973, clandestinely acting as programming director and announcer on Radio Sandino. With the triumph of the Sandinista revolution, she took on the responsibilities of vice minister of culture until 1982. Zamora has also been an editor, translator, lecturer, and cultural promoter, particularly of poetry written by women. Her poetic style is marked by its political, humanitarian, and feminist commitments, and she has received important recognition for her work, including a fellowship from the California Arts Council in 2002 and the Mariano Fiallos Gil National Prize for Poetry from the University of Nicaragua in 1977. She currently teaches in San Francisco State University’s Department of Latina/Latino Studies.
(EL SALVADOR, 1990–)
Javier Zamora’s father fled El Salvador when Javier was a year old, as did his mother when he was about to turn five. Both parents’ migrations were caused by the US-funded Salvadoran Civil War (1980–1992). In 1999, Zamora migrated through Guatemala, Mexico, and eventually the Sonoran Desert. After a coyote abandoned his group in Oaxaca, Zamora managed to make it to Arizona with the aid of other migrants. His first full-length collection, Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), explores how immigration and the civil war have impacted his family. Zamora graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, was a 2018–2019 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University and holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University (Olive B. O’Connor), MacDowell, Macondo, the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation (Ruth Lilly), Stanford University (Stegner), and Yaddo. Zamora was also the recipient of a 2017 Lannan Literary Fellowship, the 2017 Narrative Prize, and the 2016 Barnes & Noble Writer for Writers Award for his work in the Undocupoets Campaign. Zamora lives in Harlem, New York, and is working on a memoir and his second collection of poems, which addresses the current immigration crisis.
The Poetry Foundation has described Raúl Zurita as “one of Latin America’s most celebrated and controversial poets.” Poet, performer, professor, and activist, Raúl Zurita conceives of poetry as a total art that intervenes and integrates into a variety of spaces beyond the page, such as lines of verse written from the white smoke of five small planes in the sky above New York City, or the words “Neither pain nor fear” written throughout the Chilean desert. Zurita’s poetry expresses and denounces the violence and atrocities committed against the Chilean people by the Pinochet dictatorship. He himself was arrested on the morning of the military coup, September 11, 1973, then detained and tortured on an overcrowded cargo boat, an infamous “prison ship,” for six weeks. Later, Zurita also co-founded the artists’ action group Colectivo de Acción de Arte, CADA, in protest of the Pinochet regime. In condemnation of the Pinochet regime, Zurita attempted to burn his eyes with ammonium acid, not wanting to further witness the suffering surrounding him (though the attempt to blind himself failed). Among his many recognitions, Zurita won a 1984 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2000 National Poetry Prize of Chile, and the 2006 Casa de la Américas Prize (for his book INRI).