Skip to Main Content

Indigenous Studies (Latin America & Caribbean): Exhibit: Contemporary Indigenous Authors of Latin America

Exhibit Introduction

Contemporary Indigenous Authors of Latin America

The Iberian conquest of what is now called Latin America brought about the subjugation of the peoples that originally lived there.  This process wrought untold damage on their cultures, yet they were resilient, adapting and resisting in order to preserve their traditions and identity.  The introduction of the Latin alphabet transformed their languages so that the written word became another tool in their efforts to preserve their identity and defend themselves against the influences that have sought to erase and assimilate them, both during the Spanish domination and in the post-independence period.  Though much remains to be done, indigenous peoples have used the written word to achieve official cultural and territorial recognition and greater political autonomy. They have done so not only through legal and official venues, but also through “literature,” in the Western sense of the word: essays, chronicles, novels, short stories, plays, and poetry.  Common themes in literature by contemporary indigenous authors include the preservation of traditional tales and wisdom, celebration of their people’s past, and their struggles for land, rights, and recognition. Literature for these authors is a way for them to create a place for their peoples within—or apart from—the Western culture that surrounds them. It is an attempt to challenge official, “national” narratives that have presented their cultures as archaeological relics, and demonstrate that they are living, contemporary cultures with meaningful contributions to make to our globalized world.  The authors presented here come from a variety of countries and backgrounds and are not meant to be representative of the totality of indigenous experience since there is not one indigenous voice but many, each with its own story to tell.