Skip to main content

#57 The Rise of the New Latin American Narrative, 1950-1975: A Rapporteur's Report

By Elizabeth Garrels

From the Introduction

From October 18 to 20, 1979, an international and multilingual group of writers, literary critics, and social scientists met at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. to discuss "The Rise of the New Latin American Narrative, 1950- 1975." In spite of the temporal limits set forth in the workshop's title, the discussion gravitated toward the theoretical and artistic production of the 1960s and 1970s, a period bounded at one end by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and at the other by the convening of the workshop itself.

Participants agreed that the 1960s were a time of rapid modernization and revolutionary expectation. The decade witnessed the confrontation of developmentalism by dependency theory and of national bourgeoisies by armed guerrillas. It saw profound demographic changes, convulsive urbanization, the spread of the mass media, and an unprecedented growth in higher education. Several times throughout the workshop, the 1960s were compared to the 1920s. The reasons for this comparison were not made explicit, but one can conjecture that they included the drawing of analogies--whether legitimate or forced--regarding the optimism of sectors of the middle class in some, but not necessarily all, Latin American countries, and the notable renovation, activity, and optimism of the Left. Probably also determinant in such a comparison was the fact that both decades generated exceptional energy in avant-garde art and a good deal of significant theorizing about national and continental identity.

The 1970s, like the 1930s, brought an end to optimism. Although intellectual speculation and artistic creation remained intense, the tone of this production as well as the circumstances of its elaboration were altered.


Related Program

Latin America Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin America Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more