Unit 7 Overview: El Boom Latinoamericano

5 min readmarch 13, 2023

Sylvia Rodriguez

Sylvia Rodriguez

AP Spanish Literature 💃🏽

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Looks like you're studying unit seven of AP Spanish Lit! This unit explores the literary movement "El Boom Latinoamericano," which refers to the emergence of Latin American literature in the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, Latin American authors gained international recognition and acclaim for their innovative writing styles and exploration of complex themes such as identity, politics, and social justice.

📜 Unit 7 Historical Context

The 1960s and 70s were a time of political turmoil in Latin America, especially set against the background of the Cold War. The Cuban Revolution and the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world dangerously close to nuclear war, and many military regimes came to power in Argentina, Chile, and many other countries. A rise in state-sponsored terrorism and guerilla violence also accompanied these regime changes as different groups took power into their hands.
Societal structures in Latin American countries also saw upheaval during this time period, as countries went back and forth between socialist and capitalist economies, and counterculture movements grew among the youth to push back against established elites. This era is a product of that same counterculture movement, where writers pushed back against the grim reality around them through their art in order to spread a message and imagine a world where their problems didn’t exist.

🔗Themes in the AP Spanish Literature Unit 7 Texts

The Boom Latinoamericano emerged during a time of political and social upheaval in Latin America. As a result, the works produced during this period reflect these issues as writers used their art to grapple with the complexities of their changing world, and offer critiques of the status quo.
  • 🧠 “El dualidad del ser”: The exploration of identity in works like "El Sur" and "La noche boca arriba" can be seen as a reflection of the search for personal and national identity in the wake of political upheaval.
  • 🪄 Realismo magico: Many authors blurred the line between dream and reality through their works--this is often visible when the narrator is unknown to the audience. This genre of writing was born during this era because writers could envision the ideal society they wanted to live in through their fantasy worlds, which was a way they learned to cope with the political instability around them.
  • 🏙️ Critique of societal norms: There was also lots of upheaval to social structures, as countries went back and forth between different power structures and ways of life as different groups came to power. The civil wars and communist uprisings in many countries caused havoc in peoples’ lives, and this was reflected in the literary works of this period as many authors started illustrating the lives of the poor in their pieces.
Image Courtesy of Magalico

📖 Unit 7 Literary Works

The authors of the Boom Latinoamericano challenged traditional literary forms and experimented with new styles and techniques, paving the way for future generations of writers.

☯️ 7.1 “Borges y yo” – Jorge Luis Borges

In this piece, Borges explores the theme of “el dualidad del ser” by separating his two personas—Borges the man and Borges the writer. He talks about the differences between what the public knows of him and how he really is: the “man who lives” versus the “man who writes”. By the end, Borges confesses that he doesn’t know which personality wrote this piece.

🌀 7.2 “El Sur” – Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges explores the theme of personal identity through the character Juan Dahlmann, who grapples with his sense of self in the face of a near-death experience. Throughout the story, it is not known if the protagonist died or not, as the audience does not fully understand where Dahlmann really is.

❤️‍🩹 7.3 “No oyes ladrar los perros” – Juan Rulfo

This narrativo explores themes of relaciones familias and amor by following a conversation between Ignacio and his father. Ignacio fell into bad ways such as stealing and killing, and left his family—for which his father doesn't consider him a son anymore. However, the father still tries to help Ignacio and take him to see a doctor when he finds Ignacio bleeding and wounded, which is when the conversation takes place.

🗿 7.4 “Chac Mool” – Carlos Fuentes

This is a narrativa epistolar, as the friend of the main character Filiberto is reading through his journal to piece together how Filiberto died. The journal tells the story of how Filiberto buys a Chac Mool statue that he later discovers contains the soul of the God of Rain. Over the course of the story, Chac Mool starts taking on more human traits, and torturing Filiberto in various ways.

👁️‍🗨️ 7.5 “La noche boca arriba” – Julio Cortázar

This story begins when a man’s motorcycle accident sends him to the hospital, and he leads us through his dream world as he is drugged for an operation. In his fantasy world, he is a member of a tribe being pursued by the Aztecs, and he wakes up right as they are about to sacrifice him at the altar. The storylines develop in parallel, and the line between dream and reality is blurred with the use of magical realism.

🚂 7.6 “La siesta del martes” – Gabriel García Márquez

The oppressive nature of social hierarchy and class differences is critiqued by the author, as  they tell the story of a woman and her daughter going to visit her dead son’s grave, who was killed in the town the week before for his crimes—as a result, the townspeople are visibly critical of the mother and her daughter as they walk through the town of the cemetery. Through this story, the author also illustrates the life of those in poverty.

🌊 7.7 “El ahogado más hermoso del mundo” – Gabriel García Márquez

This story tells the tale of quite literally, the most handsome drowned man in the world. A body washes up on the shore of a village, and the villages take him in and name him Esteban. Esteban has an effect on the villagers, as they slowly start becoming more accepting of outsiders. The story ends with the villagers sending Esteban off in a boat back into the sea, but they hope he comes back one day. Lots of realismo magico is present in this story, and is most visible in how the villagers start to treat the corpse like a living person.

🔮 7.8 “Dos palabras” – Isabel Allende

Belisa Crepuscalario is trying to create a life for herself as a writer, after coming from poverty—she makes a living now by selling words to people. One day, she is kidnapped and taken to a Colonel who she writes a speech for, so that he can gain supporters and become President. As she leaves, she whispers two extra words in his ear that make him fall in love.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🏇Unit 1 – La época medieval
🛳Unit 2 – El siglo XVI
🖌Unit 3 – El siglo XVII
🎨Unit 4 – La literatura romántica, realista y naturalista
🤺Unit 5 – La Generación del 98 y el Modernismo
🎭Unit 6 – Teatro y poesía del siglo XX
🌎Unit 7 – El Boom latinoamericano
🗣Unit 8 – Escritores contemporáneos de Estados Unidos, y España

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