In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section 19th Century and Modernismo Poetry in Spanish America

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Latin American Studies 19th Century and Modernismo Poetry in Spanish America
José Ramón Ruisánchez Serra
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 November 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0228


The timeline of the long 19th century in Spanish America can be defined by different chronological benchmarks. While some historians mark its beginning with the expulsion of the Jesuits (1767) and the creation of the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata (1776), others set its beginnings with the wars of independence (1791–1822). Historians also disagree on its ending. Some choose the end of the Mexican Revolution (1917), while others push further to the foundation of the Partido Nacional Revolucionario in Mexico, in 1929. For this entry, it is preferable to signal the beginning and end of 19th century in Latin America with milestones more closely related to poetry: 1805–1916. The former marks the publication of the first issue of El Diario de México, where the creations of the local Arcadia appeared while the latter marks the death of Rubén Darío and the first edition of Ramón López Velarde’s La sangre devota. Even within these strict chronological limits, offering a panoramic view of the poetry written throughout the continent is difficult. Before the advanced printing technologies that allowed the first truly massive newspapers to circulate in Buenos Aires and Mexico City that would spawn the advent of literary Modernismo, it is nearly impossible to speak of poets of true Pan American stature. Andrés Bello (b. 1781–d. 1865) and José María Heredia (b. 1842–d. 1905) are the exception. These two poets exerted considerable influence as is evident in the importance that was granted to them in the first published anthology of Latin American Poetry, América poética 1846–1847, and even much later by Spanish philologist Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo (b. 1856–d. 1912) in his four-volume anthology, Antología de poetas hispano-americanos publicada por la Real Academia Española 1893–1895. Generally, authors had considerable national and at times regional influence but rarely achieved continental recognition. Consequently, this disjointed geography leads to a very large number of critical studies dedicated to local spheres with very few satisfactorily going beyond the realm of the national. This absence reflects a period when the most pressing need was to create national differences.

Multinational Works on Pre-Modernista Poetry

Very few books attempted to successfully provide a panorama of 19th-century Spanish-American poetry. This is due to the fact that only with Modernismo a true Spanish-American circulation is established. Before that, the desire for a continental circulation of the works written in Spanish was first channeled in an ambitious anthology (Gutiérrez 1846) and half a century later in an even more expansive one (Menéndez y Pelayo 1893–1895). Once a corpus was established thanks to Gutierrez’s anthology, literary histories also began to appear. Although these often privilege prose works, a recent balanced account is Oviedo 2007 (cited under Histories, Monographs, and Essay Collections). Finally, even today when better libraries and powerful online resources allow for the examination of multinational corpora, monographic works delving on the relevant period are not abundant, although there are important exceptions (see Bush 2002, cited under Histories, Monographs, and Essay Collections).

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