Latino Studies Latino Literature in Canada
Luis Loya García
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0128


Contact between Canada and the Hispanic world dates back to the era of colonization with the Spanish exploration in 1774, when Juan José Perez Hernández reached Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, off the coast of what now is British Columbia. Important figures such as Bruno de Heceta, Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, and others occupy a significant space in Canadian history. These explorers produced important documents such as chronicles of travel and early mappings of the coast, including the Valdés and Galiano charts of the Pacific coast in 1792. These documents and letters are worthy of attention, for they record the Spanish exploration in the very North of the Americas on the Pacific Ocean. Canadian literature, as a bilingual and bicultural field of study, started in the 1960s with the divergence from New Criticism, particular of Anglo-Saxon literatures (UK and US), into more inclusive approaches. The Sherbrooke school contributed with new epistemological questions about writing as well as cross-cultural issues involving English- and French-speaking communities. Translation started to bridge Anglophones and Francophones, and scholars began to consider First Nations as important cultural elements in the formation of a national identity. Comparative approaches to the study of the literature produced by Anglophone and Francophone authors were pioneer practices that gave impulse to a multicultural and plurilingual focus. Latino Canadian writing traces its beginnings to this important point of literary history. The literature of Hispanics in Canada is often labeled “ethnic literature,” along with the literature of other minority groups living in this country. Sometimes scholars refer to it as “Hispanic Canadian literature” or “Latino Canadian literature.” While “Hispanic” and “Latino” have been controversial terms in US Latino studies, I will use the term Latino Canadian literature to refer to the literature of the people that trace their heritage to Latin America and/or Spain. This literature is often in Spanish, English, and/or French. Translation plays a significant role, as it bridges Latinos with the two official languages of Canada. The second generation of Latinos tends to write in English and/or French. Quebec has been a major literary center that has provided a site of entry for the literature of minority groups. The “migrant” and “transmigrant” phenomenon in Quebec as explored by Gilles Depuis consolidated Latino Canadian literature as a significant branch of l’ecriture migrante, evidenced by the publication of La Quebecoite by Régine Robin in 1983. This marks a historical point of reference in Canadian letters (1980s and 1990s), opening the door to Hispanic writers who describe their relocated realities in the new land, Quebec and Canada. The loss of identity, exile, dislocation, and the need to survive are common themes in this highly politicized Latino Canadian literature. From the late 1990s to the present, l’ecriture transmigrante in Latino Canadian letters marks another point of reference with the publication of Mauricio Segura’s Cote-des-Nègres (Segura 1998, cited under Novels), where characters appear to be owners of their environment, members of this society, reclaiming their space. Self-exiles, exiles for economic reasons, intellectual exiles, and others present frames of reference that shape and reshape Latino Canadian literature in various ways.

General Overviews

Pivato 2011 explains the importance of the Sherbrooke school in the context of Canadian literature in a comparative approach that includes French, English, and translation. Hazelton 2007 provides an introduction to contextualize Latino letters in Canada, marking historical points and recognizing major texts. Torres-Recinos 2008 complements this chronological approach by giving a short historical overview of Hispanic letters. Pivato, et al. 1990 gives recognition to the literatures of lesser diffusion in Canada. Palmer and Rasporich 1988 underlines the importance of the Santiago school in combination with other ethnic literatures in Canada. Guzzo-McParland 2013 reflects on the place of immigrant literature in the Canadian canon. Kamboureli 1996 presents aspects of multicultural Canadian literature and certain authors. Boyd 2009 describes the first class targeted to creative writing in Spanish (for Hispanophones), offered at University of Toronto.

  • Boyd, Martin. “A New Course for Hispanic Canadian Writers.” Diálogos Intercultural Services, 6 October 2009.

    The article describes the first class targeted to creative writing in Spanish in Canada, which was offered at the University of Toronto-Continuing Studies Program during the fall semester 2009. The Mexican-Canadian author Martha Bátiz was the teacher.

  • Guzzo-McParland, Connie. “Immigrant Literature and the Canadian Canon.” National Post, 28 November 2013.

    Guzzo-McParland gives perspective about what it is to belong to the genre of immigrant literature from the Italian community.

  • Hazelton, Hugh. “Introduction: Latin American Writing in Canada: Formation of a Literature.” In Latinocanadá: A Critical Study of Ten Latin American Writers of Canada. By Hugh Hazelton, 3–27. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007.

    Traces the arrival of Hispanic peoples in Canada, their adaptation, their themes and artistic development through the years, and the author’s contextualization of what he calls “Latinocanadá.” Of interest to researchers who want to understand the historical progression of Hispanic communities in Canada.

  • Kamboureli, Smaro. Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literature. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1996.

    The book collects representative texts of multicultural Canada, and puts a small number of Latino Canadian writers, such as Renato Trujillo, in conversation with other well-known writers. Kamboureli emphasizes Anglophone writing and forgets Francophone writing in Quebec. Important to read to understand the tension between Francophone literary recognition in Anglo-Canadian letters.

  • Palmer, Tamara J., and Beverly J. Rasporich. “Ethnic Literature.” In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. Edited by James H. Marsh, 725–728. Edmonton, AB: Hurtig, 1988.

    The article explains the concept of ethnic literature and contextualizes this genre within Canadian letters. The reader will find it useful to relate the beginning of Latino Canadian letters and the importance of members of the Santiago school and their work in relation to other ethnic groups.

  • Pivato, Joseph. “CL History: The Sherbrooke School of Comparative Canadian Literature.” In Special Issue: New Directions in Comparative Literature. Inquire: Comparative Literature 1.1 (January 2011).

    This text explains the importance of the Sherbrooke school of comparative Canadian literature in the formation of an inclusive Canadian literature that reflected Canada’s populations, Anglophones and Francophones. The school is of major importance in a multicultural and multilingual approach to literary studies.

  • Pivato, Joseph, Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek, and Milan V. Dimić. Literatures of Lesser Diffusion/Les Littératures de Moindre Diffusion. Proceedings of a Conference Organized by the Research Institute for Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta, 14–16 April 1988. Edmonton, AB: Canadian Comparative Literature Association, 1990.

    Pioneer text that deals with systems, subsystems, and polysystems in order to understand the situation of minority literatures in Canada. Recognizes Canada as a pluricultural society with diverse literatures.

  • Torres-Recinos, Julio. “Antecedentes y presente de la literatura hispano canadiense: Una mirada histórica.” In Retrato de una nube: Primera antología del cuento hispano canadiense. Edited by Luis Molina Lora and Julio Torres-Recinos. Ottawa, ON: Lugar Común, 2008.

    Gives a panoramic view of the evolution of Hispanic literature in Canada. Provides relevant information regarding main authors as well as past and current conditions. Recognizes Hugh Hazelton, Jorge Etcheverry, and Luis Torres as important critics.

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