The indigenous peoples of Abya Yala (Latin America)—which in the Kuna language means “Land in Its Full Maturity”—are the descendants of the first inhabitants and ancestral owners of the lands that were later conquered by European conquistadors. Indigenous peoples, indeed, have resisted centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism, which attempted to strip them of their territories, native languages, and cultural identities. Since the time of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish word indio has been used to imply the racial, cultural, linguistic, and intellectual inferiority of indigenous peoples, yet they have never accepted colonization and exploitation passively. There is a long history of indigenous rebellions and symbolic reappropriations of the “New World.” Today, there are more than eight hundred indigenous ethnic groups in Latin America, and two hundred more are estimated to be living in voluntary isolation, according to the United Nations. The cultural and linguistic heritage of indigenous peoples contributes to the world’s diversity. Indigenous literatures, in particular, are a paradigmatic example of this rich cultural heritage. Based on collective oral traditions (myths, rituals, legends, stories, songs, etc.), these literatures encompass a vast heterogeneous textual production (pre-Hispanic codices, colonial documents, letters, chronicles, autobiographies, testimonies, poems, short stories, novels, etc.) that has been written by indigenous peoples themselves, often using their own languages and reflecting their own worldviews. In this sense, indigenismo, understood as an urban-white-criollo cultural tradition of representing and speaking about and for indigenous peoples, has a radically different point of view (see the Oxford Bibliographies in Latino Studies article “Latino Indigenismo in a Comparative Perspective”). During the last few decades, the production of indigenous literatures has flourished, putting an end to traditional indigenismo and modifying views on national histories of literatures and conventional literary concepts. New multilingual editions and anthologies of indigenous poetry, fictional narratives, and other genres are currently being published, sometimes as the result of literary festivals and workshops, scholarships, and projects with the participation of indigenous peoples. This new literature is also part of the contemporary social struggle of indigenous communities to affirm their right to live with dignity and preserve their own cultures and languages. Quechua, Kichwa, Aymara, Nahuatl, Maya, and Mapudungun literatures, among many others, allow us to hope that a full social, political, and cultural recognition of indigenous peoples is not so far away. In this bibliographical review, key pre-Hispanic, colonial, modern, and contemporary indigenous authors and works are considered chronologically, giving special priority to indigenous primary sources, and to English translations when they are available.
Latin American indigenous literatures strongly feed from the cultural, social, and historical legacies of, among others, the Aztec, Maya, and Inca civilizations (see the Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History article “Pre-Contact America”). Wauchope 1970, McEwan 2006, and Sharer 1996 provide general interdisciplinary introductions for understanding these major indigenous civilizations and their cultural complexities, covering different aspects of their everyday lives, politics, economies, religions, and societies in general. The thesis that these civilizations, separated in time and space, can be understood as a whole is developed in Fernández-Armesto 2003 and Wearne 1996. Other works, such as Hughes 2003, Dusell 1995, Todorov 1999, and Kicza 1999, focus specifically on how these ethnic populations have been eclipsed, stereotyped, and colonized as inferior “others.” Hughes and Kicza have insisted on their resistance and resilience to these conflictive relations.
Dusell, Enrique. The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of “the Other” and the Myth of Modernity. Translated by Michel D. Barber. New York: Continuum International, 1995.
Dusell interprets the European colonization of the New World as the beginning of the “myth” of modernity, a new global European perspective that justified barbarity in the name of civilization.
Fernández-Armesto, Felipe. The Americas: A Hemispheric History. New York: Modern Library, 2003.
This groundbreaking work tells the story of North, Central, and South America as a whole, examining the cross-cultural exchanges, conflicts, and interactions that have shaped the region. This book begins by discussing the name of the continent; it then analyzes the conquest, colonization, independence, and new forms of dependency in Latin America. A final section provides the most recent bibliography for each chapter.
Hughes, Lotte. The No-Nonsense Guide to Indigenous Peoples. London: Verso, 2003.
Lotte Hughes’s work traces different indigenous peoples’ stories about their first contacts with explorers and colonizers. Indigenous voices are given priority, as they explain their understanding of land and the natural world; their struggles with becoming “white,” and their resistance to being presented as objects in museums, among other issues.
Kicza, John E., ed. The Indian in Latin American History: Resistance, Resilience, and Acculturation. Rev. ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.
This interdisciplinary edited book studies the conflictive relations of resistance, resilience, and acculturation between indigenous peoples and Western societies, beginning with the Spaniards’ initial contact with the Inca Empire until today’s Latin American cultural exchanges.
McEwan, Gordon. The Incas: New Perspectives. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.
The Incas created one of the greatest imperial states in history. Drawing on archaeology, anthropology, and ethnohistory, the author provides the most up-to-date interpretations of Incan culture, architecture, religion, medicine, politics, agriculture, economics, and daily life.
Sharer, Robert J. Daily Life in Maya Civilization. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.
An excellent narrative approach to Mayan everyday life discussing politics, economy, social structure, religion, writing, warfare, language, astronomical knowledge, and family roles, among other topics. This book covers Mayan civilization from its beginnings through the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.
Todorov, Tzvetan. The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.
A classic study. Using 16th-century sources, Todorov analyzes the major role of religious beliefs and ideological concepts regarding the material conquest, which led to a justification of European racial superiority and the near extermination of Mesoamerica’s Indian population. First published in 1992.
Wauchope, Robert, ed. The Indian Background of Latin American History: The Maya, Aztec, Inca, and Their Predecessors. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.
An American archaeologist and anthropologist, Robert Wauchope specialized in the prehistory and archaeology of Latin America, Mesoamerica, and the southwestern United States. He became noted for his extensive work on house mounds in Uaxactun, Guatemala. This book provides historical background on Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations.
Wearne, Phillip. Return of the Indian: Conquest and Revival in the Americas. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.
For the first time, this study analyzes in one place the present circumstances of the forty million indigenous people of North, Central, and South America. This book has a foreword by Rigoberta Menchú Tum, winner of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Ancient Andean Textiles
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Andean Music
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Brazil, The
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Atlantic Creoles
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial New Granada
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- Dependency Theory in Latin American History
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500–1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Dutch in South America and the Caribbean, The
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Economies from Independence to Industrialization
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Football (Soccer) in Latin America
- Gaucho Literature
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guaraní and Their Legacy, The
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Guatemala (Colonial Period)
- Guatemala (Modern & National Period)
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Indigenous Voices in Literature
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- José María Arguedas and Early 21st Century Cultural and Po...
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Magical Realism
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Nationalism
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521–1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Pastoralism in the Andes
- Paz, Octavio
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in 19th-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-conquest Mesoamerican States, The
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Puerto Rican Literature
- Religions in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Santo Domingo
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Slavery in Brazil
- São Paulo
- Spanish American Arab Literature
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Spiritual Conquest of Latin America, The
- Telenovelas and Melodrama in Latin America
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Venezuelan Literature
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas