Tag Archives: Nicolas Guillen

Happy Independence Day, Cuba!

Cuba declared its independence from Spain on May 20, 1902. The Caribbean country has had a turbulent history – making it a rich topic for its writers.

nicolasguillenNicolás Guillén (1902-1989), once the national poet of Cuba, is known for his poems about social justice that he wrote in the 1920s and 1930s. The country’s winners of the  Miguel de Cervantes Prize, given to Spanish-language writers, are playwright Alejo Carpentier, poet Dulce María Loynaz and novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante.

OscarHijuelosOscar Hijuelos, who was born in New York City to Cuban parents, became the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his 1989 book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Loveabout two Cuban brothers who pursue their musical dreams in New York City. Hijuelos also wrote the novels Our House in the Last World and Mr. Ives’ Christmas and the memoir Thoughts Without Cigarettes.

CristinaGarcia Two writers who were born in Havana and immigrated to the United States have used Cuba as a setting for their novels. Cristina García, left, showed one family’s life in Dreaming in Cuban and describes the effects of dictator Fidel Castro’s regime in the just released  King of Cuba. The Castro government plays a key role in the characters’ lives of Elizabeth Huergo’s The Death of Fidel Pérez.

Margarita_Engle.2California-raised children’s writer Margarita Engle draws on Cuba’s history for her free verse books, including The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, about Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda; The Surrender Tree, about a nurse who helps those while war rages in Cuba in 1896; and The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano

Carlos EireCarlos Eire was airlifted from Havana during Operation Pedro Pan, a CIA operation in which thousands of Cuban children were taken to the United States in the early 1960s – an experience he wrote about in Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy. His follow-up book was Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy.

Other writers with Cuban roots include Meg Medina, Caridad Piñeiro and Alisa Valdes.

 

 

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A look at Afro-Latino writers

February marks Black History Month. Here is a look at some prominent Afro-Latino authors:

Veronica Chambers, who is of Panamanian and Costa Rican-Jamaican descent, has written the Marisol and Magdalena series about two Latina tweenagers. She also wrote about her experiences as an Afro-Latina in this Essence article.

• Dominican Junot Díaz, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, talked about growing up Afro-Latino to Fox News Latino.

• The late Nicolás Guillén, known for his poems about social justice that he wrote in the 1920s and 1930s, was the national poet of Cuba. He will be honored at Cuba’s International Book Fair Feb. 9-19.

• Brazilian author Paulo Lins wrote the 1997 novel City of God, which became a 2002 Academy Award-nominated movie. He talked to the Hispanic News website about growing up in the poor neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro with blacks and immigrants.

Sofia Quintero has written the Black Armetis hip hop series and other novels, such as Divas Don’t Yield and Efrain’s Secret. In this 2009 article with The UBS.com, which also features other black Latino writers, she talks about her Puerto Rican-Dominican heritage.

• Puerto Rican-Cuban-American poet Piri Thomas, who died last year, wrote the classic Down These Mean Streets, about his life growing up in Spanish Harlem. The New York Times had a great obituary.

The blog Writing to Insanity has a great list of other Afro-Latino writers, as does The Woynigi Blog. Latina magazine has good coverage of the Afro-Latina community. And other celebrities, such as Soledad O’Brien, discussed their Afro-Latino heritage in this video.

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