Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Latin America’s art By: Florencia Botta

Hispanic heritage month is celebrated from September 15th to October 15th. It started in the US and was only recently adopted in some places of the UK. The circumstances are a little different here. This is because Hispanic/Latine heritage is not considered by the UK’s government as an ethnicity. However, this is a matter for another blog. This blog is not destined to talk about Hispanic Americans or any member of the diaspora. I am an immigrant from Latin America, so I will concentrate on my experience.

I initially planned on making a sombre blog about the realities of being Latine in the UK and the struggles for visibility. Although this is a crucial matter, I don’t want it to be the only thing discussed. I want to celebrate the great cultures and rich history of Latine heritage and share everything I love with students in the UK!

But firstly, a little background information. Hispanic refers to people from Spain or Spanish speaking countries. On the other hand, Latine includes people from Latin America. This includes Spanish speaking countries as well as countries with different official languages like Brazil and Haiti. It is also worth remembering that Latin America has many other official languages and fundamental influences outside Europe in the multiple indigenous populations living there since before the Spanish conquest. These include languages such as Quechua, Wichí, Guaraní, and Nahuatl, among others.

I am using this blog to share some pieces of Latin American media I think you would find interesting. Before starting this list, I should clarify. I am a het cis Argentinian woman. I do not know all the cultures in Latin America. I don’t even know all cultures in Argentina! My own perspective is warped based on my personal background, and I cannot provide a perspective outside my own. I am just sharing a few names to begin reading, listening, or watching. This will mostly centre around Argentina. I strongly encourage that if you like Latin American culture, please research other media, and other artists, especially from marginalised groups. There are so many talented people out there!

My very small and not at all comprehensive list:

Something to read:

Latin America has multiple genres of literature that explore the culture, socio political context, and folkloric tales. There are so many writers I love, I could never list them all, but there are some I thought to mention.

  • Horacio Quiroga (1878-1937) is my favourite writer. Horacio Quiroga is an Uruguayan poet and writer with a fascinating life. He wrote fantastical and terrifying stories based on his own life and the places where he lived. His short stories are fun to read, always spotting an interesting twist. My favourite is Cuentos de Amor, de Locura y de Muerte(Tales of Love Madness and Death) (1917). If you don’t like scary stories, you can also read his only non-horror collection of short stories, Cuentos de la Selva (Tales of The Jungle) (1918), featuring various fun animal characters.
  • Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) was a Colombian writer. He is likely one of the most popular and successful writers in Latin America, having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 1982. His most popular novel is Cien años de soledad (One hundred years of solitude). However, my favourite is Crónicas de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a death foretold) (1981); a novella that combines journalism and a detective story to document a case from the most unusual perspective.

Still, I can hear you saying: “This is all so old! What about something more modern?”

  • Mariana Enriquezis an Argentinian journalist and writer. She has written several books, but the one that interests me the most is Los peligros de fumar en la cama (The dangers of smoking in bed) (2009), a collection of horror and psychological fiction short stories. As this book is more modern, you should be able to find a copy at your local bookstore.
  • Belén López Peiró is an Argentinian journalist who writes non-fiction. Her novel, Por qué vovías cada verano (Why you came back every summer) (2018), tells the haunting story of the abuse she suffered during her adolescence.

Something to listen to:

Latin America is also famous for combining multiple cultural and historic influences into distinct genres of music. Here are some artists you can check on Spotify:

  • Mercedes Sosa (1935-2009) was an Argentinian singer. She started the Movimiento del Nuevo Cancionero (New Song Movement) to develop tango and folkloric music in Latin America. She sang folkloric music as well as interpreting songs from rock and tango artists. What I love more about her are her absolute kindness and deep classical voice. It gave all her songs a lot of weight and emotion. Among my favourite albums if Misa Criolla” (Criolla Mass) and Mujeres Argentinas (Argentinian women).
  • Sui Generisand Almendra are two classical examples of Argentinian rock bands in the ‘70s. With soft tones, listening to this music can be quite relaxing. Nevertheless, some of the lyrics are a little bit sad. Their songs can go from whimsical to deeply political. Among my favourite pieces there is Canción para mi muerte (Song to my death), Cuando me empiece a quedar solo (When I start to become alone), Confesiones de invierno (Winter confessions), Muchacha ojos de papel (Paper eye girl) and Plegaria para un niño dormido (Prayer for a sleeping boy).
  • Gilda. One of the most famous genres of popular music in Latin America is cumbia. The genre has a lot of regional varieties. Gilda was one of the most famous cumbia signers in Argentina. After her death, she became revered almost as a saint. She had several big hits. My absolute favourite is Fuiste (You were).

I know little about songs from non-Spanish speaking countries, but I feel I must mention one of the most classical artists played in my house: Toquinho.

  • Toquinho is a Brazilian singer and guitar player. He has an extensive discography where he combines different genres of popular Brazilian music. I particularly like his music as a soloist. It has a very dreamy feel which I find soothing. My favourite song from him is Aquarela (watercolour, which I listened to all the time when I was a child.

Is there anything that catches your attention? Please let me know in the comments!

There are many many more, so many genres, styles, topics. I can’t even begin to list them all. More than a list, I would call this small bites. If you like any of these, please keep searching for more! 😊.

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