Beyond Literary Landscapes—Guatemala and Nicaragua

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This column serves as an introduction to the works of Guatemalan and Nicaraguan authors, a reminder of some of the region’s classics, and as an inspiration for further reading.

Well-known Guatemalan authors include Guatemalan author, poet, and diplomat Miguel Ángel Asturias, “winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1967.”  Additional writers from Guatemala include Rigoberta Menchú Tum, a K’iche’ Maya survivor and activist, and 1993 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, “for her struggle for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of [I]ndigenous [P]eoples.”

Nicaraguan Rubén Darío was an “influential Nicaraguan poet, journalist .  .  .  diplomat” and leader of Modernismo, a “late 19th- and early 20th-century Spanish-language literary movement that emerged in the late 1880s.”


Asturias’ well-known works include The President (El Señor Presidente) and Men of Maize (Hombres de maíz), while Menchú is known for I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia).  Readers may also be interested in the sacred Maya text, Popol Vuh.  Darío works include Azul.

Although these works were written in Spanish and K’iche’ languages, translations in many languages are available.

Other works from the region include the novel, The Daughter of the Puma (La hija del puma) by Monika Zak, which details the civil war in Guatemala.

In addition, for a historical perspective, students can consider Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano, The Heart That Bleeds: Latin America Now by Alma Guillermoprieto, Central America’s Forgotten History by Aviva Chomsky, The Blood of Guatemala by Greg Grandin, and The Penguin History Of Latin America by Edwin Williamson.


Many of these works are set throughout Guatemala and Nicaragua.


These works often take place from the 19 to late 20-century.


Readers who would like to learn more about Central American history, revolution, socialism, civil war, magic realism, hope, resiliency, and the Maya worldview, may be interested in these works.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to works from Guatemala and Nicaragua are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this region may enroll in ENGL 458: The Latin American Novel, a senior-level, three-credit course, which focuses on “the nature of Latin American literature[,] the questions of politics and history[, and] major themes or literary styles,” including the works of Asturias.  (ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays are prerequisites, and ENGL 345: American Literature II, ENGL 361: Literature of the Harlem Renaissance, or another senior-level course are highly recommended.)

In addition, students may be interested in GLST 308: Americas: An Introduction to Latin America and the Caribbean, a senior-level, three-credit course, which includes topics, such as “authoritarianism and democracy, growth and poverty, race and class, the changing role of women, [I]ndigenous [P]eoples, movements for social change, and the foreign policy of the United States toward the region.”  (Note, this course is currently under revision.)  Happy reading!