The 1980s: Latina/o literature during the “decade of the hispanic”

Tiffany Lopez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The 1980s marks an incredibly significant period in Latina/o literature that signals the advent of contemporary writing in the field. Some critics see the 1980s as a chasm between the vibrant movement-based literary production of the 1970s and the mainstream publication activity of the 1990s. Hinged between these two pivotal decades is the 1980s, a critically vital time when Latina/o writers are publishing in a variety of venues, drawing on past traditions, expanding and breaking boundaries, grappling with definitions of identity and culture, speaking in multiple voices, and writing with a sense of charting new paths. The activity and experimentation of the period presages the Latina/o literary boom in mainstream publishing that emerges at the cusp of the 1990s featuring Rudolfo Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez, and Mary Helen Ponce and the advent of professionalized Latina/o authors represented by book agents and publicists. Notably, while in the 1990s these writers appear new to the mainstream, all were already well-established voices in Latina/o literature with several of their signature works (i.e., The House on Mango Street, Sapogonia) first published in the mid-1980s by smaller presses, such as Arte Público Press and Editorial Bilingüe / Bilingual Review, founded with the specific mission to shepherd the publication of Latina/o literature. During the 1980s, Latina/o literature extends conversations launched during the 1970s about such pivotal matters as civil rights, women's liberation, environmentalism, labor, educational access, and affirmative action. Latina/o authors also engage with pressing issues at the cultural forefront of the 1980s, most significantly affirmative action, institutionalized racism, immigration, diasporic identity, the AIDS crisis, the military industrial complex, environmentalism, the war on drugs, economic recession, and the decline of government commitment to programs addressing social inequity. Latina/o literature produced during this moment is characterized by defining itself as a distinct body of writing with its own literary themes and narrative contours, including Spanglish, code-switching, caló, and other hybrid forms of linguistic word play. Genre is a significant area of experimentation, with writers expanding the very framework of the writing by working across genres and inventing hybrid forms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Latina/o American Literature
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781107045385
ISBN (Print)9781107044920
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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