From Revolution To Love, These Latina & Latin American Women Used Their Voices Through Poetry

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Poetry has the power to arouse change and spark healing. For centuries, our foremothers used the art to cry out against racial and sexual violence and support revolutionary movements as well as to confer the joys and torment of love.

On National Poetry Month, we’re celebrating some of the fierce Latin American women and Latina poetas whose voices continue to inspire us today.

1. Sandra Cisneros

Chicana feminist Sandra Cisneros is one of the most pivotal Latina writers of our generation. Most known for her debut novel “The House on Mango Street,” the Chicago-born author has also gifted the culture with poetry collections like “My Wicked Wicked Ways” and “Loose Woman,” discussing sexuality, hybridity and fearlessness.

2. Julia de Burgos

Julia de Burgos is one of the most prominent Puerto Rican poets. Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the writer’s work often tackled independence, for both her island and women, as well as nature, love and heartbreak. Publishing three poetry books and serving as the Secretary General of the Daughters of Freedom, the Afro-Latina poet passed away in Manhattan in 1953, at just 39 years old, and was posthumously inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame in 2011.

3. Claribel Alegría

Claribel Alegría is one of the most powerful Central American voices. Born in Nicaragua, the Nica-Salvi writer penned poetry, essays, novels and journalistic stories until her death in January of 2018. Awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2016, her pieces put a spotlight on the violent realities of Central American life but also offered hope, viewing her own work as nonviolent resistance.

4. Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is considered “the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author.” The Chilean novelist and poet has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, received Chile’s National Literature Prize and was even gifted the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

5. Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez is most known for pivotal contributions to Latina literature like “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” and “In the Time of the Butterflies,” but the New York-born dominicana is also a crucial poeta, with books of poetry like “Homecoming” and “The Woman I Kept to Myself.” Alvarez’s work, which largely deals with identity, acculturation and feminism, received the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets while other poetry manuscripts have a permanent home in the New York Public Library.

6. Gabriela Mistral

While less known, Gabriela Mistral, born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, is one of the most prominent Latina American poets. In 1945, the chilena became the first Latin American author to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. A poet-diplomat, teacher and humanist, Mistral’s pieces largely deal with nature, love, betrayal, motherhood, sorrow and recovery. A national heroine, her image appears on the 5,000 Chilean peso banknote.

7. Excilia Saldaña

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Excilia Saldaña was a dynamic Black Cuban writer. Born in Havana, she was most known for her children’s literature, winning the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba Special Prize La Rosa Blanca, awarded for best children’s books, five times in her career. But she was also an important poet. Her verses were largely autobiographical, exploring Afro-Cuban traditions, women’s roles in society as mothers and sexual beings, gendered violence, abandonment and shame. In 1998, Saldaña, who passed away one year later, received the Nicolás Guilén Award for her poetry.

Read: Poetry’s Been Called An Outdated Pastime, But These Latinas Are Breathing New Life Into The Art

Let us know which other historic Latina and Latin American women poets you think should be added to this list.