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Latina Reads: 13 Mexican And Chicana Escritoras Whose Books You Need To Add To Your Reading List

Mexican literature is one of the most prolific and influential throughout Latin America. From narratives on revolution to the more contemporary concept of intersectional feminism, works by Mexican and Mexican-American women — spanning centuries — are truly seminal.

At the heart of much of the writing is the desire to combat social norms and create a new inclusive and equal reality, and that’s what the amazingly talented women on this list do with their words.

Here, Mexican and Mexican-American authors you need to make room for on your bookshelves.

1. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

One of the most famous and bold Latina writers of all time, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was born Juana Ramírez de Asbaje on November 12, 1651 in San Miguel Nepantla, Tepetlixpa, Mexico. She was a self-taught scholar and poet who faced prejudice and oppression for being a female writer during a time when women weren’t viewed as intellectual beings. Some of her most famous poems include “Primero Sueño,” a 975-line piece about a soul’s quest for knowledge, and “Hombres Necios,” which accuses men of exhibiting the illogical behavior that they claim is innate in women. One of her most powerful poems, though, is “Respuesta a Sor Filotea,” where she defends a woman’s right to an education. The late writer is recognized as the first published feminist of the New World and remains an icon. Recently, her story was told in the Netflix miniseries Juana Inés.

2. Sandra Cisneros

Today’s badass female writer is Sandra Cisneros. Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican-American writer. She is best known for her first novel The House on Mango Street (1984) and her subsequent short story collection Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991). Her work experiments with literary forms and investigates emerging subject positions, which Cisneros herself attributes to growing up in a context of cultural hybridity and economic inequality that endowed her with unique stories to tell. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, was awarded one of 25 new Ford Foundation Art of Change fellowships in 2017, and is regarded as a key figure in Chicana literature. I love not only her work, but her decision to be childless by choice. I support all women’s reproductive choices and I’m proud she went public with hers. #womenwhowrite #womenshistorymonth #sandracisneros #childlessbychoice

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Self-proclaimed chingona Sandra Cisneros, 63, is best known for her first novel “The House on Mango Street,” which published in 1984. But she continues to connect with Latinx readers through social media, amassing a following of more than 41K on Instagram. Her work — including “Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories” — deals with issues like poverty, the formation of Chicana identity, belonging to multiple cultures and misogyny. In 1998, Cisneros established the Macondo Writers Workshop, which provides socially conscious events for writers, and in 2000 she founded the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation, which awards talented writers connected to Texas.

3. Gloria Anzaldúa

"The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react." – Gloria E. Anzaldúa Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa was an American scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. She was a poet, activist, theorist, and teacher. Anzaldúa described herself as a Chicana/Tejana/lesbian/dyke/feminist/writer/poet/cultural theorist, and these identities were explored in her work. She loosely based her best-known book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, on her life growing up on the Mexico–Texas border. She also developed theories about the marginal, in-between, and mixed cultures that develop along borders. Throughout the 1980s, Anzaldúa traveled to workshops and speaking engagements, participated in political activism, consciousness-raising, and groups such as the Feminist Writers Guild. She also looked for ways to build a multicultural, inclusive feminist movement. Anzaldúa edited two anthologies that collected the voices of feminists of many races and cultures. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color was published in 1983 and won the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award. It's been said that some readers struggle with the multiple languages in her writings – English, Spanish, and variations of those languages. However Anzaldúa has said, when the reader does the work of piecing together fragments of language and narrative, it mirrors the way feminists must struggle to have their ideas heard in a patriarchal society. Anzaldúa has won many awards for her work, including the National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Award, the Lambda Lesbian Small Press Book Award, the Lesbian Rights Award (1991), the Sappho Award of Distinction (1992), and the American Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award (Bode-Pearson Prize – 2001). Additionally, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza was recognized as one of the 38 best books of 1987 by Library Journal and 100 Best Books of the Century by both Hungry Mind Review and Utne Reader. In 2012, she was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of the LGBT History Month. #HERstory #WomensHistoryMonth #GloriaAnzaldúa #AmericanHistory #OurHistory

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Gloria Anzaldúa is a sixth-generation Mexican-American who popularized the mestiza experience with her book, “Borderlands / La FronteraIn it, the queer Chicana scholar examines the literal and figurative borders that exist for Latinas and lesbians in U.S. society. Born in the Rio Grande Valley at the southern foot of Texas, she drew inspiration from her childhood along the Mexico-U.S. border. Anzaldúa, considered a prominent figure in Chicana feminist literature, also edited texts like, “This Bridge Called My Back,” “Making Face, Making Soul” and “This Bridge We Call Home.”

4. Elena Poniatowska

#ElenaPoniatowska hoy cumple 86 años. Nació en Paris, luego de que la familia de su madre, Dolores Amor, fue exiliada de México por apoyar el Porfiriato. En 1955 su primera novela vio la luz; Lilus Kikus. y también conoce al dibujante Alberto Beltrán, quien influyó en que diera voz de los más marginados. En 1971, el entonces presidente Luis Echeverría le concedió el premio literario Xavier Villaurrutia por su novela “La noche de Tlatelolco”, sin embargo, la escritora lo rechazó. La escritora heredó el título de Princesa de Polonia gracias a su padre Jean Evremont Poniatowski Sperry, quien era heredero a la corona polaca. Poco importó para ella, y confesó que no visita a su familia europea, que la llaman “La Princesa Roja”. Sus textos fueron calificados por El Rey Juan Carlos de España como “literatura rebelde”, y de “gran compromiso social y humano”. ????: Carlos Aranda 98.5 FM | #TRIÓN #SéDiferente

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While born in France, Elena Poniatowska is considered one of the most iconic Mexican authors of all time. Activist, journalist and author, she was born in 1932 after her mother fled the Mexican revolution. Poniatowska returned to her family’s homeland in 1942, later beginning her journalism career at Excelsior. As an author, her books cover social events, including the Tlatelolco Student Massacre, with “La Noche de Tlatelolco” published in 1971, and the catastrophic Mexico City earthquake of 1985, with “Nada, Nadie. Las Voces del Temblor” published in 1988. One of her most famous texts is Here’s to You, Jesusa,” which is based on more than a year’s worth of interviews with a poor laundry woman living in rural Mexico who struggles after the revolution in Mexico and the abandonment of her husband. Poniatowska is the recipient of the 2013 Miguel de Cervantes Prize in Spain for her contributions to Spanish literature and, at 86, she continues to write and is known as “Mexico’s Grande Dame Of Letters.”

5. Cherríe Moraga

Cherríe Moraga is is a prominent Chicana feminist writer who was one of the first to introduce the theory of Chicana lesbianism. She’s perhaps most famous for co-editing the feminist anthology “This Bridge Called My Back” with Gloria Anzaldúa in 1981, but the California-born poet, essayist and playwright has written, edited and contributed to others. Among them: Her first sole-authored book, the autobiographical “Loving in the War Years,” which mixes prose and poetry. She is currently an English professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  

6. Ariana Brown

Ariana Brown has developed a reputation as a “part-time curandera” with her powerful and raw poetry. The Mexican-American-African-American poet has received numerous awards and thousands of views on YouTube for her spoken word poetry on topics like class, gender, racism and mental health. In 2017, she released the chapbook “messy girl,” drawing from her own experience with depression, heartbreak and healing. Through her poetry, including “Volver, Volver,” Dear White Girls in My Spanish Class” and “Supremacy,” she discusses her mixed-race heritage, colonialism and racism.

7. Laura Esquivel

She is the mastermind behind one of the biggest international best-sellers that blended magical realism with a passionate love story. Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate” was released in 1989 in Mexico and later translated to multiple languages and made into an award-winning film in 1994, with Esquivel in charge of the screenplay. She has written eight books, including the acclaimed “La Malinche,” which recounts the arrival of Spaniards in Mexico from the perspective of the controversial historical figure who played a key role in the conquest of the Aztec Empire. She’s now serving in the Chamber of Deputies for the Morena Party in Mexico.

8. Ana Castillo

Ana Castillo is a Chicana novelist, poet and playwright. The Chicago-born writer tackles issues on race, class and gender through an experimental style. A leader in Chicana feminism, which she refers to as “Xicanisma,” Castillo has written several books, including “So Far from God,” a supernatural novel about family hardship and love, “Black Dove,” which offers a look at what it’s like to be a single, brown, feminist parent, “Give It To Me,” a sexy novel about an adventurous, recently divorced woman, “Goddess of the Americas,” a collection of essays about the Virgin of Guadalupe, and “Sapogonia,” which was named New York Times’ Notable Book of the Year. She is also the editor of La Tolteca, an arts and literary magazine.

9. Erika L. Sanchez

Good morning, Mexico City. ❤️

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Erika L. Sánchez is a Chicago-based poet and novelist. In 2017, she published her bestselling debut novel “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” which was a National Book Awards finalist. She also has a fierce poetry collection, “Lessons on Expulsion,” which is a candid and powerful exploration of themes on sex, shame, race, violence and xenophobia as she tells her story of being the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants.

10. Laureana Wright de Kleinhans

A feminist pioneer, Laureana Wright de Kleinhans defied the ideals of what a woman of her time should be like by establishing her magazine Violets of Anahuac in 1887. The publication’s content completely shifted ideas about womanhood by reimagining the feminine ideal as a cultured and educated wife and mother. She was one of the first feminist theorists in Mexico and wrote patriotic poetry while theorizing on women’s suffrage and equality for men and women.

11. Anna Marie McLemore

(Photo Credit: Anna Marie McLemore / Facebook)

Author Anna Marie McLemore‘s is a self-described queer Christian. Her books present LGBTQ fairytales, with women of color as protagonists. Much of her writing draws heavily on magical realism and family dynamics, which can be seen particularly in the upcoming “Blanca &  Roja,” which centers on two rivalrous sisters bound to a group of swans through a century-old spell. Her other novels include her critically acclaimed debut “The Weight Of Feathers,” about family rivalries, “Wild Beauty,” a magical exploration of love, loss and family, and “When The Moon Was Ours,” which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. “I’d love to see more intersectional stories! I’m always excited to hear about books with respectful representation of LGBTQ characters, but especially ones that have characters who are also of color, who are of faith, who also have disabilities, and so many more intersecting identities,” she told YARN.

12. Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli is a contemporary superstar in the literary world and one of the most celebrated Mexican writers today. Producing work in both English and Spanish, the New York-based author is behind the critically acclaimed novels Sidewalks,” “The Story of My Teeth” and “Faces in the Crowd.” Several of her books are inspired by her personal life, with themes of loss and absence (she spent her childhood traveling with her father, a Mexican ambassador), or taken from real-life experiences. In the 34-year-old’s latest release, “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions,” she was inspired by her work as a volunteer interpreter for children seeking asylum. In 2014, Luiselli received the National Book Foundation “5 under 35” award.

13. Cristina Rivera Garza

#cristinariveragarza

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A border child born in Tamaulipas, Cristina Rivera Garza developed a career writing on both sides of the frontera. Much of her work focuses on mental illness in early twentieth-century Mexico. Still, she is best known for her novel “Nadie Me Verá Llorar,” which won numerous literary awards in Mexico. Rivera Garza is the only author to win the international Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz prize twice. She has taught history at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Tec de Monterrey, Campus Toluca and the University of California, San Diego. In 2014, Rivera Garza started a blog, which she continues to contribute to.

Read: Latina Reads: 14 Dominican And Dominican-American Escritoras Whose Books You Need To Add To Your Reading List

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Up Next: Meet Victoria La Mala, The Mexican Badass Empowering Women With Urban-Banda Jams

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Up Next: Meet Victoria La Mala, The Mexican Badass Empowering Women With Urban-Banda Jams

Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.

You know what Paquita la del Barrio is to your grandmother or perhaps what Jenni Rivera was to your tía? Well, that’s what Victoria La Mala is for our generation: a singer whose inner power is the only thing more forceful than the strong vocal pipes she uses to remind you that you are that bitch.

Born Victoria Ortiz in Mexico City, the singer-songwriter jumped into the music scene in 2015, bringing a refreshing sound and style to regional Mexican music with all the same girl power of her barrier-breaking female predecessors. Describing herself as the musical offspring of Tupac and Selena, the now Los Angeles-based singer places her soulful vox over traditional banda and ranchera rhythms to deliver treats for your ears and soul. Her songs, like last year’s chart-making “Merezco Mucho Más,” call out male fuckery and empower girls to know their strength, worth and beauty and leave toxic romances behind.

On the block, Victoria, who’s also the first Mexican artist to be signed to Roc Nation Latin, continues to be inspirational. On Monday, the 30-year-old launched her fifth annual #TeamMalaPromGiveaway, a campaign providing low-income teenage girls in Los Angeles with dresses, accessories and makeup and hair tutorials. This year, she will help 50 girls, who must submit their applications before March 29, become the prom princesses she knows they already are.

We chatted with Victoria all about the giveaway, making banda bops for millennials, her anticipated new, and sonically different, music, as well as why she wants to empower women and girls in everything she does, among so much more.

FIERCE: You were born and raised in Mexico but also spent much of your time growing up taking extended trips with relatives in Los Angeles. What genres of music were you listening to here and there, and how do you think this has influenced your pop-urbano-banda style today?

Victoria La Mala: I used to listen to a lot of regional Mexican music in Mexico because of my parents. They love banda and mariachi. I spent a lot of summers in LA, and I had some aunts who listened to hip-hop, ‘90s R&B, and I loved soul. I think all of those styles of music influenced me, and I think you can hear them in me.

FIERCE: Absolutely. While you sing mostly regional Mexican genres, you have a very soulful voice. Talking about your voice, it’s very strong and powerful. No one can deny your vocal talent. When did you realize you could sing and that music was something you wanted to pursue?

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Victoria La Mala: I literally cannot remember a time in my life without singing. When I look back on my childhood, I was that one little girl always singing. I loved music. I sang in class and school. But when I was 15, I started getting a little more confidence in myself. I’d be out at parties and people would say, “sing for us.” That’s when I realized this is something I love and have a big passion for. I started singing in a couple bands. I sang at family functions and school functions. So I think when I was around 15 is the time I was like, I love this and I think this is what I want to do.

FIERCE: Why banda? This isn’t exactly a genre that’s expected from young millennial women?

Victoria La Mala: For me, it was always important to represent my culture and tell my story as a woman. Some of the first memories I had listening to live music was banda. My first album in 2013 was full banda. It was just important for me to represent. My dad had passed away a few years before then, and he loved banda. When I moved to the States from Mexico, I wanted to represent from the beginning, and from there I started evolving as an artist as well. I tried different regional sounds and more fusions, because it’s all a part of my story and who I am. I was exposed to more types of music. Being a girl raised in Mexico City, I listened to everything in the streets, Spanish rock, cumbia, so I think it’s important to represent my culture and my story.

FIERCE: I love that and definitely see that. While artists like Paquita la del Barrio and Jenni Rivera made waves for women in traditional Mexican music, these genres continue to be male-dominated. Honestly, most Latin genres do. How has your experience been trying to navigate this industry as a woman, and as one who is very vocal about her opinions on men and proud of her identity.

Victoria La Mala: You know, they always say, “Victoria hates men.” But I don’t, just a couple that have been bad, but some are great. But it’s definitely difficult being a woman, not just in music, in a world that has been male-dominated. The roles of women have slowly been changing: women started working, started going to school and now they’re doing basically anything that we want. But because it hasn’t been many years to do these things, it’s still a struggle. And in music, it’s reflected. Music, I think, reflects what’s happening in society. Now girls are starting to take power in music. Girls want to listen to other girls. They want to feel identified and want our stories told. It’s definitely still difficult. It’s definitely still a struggle, especially on the industry side. There’s this idea that girls dont like girls, girls don’t like to listen to girls. This is also an idea that has been changing, though. I grew up listening to women I love, playing my CDs and singing along to them. I think women nowadays are the same: we want to hear our stories.

FIERCE: I think you’re right. Not only are many of the rising acts in Latin music women, but they are sharing their stories through their music.

Victoria La Mala: Right, exactly. Thank you.

FIERCE: Making a space for yourself where others might be uncomfortable, though, isn’t something you seem to ever shy away from. Another example: you’re the first Mexican artist signed to Roc Nation. How has this been for you?


Victoria La Mala: It has been an amazing experience. I’ve been able to learn so much from people in the industry who have been doing this for years. I’ve met legends, people I looked up to as a little girl, people I still look up to.

FIERCE: Like who?

Victoria La Mala: Like Beyoncé and Rihanna. I got to sing with Paquita la del Barrio. Olga Tañón invited me to sing with her at Premio Lo Nuestro. It’s been an incredible couple of years, learning and growing so much. It’s been really amazing for me. This is part of what I always wanted to do: represent my culture and what I come from as Latinos and Mexicans in a more general-market kind of way. People never really listen to Mexican music, so for them to say, “let me see this Mexican artist signed to Roc Nation,” that’s an amazing experience. As you mentioned before, part of me always feels like I have to fight for what I want. I grew up seeing that. I grew up around strong women that will make a way.

FIERCE: And that’s clear in your music. As I stated earlier, your songs are very bold and empowering. They often validate women’s experiences in relationships and remind them of their own strength, beauty and power. Why?

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Feeling like ???????? @premiolonuestro

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Victoria La Mala: It’s so important for me because I think music literally is the soundtrack to our lives. We have songs we play when we are feeling so sad and want to cry. We have songs we want to play that cause us to feel strong, like you could do whatever you want to do.  I grew up listening to strong women that made me feel powerful, and it’s important for me to give that back to other girls. Sometimes, I play my own songs when I’m going through it, like, “yes, girl!”

FIERCE: Haha! I love that. I can honestly say that “Si Va A Doler Que Duela” was one of the songs that helped get me through my last breakup, so I completely get it.

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Ella no era #Mala….La hicieron ????✨✨

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Victoria La Mala: Thank you. I really appreciate that.

FIERCE: You’re also inspiring outside of your music, though. I know you have a prom dress giveaway each year, where you provide dresses, makeup and accessories to underserved teens so they can attend prom and feel like a princess for an evening. Talk to me about this. Why do this?


Victoria La Mala: To me, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I love being able to connect with young girls. When I was in high school, my dad wasn’t there anymore, and my mom, by herself, had to make sacrifices for my siblings and myself. For my high school graduation, I had to figure out dresses, which was so expensive, and I thought, maybe I should come up with a giveaway for girls doing their prom and can’t afford it. There are so many circumstances as to why they might need help. I started this five years ago. I had people, whoever I knew, give me dresses. I said, “anyone who wants to donate, I will give you a CD.” That’s all I had. People donated dresses, and I think we dressed 10 girls that year. I did it all on my own. I had no clue what I was doing, but it was an amazing experience to see girls have the dress they wanted. I knew I needed to do it again. Here we are now in our fifth year. Last year, we  dressed more than 60 girls. This year, I’m hoping that doubles. Now we also have sponsors.

FIERCE: What do you think is your overall goal with this giveaway?

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Victoria La Mala: My goal is for girls to enjoy their prom. I want them to feel like all their efforts were worth this moment, that all their hard work does pay off. I just want them to be happy that day. I’m also really hoping every year we can double the amount of dresses we give. I also hope that we can take it out of LA. This is my home and community, so this is where I’ve been doing it, but I hope to take it to other cities and one day everywhere.

FIERCE: Love that! I want to get back into music. You haven’t released a new song in a little while, and there’s a lot of anticipation around Victoria La Mala and demand for new music. What do you have in store for this year that you can tell us about?

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Baby it’s cold outside ❄️❄️❄️

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Victoria La Mala: Well, last year, I put out only two songs. One did amazing and was on the charts, “Merezco Mucho Más,” and the other I put out during the end of the summer, “Corazón valiente,” which was for immigrants. But after that, I had a couple changes within my team. I took time for me to get in the studio, work on music, write my stuff, get involved in everything, from production and sound to writing new songs. We are almost there. It’s just been a process. I’ve just been waiting and writing and making sure everything sounds and is how I creatively see it. Again, we’re almost there. I think it’s going to be something new and different from what I put out in the past and reflects who I am, a mix of Mexican culture and me living in New York, LA, Mexico City, more of the urban side. So it’ll be something new and something I’ve been wanting to work on for a while, so I’m excited.

FIERCE: You’re 30 years old, at the earlier stages of your career, what do you hope people can say about Victoria La Mala in 10 to 15 years?

I hope people can say that I’ve helped them feel empowered, that my music has been a big part of their life. I dont think a lot about this. I think about things I want to accomplish more than things people say about me. I hope my music can empower them and be a part of their life and touch them the way other artists have inspired me.

Read: Up Next: Rombai Is Ushering In The Return Of Latin Pop Bands

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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

Fans of magical realism rejoice. On Wednesday, Netflix announced it acquired the rights to Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and will be turning the literary masterpiece into a Spanish-language series.

This is the first time the 1967 novel, considered “one of the most significant works of the 20th Century,” will be adapted for screen. For years, the author, who died in 2014, refused to sell the film rights, believing the story could not be done justice through a two-hour project, according to Deadline.

Rodrigo Garcia and Gonzalo García Barcha, García Márquez’s sons, who are serving as executive producers on the show, believe a series is an appropriate approach to the book.

“For decades, our father was reluctant to sell the film rights to Cien Años de Soledad. He believed that it could not be made under the time constraints of a feature film, or that producing it in a language other than Spanish would not do it justice,” Rodrigo Garcia told BuzzFeed News, adding that the “current golden age of series,” with “the level of talented writing and directing, the cinematic quality of content,” changed the family’s mind.

“The time could not be better to bring an adaptation to the extraordinary global viewership that Netflix provides,” he continued.

The series will be filmed in Colombia.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells the story of the multi-generational Buendia family, whose patriarch Jose Arcadio Buendia founded Macondo, a fictional town in the South American country.

The book has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 46 languages.

In a statement, Francisco Ramos, Netflix’s vice president of Spanish-language content, said, “We know our members around the world love watching Spanish-language films and series and we feel this will be a perfect match of project and our platform.”

He’s right. Since announcing the adaptation, fans of the magical realism novel have been celebrating the news.

There’s no word yet on when the series will debut and who will star in it.

Read: This Film About Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is At The Center Of The Most Expensive Sundance Documentary Deal Of All Time

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