The rich oral tradition and the pen of its excellent storytellers have given rise in Latin America to a magical world of stories and short stories. Latin American short stories offer a wide range of styles and themes for children and adults who, picking up tradition, have become tradition.
Loneliness, love, death, eternity, the passage of time, hate or dreams are some of the universal themes that appear in the short stories that we offer below.
- You can also read: 10 surprising (and terrifying) Mexican myths.
10 Latin American short stories Latin
American literature has given page and page of a brilliant narrative that has a reserved place in universal letters. Their geniuses have managed, in addition to bequeathing exciting novels, to weave their magical world into short stories. It is in this conciseness where some of them find the maximum expression of their talent .
This is how, collecting the tradition of oral histories from past generations, and putting them in contact with existential concerns and contemporary universal themes, they have managed to write hilarious and moving stories, terrifying and hilarious, but always loaded with messages.
There are stories for children and for adults, one-minute narratives and twelve-page tales, some surreal, some realistic, and some eclectic . But they all teach something, and the ten that we offer you next are capable of reaching the soul. 1. The Stranger (Maria Guadalupe Gaitan Cortes)
In Michoacan, Mexico, Maria Guadalupe Gaitan Cortes wrote one of the most popular stories on the continent. Her raw story told in the first person is a reflection of the devastating effects of immigration on families , and the loneliness of women in traditionally macho societies.
The structure of the story, with a soliloquy of the mother speaking to her eldest daughter Rosita, is as simple as the variety of themes is complex, which, like a Russian doll, encloses one within the other.
The melancholic tone of the poem puts in the center of the reader’s attention the bitterness of the loneliness of a mother who is homeless with a daughter and another on the way. The father travels to the United States to obtain economic resources, and throughout the story the suffering of the eternal and vain wait for his return filters through .
From there other less specific, more universal themes are transferred: the loneliness of mothers abandoned with their children, the economic precariousness and the adversities they face (the protagonist’s hands bleed from working in the laundry), the patriarchal mentality and machismo, and finally, pride and acceptance. 2. Dulcinea’s Theory (Juan Jose Arreola)
Rarely is the heartbreaking beauty of the narrative manifested in such a sweeping way in so few lines. The minute it takes to read the story by Juan Jose Arreola called “Dulcinea’s Theory” is a magical immersion in the vast ocean of melancholy and reflection on love , madness, literature and time.
As Arreola used to convey in his writings, the irony runs through this story in which we continually find ourselves between fantasy and reality.The author thus turns us into a kind of Alonso Quijano whose fervor for chivalric literature leads him to confuse reality with fantasy.
Actually, Arreola reflects on the bitter passage of time with death as punishment, through the story of an old writer who, on the threshold of old age, is seduced by a young girl. Like the lucid madness of Don Quixote, the writer embarks on a desperate search for desires through literature.
The quantum ends with the young peasant girl weeping “at the tomb of the insane knight.” 3. The Aleph (Jorge Luis Borges)
It is the total story. Something longer than the rest of the short stories, it is nevertheless a recommendedintellectual journey through the universe of one of the best Latin American writers. Through the death of Borges’s beloved, Beatriz Viterbo, the narrator reflects on man, art and existence.
It is a complicated narrative with a complex structure that continues to be the subject of literary study and interpretation. At the core is Borges’s main message: the impossibility of man to reach the universe .
He does it through complex metaphysical and philosophical ramblings about modern man, the universe, the passage of time… And he does it through El Aleph, a mystical object that he finds in the basement of Beatriz’s house: in the most remote of the world Borges finds “the point that contains all the points of the universe”.
The idea that remains in the end for the reader, regardless of all the interpretations that can be made, is the inability of man to face metaphysics and totality: everything ends as a frustrated attempt at unity, as a fiction. 4. You do not hear dogs barking (Juan Rulfo)
The precious narration that elevated the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo, “You do not hear the dogs barking”, in a perfect metaphor of his literary universe crossed by the anguish of the Mexican peasant .
In this narrative, a father carries his dying son on his shoulders to the nearest town, but the journey is a long and exhausting road. The anguish is reflected by the father’s inability to rest : if he leaves the body on the ground he will not be able to carry it again.
What at first may seem like a heroic act of a father who saves his son gradually reveals itself as something more crude: the son is a troublesome boy who has been injured .in one of their brawls, and the sacrificial father performs the heroic act for the memory of his wife, the boy’s mother. From then on everything is reproaches.
However, it is a metaphor: father and son are one body, since the son cannot see and the father cannot hear. That’s why he asks her “Don’t you hear the dogs barking
”. Although the son always says no, when the father arrives he hears a lot of dogs barking. “You didn’t even help me with this hope.” 5. The feather pillow (Horacio Quiroga)
“The feather pillow” is one of the best known stories from the production of the Uruguayan realist writer Horacio Quiroga. In addition to its simplicity and its effective plot, it is a good exponent of the main features of that fantastic realism that combines doses of realism and fantasy in equal parts .
Quiroga prints it, above all, in the denouement, when he explains the death of the protagonist, Alicia, in strange circumstances. Thus, the narrator tells in a serious and formal tone the existence of a giant parasite that, hidden under Alicia’s pillow, sucked her blood until it was empty.
The pleasant style and the halo of strangeness and mystery that surrounds the story hook the reader from the first moment, introduced by a realistic description of the love story of Alicia and her boyfriend and gradually introducing her strange illness. 6. The Hunchback (Roberto Artl)
The theme that Argentine Roberto Artl chose for his narration “The Hunchback” is something as universal and topical in literature as the origin of evil. In addition, it is a confession from the humid dungeons where he is arrested for the murder of a hunchback, reminiscent of mythical literary confessions such as Raskolnikov’s.
In this case, however, the narration acquires much more ironic and fanciful overtones that subjects the reader to continual ups and downs.The scenes are wrapped in an authentic surrealist residue .
The authorities have locked up the narrator because in a fit of madness he has murdered a hunchback. This, however, had hatched a plan using the hunchback without any kind of compassion to test his beloved, of which he doubts his fidelity. The plan goes wrong and the hunchback ends up being the victim.
The narration is the criminal’s attempt to show society that the hunchback is crazy, which turns the story into a brilliant and effective game of mirrors . 7. Light is like water
The father and teacher of magical realism, the unforgettable Gabriel Garcia Marquez, developed in “Light is like water” one of his most magical and precious metaphors, wrapped in a moving reflection on childhood and dreams .
In a landlocked city like Madrid, some children ask for a boat as a Christmas present. Despite the absurdity, since they have no sea to navigate, their good grades at school make their father buy them the boat. The little ones sail on Wednesdays, when the parents go to the movies, breaking a lighthouse and flooding the house with light .
They sail in the light, because light is like water.
Then they ask for a diving kit, and after getting the best grade in their class they receive it as a gift. This is how they invite all classmates to dive into the light of their home. The passers-by contemplate in alarm the spectacle of light that floods the house, in the immensity of which all the drowned children die . 8. The crocodile (Felisberto Hernandez)
Giants of North American literature such as Garcia Marquez or Cortazar considered him a master of fantastic literature. The writer and pianist Filisberto Hernandez specialized in the short narrative, posing existential problems through fantastic situations with a great autobiographical meaning .
In this case, it narrates the cruel adaptation of a pianist to his new life, forced by economic precariousness to sell stockings for women. However, the pianist discovers that his sadness generates compassion in people and they end up buying the stockings . So he uses crying as a strategy to sell.
When he finally returns to acting, he can’t help but start crying, which is why he begins to be ironically known as “The Crocodile”. As a joke they end up giving him a caricature with a crocodile that has piano keys instead of teeth . The story ends with the pianist crying in his bed at the hotel.
When dawn breaks, his eyes sting from dry tears. 9. Do not blame anyone (Julio Cortazar)
The master of the short story and experimental literature in Latin America is called Julio Cortazar, and his literary world was captured in hundreds of stories. One of them, “Don’t blame anyone”, is the embodiment of one of Cortazar’s obsessions, the hands, translated into a metaphor about personality disorder .
Cortazar’s literary talent is put at the service of a frenetic narration that encloses the reader in the absurd anguish of the protagonist . He gets tangled up in his blue sweater while he is getting dressed to go see his wife.
The anguish grows as the man cannot find a way to get his hands out of his sleeves, and when he does, one of the hands has changed its shape and is trying to kill him. In the end he falls from his apartment and dies.
Cortazar reveals with this brilliant metaphor how the psyche can affect us to the point of dispossessing us of our own body . 10. Corn (adaptation of the Aztec legend)
In Mexico, children are usually told a tale inherited from the Aztec tradition, which narrates the origin of the adoration of men to the god Quetzalcoatl , but which also contains a much more useful message : wit is better than strength.
This story says that the families of the Aztec empire fed on herbs and ferns,although they longed to reach the distant ears of corn . These, however, were far away, beyond the rugged and inaccessible mountains.
They asked the gods for help, but one after another they failed to move the mountains. However, Quetzalcoatl decides to use ingenuity: he turns into a small black ant, and together with another ant they manage to make the long journey and bring corn to the Aztecs. Men eternally adore that god ever since.
- You can also read: The 10 best Mexican writers of all time.