Latin American Jewish Literature

Ilan Stavans

in Jewish Studies

ISBN: 9780199840731
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
Latin American Jewish Literature

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Jewish writing in Latin America is a centuries-old tradition dating back to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. During the colonial period, it manifested itself among crypto-Jews who hid their religious identity for fear of being persecuted by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Assimilation mostly decimated this chapter, which is often seen as connected with Sephardic literature after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. New waves of Jews arrived in the last third of the 19th century from two geographic locations: the Ottoman Empire (this wave is described as Levantine and its languages as Ladino, French, Spanish, and Arabic) and eastern Europe (or Ashkenazi with Yiddish, German, and central European tongues). Jewish life thrived in Latin America throughout the 20th century. The largest, most artistically productive communities were in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico, and smaller ones existed in Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Panama, and Uruguay. Identity as a theme permeates everything written by Latin American Jewish writers. Central issues defining this literary tradition are immigration, anti-Semitism, World War II, Zionism, and the Middle Eastern conflict. The Jewish literary tradition in Latin America has undergone crossovers as a result of translations, global marketing, and the polyglot nature of several of its practitioners. This field of study is still in its infancy. Some important studies on Latin American Jewish history, either continental in scope or by country, appeared in the late 20th century and serve as context for the analysis. The literature has received less attention (some periods, such as the 19th century, are entirely forgotten), although, as this bibliography attests, things are changing. The foundation for daring, in-depth literary explorations as well as interdisciplinary analysis is already in place. When possible this article showcases available monographs, although important research material remains scattered in periodicals and edited volumes.

Article.  8086 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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