Literatures of Central Americans in the United States

Authored by: Ana Patricia Rodríguez

The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415666060
eBook ISBN: 9780203097199
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221613


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Dante Liano, the Central American literary critic based in Italy, begins his essay titled “Centroamérica cultural/literaria: ¿Comarca, región, zona, naciones?” [“Cultural/Literary Central America: Country, Region, Zone, Nations?”] by paraphrasing the US Guatemalan writer Francisco Goldman, who states, “Central America does not exist. I say this because I have been there” (Liano 2008: 51; my translation). In question, for Goldman and Liano, are not the geographic location and material realities of Central America per se, but rather the social, cultural, and imaginary scapes of a region that comprises no less than seven nation-states, each with its own peoples, histories, traditions, and heritages, among other things. How can such a diverse cultural area be spoken of as one unitary entity? Likewise, the US Salvadoran poet Quique Avilés reminds readers that the massive migration of Salvadorans, for example, to particular diasporic sites, such as Washington, DC, has irreversably expanded the cultural field of Central America beyond the isthmus. According to Avilés, in his poem “El Salvador at a Glance,” Washington, DC, has become yet another translocation along the transnational corridor of Central America (Avilés 2003). Through migration, Central America has extended to the West, East, South, Southwest, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic United States, and beyond to other countries and continents. In another of his poems, “Latinhood,” Avilés further contemplates how, in their migrations, Central Americans are transforming the linguistic, cultural, and ethnic composition of the United States, infusing Spanish, Cakchiquel, Creole, and Nahuatl into English and adding “salvatrucan latin” to the mix of Latinidades (2003). Despite historical attempts to imagine Central America as a geographic region, geopolitical zone, political federation, economic (free trade) area, and cultural unit, Central America, as Avilés, Goldman, and Liano aptly suggest, is an indeterminate social amalgamation extending beyond the seven isthmian countries of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and their diasporizations across the world (Liano 2008: 51). To speak of Central America as a unified sociocultural, political, and economic entity is, at best, an exercise in circular reasoning that should call to question any notions of Central America and Central Americanness.

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