In 1925, Franz Roh, a German critic, first used the term magical realism to describe the characteristics of works by a group of visual artists. Some Latin American writers who were in touch with European trends became interested in the surrealist art movement.

It was not until the 1940s that literary critics used the term to describe and assess the significance of a creative style of linguistic expression.

The term magical realism has defined that which culturally represents and distinguishes Hispano-American literature. It consists of two elements, as reflected in its name: realism, the real and ordinary; and magical, the marvelous and extraordinary. By mixing these two elements, the real is made magical and the extraordinary is made ordinary, bringing about unusual emotions and feelings in the reader. There is no attempt to justify or support the situations. The experiences are depicted as a natural part of the setting.

Alejo Carpentier, a Cuban writer in the Antillean Caribbean, was one of the first to theorize about the concept. He broke with the main trends of the era and created a reality by highlighting the common experiences that made up the Caribbean cultural identity. Carpentier labeled this perspective or set of shared codes that came from a common framework as marvelous realism. Through this process he sought to establish the particular characteristics that defined the Caribbean situation and unified the region. The common denominators among the peoples and neighboring regions are the elements that are shared in their social, economic, political and cultural histories.

This period was distinguished by a repudiation of all that came from the ruling empires, whether Spanish or U.S., in favor of the indigenous, which was considered native. African culture and influence were also accepted as part of the Caribbean character because of their disadvantaged position. These common elements and particularities of the region made up the center of magical realism. The experience of shared beliefs and values framed Caribbean literature and led to an original form that defined the region.

The environment of cultural and racial domination led to the search for that which would identify and unify the region, a collective heritage, united by historical processes within the established structures. A supernatural environment, charged with sensory images that portrayed the diverse, converging doctrines in the Caribbean was created.

Gabriel García Márquez, a native of Colombia, which is part of the continental area of the Caribbean, is one of the most outstanding examples of the genre. His work has been recognized around the world. He is the author of Cien años de soledad.

Both indigenous and colonial literature influenced magical realism, which became known in the 1960s as the Latin American boom and followed the avant-garde trends of the time. Puerto Rican writer Emilio Díaz Valcárcel is recognized as part of this boom with his work Figuraciones en el mes de marzo.

Author: Carmen Rebeca Fraticelli
Published: December 16, 2011.

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