10 Insightful And Poetic Quotes From Hispanic Authors

Hispanic authors come from many different countries, represent a multitude of perspectives, and don’t use the Spanish language in the same way. Hispanic can literally mean “Spanish,” but more typically it is used to mean “of or relating to Spanish-speaking Latin America.” This makes it slightly different in meaning from Latino, Latina, or Latinx, which mean “of or relating to people of Latin American origin or descent, especially those living in the United States.” (To learn more about the distinction between these words, see “Hispanic” vs. “Latino”: When To Use Each Term.”)

The following Hispanic writers use Spanish, English, and occasionally Spanglish to express their thoughts on language, identity, and their complex relationships with the United States. These quotes are just a snapshot of the diversity of the thought and craft of writers with ties to Latin America.


I write with the syntax and sensibility of Spanish, even when there isn’t a syllable of Spanish present. It’s engrained in the way I look at the world, and the way I construct sentences and stories.

—Sandra Cisneros, interview with the Chicago Public Library, April 30, 2009


Sandra Cisneros is one of the most celebrated Chicana authors in the United States. Chicana means “of or relating to female Mexican Americans or their culture.” She is best-known for her semi-autobiographical novel The House on Mango Street (1984), a coming-of-age story about growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. In this interview, Cisneros explains how even though she writes primarily in English, the sensibility or “keen consciousness or appreciation” of Spanish can be found throughout her work.


Thinking of windows and doors leads me to think of people or stories which we see ourselves in … And I’m thinking about doors and windows as my mother’s and father’s lives, childhoods, and the narratives of Chicanos in the United States and especially Chicanas in the United States. Do these stories limit us, guide us, give us hope, and if we transgress them, what kind of Mexican or American or woman are we?

—Sara Borjas, interview in Los Angeles Review of Books, April 14, 2019


Chicana poet Sara Borjas here reflects on the stories created by and about Hispanic people in the United States. She asks, rhetorically, what happens if the classic narratives are transgressed, a word that here means “to pass over or go beyond (a limit, boundary, etc.)”. As an experimental poet who plays with form and language, Borjas is interested in pushing the boundaries of what is expected from Hispanic writers.


A writer—and, I believe, generally all persons—must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.

—Jorge Luis Borges, interview with Roberto Alifano, trans. Nicomedes Araúz, Willis Barnstone, and Noemí Escandell, 1981-3


One of the most famous Argentine writers of all time is Jorge Luis Borges, best-known for his texts Ficciones and El Aleph. In this interview, he reflects on how one’s life experiences, good and bad, should be seen as a resource for writers. Resource can have a variety of meanings, but the one that most closely resembles Borges’s meaning here is “an available means afforded by the mind or one’s personal capabilities.” Many of the writers covered here reflect this belief in their own work.


Being marginal is like being a new immigrant. If you can transform marginality into something positive, instead of dwelling on it as something negative, it’s a wonderful source of strength.

—Isabel Allende, “Interview,” (undated)


Contemporary Chilean-American writer Isabel Allende echoes Borges’s words in this quote from a self-published “Interview.” She encourages young writers to take advantage of their marginality, a word that describes being “situated on the border or edge,” typically of society or culture. Allende sees being outside of the mainstream as a benefit rather than a drawback.


I’m a tender person; I have a lot of tenderness to give. What I give now to Nicaragua, it’s tenderness … it’s not only the political impetus, it’s that there’s an enormous tenderness because it’s a people I love, as I love the Cubans, and I love the Argentines. Well, all that makes up part of my character.

—Julio Cortázar, interview in The Paris Review, published 1984


Postmodernist Argentine-French writer Julio Cortázar spent most of his adult life in France, but he never wavered in his dedication to Latin America and its struggles. In this undated interview with The Paris Review, he describes his tenderness towards Hispanic people. Tenderness literally means “the condition of being tender or sore to the touch,” but it is often used figuratively to mean “sympathy” or “warmth.”


It’s hard to write from a community of people who have not been represented in literature in ways that feel tender. And so I have to carry: Am I getting it right? I’m also having to consider moments when I think, I’m going to have to push here … But it also felt important to challenge and to push my own perspective of what I think we are, and who we are, and who we can be.

—Elizabeth Acevedo, interview in Teacher and Writers Magazine, April 20, 2020


Interestingly, Cortázar is not the only writer to use the word tender when talking or thinking about his wider Hispanic community. Contemporary Dominican-American poet Elizabeth Acevedo also uses tender to describe one element of how she thinks about the way the Hispanic community is represented, a word that here means “to portray or depict; present the likeness of.”


As Mexicanos, Chicanos, Latinos, people of color in this country that have been kept out of history books, it’s critical for us to document our own histories. Sometimes, that just means your own personal life.

—Ana Castillo, interview in El Paso Times, May 18, 2016


Writer Ana Castillo is a leader in the “Xicanisma” movement, an intersectional Chicana feminist movement. Her writing reflects this orientation. In this interview, Castillo describes how the two are connected. She describes the kind of writing she does, even the memoir, as critical to the representation of Latinx people in the United States. Critical can mean “inclined to find fault or to judge with severity,” but here it means “essential; indispensable.”


I have never thought of my life as divided between poetry and politics … I have always felt that my vocation and my duty was to serve the Chilean people in my actions and with my poetry. I have lived singing and defending them.

—Pablo Neruda, acceptance speech, September 30, 1969


Another writer who, like Castillo, saw the importance of combining their creative writing with their political views was Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet and Communist politician. In this acceptance speech for the candidacy to the presidency, Neruda emphasized that both his poetry and his politics were a vocation to him. Vocation means “a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.” It also has a religious valence, referring to “a function or station in life to which one is called by God.”


just as they play national anthems on rickety pianos it’s up to us to imagine alternatives to the nation and its bad state to splinter the voice to study the impregnable to inventory our property of bones in the soaked earth of this post-anthropocene

Urayoán Noel, “Improvise,” 2020


Contemporary Puerto Rican poet Urayoán Noel likewise creates work with a political message. In the poem “Improvise,” he writes about the desire for freedom, the US military occupation of Puerto Rico, and the weight of history, among other things. In this context, he imagines the “post-anthropocene.” The word Anthropocene describes “the present time, since the mid-20th century, when human activity began to effect significant environmental consequences, specifically on ecosystems and climate.”


I am colonized. I dream of decolonizing
Myself and others. The images of the dream
Do not match up. I am the body
And the archive.

—Heriberto Yépez, “About Me: In English,” 2017


In an echo of Noel’s work, the experimental Mexican poet and writer Heriberto Yépez likewise writes about his dreams and desires for Latin America’s freedom from the hegemony of the United States. He writes about decolonizing, meaning “to release (a country) from the status of a colony, or to allow a colony to become self-governing or independent.” The notion of decolonizing can also be used more generally to describe the process of re-examining and making changes to counter the belief that the culture of a colonizing power is more worthy or important than the culture of a colonized people.

The quotes from these Hispanic writers are only a small slice of the many, many perspectives and voices of this community. They speak to the multitude of experiences in latinidad, the condition or character of being Hispanic, both within the United States and throughout Latin America.

Learn more about the nuances of Latin American identity with this guide to the terms "Latinx" vs. "Latine."

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