From the very moment when Europeans encountered the New World, early explorers and conquistadores produced written accounts and crónicas of their experience, such as Columbus's letters or Bernal Díaz del Castillo's description of the conquest of Mexico. At times, colonial practices stirred a lively debate about the ethics of colonization and the status of the indigenous peoples, as reflected for instance in Bartolomé de las Casas's Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies. Mestizos and natives also contributed to the body of colonial literature. Authors such as El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega and Guaman Poma wrote accounts of the Spanish conquest that show a perspective that often contrasts with the colonizers' accounts. During the colonial period, written culture was often in the hands of the church, within which context Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz wrote memorable poetry and philosophical essays. Towards the end of the 18th Century and the beginning of the 19th, a distinctive criollo literary tradition emerged, including the first novels such as José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi's El Periquillo Sarniento (1816). The "libertadores" themselves were also often distinguished writers, such as Simón Bolívar and Andrés Bello. Nineteenth-century literature
The 19th century was a period of "foundational fictions" (in critic Doris Sommer's words), novels in the Romantic or Naturalist traditions that attempted to establish a sense of national identity, and which often focused on the indigenous question or the dichotomy of "civilization or barbarism", for which see, say, the Argentine Domingo Sarmiento's Facundo (1845), the Colombian Jorge Isaacs's María, Ecuadorian Juan León Mera's Cumandá (1879), or the Brazilian Euclides da Cunha's Os Sertões (1902). Such works are still the bedrocks of national canons, and usually mandatory elements of high school curricula. Another instance of 19th Century Latin American literature is José...
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