Most Latin Americans know the song “Gracias a la Vida…” sung by the great Argentine Mercedes Soza. But it was written by Violeta Parra (San Carlos, Chile 1917-1967) the Chilean artist and folk singer. Parra promoted South American folk music. She was the Woody Guthrie of Latin America. She also spent time in Paris where she became the first Latin American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Louvre museum.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was one of the great Chilean poets and a diplomat. He is most famous for “20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair” (Veinte poemas de amor y uno canción desesperada, 1924). Neruda’s words made this writer fall in love with the Spanish language.
Neruda won a Nobel Prize, but he was not the first Chilean poet to do so. In 1945 Gabriela Mistral (Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, Vicuña, Chile, 1889-1957) became the first South American to win a Nobel. Mistral gained prominence for her “Sonnets of Death” (Sonnets de la Muerte, 1914).
Isabel Allende (Lima, Peru, 1942) is a Chilean journalist and author who writes novels in the style of magical realism. She is most famous for “The House of the Spirits” (La casa de los espíritus, 1982). It tells the story of post-colonial Chile through four generations of the fictional Trueba family. She was inspired by the news that her grandfather was dying.