Continuing our look at books and movies that inspire us to travel we decided to turn our attention to Spanish speaking countries. Spain, Mexico, and many countries throughout Central and South America have produced incredible artists, writers and filmakers, and so there are a wealth of movies and books you can enjoy that showcase the world’s hispanophone countries. Here’s our pick—let us know if you have any favorites that you’d add to the list.
El Cid—1961 (Unrated)
Charlton Heston stars as the legendary mercenary general who, without compromising his sense of honor, still succeeds in taking the initiative and driving the Moors from Spain.
Spirit of the Beehive—1973 (Unrated)
One of the greatest Spanish films of the 1970s, Victor Erice’s movie is set in a small Castilian village in 1940, directly following the country’s devastating civil war.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona—2008 (Rated PG-13)
Woody Allen’s romantic comedy charts the turbulent summer that two American women (Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall), who have very different attitutes towards life and love, spend in Barcelona.
Death in the Afternoon—Ernest Hemingway (1932)
A classic look at the history, ceremony and traditions of bullfighting, told beautifully and elegantly by Hemingway as he also contemplates the nature of fear and courage.
Bracebridge Hall, Tales of a Traveller, The Alhambra—Washington Irving (1991, Library of America edition)
The Alhambra, Irving’s “Spanish Sketchbook” was inspired by his 1829 residence at the ancient Moorish palace at Granada.
Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain—Chris Stewart (2001)
English sheep shearer Chris Steward (once a drummer for Genesis) buys a farmhouse near Granada and writes a hilarious account of the hassles and rewards of foreign relocation.
Night of the Iguana—1964 (Unrated)
This cinema classic, based on the play of the same name by Tennessee Williams and starring Richard Burton, Ava Garner and Deborah Kerr was filmed on location at Puerto Vallarta.
Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)—1992 (Rated R)
Based on the popular book by first-time Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate became the highest grossing Spanish language movie in the US at the time of its release.
Frida—2002 (Rated R)
Set in vibrant Mexico City, this film chronicles the life that Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) shared unflinchingly and openly with Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), as the young couple took the art world by storm. The artist lived a bold and uncompromising life as a political, artistic, and sexual revolutionary.
The Power and Glory (also published as The Labyrinthine Ways)—Graham Greene (1940)
Greene’s novel tells the story of a priest in the Mexican state of Tabasco during the 1930s, whe the Mexican government was trying to suppress the Catholic Church.
Year of the Jaguar—James Maw (1996)
This book captures the feel of Mexican travel superbly as the young protagonist goes in search of the father he has never met, journeying from the US border to Chiapas.
The Savage Detectives (Los Detectives Salvajes)—Roberto Bolaño (1998)
Written by Chilean author Bolaño, the book tells the story of two “Visceral Realist” poets living a bohemian life in Mexico City, the Sonora Desert and the world beyond.
Central and South America
Of Love and Shadows—1996 (Rated R)
Irene (Jennifer Connely) is a magazine editor living under the shadow of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Francisco (Antonio Banderas) is a photographer and sympathizer with the underground resistance movement, who opens her eyes to the atrocities being committed by the state.
Evita—1996 (Rated PG)
Starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas, this movie adaptation of the musical explores the life of Eva Perón, who rises form poverty to become the most powerful woman in Argentina, as wife of Argentine President, Juan Perón.
Maria, llena eres de gracia (Maria Full of Grace)—2003 (Rated R)
This powerful Spanish-language film paints a passionate portrait of a young Colombian woman who agrees to work as a drug mule, flying to America with cocaine in her stomach.
The Motorcycle Diaries—2004 (Rated R)
This biographical film traces the young Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Gael García Bernal) and his friend Alberto Granado as they travel across South America in the 1950s. The film depicts the gradual development of future Marxist revolutionary Guevara’s political outlook.
El secretro de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes)—2010 (Rated R)
A remarkable blend of comedy, drama, romance and thriller, this Argentinian film won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009. It tells of a retired judiciary employee trying to seek closure on a court case he worked on 25 years ago.
Brazilian Adventure—Peter Fleming (1933)
This is an amusing and well-written non-fiction account of the young journalist’s expedition into the Brazilian jungle in search of the disappeared Colonel Fawcett.
One Hundred Years of Solitude—Gabriel García Márquez (1967)
This epic novel is considered by many to be García Márquez’s masterpiece. This epic tale of seven generations of a Colombian family is intertwined with Colombian myths, history and magic.
The Old Patagonian Express—Paul Theroux (1979)
Beginning in Boston, Theroux winds up on the Old Patagonian Express steam engine, through Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and down to the tip of Argentina.
When New Flowers Bloomed—Enrique Jaramillo Levi, Editor (1991)
A collection of short fiction and poetry by women writers from Panama and Costa Rica, whose triumphs mirror their countries’ struggles to overcome poverty and political violence.
Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion—Barbara Ras and Oscar Arias (1993)
Looking to provide travelers with a different perspective on the country, the twenty-six fictional stories in this collection are set everywhere from the high valleys of the central plateau to the flatlands of the Caribbean coast to the plains of Guanacaste.
Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier—Richard W Slatta (1983)
Slatta brings alive the history, splendor, and squalor of the famous and oft-romanticized Argentine gauchos.