Authors: Demetrio Aguilera Malta

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Ecuadorean novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Don Goyo, 1933 (English translation, 1942, 1980)

C.Z. (Canal Zone): Los Yanquis en Panamá, 1935

¡Madrid! Reportaje novelado de una retaguardia heróica, 1937

La isla virgen, 1942

Una cruz en la Sierra Maestra, 1960

La caballeresa del sol: El gran amor de Bolívar, 1964 (Manuela, la Caballeresa del Sol, 1967)

El Quijote de El Dorado: Orellana y el río de las Amazonas, 1964

Un nuevo mar para el rey: Balboa, Anayansi y el Océano Pacífico, 1965

Siete lunas y siete serpientes, 1970 (Seven Serpents and Seven Moons, 1979)

El secuestro del general, 1973 (Babelandia, 1985)

Jaguar, 1977

Réquiem para el diablo, 1978

Una pelota, un sueño y diez centavos, 1988

Short Fiction:

Los que se van, 1930 (with Joaquín Gallegos Lara and Enrique Gil Gilbert)

El cuento actual latino-americano, 1973 (with Manuel Mejia Valera)

Hechos y leyendas de nuestra América: Relatos hispanoamericanos, 1975


España leal, pb. 1938

Lázaro, pb. 1941

Sangre azul, pb. 1948 (with Willis Knapp Jones; Blue Blood, 1948)

Dos comedias fáciles, pr. 1950 (includes El pirata fantasma and Sangre azul)

No bastan los átomos y Dientes blancos, pb. 1955

El tigre, pb. 1956 (one act)

Dientes blancos, pb. 1956 (White Teeth: A Play in One Act, 1963)

Honorarios, pb. 1957

Trilogía ecuatoriana: Teatro breve, pb. 1959 (includes Honorarios, Dientes, and El tigre)

Infierno negro: Pieza en dos actos, pb. 1967 (Black Hell, 1977)

Teatro completo, pb. 1970 (includes España leal, Lázaro, No bastan los átomos, Honorarios, Dientes blancos, El tigre, Fantouche, Muerte, S.A., and Infierno negro)


La cadena infinita, 1948

Entre dos carnavales, 1951

Dos ángeles y medio, 1958


Primavera interior, 1927

El libro de los mangleros, 1929


Leticia: Notas y comentarios de un periodista ecuatoriano, 1932

Guayaquil 70: Metropoli dinámica, 1970 (with Juan Aguilera Malta, Fausto Aguilera Malta, and Fernando Aguilera Malta)


Demetrio Aguilera Malta (ah-gwee-LAHR-ah MAWL-tah) was one of Ecuador’s greatest fiction writers as well as its most famous author. Born in Guayaquil, he studied law at Guayaquil University for two years. He then lived for five years among peoples of indigenous and African descent on the island San Ignacio, one of many islands off the coast of Ecuador. Though he began his career as a poet and journalist, and he wrote screenplays, essays, and nearly a dozen plays, his early experiences on San Ignacio inform the novels for which he is best known.{$I[AN]9810001999}{$I[A]Aguilera Malta, Demetrio}{$S[A]Malta, Demetrio Aguilera;Aguilera Malta, Demetrio}{$I[geo]ECUADOR;Aguilera Malta, Demetrio}{$I[tim]1909;Aguilera Malta, Demetrio}

Aguilera Malta’s first published work (in 1924) was a youthful poem. In that same year he founded Ideal, the first of the literary journals he was to establish. In 1930 Aguilera Malta went to Panama, where he had his own column for the Diario de Panamá and wrote for other Panamanian papers while sending articles back to El Universo in Guayaquil. In 1936 he received a scholarship to study in Salamanca, Spain, but the Spanish Civil War broke out before he could undertake his studies. He allied himself with the Republican cause against dictator Francisco Franco, serving as a reporter of the conflict. Returning to Guayaquil in 1937, he founded his third journal, Trópico, in 1938. From 1937 to 1943 he served as Ecuador’s undersecretary for education, taught in a local high school, and was a visiting professor at universities in Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, and the United States. He served in diplomatic posts in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay in the late 1940’s.

In 1930 Aguilera Malta contributed eight short stories to a volume titled Los que se van: Cuentos del cholo i del montuvio (those who go away: stories of the coastal people). Though still untranslated, the collection launched his career. Aguilera Malta and four others became known as the Guayaquil Group, said to have inaugurated realist narrative in Ecuador. In 1933 Aguilera Malta published Don Goyo, the first of thirteen novels. Don Goyo depicts the conflict between the traditional indigenous life of the island people and the changes wrought by white capitalism, exemplified by Don Carlos, who first helps, then cheats his island workers. La isla virgen, Aguilera Malta’s second novel about the coastal people, focuses on the contrasting worldviews of indigenous and European Latin America. Three of Aguilera Malta’s novels were written as a result of specific political experiences: C.Z. (Canal Zone) examines the U.S. presence in Panama and the racism that accompanied it; ¡Madrid! is a passionate portrayal of the Spanish Republican struggle against Franco; Una cruz en la Sierra Maestra reacts to the Cuban Revolution, which overthrew the corrupt Fulgencio Batista regime.

In the 1960’s Aguilera Malta began what he planned as a twelve-volume series of novels based on historical personages and events in Latin American history. He completed only three: El Quijote de El Dorado, about Francisco de Orellana’s voyage down the Amazon River; Manuela, la Caballeresa del Sol, about Simón Bolívar’s relationship with Manuela Sáenz; and Un nuevo mar para el rey: Balboa, Anayansi y el Océano Pacífico, on Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s discovery of the Pacific Ocean. Aguilera Malta’s last five novels, written in the 1970’s, shift from realism and historical fiction to the “new novel” of Latin America. The most famous of these is Seven Serpents and Seven Moons, the setting of which recalls the earlier island novels but the techniques of which include flashbacks, fragmentation, simultaneity of action, and use of indigenous myth.

Aguilera Malta, a longtime diabetic, died in 1981 after a fall which left him comatose. His last novel was published posthumously. His earlier work is credited with contributing to the Magical Realism that has come to distinguish modern Latin American narrative fiction; his later work seems to emulate the tradition he helped to originate.

BibliographyAngulo, María-Elena. “Two Ecuadorian Novels of Realismo Maravilloso of the 1970’s: Demetrio Aguilera Malta’s Siete lunas y siete serpientes, Alicia Yanez Cossio’s Bruna, soroche y los tios.” In Magic Realism: Social Context and Discourse. New York: Garland, 1995. Chapter discussing Aguilera Malta’s novel is part of an analysis of five modern Latin American novels that focuses on how the authors use Magical Realism to illuminate problems of class, gender, and race within Latin American society.Brushwood, John S. “The Year of Don Goyo.” In The Spanish American Novel: A Twentieth Century Survey. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1975. Brushwood, who translated Aguilera Malta’s novel Don Goyo, analyzes that book and places it within the larger context of other works by Latin American novelists.Diez, Luis A. “The Apocalyptic Tropics of Aguilera Malta.” Latin American Literary Review 10, no. 20 (Spring/Summer, 1982). Provides a brief introduction to Aguilera Malta’s work before focusing on Seven Serpents and Seven Moons, discussing what Diez calls “the magic apocalypse” of that novel.Rabassa, Clementine Christos. Demetrio Aguilera-Malta and Social Justice: The Tertiary Phase of Epic Tradition in Latin American Literature. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1980. Places Aguilera Malta within the epic tradition, examining the roles of such natural elements as topography, vegetation, and animal life in his fiction. Discusses justice in the epic tradition and Aguilera Malta’s works, focusing particularly on divine retribution and poetic justice.Siemens, William L. “The Antichrist-Figure in Three Latin American Novels.” In The Power of Myth in Literature and Film, edited by Victor Carrabino. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1980. Compares Aguilera Malta’s treatment of the Antichrist in Seven Serpents and Seven Moons with the treatments of Antichrist figures in Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1970) and Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s Tres tristes tigres (1967, 1990; Three Trapped Tigers, 1971).Wishnia, Kenneth J. A. Twentieth-Century Ecuadorian Narrative: New Readings in the Context of the Americas. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1999. Examines works by several Ecuadoran writers, including Aguilera Malta. Chapter 2 discusses what Wishnia describes as the “demythication of history” in Don Goyo; chapter 4 compares Aguilera Malta’s play El tigre with Eugene O’Neill’s play The Emperor Jones (pr. 1920) to delineate the playwrights’ different assumptions about surviving in a mythological jungle.
Categories: Authors