The only Ecuadorian novelist and poet ever nominated for the Nobel Prize, Nelson Estupiñán Bass (1912 -2002) was also one of the leading voices of the Afro-Latin literary movement, being of African heritage and born into the Afro-Ecuadorian coastal city of Esmeraldas. Trained in accounting, while working in that field, he developed his writing career by publishing a series of literary journals in his community.
Supporting the cause of socialism, his work was frequently highly critical of Ecuador’s often conservative political establishment, and spent much time in Marxist states such as the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and East Germany. However, this also resulted in a loss of employment in Esmeraldas, and forced a move to Quito, where he survived on the sales of literary work.
In 1950, at the age of 38, Bass gained international renown with the publication of his novel, When the Guayacans Were in Bloom, which related the how Afro-Ecuadorians were exploited by both conservative and liberal factions during Ecuador’s 1895 Liberal Revolution. The book has since been translated into English, French, and Russian.
The novel puts across Bass’ theme of the value of honoring a distinct Afro-Ecuadorian identity in the face of the racism of Ecuador’s post-colonial culture, while also advocating for a multi-racial political unity. Other Bass novels available in English include The Other Son of God, Pastranas’ Last River, and Curfew.
Bass was married to Luz Argentina Chiriboga, an equally prominent figure in Afro-Latin letters, and also renowned as a feminist icon. In 2002, while visiting the United States at the invitation of Penn State University, Bass succumbed to a sudden pneumonia. At his funeral in Esmeraldas, hundreds of locals lined the streets to pay their respects.
When the Guayacans Were in Bloom, (live link, translated by Henry J. Richards, chapters one and two).
Literary Criticism (live links)
Antonio Preciado and the Afro Presence in Ecuadorian Literature, by Rebecca Gail Howes, PhD, East Carolina University.
Nelson Estupiñán Bass and the Historico-political Novel: From Theory to Praxis, by Henry J. Richards (via Jstor, account required).
Race, class and national identity in black Ecuador: Afro-Ecuadorians and the struggle for human rights, by David Dixon, PhD, Clark Atlanta University.
Preface to The Other Son of God, by Edward J. Mullen (via Questia).
Eulogy for Nelson Estupiñán Bass (live link)
Remembering Nelson Estupinan Bass (1912-2002) by Henry J. Richards, from the Afro-Hispanic Review, (via Questia).
Published in English are the following (list includes links to online retail outlets):
*When the Guayacans Were in Bloom