Born: Guayaquil, Ecuador, 24 May, 1909. Education: Elementary studies in the Colegio de San Jose and the Escuela Municipal Nelson Mateus; high school in the Colegio Vicente Rocafuerte; studied law for two years at the University of Guayas, in Guayaquil at the same time attending art classes at the School of Fine Arts. Family: Married 1) a Panamanian in 1932 (divorced), two daughters; 2) Mexican writer and diplomat Velia Marquez Inclan in 1957, three children. Career: Writer, playwright, journalist, director of the Museo Nacional and Assistant Secretary of Education; professor of literature at the Rocafuerte Institute; printer; manufacturer of candy; worked at the Pan American Union in Washington, D.C., 1946-48; secretary to the Embassador of Ecuador in Chile, 1948; writer in Residence or Visiting Professor at several U.S. universities and at universities in Guatemala, Mexico and Brazil; Cultural attache in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay; Minister of Culture, appointed Embassador to Mexico in 1980; Aguilera Malta contributed about two thousand articles and stories to newspapers and magazines; he also wrote and produced three films. Awards: Gold medal at the Reunion of Latin American Writers in Guyaquil, 1971; Eugenio Espejo prize, most distinguished literary prize given in Ecuador, 1981. Member: Latin American Community of Writers, Pan American Union. Died: Mexico City, 29 December, 1981; suffered from diabetes and blindness, fell in his home sustaining a head injury and did not recover consciousness.



Teatro completo, 1970.


Espana leal: Tragedia en un prologo y tres actos, el ultimo dividido en tres cuadros. 1938.

Campeonatomania. 1939.

Carbon. 1939.

El satiro encadenado. 1939.

Lazaro. 1941.

Sangre azul (three-act). With Willis Knapp Jones, 1946; as Blue Blood, translated by the authors, 1948.

Dos comedias faciles. 1950, includes Sangre azul and El pirata fantasma.

No bastan los atomos. 1955.

Dientes blancos. 1955 and 1956; as White Teeth: A Play in One Act,translated by Robert Losada, Jr., 1956.

El tigre: Pieza en un acto dividido en tres cuadros. 1955/1956.

Honorarios. 1957.

Trilogia ecuatoriana: Teatro breve (contains Dientes blancos,

Honorarios, and El tigre). 1959.

Infierno negro: Pieza en dos actos. 1967; as Black Hell, translated by

Elizabeth Lowe, 1977.

Fantoche. 1970.

Muerte, S.A.—La muerte es un gran negocio. 1970.

Una mujerpara cada acto. 1970.


Los que se van (short story), with Enrique Gil Gilbert and Joaquin Gallegos Lara. 1930.

Don Goyo. 1933; as Don Goyo, translated by John Brushwood and Carolyn Brushwood, 1980.

Canal Zone: Los yanquis en Panama. 1935.

Madrid!: Reportaje novelado de una retaguardia heroica. 1936/1937.

La isla virgen. 1942.

Una cruz en la Sierra Maestra. 1960.

La caballeresa del sol: El gran amor de Bolivar. 1964; as Manuela, la caballeresa del sol, translated by Willis Knapp Jones, foreword by J. Cary Davis, 1967.

El Quijote de El Dorado: Orellana y el Rio de las Amazonas. 1964.

Un nuevo mar para el rey: Balboa, Anayansi, y el Oceano Pacifico. 1965.

Hechos y leyendas de nuestra America: Relatos hispanoamericanos (short story). 1975.

Siete lunas y siete serpientes. 1970; as Seven Moons and Seven Serpents, translated by Gregory Rabassa, 1979.

El secuestro del general. 1973; as Babelandia, translated by Peter G. Earle, illustrated by George Bartko, 1985.

Jaguar. 1977.

Requiem para el diablo. 1978.

Unapelota, un sueno y diez centavos. 1988, published posthumously.

Critical Studies:

”The ‘Episodios Americanos’ of Aguilera Malta” by J. Davis, in Foreign Language Quarterly, 9, 1970; La narrativa de Aguilera Malta by Maria E. Valverde, 1979; ”The Apocalyptic Tropics of Aguilera Malta” by Luis A. Diez, in Latin American Theatre Review, 10, Spring-Summer 1982; ”Demetrio Aguilera Malta” in Spanish American Authors of the Twentieth Century, edited by Angle Flores, 1992;Demetrio Aguilera Malta and Social Justice: The Tertiary Phase of Epic Tradition in Latin American Literature by Clemintine Christos Rabassa, 1980; ”The Antichrist-Figure in Three Latin American Novels” by William L. Siemens, in The Power of Myth in Literature and Film, 1980; ”Absurdity, Hyperbole and the Grotesque in Demetrio Aguilera’s Last Novel, Requiem para el diablo" by Michael C.Waag, in SECOLAS Annals 20, March 1989.

Demetrio Aguilera Malta championed the Ecuadorian working poor, illustrating the injustices they endured in his social realist novels with his passionate writing. One of the earliest writers to use elements of magic realism, he intersected quotidian activities with supernatural elements. Aguilera Malta was an adventurer and lived a nomadic existence, which is reflected directly in his short stories, novels, and plays. Much of his writing is culturally specific to Ecuador and to the region of Guayaquil. Yet, he is able to transcend national boundaries and utilize his literary works to exemplify social injustice.

His first work published in conjunction with two other young Ecuadorian coastal writers, Enrique Gil Gilbert and Joaquin Gallegos Lara is a collection of twenty-four short stories entitled Los que se van [Those Who Got Away]. This work initiated a new trend and era in Ecuadorian and Spanish American literature, combining social realism with psychoanalysis. The language is crude and violent, and makes use of local slang, portraying the hardships and physical violence the cholos (mixed blooded or mestizos) endured. Literary critics found the book shocking, but the reading public enthusiastically reveled in the story’s lack of traditionalism and its break with 19th-century pretensions. Aguilera Malta together with his two collaborators from Los que se van and with Jose de la Cuadra and Alfredo Pareja Diezcanseco came to be known as the ”Grupo de Guayaquil.”

Don Goyo and La isla virgen [The Virgin Island] are two early works dealing with life of the coastal Ecuadorian cholos, living at the mouth of the Guayas River, the area where the author grew up and which heavily influenced his formation and writing. Don Goyo depicts the cholo in his native or natural environment but at the same time imbues it with magical qualities. He included such techniques as talking trees and axes that think, listen and converse as examples of his early usage as an initiator of magic realism. The central character is the centenarian Don Goyo; he is attuned to the surrounding natural environment, and his disappearance leads to his people’s enslavement by the white men. In La isla virgen, Don Nestor is juxtaposed with Don Goyo from the preceding novel, by the fact that he exploits nature.

In response to the occupation of the Canal Zone by the U.S. military and the Civil War in Spain, he produced the historical biographical novels Canal Zone and jMadrid!: Reportaje novelado de una retaguardia heroica [Madrid: A Fictional Account of a Heroic Rearguard], published in Barcelona in 1936. Canal Zone tackles the topic of racial discrimination by the United States against the black workers building the canal. After publication of this work, Aguilera Malta was unable to enter the United States for several years. jMadrid! echoes his loyalist affiliation as he also wrote propaganda for the Republican government.

One of his best known novels, La isla virgen, dramatized the life of the cholos, highlighting their customs, folklore, and the influence nature had on their culture through the use of techniques gleaned from his work in theatre and movies. After moving to Mexico in 1955, he returned to the novel and began a series of historical biographical novels under the rubric of Historias americanos. The series included La caballeresca del sol, a treatment of Simon Bolivar’s lover; El Quijote de El Dorado dealing with the Amazon region and Orellano; and Un nuevo mar para el rey [A New Sea for the King], a treatment of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Balboa. These works present no new narrative techniques and treat the topics in a traditional manner.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Aguilera Malta’s works were deeply influenced by the Latin American New Novel: Siete lunas y siete serpientes (Seven Moons and Seven Serpents); El secuestro del general [The Kidnapping of the General]; Jaguar; Requiem para el diablo; and Unapelota, un sueno y diez centavos [A Ball, a Dream, and Ten Cents]. Siete lunas y siete serpientes marks a return to the region of the Guayas River; with its cholos and island milieu, he included elements of magic realism. Regionalism becomes allegory here in the form of good versus evil. The depiction of evil is seen in the characters represented by traditional Latin American figures of power such as the military, politicians, the oligarchy, the institution of the church. According to Robert Scott, they face the forces of good represented by true ”Christianity, scientific enlightenment, and nostalgia for a lost paradise. . . ”

While known more as a novelist outside his country, Aguilera Malta is possibly Ecuador’s best known playwright and his theatrical works represent many of the same themes as his novels. The first play staged by Aguilera Malta was a propaganda piece titled Espana leal,produced shortly after his return from the Spanish Civil War. Lazaro is a tragedy about a schoolteacher who was forced to abandon the classroom because of lack of funding and how he wastes his time trying to survive economically. Dientes blancos (White Teeth) denounces the racial discrimination he witnessed as a reporter in Panama and the Canal Zone. The same theme appears in Infierno Negro [Black Hell]. Perhaps his best-known play, as it is his most anthologized, is El tigre. The play is based on an incident in his novel La isla virgen. It fuses an explicit use of symbols while at the same time rejecting any attempt to reconstruct external reality. It deals with the primitive life of a group of cane cutters on the Guayas River, particularly one unfortunate worker, Aguayo, fixated on being eaten by a jaguar. The supervisor dismisses Aguayo’s fears as irrational but the other two workers vacillate between the practical and the mythical interpretation for their colleague’s fear.

The significance of Aguilera Malta’s contributions may lie in his earlier works. However, one of his later novels, Siete lunas y siete serpientes, is particularly important as it recuperates his earlier techniques and completes the circle returning to his own literary roots. Aguilera Malta’s social and political message is not only important for Ecuador but for Latin America in general.

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